Show Me The Money!
How often do our discussions result in statements to the effect that “we can’t afford that” – whatever that is. It might be a new ship or weapon. It might be reserve fleet maintenance. It might be upgrades to keep a ship or aircraft in service longer. It might be simple maintenance to keep ships functioning and combat ready. It might be realistic training. It might be whatever. Inevitably, though, someone attempts to shut the discussion down with a comment about costs. Those people are both shortsightedly right and overall stunningly wrong.
Statements that we can’t afford something are correct – if nothing changes. If we keep doing the same stupid things we’ve done then we’ll have no money for the things we should do. This blog is partly about the things we actually do but also partly about the things we should be doing.
*whine* We can’t do xxxxxxxx because we don’t have the money. *whine*
Well, here’s where the money comes from: don’t engage in stupid programs that contribute nothing to our national security. What programs and money am I talking about? For starters, these:
Zumwalt – This program is going to cost around $30B in production and R&D and will give us 3 ships of highly questionable military value. Two of the ships are already too far along to realize much savings from canceling them but the third ship should be terminated which would save a couple of billion even at this point. I would even suggest that the second ship be completed and idled to eliminate operating costs. The first ship can be retained and operated as a test bed.
LCS –This program still has around 40 vessels to go depending on the degree of construction on current builds. At $500M per, that equates to $20B for construction. In addition, 40 modules at, say, $50M each equates to another $2B.
F-35 – The Navy plans to buy 820 F-35B/Cs. At $150M each, that’s $123B. Yikes! Kill this steaming pile of a program.
Ford Class – This program has set new standards for profligate spending. The Ford will cost $15B+ by the time it’s operational. The follow on ships, CVN-79 (Kennedy) and CVN-80 (
will likely cost $12B or so each. What
will these ships gain us? Very
little. The EMALS is a nice enhancement
from a maintenance perspective, if it works, but it offers no performance
improvement. There are vague claims
about less stress on the aircraft but that is backed up by no data and every
aircraft we have is fully capable of withstanding those stresses so there is no
real gain. On the negative side, the
EMALS is a massive electromagnetic beacon broadcasting the carrier's location
for all to see. Claims of increased
sortie rates have been debunked and our carriers are not sortie rate limited
anyway since the air wings have shrunk to nearly half their size. Returning to the baseline Nimitz class would
have little or no operational impact and would save several billion dollars per
Burke Flt III – This program will provide a very marginal vessel with insufficient growth margins upon commissioning and a radar that does not meet the desired requirements. Ten or twenty of these ships at $2B each equates to $20B-$40B.
LX(R) – This ill-considered replacement for the LSDs should be immediately terminated. The LX(R) will have only half the well deck of the LSD-41 class that it’s replacing. The dozen or so proposed ships will cost around $2.5B each (at best!) and would save $30B.
SSBN(X) – The replacement for the
class SSBN is larger than the Ohio while carrying several less missiles. This class should be terminated and
redesigned to a smaller size resulting in $0.5B savings per ship for a $6B
total savings. Ohios
Of course, the cited savings cannot be fully realized. Many of the programs still need a product. The LX(R), for example, still needs to be built and the money would come from the savings. However, if the ships were built to commercial standards with significantly reduced combat capabilities, the savings would still be substantial.
Now, merely canceling these programs and then embarking on equally ill-considered and poorly managed replacement programs would accomplish nothing. We’ve discussed better alternatives to most of these programs and these would have to be implemented in order to realize the savings. Further, the replacement programs would have to be well run: no concurrency, completed design plans prior to construction, well thought out CONOPS prior to design, contracts with massive penalties for quality failings, accountability in the Navy ranks with long term program assignments and firings and courts-martial when costs are exceeded, aggressive use of NAVSEA to ensure quality and firings and courts-martial when failures occur, honesty and transparency towards the public and Congress, and not a penny more beyond the cost estimates with firings and courts-martial if the cost estimates are exceeded.
I’ve shown you the money. Now, let’s rebuild the Navy!