Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Navalists are Getting Coal in their Stockings

It has been over three years since the flush of hope for navalists when candidate Trump supported a 350/55 ship navy … and words are still here;
The White House budget office is pressing the Navy to stick to a campaign pledge by Donald Trump to work toward fielding a fleet of more than 350…

Despite some soft-pedaling from Navy leadership on the 355-ship goal, Modly has made it clear that such an inventory is national policy and that he wants leadership to get behind it.

“[Three hundred and fifty-five ships] is stated as national policy,” Modly told an audience at the USNI Defense Forum on Dec. 5. “It was also the president’s goal during the election.
…but actions speak louder.
We have a goal of 355, we don’t have a plan for 355. We need to have a plan, and if it’s not 355, what’s it going to be and what’s it going to look like?”

In a memo released Thursday to the force, Modly said he wanted an actionable plan by the end of the 2020s.

In the memo, Modly called for the services to develop “an integrated plan to achieve … 355 ships (or more) unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned surface vehicles for greater naval power within 10 years.”

The Navy proposal called for a 287-ship fleet by fiscal year 2025 -- the last year of a potential second Trump administration, according to the budget office. But that level, which includes the decommissioning of 12 warships to save money, would be well below the long-term 308-ship target set by the Obama administration and even further from President Trump’s current goal of 355 ships.

The service currently has 293 deployable vessels. As initially proposed, the service’s budget plan would result in “a smaller force in 2025 than the Navy has at present,” according to the OMB document. Among the vessels to be retired under the Navy’s plan would be the first four, widely criticized, Littoral Combat Ships, which would be decommissioned in 2021, at least 12 years earlier than planned. The first of those ships deployed in 2013.

“The Navy proposes to buy 42 warships and requests $111.8 billion in shipbuilding funds” from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2025 “that will result in 12 fewer battle force ships and reduce shipbuilding funding by $9.4 billion compared to the fiscal 2020” plan, OMB said.
That is from this month.

Who actually runs the DOD again?

For regulars here, you may have thought that we had found that low-probability bet that would show ‘ole Sal’s warning about the “Terrible 20s” would be wrong and you could neener, neener, neener me in to the end of the 4th Trump Administration in 2033 – but it looks like things are right on schedule for the 2030s.

We can play games on the margins all we want – calling unmanned, unarmed, undefendable, short endurance unmanned surface and subsurface ships part of the count, but that won’t change one simple fact; the shipbuilding budget.

The only way we can grow the fleet with the head wind of simultaneously recapitalizing the SSBN force would be to move that cost fully off budget, significantly grow the shipbuilding budget, significantly grow the budget to train, man, repair, and sustain the larger fleet, and find a way to keep present ships to serve in excess of planned service life.

None of that is happening.

You have to have support at the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch to start with. It has to be strong and consistent.

Inside the Executive, you need a SECDEF who is a navalist who is willing to move money from green to deep blue, and that is not happening and won’t happen.

If we don’t get the money – which is why this story is coming out in the time-tested swamp budget tactic – then we will build fewer DDG. We will retire more CG. Out fleet numbers will shrink.

I don’t blame Trump. I don’t blame Obama. I don’t blame Bush.

The fault is our Navy. We don’t tell our story to the American people. We have no sense of cost control. We fall in love too easily with those who promise their pixie dust will do things other pixie dust failed to do. We promote the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

It is systemic. If the Navy wants to be larger it must fix itself. The Navy is its worst enemy. We have not hit that sweet-spot of price and capability since DDG-51 was laid down in the Reagan Administration.

How are you going to grow numbers when even your auxiliaries come with this price tag?
The White House Office of Management and Budget rejected the Navy's current efforts to develop a new multimission auxiliary vessel, citing the $1 billion price tag, and wants the service to focus resources on buying used sealift vessels instead.
Notice that? Another grabasstic, Tiffany, all eggs in one basket approach. We learned nothing from the era of Vern Clark and the Snake Oil Transformationalists that begat LCS, DDG-1000, fleet support infrastructure inadequate by any measure, manning constructs designed to burn out what few Sailors you have, and DDG bridges designed to not only be an ergonomic nightmare, but couldn’t survive a near hit without shattering in to uselessness.

We need to fix ourselves before we can ask the nation to give us $1.20 more than the Army’s $1.

We could get a navalists as SECDEF, but even if they pushed hard in sync with the right people in Congress, they would be frustrated at every turn by a joint acquisition system creaking with its self-focused priories and decades of accretions. Why else do we still not have a frigate? Why did CG(X) fail? Why do we still have a narrow gene-pool deck of strike fighters?

Goldwater-Nichols and the acquisition system that grew up with it need to be ripped up by the roots and our defense field replanted with something better, more modern, more resilient.

Want a fleet ready not just to meet China in WESTPAC in 2030, but to be so overmatching, that China or anyone else won’t even try to meet us?

Get rid of Goldwater Nichols.

Get a new acquisitions systems.

Hire a new mindset in OPNAV.

Until then? Maybe the present administration can tell its DOD leadership between SECNAV and the CINC to either get with the program, or “you’re fired.”

If they won’t do that, then, well, we’ve all been played for suckers.

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