Navy leadership worships at the Altar of New Construction. Everything the Navy does is driven by the desire to fund new ships. New construction is pursued with an almost religious zeal. The entire LCS class was a frenzied effort to get new hulls into the water as quickly as possible without even a design, concept of operations, or proof of any of the technology that was supposed to go into them – just a push to get new hulls into the water and figure out what to do with them later. Consider the litany of programs and policies, mostly failures, that have been instituted in the name of funding new construction.
- Optimal manning
- Early retirements (Spruances, Ticonderogas, MHCs, LHAs, etc.)
- Reduced maintenance
- Forced separation of sailors
- Reduced training
- Cross decking of equipment
- Longer deployments
|Spruance - Sacrificed at the Altar?|
A highly competent and lethal Navy isn’t simply the result of new construction. New construction is just one of the tools and is hardly even the best one. I’d rather have a Perry FFG, impeccably maintained, upgraded as appropriate, and superbly trained than a new LCS. I’d rather have an old Spruance DD with an NTU (New Threat Upgrade) that works flawlessly and is operated by highly competent techs than a new Burke DDG with an Aegis system that is poorly “tuned”, prone to malfunctions, and can’t be maintained or repaired onboard ship. I’d rather have an old LPD, well maintained and highly trained than a new LPD-17 which is deemed unsuitable for its purpose by the Navy and has trouble even leaving the dock.
Everything the Navy does revolves around the drive to fund new construction but where is that drive taking us? We’ve become a hollow, undermanned, poorly maintained, INSURV-failing Navy whose surface fleet is dwindling in numbers. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that the Navy is going to begin counting hospital ships, PCs, and other non-combatants as battle force ships in order to avoid having to explain why the fleet is shrinking despite the Navy’s own calls for an increasing fleet. INSURV reports have been classified to avoid having to answer questions about repeated inspection failures.
Now don’t get me wrong, new construction is necessary and proper but it has to be one part of the Navy’s toolbelt not the Navy’s whole reason for existence. A ten year moratorium on new construction wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to the Navy. It would provide a chance to get back to maintenance, training, and upgrades while offering a chance to absorb the lessons learned from the recent construction program debacles and take some time to develop carefully thought out designs for the next round of construction.
The only part of this that puzzles me is where the fanatical drive for new construction is coming from. It’s clear that Navy leadership is consumed by the quest for new construction but I can’t see any logical reason for it. It’s not as if they’re building up the fleet’s numbers – in fact, the fleet is shrinking under this new construction crusade. It’s not as if the new ships are markedly superior in capabilities – in most cases (LCS and LPD, notably) they’re not. So why is leadership consumed with the push for new ships? I honestly can’t see the reason. The behavior is clear but the rationale is not.