I’m seeing more and more blind, aimless pushing for more Navy ships by a variety of people both in uniform and out. So what’s wrong with that? Don’t we all want a bigger Navy? Don’t we all think the Navy is overstretched? Well, there are several problems.
Relevance – One of the major, possibly the most important, themes on this blog is the need for a solid concept of operations (CONOPS) before leaping into ship construction. CONOPS is, of course, ultimately derived from strategy of which we have neither geopolitical nor military. So how can we possibly build useful, relevant ships if we have no idea how they will fit into our force structure and how they will be used? Building ships just to put hulls in the water is a good way to waste enormous sums of money – witness the Zumwalt, LCS, and Ford, to name a few. The LCS, of course, is the poster boy for the bad results from the absence of a CONOPS. We have a ship that has no military value and yet we’re building 40-50 of them! Why would we want to give the Navy money to build more ships that offer no operational benefits?
Asset Responsibility – The Navy doesn’t take care of the ships and aircraft they have - quite the opposite, in fact. The Navy is actively engaged in systematic deferral of maintenance intended to prematurely wear out platforms in order to justify new construction. The Navy is attempting to early retire the entire Aegis cruiser class, the most advanced and powerful warship on the planet. This is the farthest thing from responsible asset management and yet the Navy wants more assets? Try taking care of what you have, first!
Fiscal Responsibility – The Navy has consistently demonstrated an almost incomprehensible inability to manage construction funding and stay on budget. To be fair, the Navy knowingly lies about the estimated costs just to entice Congress into signing up for new construction and then when the real costs appear, of course they’re way over budget – a budget that was never realistic to begin with. Either way, the Navy is fiscally inept at managing projects whether by lying up front, failing to meet stated budgets, or both. How many billions (billions!!!!) of dollars is the Ford over budget, now, and it’s still not done? Why should we give an organization with the Navy’s track record of fiscal mismanagement more money?
Readiness – The Navy has become a largely hollow shell of what it once was. Readiness is at an all-time low. Claims of readiness are a joke. INSURV inspections were classified because they were too embarrassing. Since the Navy can’t maintain the readiness of the ships they have, more ships will just mean more ships that are not combat ready. Why would we want to compound the readiness problem by adding more non-functional ships and a greater maintenance burden to the fleet?
Here’s an example of the kind of the kind of blind, aimless push for more ships that I’m talking about.
“Eight Senators sent a letter Friday to Defense Secretary James Mattis, urging him to request all three Littoral Combat Ships originally planned for the 2018 budget.” (1)
Just out of idle curiosity, who were the 8 Senators who courageously stood up and advocated for the Navy? Well, six of them were,
Richard Shelby –
Luther Strange –
Ron Johnson –
Tammy Baldwin -
Marco Rubio –
Bill Nelson -
On a seemingly unrelated note, do any of you remember what states the two LCS variants are manufactured in? That’s right,
and Alabama ! Now, do you
happen to remember what state the east coast LCS’s are based in? Right again, Wisconsin ! It’s probably
just coincidence that six of the eight Senators who want more LCS’s are from Florida , Alabama , and Wisconsin where the LCS’s are manufactured and based. Florida Senators would not use the LCS as a jobs program at
the expense of the welfare of the country and the Navy, right? United States
The other two Senators are from
. I’m sure
there’s a jobs related connection there but I’m not seeing it at the
moment. Perhaps Michigan manufactures some key LCS component? Moving on … Michigan
You see what’s happening, here? We’re seeing a demand for Navy ships that is not based on strategic and operational needs but on crass and petty reasons like jobs and the Navy is happy to go along with it.
Now, understand that I’m not opposed to increasing the size of the Navy. In fact, I’m strongly in favor of it but only if it’s done responsibly and in a way that supports our strategic and operational needs. More LCS’s aren’t going to accomplish that. Zumwalts aren’t going to accomplish that. Hideously expensive Fords that offer little improvement over Nimitzes aren’t going to accomplish that.
With all that in mind, I’m dead set against giving the Navy any more money until they can convince me that they’ll spend it wisely, spend it with an eye on operational requirements, prove they’ll maintain the assets they’re given, and can convince me that they’ll be good stewards of my taxpayer dollars. Until then, not a penny!
(1)Breaking Defense website, “Key SASC, SAC-D Senators Push More LCS”, Sydney J Freedberg, Jr.,