Sunday, July 6, 2014

Expansion Through Reduction

The Navy faces some significant gaps and shortfalls in capability, worsening problems with numbers of platforms and weapons, and, compounding the problem, severe budget restrictions.  It’s unfortunate but, realistically, there’s nothing that can be done about it.  Before we totally agree with that last statement, let’s consider the following questions, just briefly.

Would cutting a hundred Admirals and their staffs have any negative impact on the fleet’s combat capability?  No.  Would it free up funding?  Yes.

Would cutting the LCS program at the several ships already built or under construction have any negative impact on the fleet’s combat capability?  No.  Would it free up funding?  Yes.

Would terminating the JHSV adversely impact the fleet or ground forces’ combat capability?  No.  Would it free up funding? Yes.

Would terminating the America class reduce the fleet’s combat capability?  Not if we stop prematurely retiring amphibious ships.  Would it free up funding?  Yes.

Would terminating the F-35C program hurt the Navy’s aviation combat capability?  Not if we purchase additional Super Hornets and Advanced Super Hornets (ASH).  Would it free up funding?  Yes.

Would cutting the next Ford class carrier hurt the Navy’s combat capability?  Not if we maintain the carriers we already have.  Would it free up funding?  Yes.

Admittedly, the lack of impact on combat capability of some of the preceding cuts is dependent on taking specific alternative actions and the savings are not as simple as adding up the costs of the deleted items.  The alternative actions would have their own costs but the savings would still be significant.

So, given that the preceding cuts would have little impact on the fleet’s combat capability, could we use the freed up funding to procure additional ships and aircraft that would increase fleet numbers and overall combat capability?  Certainly!

The LCS has been reduced to filling the MCM mission if the module can be developed to even do that.  ASuW has been abandoned and ASW is likely to be abandoned given the reduction in numbers from 52 to 32.  With the money saved, we could buy a LOT of small, dedicated MCM vessels along the line of a slightly beefed up Avenger as well as -53 MCM helos and myriad unmanned MCM vehicles.

By dropping the JSF program back to an R&D effort until it matures and buying Advanced Super Hornets we can procure more aircraft, fill out the shrinking airwings, and possibly have a bit left over for reactivating S-3 Vikings for the dedicated tanker and fixed wing ASW roles.  The R&D has already been done on the ASH and the cost was borne by the manufacturer.  Yes, there will be additional developmental and production costs but the heavy lifting R&D is finished.  ASH procurement would cost around $60M-$70M from most recent cost estimates.  Of course those costs would increase.  Every estimate is optimistically low.  Still, the costs would be far less than the F-35 and the ASH actually works!

Saving the $12B or so that the next Ford would cost would allow the Navy to acquire patrol vessels, missile boats, frigates, or whatever would be useful for our peacetime and Pacific Pivot needs.  Of course, this assumes that the Navy would buy existing ship designs rather than engage in a costly new design program.  Ambassador missile boats and MEKO frigates are good examples of mature, proven designs along with any number of other good foreign designs.

The America class adds no significant improvement in combat capability and is being paid for, at least partially, by early retiring perfectly capable amphibious ships.  The $4B or so that each ship costs could not only maintain the current ships that are, instead, being early retired but would certainly help acquire modern, far more capable LSTs and/or LCUs that would improve our assault capabilities far more than replacement amphibious ship that is only marginally better, if that, than the legacy ships they’re replacing.

It’s obvious that the Navy could increase both numbers and capability through some judicious reductions.  Expansion through reduction!  We’re locked into a death spiral of ever increasing costs resulting in ever fewer ships.  We can continue with the status quo and ride it right down to a totally ineffective fleet or we can begin to explore alternatives.


  1. CNO,

    I am hugely in favor of a major restructuring aka ‘expansion through reduction’ and not just for the Navy, but for the armed forces as a whole.

    At a time when everyone is complaining about manpower costs and reductions, I note that the USA has more 4-star flag officers than it had at the height of WWII! This bloat is mirrored on the civilian side with more Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and SES positions added. Note those positions come with lifetime retirement just for appointment. And the Pentagon added over 10,000, contractors post 911.

    I ask again, why does the USA subsidize NATO defense when the EU has a higher per capita income than anyone else on the planet? Yet the USA still has 30,000 troops stationed in Europe when the Europeans are more than capable of defending themselves.

    Then there are duplicative agencies like Defense Finance and Accounting (DFAS), which was created as an agency to do financial accounting jobs that the services were doing before DFAS was created. These need to be eliminated.

    I see no reason why the U.S. taxpayer should continue to fund this largesse – we need to eliminate most of the Geographic Combatant Commands (Unified Commands like EUCOM) and replace them with three: East, West, and Americas. And these staffs should be limited to 1,500 people (CENTCOM had over 2,000). These changes would free up tens of thousands of positions that could be returned to combat and related forces.


  2. Good Morning from Britain :)

    I found this, this morning.
    Knowing what a big F35C fan you are. I knew you would be interested in this. Some further F18 Super Hornet and Growler developments ???
    CTOL Carrier landing made easy.
    I dont quite understand why we ( the UK ) are involved and why we apparently developed it on Harrier.
    Im assuming its to do with "rolling vertical landings" for the F35B.

    But from this article it may be you get your wish, a delay in F35C for Hornet.

    Looks like we might be saving you a billion dollars tho.

    Could you please send the cheque for cash, to the UK care of Ben Oliver, Leicester, England ;)

    Seriously I love a bit of UK\US cooperation it always turns out awsome.


    1. Beno,

      I think the peoples of the UK and USA cooperate fabulously; it is our "defense acquisition experts" and "strategist" that fail so stupendously!


    2. Ben, while I'm all in favor of technology that makes a difficult task easier, such as the flight control for landing, there is a downside to it. If, for whatever reason, the system is unavailable and the pilots have become dependent on it, how will they land aboard the carrier? We've already seen this exact scenario play out with GPS. Our forces have become so dependent on GPS that they've lost their basic navigating skills, map reading, and dead reckoning. The Navy lost an Aegis cruiser to this very weakness.

      So, I'm in favor of the technology but only if the pilots are still required to qualify the old fashioned way.

    3. Oh 100% agree !

      Afterall we do still train with bayonettes.

      It does worry me that the system is being advertised as cutting training. This is not good necessarily. But i might hope it returns divadends in sortie rate and airframe life \ maintenance.

      Plus i think the big benefit might be to operate at higher sea states.

      Also, and sorry this should be your line. BUT it might just allow the F35C to actually catch the wire once in a while ?


  3. 12 billion... Enough for at least 24 frigates with a full loasd of ASuW and ESSMs


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