Friday, March 27, 2015

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Our uniformed military leadership is currently parading in front of Congress, pleading for more money and inferring (actually, flatly stating) that all of the military’s problems are the fault of sequestration.  Yes, funds are tight (only on relative basis – the military is still very, very well funded) and, like every family in America, the military is being asked to live within a budget.  Like every family in America, they’ve had to make some hard decisions.  The difference is, every one of their decisions has been wrong.

Depot level maintenance is lagging far behind with backlogs approaching 150 aircraft.  Depot manning is woefully understaffed.  Parts inventories are severely depleted.  That’s all due to bad decisions made by the military.  Congress didn’t tell the military to let depot capability wither.

But the F-35 is fully funded.

The Marines have told Congress that 20% of their aircraft are grounded awaiting parts and maintenance.  Congress didn’t make the decisions to short maintenance and parts inventories – the Marines did.

But the LCS is fully funded.

Surge capability has vanished to the point of non-existence.  We are barely getting a reduced level of deploying units out the door.  There are no parts and no training for the surge forces.

But 22 admirals are getting a second star.

The fleet is steadily shrinking.  Worse, our combat power is being replaced by useless LCSs, non-combat JHSVs, questionable MLPs, and hospital ships.

But the Ford CVN is fully funded.

We have significant sea billet gaps.  Minimal manning has proved to be an abject failure resulting in ever worsening maintenance problems, task overload, and spectacular ship performance failures (the Port Royal grounding, for example, was due, in part, to a shortage of personnel).

But the number of admirals is at an all time high.

Tactical training has all but ceased and the Navy is desperately trying to re-establish some form of training (in the middle of the desert!).  Our commanders have no idea how to tactically handle individual ships or task groups.  No commander has ever practiced combat ops for a multi-carrier group.

But we are at an all time high in diversity, cultural awareness, and gender sensitivity training.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Funds are tight, at least compared to the bottomless well of funding that we used to enjoy, and military leadership is making all the wrong decisions and putting the available funds into all the wrong areas. 

Consider fleetwide maintenance.  Navy leaders are standing before Congress, right now, stating that because of sequestration, maintenance will deteriorate and that Congress needs to allocate more funds.  Well, maintenance has been deteriorating for a couple decades – long before sequestration happened.  The truth is that the Navy long ago opted to short maintenance in pursuit of new construction.  The decision to cut depot funding occurred many years ago.  Sequestration may have exacerbated the problem but it certainly didn’t cause it.  Maintenance problems are a voluntary, self-inflicted problem that is wholly the responsibility of Navy leadership.  It is simply lying to stand before Congress and blame maintenance problems on Congress and sequestration. 

What’s wrong with this picture?  What’s wrong is Navy decision making and priorities.  Navy leadership has failed America.


  1. EVERYONE remember that we elect the people that nominate, confirm and appoint the Navy (and ALL Senior Military People) Senior Managers.

    THEIR Failure is OUR Failure!

    1. You're right to an extent. However, the Navy selects their own upper ranks and that's where the leadership failure is first occuring.

      Congress is far from blameless which makes us far from blameless, as you point out. Still, Navy leadership should be setting the bar for integrity, honesty, and competence, not crawling under it.

  2. Ugh. I'm all for funding. I'm even willing to accept some inefficiency in a Government program that is specialized. (Not going to get much market efficiency in building nuclear submarines. There are only so many makers and so much demand).

    However, we've gotten to the point of craziness. The Hornet/Tomcat/Burke/Tico/Abrams/Blackhawk/Eagle/Falcon/Bradley programs all had their issues. I'm sure all had cost overruns. But in the end, we at least got stuff that worked better than their predecessors and gave us an excellent chance vs. peer adversaries. They also tended to answer specific questions: The Abrams/Bradley/Blackhawk/A10 were all designed to help us cope in Germany, and were aimed at specific threats (Russian armored columns). The Tico/Tomcat were for the outer air battle do help us defend against the Russian cruise missile threat.

    Recently? The SuperHornet is the only program I can think of that's been run moderately well. How many version of the next combat vehicle has the Army spent billions on only to cancel? How about the Marine connector replacement? Millions spent, cancelled. F-22? Finally get it there, only to cancel it after 187 versions because *it was too expensive*. Despite the fact that the F-35 is likely going to match or exceed its unit cost. And the F-35?!?!? Good Lord.

    The Defense department gets something like $600 billion/yr. While that won't, in the modern era, maybe build a modern version of an 80's military, it should at least give us quality equipment and basic competence. The numbers might be smaller and the technology not quite as far ahead of the curve, but still good.

    Instead the military higher ups manage to waste millions, gets nothing (we still pay millions on cancelled contracts), and then has the temerity to say they're running out of money.

    Congress has its own blame too. Why is the LCS and F-35 out there still? Why weren't they nipped before they became so big? Because they have a huge amount of lobbying support. Lockmart was brilliant to make this across 48 states. Also, Congress never seems to get that if it costs $400 billion to run a military at peace it costs $400 billion + overhead to take it to war. And we've done alot of fighting and deploying over 12 years.

    Sometimes I wish they could get high leve security clearances for a bunch of accountants and auditors who were outside of Congressional and military authority, had unlimited access, but could only report their findings. They might find some extra money in the till that's being wasted.

    Sorry for the rant.


  3. Great post. Our corporate media is filled with propaganda about how sequestration will result in deep, dangerous cuts in our military. These arguments mischaracterize current levels of Pentagon spending, asserting that the 2011 budget caps represent a $1 trillion reduction over ten years, while Generals dispatch American troops to every place on the globe where a conflict may occur to suggest an even greater need. Meanwhile, Generals and Admirals blame lower readiness on non-existent "cuts" to excuse their mismanagement, neglect, and incompetence. To make matters worse, Obama just appointed a military industry lobbyist as Secretary of Defense, who was enthusiastically confirmed by congressional committees packed with military industry reps.

    In fact, Pentagon spending is going up. The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation's latest briefing book on the Pentagon budget notes that even under the caps, the Pentagon's base budget is slated to receive more money this year than it did last year, and to continue rising through the end of this decade and beyond. There was a small course correction in Fiscal Year 2013, when the caps brought the record post-World War II Pentagon budget down by 6%. But after that the trend has been onward and upward. The misleading "cuts" are based on comparing current spending projections to the Pentagon's unrealistic wish list for annual spending growth well above inflation, not to actual spending levels.

    1. Nice reply. And I'm very concerned about the relationship between the parties, the defense industry, and the military. It doesn't seem to be leading to an eye for efficiency.

      I just was curious; were you saying the Generals are sending troops around the world? They can transfer troops etc. but I was of the understanding that their power to do so is limited. I.E. they can't make policy: 'Whoops, Afghanistan needs some stabilizing. We'll send another 20K troops there...' without Presidential approval.

      " The misleading "cuts" are based on comparing current spending projections to the Pentagon's unrealistic wish list for annual spending growth well above inflation, not to actual spending levels."

      IIRC, this is pretty common for all government agencies. I.E. if HHS was to recieve a 5% bump beyond inflation for FY '15, but only gets a 4% bump beyond inflation, its often reported that their budget has been 'cut'.

      Regardless of political party, I think the media needs to improve on its reporting of these things. Be it HHS or the Pentagon.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The USN seems to have too many internal factions, competing for money, and insufficient care on the part of the top leadership to balance the outcomes so as to leave a workable organisation. However, the factions that are fully funded are probably getting considerable help from politicians who represent the contractors those factions buy from, so you need to look at political interference in Navy decisions as well as the decisions themselves.

    And "diversity, cultural awareness, and gender sensitivity training" is likely really cheap to do, as compared to training that requires use of ships and planes, or simulators. Doing it should dispose one source of political complaints, without burning up much cash.

    1. Diversity, cultural awareness, and sensitivity training costs more than you think. The military has crowds of lawyers and others working on researching, assembling, and presenting this material. At a time of constrained budgets, every penny wasted is an irreplacable loss.

      In addition, there is the opportunity cost of such training. Every man-hour spent assembling, presenting, or listening to such training is an hour that could have been spent doing tactical training, for example.

  5. An update on the CVN-78 Ford

    Bloomberg News reports
    EMALS launch system
    Last week the EMALS received a thumbs-up from Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, program executive officer for carriers. He told reporters that work was "going well" and two of the four catapults had been installed on the Ford.

    Also reported the Super Hornets and Growlers  can’t carry additional 480-gallon fuel tanks when launched from the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) because of the stress created by the ship’s catapult. Navy Cmdr. Thurraya Kent said the problem was discovered last April during testing at Lakehurst, N.J. "The Navy understands the issue, views it as a low technical risk, and has a funded plan in place to fix it," "The fix will involve a software change and will be completed well before any planned operational launch and recovery of aircraft." The 'simple' fix will not be available until after March 31st 2016 commissioning.

    Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) Landing System
    Rear Adm. Thomas Moore. “Right now the advanced arresting gear is my critical path to the delivery of the ship,” Moore told reporters last Thursday. The original system failed during a test a few years ago and required a modification. Understand the original system was ripped out and replaced by the untested modified version, RADM Moore must have his fingers crossed.

     The dual-band radar (DBR)  DefenseNews

    “In something of a surprise move, the US Navy revealed the long-touted dual band radar (DBR) being installed in new carriers of the Gerald R. Ford class will only be fitted on the first ship, and a new, yet-to-be-chosen radar will be installed on subsequent ships.
    The revelation came Tuesday as Rear Adm. Thomas Moore, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, spoke at the McAleese Credit Suisse defense conference in Washington.”
    After cancelling the DBR for Zumwalt 'due to cost' it will be a one off system for the Ford.

    With other required modifications required to make the ship operational are being deferred by the Navy to post commissioning in an effort to keep the project within the then year dollar $12.9 billion cost cap/ $15.0 billion in 2014 dollars.(GAO)


  6. Can someone explain a "launch failure" for the new EMALs? Steam is fail safe, the pressure is there, and mechanical valve releases it. But EMALs "failed" one out of 240 times during shore tests, five times greater than required. When it failed, does that mean the launch didn't happen, or the aircraft didn't get the needed boost. At Lakehurst the failures just had the aircraft rolling down the runway. Will they really risk $200 million F-35Cs or C-2s with 20 guys aboard for something that might not work, so the aircraft just spurts forward at 60 knots and off the bow into the ocean, to be smashed the carrier seconds later? Even a failure rate of one every 1250 times is unacceptable.

    1. I've posted on this exact topic. Various reports cite failure rates but don't explain what constitutes a failure. I agree that the failure rate seems quite excessive.

    2. Just to be fair, steam is hardly safe. Cold cat shots occur with regularity and have resulted in the loss of many aircraft.

    3. Well that's got to contribute to the pucker factor for those pilots.

  7. I'm throwing a BS flag at this:

    Also reported the Super Hornets and Growlers can’t carry additional 480-gallon fuel tanks when launched from the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) because of the stress created by the ship’s catapult. Navy Cmdr. Thurraya Kent said the problem was discovered last April during testing at Lakehurst, N.J. "The Navy understands the issue, views it as a low technical risk, and has a funded plan in place to fix it," "The fix will involve a software change and will be completed well before any planned operational launch and recovery of aircraft." The 'simple' fix will not be available until after March 31st 2016 commissioning.
    The EMALS promised a smoother launch. And now its worse that a steam launch and air combat stresses? During development the goal was the ability to launch up to 100,000 lbs of aircraft. I suspect it can't do 70,000 lbs required for fully loaded aircraft, so they've come up with this BS to shift the blame, that will be fixed by "software" over a year later, after commissioning.

    Can a Congressman please ask if the launch tests at Lakehurst were done with aircraft at max gross weight? Yes, I expect our aircraft to launch with bombs and fuel!

    Same problem with the C-2, which is why they quickly chose the inferior V-22 with no competition, even though new C-2s can roll off the EC-2 production line to provide three times the range with twice the payload. This may become the biggest scandal in Navy history. Aircraft will launch with bingo fuel and tank up once airborne..

    1. Which means half the air wing will have to launch with nothing but fuel so the other half can launch with little but ordinance.

      If they really can't launch a 70K aircraft, and the SuperHornet/35C can approach that, then it seems the reason for EMALS just went out the window. Because even if it has improved sortie rates, the aircraft themselves won't be able to do as much.


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