The Navy is at it again. You’ll recall that the Navy attempted to retire 11 of the 22 ship Aegis cruiser force under the guise of “idling” them while slowly modernizing them and then eventually bringing them back into the fleet as one-for-one replacements for retiring cruisers. [See, “Idled Cruisers” and “Idled Cruisers – Update”] Of course, ComNavOps pointed out that if you remove half the cruiser fleet and then bring them back on a one-for-one replacement basis you will have effectively retired 11 of the 22 cruisers since, in one fell swoop, the cruiser force would be reduced from 22 to 11 and never rise above that number again.
Of course, that was the best case plan. More realistically, the “idled” cruisers would never sail again. Can you really see the Navy following through, several years from now, on modernizing ships that are even older at that point? Of course not! Once idled, these ships are done. The operating costs disappear, crews vanish, money is saved, and new construction is assured.
Why, you ask, would the Navy conceivably want to early retire the most powerful warships in the world, some with BMD capability already, all with potential BMD capability, and all with many years of service life left? The answer is two-fold:
- As we just discussed, saving money for new construction.
- Eliminating a potential and very viable alternative to the Burke Flt III which, if exercised, would threaten new Burke Flt III construction funding. This was the same tactic used when the Spruance class was literally sunk to prevent competition between the Spruance/NTU and the, then, new Aegis system. The Navy also did the same thing by neutering and retiring the Perrys to avoid competition with the LCS.
In any event, Congress didn’t believe the Navy’s “modernization” plan any more than ComNavOps did and they legislated that the Navy continue to operate the cruisers. Then, when the Navy continued to try to back-door Congress, passed the 2/4/6 law which limited the Navy to 2 “idles” per year, mandated that the modernizations be completed in 4 years, and only allowed a maximum of 6 cruiser to be “idled” at a time.
So much for the history of this.
Undeterred, the Navy is once again attempting to retire 11 cruisers (1) in one stroke. This time, recognizing Congress’ distrust, the Navy has offered (is insisting, actually) to have Congress write legislation mandating the return of the modernized cruisers to the fleet. That way, the Navy claims, they can’t renege on the plan and retire the cruisers.
How dumb does the Navy think we are? This is just a rehash of the original attempt whereby half the cruiser force would be idled for an extended period and then returned to the fleet on a one-for-one basis to replace retiring cruisers. It still results in 11 cruisers being dropped from the force, permanently. The article also makes it crystal clear that the Navy recognizes and publicly acknowledges that Congress does not trust them. As I’ve said, the Navy has squandered whatever good will they ever had with Congress. Now, though, they’re in the process of squandering their intellectual credibility.
At a time when the Navy is claiming to want to build the fleet up to 300+ ships, claiming that BMD is one of, if not the top, priorities, and is supposedly preparing for a Pacific Pivot and potential confrontation with China, how can the Navy possibly retire 11 of the most powerful warships on earth and replace them, numerically, with LCSs? Honestly, if
could slip an agent into the Secretary of the Navy’s
job with instructions to weaken the China fleet, they couldn’t do it better than this. US
This latest attempt demonstrates, yet again, the Navy’s blatant disregard for Congressional wishes and highlights the absolute insanity that is now passing for leadership in the Navy.
USNI, “WEST: Navy Wants Congressional Mandate Preventing Decommissioning Modernized Cruisers”, Megan Eckstein,
February 18, 2016,