Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Idled" Cruisers

As previously noted, the Navy has announced plans to idle 11 of the 22 Aegis cruisers.  The publicly stated plan is that the cruisers will, over time, be modernized and returned to the fleet.  Great!  So, that puts us back to 22 Aegis cruisers and they’ll be extensively modernized.  That’s a win in anybody’s book, huh?

Well, not so fast.  Let’s back the drydock up and look at this a bit closer.  When you check out the details, you see that the Navy’s plan is actually for the idled/modernized cruisers to rejoin the fleet as one-for-one replacements for retiring cruisers.  Thus, we’ll never see 22 cruisers again – we’ll only ever see 11.  Yeah, the Navy hasn’t exactly been striving to make that point clear.

Next, does anyone think the idled cruisers will ever be modernized?  The Navy isn’t modernizing its active ships to any great extent.  Why would they divert funds into modernizing idled ships when they could, instead, use the funds for new construction.  Can you picture the Navy someday saying, sure, let’s build one less brand new Burke Flt III so that we can modernize a Ticonderoga class cruiser that’s been sitting idle for several years?  Not going to happen.

Not sure I’m right about this?  Consider the case of the Avenger MCM vessels.  The Navy had the LCS coming along so they allowed the Avengers to sit and rot, literally.  Does it seem likely that the Navy will carefully maintain the idled Ticos with the new Burke Flt IIIs coming?  In fact, the more suspicious among us might think that allowing the idled Ticos to sit and rot would be exactly what the Navy would do so as to eliminate any possible alternative to the Burke Flt III from consideration.  The Navy eliminated the Spruances to avoid competition with Aegis.  They eliminated the Perrys and Avengers to avoid competition with the LCS.  It now appears that they’re eliminating the Ticos to avoid competition with the Burke Flt III.

The Navy wanted to early retire the cruisers, Congress balked and ordered the Navy to keep the cruisers, and now the Navy has found a way around Congress by “idling” and “modernizing” the cruisers.  The Navy’s ploy could not be more transparent.  Whether you agree or disagree with the Navy’s desire to retire the cruisers and Congress’ desire to keep them, the Navy has a duty and responsibility to comply with Congress’ intent.  It is reprehensible and shameful to pull this kind of maneuver which flagrantly disregards Congress’ direction.  If the Navy feels the cruisers must be retired then they need to make the case for it and accept the decision of Congress whether they agree or not.

The irony is that there might be a valid case to be made for idling ships (as long as they’re properly maintained) in this period of budget challenges.  Of course, there would be many difficulties involved in doing this properly but that’s a topic for another time.

Wave good-bye to the “idled” Ticos.  You’ll never see them again.

3 comments:

  1. If Congress wants to micromanage force structure, it needs to fund it. Too often Congress mandates with one hand, and cuts funding with the other.

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    1. B.Smitty, to be fair, I believe that Congress did provide additional funding to retain the first 4 (?) cruisers that the Navy tried to retire. Also, the current 11 cruisers O&M costs are funded through the general operations budget as is every other Navy ship, aren't they?

      I haven't been able to totally verify those statements so correct me if I'm wrong.

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  2. Funny how the USN changes definitions over the years; in the 1800s, "modernizing" meant an entirely new ship, whereas now it's a way to get rid of perfectly good ships.

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