Friday, May 24, 2013

FY 14 Budget Markup

The House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces has released its markup on the FY14 National Defense Authorization Bill – H.R. 1960.  In essence, Congress has inserted its specific comments into the Navy’s budget.  Here are some highlights.

CVN-78.  Congress agrees to increase the previously mandated spending cap on the Ford, CVN-78, from $11.755B to $12.9B which is the Navy’s new estimate of the final completed construction cost.  The previous cap had been adjusted and set in 2010.  That’s more than a billion dollar overrun since that point !!!!  And, you know more is coming as the various new technologies like EMALS, AAG, radar, etc. are integrated into the ship.  The Ford is going to cost well over $13B when done.  We simply can’t afford that when the entire yearly shipbuilding budget is $15B.  Carriers are either pricing themselves out of existence or pricing the rest of the fleet out.

Amphibious Combat Vehicle.  Congress has directed the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct an annual review of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program including costs and analysis of alternatives.  That’s Congress’ way of telling the Marines and the Navy that they don’t trust either of them to tell the truth and make fiscally sound decisions.  When Congress tells you that you’re not trustworthy, that’s gotta hurt!

UCLASS.  Congress has directed the Navy to demonstrate the air-to-air refueling capability of the X-47B no later than 1-Oct-14.  This statement is astounding but I’m not entirely sure why.  That Congress is now specifying test procedures is unheard of.  Does Congress not trust the Navy to carry out a demonstration of such an important capability if left on their own?  That’s entirely possible given that the Navy refused to carry out shock testing on the LCS and Ford class carriers in a relevant and useful time frame.  The Navy is clearly being called to task over something but I’m unsure exactly what.  This bears further watching.

Congress goes further with the UCLASS program by specifying that a Milestone A technology development contract may not be awarded

“… until a period of 30 days has elapsed following the date on which the Under Secretary certifies to the congressional defense committees that the software and system engineering designs for the control system and connectivity and aircraft carrier segments of such program can achieve, with low level of integration risk, successful  compatibility and interoperability with the air vehicle segment selected for contract award with respect to such program.”

Again, Congress is letting DoD and the Navy know that they don’t trust them.  There’s a background issue at work here that I’m unclear on.

Flt III AMDR.  Congress has directed the Navy to submit a report on the proposed use of the AMDR radar on the Burke Flt III that will address capabilities of the system, limitations of the Burke with regard to hosting the AMDR, and an analysis of alternatives.  Again, Congress is making it clear that they don’t believe the Navy’s own assessment and want to force the Navy to directly address some of the issues that the Navy has, thus far, skirted around.

There’s one resounding theme amongst Congress’ actions and that is a mistrust of the Navy.  Congress seems not to believe that the Navy will provide timely, relevant, and accurate information upon which Congress can base their decisions.  As a result, Congress is starting to get into the nitty-gritty details of weapons development and procurement.  On the one hand, that’s great.  Congress has, for far too long, abdicated their oversight role of the military and procurement spending by simply going along with pretty much whatever the military has requested.  It’s about time Congress started asking questions and demanding answers.  On the other hand, it’s a sad state of affairs when the Navy no longer retains the trust of Congress.  As regular readers well know, the Navy has squandered their reservoir of trust on a seemingly endless string of poor decisions, abrupt changes in direction, misinformation, and incomplete or poorly performed analyses and assessments of weapons systems.  The Navy’s chickens are coming home to roost and they have no one to blame but themselves.


  1. "The Ford is going to cost well over $13B when done. We simply can’t afford that when the entire yearly shipbuilding budget is $15B."
    Well, yes and no.
    Ten carriers, with a 50 year lifespan, is one carrier every 5 years
    So its $13bn out of $75bn. Still a solid block of the budget mind.

    I wish our MPs were half as interested as your congressmen!

    1. TrT, the Navy has stated that it wants a 300+ ship fleet. For an average ship life of 30 years, we need to build 10 ships per year. The average cost of new construction is around $3B which, given that the yearly shipbuilding budget is $15B, means that we can only afford to build 5 ships per year. If every fifth year (the construction cycle of carriers) we can only afford to build one new ship, you can see that carriers have an enormous impact on construction costs. The foregoing explains why the fleet is shrinking rapidly rather than expanding as the Navy claims to want.

    2. The problem is that at 15B per year, we cannot even afford to replace existing assets at current cost without building any carriers.

      15x30 = 450b.

      Current cost to replace just the armed Navy ships is in the range of 520B for a 30 year replacement cycle with prorating subs and aircraft carriers from 50 years to 30 years. And that's with Fords are an average cost of 12B. And assuming we can replace all CG/DG for ~3B on average. And that we can replace all the subs for ~3B on average. Both of which are optimistic. That doesn't include any cost of building new support ships.

      Honestly the only solution I can see is we need to plan for a longer replacement cycle. We should probably bump up the CG/DG replacements to a 40 or 50 year cycle and the same for the amphibs. And once you do that, going to CGN/DGN starts becoming very attractive which should significantly lower operational costs.

    3. ats, you suggest increasing the life span of ships in order to increase fleet size. I happen to agree with that, however, there are two difficulties in doing that. One, is that the ships we have aren't even meeting their design life spans let alone extended spans. For example, the Navy is trying to retire several Tico cruisers with less than 30 years use. Also, the LCS only has a design span of 20-25 years. Anyone want to bet whether the LCS will even make that? The only way to achieve longer life spans is to sink much more money into maintenance and conduct regular, extensive upgrades, all of which costs significant money.

      This leads to the second difficulty. The Navy has trapped themselves in a vicious cyce, a Catch-22. They are shorting maintenance in order to divert the funds to new construction. However, shorting maintenance means that ships aren't meeting their design life spans. That means we need more new ships because the poorly maintained ships are retiring faster than expected. The only to get more construction funds is to further short maintenance. And so on, and so on.

      For reasons that elude me, Navy leadership is embarked on path in which the highest priority is new construction, to the detriment of fleet size and readiness.

      Side note: nuclear ships with a 40-50 year design life will require the massively expensive mid-life nuclear refuelings which will further impact new construction funding. And so on, and so on.

      Until and unless the Navy drops its obsession with new construction the fleet will continue to shrink to nothing.

    4. WRT nuclear power, both the A1B and S1B reactor designs support 40 years between refueling. In fact that is intended to allow the next gen SSBN and Ford class to have minimal lifespans of 40 years. Both also have the option for an interim refuel step to further extend the reactor life. Given the capabilities of the A1B and the S1B, it would make sense to consider them for future propulsion needs.

      Indeed, reusing the A1B or S1B design should actual reduce the average cost of the Fords and SSBN(X) designs. Esp given the future power requirements of next gen DG/CG design, it makes sense to look at the nuclear options. It might even make sense to consider lifting the SSBN(X) propulsion train or at least large segments of it for next gen DG/CG designs.

      While Burke FLT III is a reasonable stop gap, it basically maxes out everything about the burke from displacement to power.

      As far as maintenance, I can do nothing but agree. It is obvious to me that either the Navy needs to plan for 40-50 year life cycles or a significant reduction in number of ships and right now it is doing neither.

    5. ats, are you certain about the 40 yr reactor life? I ask because I've read in a few places that the Ford will only be good for about 30-35 years and will require a refuel. I can't instantly place where I've read that so I'll have to dig out a reference if you don't have a 40+ yr reference. Also, remember that the carriers are designed with a 50 yr life. Unless you know that the reactors are good for 50 yrs, the carriers will still need refuels. A 40 yr reactor on a 50 yr carrier still leaves the ship 10 yrs short and needs an expensive refuel.

      Regarding CGN/DGN, 40 yrs would be OK if the ship's lives match the reactors.

      Help me out with a reference, if you've got one!

    6. I'd be very surprised if the reactors can go 50 years without a refuel. The astutes can do 25 without refuel, the French barracudas a mere 10 years.

    7. CNO, Yes, the SSBN(X) is being designed for life of ship reactor with a planned lifetime of 42 years. The Fords have a nominal reactor lifetime of ~33 years, allowing reasonable leeway of ~10 years for the refuel schedule.

      Life-of-Ship reactor is in almost every document I've seen on the SSBN(X):

      So yes, 42 years is a real number for the S1B reactor.

  2. Is anyone ever held accountable? That is, if Congress is deliberately misled, and as a result money is squandered by the billions, does anyone get a slap on the wrist? Or does Congress just punish the institution (the Navy in this case) by asking detailed questions and demanding timely reports? If it were you or I, we'd be in jail.

    1. JI, we'd be in jail unless we worked for the government in which case we'd be promoted!

    2. """"in which case we'd be promoted!""

      More likely retired and now working for the contractors. The problems we have today were caused by decisions 5/10/15/20 years ago and those people are long retired.

      And as I believe you have pointed out there is no General Board nor a Buships with the capacity to design ships anymore who can keep an eye on the long term future of the Navy. Instead our senior military leadership is more involved with day to day operations and they only stay in a top job for a few years before they retire.

      You can see the results of the old system, from the late 19 hundreds to late 20th century. Class after class of warship with steady improvements over the previous class. There was little attempt to build a revolutionary, transformational or skip a generation ship. Instead they looked at the older ships, saw ways to improve it and then built that improved ship with the experience gained.

      Now a lot of that experience is gone and we are building ships based on PowerPoint slides about what our dream ships can do or failing that building new ships based on the last successful design even if they are reaching the point where a new design is needed. Our design staff seems so depleted that they seem terrified to even design an enlarged DDG-51 so their new radars can fit so instead they are trying to stuff a miniature version of the radar on in hopes it will work.

  3. I can't help but wonder if most of the Navy's problems are a direct consequence of having way too many Admirals. I forget the exact number but I seem to remember you posting it in your blog at one point. All this nonsense seems to smack of committee-think. I remember reading a book about how the atmosphere at GM became so top-heavy that the "enemy" became the heads of all the other divisions and (they were vying for the same resources, promotions, etc.) instead of the competition.
    I wonder if having a top-heavy command structure is having a similar affect on the Navy. At the same time, blame must also be shared with SecNav and the civilian leadership. It is their job to oversee the zoo, get past the smokescreens and make (and enforce) tough decisions and not just rubber-stamp what the brass puts before them.