As we just discussed, the Navy has cancelled planned ballistic missile defense (BMD) and NIFC-CA air defense networking upgrades for five Burke class destroyers due to budget constraints (1). The ships will not receive the Baseline 9 Aegis combat system upgrades.
However, USNI website reports on comments by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Sean Stackley, chief of naval acquisition, regarding BMD upgrades and modernization in general (2).
"The Navy’s acquisition chief stressed the importance of modernizing ships in the fleet – particularly the ballistic missile defense (BMD) fleet – to keep them operating for their full service life ..."
Stackley went on to say,
"Perhaps most significantly, we’re on the front end of modernizing our Aegis cruisers and destroyers. Come what may in the budget environment, we need to complete this effort.”
“The backbone of our fleet, the workhorse of our fleet is our Aegis cruisers and destroyers. … Two things we’ve got to do: one, we’ve got to get them to their full service life … and we’re going to look to extend their service life. So we’ve got to get them, at that midlife, get their upgrades in place, get the degree of ballistic missile defense that we need to get our BMD ship count up.”
Is Stackley unaware that the Navy has cancelled the very upgrades that he claims are vitally important? Is he out of the memo loop?
Of course, in a tight budget environment it all comes down to priorities. ComNavOps has frequently stated that in tight times the Navy needs to emphasize maintenance and readiness even over shipbuilding especially because every round of shipbuilding results in fewer ships in the fleet as larger numbers of existing ships are early retired to pay for small numbers of new construction.
The trend of early retiring ships to pay for new construction is exactly opposite Stackley’s call for getting ships to their full service life and beyond.
Of course, Naval Sea Systems Command commander Vice Adm. William Hilarides followed Stackley’s comments by essentially reaffirming that the Navy will continue to early retire ships and forego upgrades to ensure that new construction continues unabated.
“That’s all that’s left to give. Unless you want to give up ships and I think you heard the Secretary of the Navy. We’re not giving up shipbuilding programs.”
There you have it. The Navy will sacrifice anyone and anything to ensure the continuation of new construction. It doesn’t matter how hollow the fleet is, how poorly maintained it is, how poor the readiness is, or how untrained the sailors are. … … … Unless, of course, you ask Assistant Secretary Stackley who has a different story.
Is anyone in the Navy talking to anyone else? Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing? It would appear not.
(1) USNI, "Navy Again Reduces Scope of Destroyer Modernization, 5 Ships Won’t Receive Any Ballistic Missile Defense Upgrades", Sam LaGrone,
(2) USNI, "Stackley: Fleet Needs More BMD Ships to Meet Demand", Megan Eckstein and Sam LaGrone,