All too often, today, requirements are downgraded and then rationalized to explain why the downgrade wasn’t actually a downgrade. Wake up! Yes, it was a downgrade. Of course it was a downgrade.
Consider the highest level military requirement that sets the priorities, force structures, acquisition programs, etc. for the services. Originally, after the collapse of the
Soviet Union, the requirement was to be able to fight and win two
major regional wars simultaneously. That
has since been watered down to being able to win one regional conflict and
holding in another.
The 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review put it this way,
“As a global power with worldwide interests, it is imperative that the United States now and for the foreseeable future be able to deter and defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames, preferably in concert with regional allies. Maintaining this core capability is central to credibly deterring opportunism—that is, to avoiding a situation in which an aggressor in one region might be tempted to take advantage when
heavily committed elsewhere… “ U.S.
Despite that straightforward statement, we have downgraded the requirement to fighting one regional conflict and holding on in another and have rationalized that it’s a good thing. Why did we downgrade the requirement? It wasn’t because the threats decreased. It was simply because our military spending was becoming greater and providing less return than in the past. Since we could no longer afford the force structure required to simultaneously fight and win two major regional wars we opted to change the requirement rather than change our procurement and spending habits.
Or, consider the Navy’s carrier requirements. After the Cold War, the requirement was for 15 carriers. It has subsequently worked its way down to 11 with serious discussions about permanent reductions to 8-10. Our need hasn’t changed. What’s changed is that carriers are pricing themselves out of existence, slowly but surely. Each step of the way, the Navy rationalized the reductions.
Or, consider the Marine’s requirement for amphibious lift. Depending on the source, the requirement is as high as 54 amphibious ships. Another common number is 38. The Marines have “bargained” with the Navy and settled on 33-34 as sufficient. The actual number is 30 ships. The Marines and Navy have rationalized the reductions every step of the way. Again, the requirements didn’t change – only our ability to meet them changed so we rationalized our acquisition failure.
The point is that downgrades are imposed by outside factors, budget being chief among them although stupidity is also right up there, and then rationalization is applied to make the downgrade seem palatable or even beneficial and preferred. Rationalization does not, however, change the underlying facts of the matter or the requirements. If we needed 15 carriers, we probably still do. If we needed to be able to fight and win two major regional conflicts at the same time, we probably still do.
Well, that sets the stage for our discussion of survivability.
By the end of WWII, we pretty thoroughly understood what ship survivability meant and how to achieve it. BuShips set the standards and ensured that new construction met those standards. Now, BuShips is gone and accounting trumps survivability.
For decades, survivability has been defined by a very concise and crystal clear document, OpNavInst 9070.1, issued from the CNO’s office on
23-Sep-1988. It is a remarkable document
characterized by fundamental, concise, and obvious statements of
requirement. For example, the basic need
is acknowledged by the statement,
“Survivability shall be considered a fundamental design requirement of no less significance than other inherent ship characteristics, such as weight and stability margins, maneuverability, structural integrity and combat systems capability.”
Clear. Simple. Obvious. So, too, is this statement.
“Ship protection features, such as armor, shielding and signature reduction, together with installed equipment hardened to appropriate standards, constitute a minimum baseline of survivability.” [emphasis added]
The document goes on to define three levels of survivability in short, simple, and unambiguous terms.
Level I (lowest) represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In — this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR, including decontamination stations, the DC/FF capability to control and recover from conflagrations and include the ability to operate in a high latitude environment.
Level II (middle) represents an increase of severity to include the ability for sustained operations when in support of a Battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area. This level shall provide the ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact. Capabilities shall include the requirements of Level I plus primary and support system redundancy, collective protection system, improved structural integrity and subdivision, fragmentation protection, signature reduction, conventional and nuclear blast protection and nuclear hardening.
Level III (highest) the most severe environment projected for combatant Battle Groups, shall include the requirements of Level II plus the ability to deal with the broad degrading effects of damage from anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMS), torpedoes and mines.
The document even defines which ships shall have which level of survivability.
Ship Type Level
Aircraft Carriers III
Surface Combatants III
Frigates and Amphibious Warfare II
Underway Replenishment Ships II
Patrol Combatant and Mine Warfare I
Strategic Sealift I
Support Ships I
All Other Auxiliary Ships/Craft I
Clear. Simple. Obvious.
This should be the end of the story. However, the Navy ran into a little problem: the LCS. The LCS was designed with a sub-Level I survivability. The Navy claimed that it was designed with some made up Level I+ survivability but we already totally debunked that. The Navy flat out lied about that. In any event, because they made the claim of survivability that was untrue and because the ship was designed with sub-Level I, the Navy received much criticism and bad publicity. They fought the negative perception (the reality, actually) for years but could not overcome the criticism especially because their own policy, OpNavInst 9070.1 contradicted their claims and showed that the LCS should have been built with Level II.
Eventually, after fighting a losing battle for many years, the Navy decided that if they couldn’t defend their claims, the easiest solution was to change the survivability standards so that the LCS would meet the new, downgraded standards and the conversation would end. To that end, the Navy made up a new survivability “standard” which is documented in OpNavInst 9070.1A and was issued by CNO Greenert on
The new document takes a previously simple, clear, straightforward, and logical requirement and turns it into a nearly incomprehensible mishmash of generic and interlocking statements that offer no specific guidance or requirements. It has reduced a very specific process to a vague collection of “feelings” about survivability. That was, I believe, its intended purpose – to so obscure the survivability issue that the Navy can now claim the LCS meets the “standard”.
The document incorporates aspects that have nothing to do with survivability. For example, it introduces cyberwarfare as an element of survivability. Cyberwarfare and cyber vulnerabilities may affect a platform’s ability to accomplish its task but it is not a survivability issue.
Even the very definition of survivability is flawed. Read it.
“Survivability. A measure of both the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to perform assigned warfare missions, and of the protection provided to the crew to prevent serious injury or death.”
This definition is incorrect and has nothing to do with survivability. The measure of the ability to perform missions is not survivability. Ability to perform missions is effectiveness. Even the protection for the crew is only somewhat related to survivability. Survivability is, pure and simple, the ability of the ship to remain afloat in the face of combat and damage. The Navy can’t even define survivability!
The document then goes on to list three principal disciplines of survivability: susceptibility, vulnerability, and recoverability. The subsequent definitions of these disciplines are as flawed and irrelevant as the definition of survivability. I won’t even bother quoting them. You can read the document if you’re interested.
Ultimately, the document goes on to offer tables and flowcharts of survivability, none of which offer any concrete requirements. Everything is fluid. Survivability can be anything you want it to be. This takes today’s “feel good” movement and codifies it in Navy documents.
We’ve taken a perfectly simple, logical, and useful survivability requirement, downgraded it to the point of uselessness, and rationalized it under some all-encompassing assessment that has little to do with survivability. Why? Because the Navy got tired of continually defending an expensive and non-survivable ship.
If you can’t change the survivability of the ship, change the definition of survivability! A typical Navy solution.