Navy leadership has, once again, shown its true, deplorable, colors. Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer – you remember him, right? the guy who promised Trump that he could fire him if the Ford’s elevators weren’t fixed by the end of summer? – has now come out and blamed Congress and anyone else he could think of for the Ford’s problems. Let’s take a look at his alternate reality view of the world, as reported by USNI News.
The problem starts with Spencer utterly failing to understand where he and the Navy stand in the United States government scheme of things.
Spencer called out Congress, who he refers to as his “board of directors, …” (1)
Mr. Spencer (I’ll forego giving him the courtesy of addressing him by his title since, by his own statement to the President, he has forfeited his right to the title), let me set you straight. Congress is not your ‘board of directors’. Congress is the people of the United States and, as such, YOU WORK FOR THEM. THEY ARE YOUR BOSS. You are subservient and serve at the pleasure of the people. Now that we have that most fundamental of understandings cleared up …
Spencer was, apparently, especially upset with comments and questions from Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) who referred to the Ford as a “$13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge” during a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing. (1) Spencer’s response was,
“Not one of her comments was, how can I help?” Spencer said. “I consider that disparaging. (1)
Apparently, Mr. Spencer has utterly forgotten that Rep. Luria and the rest of Congress gave Spencer and the Navy over $10B dollars to build the Ford – all the money that Navy said they needed. Then, when the Navy failed to properly do that, Luria and Congress gave the Navy several billion dollars more and obligingly increased the spending cap multiple times! As delays and costs have continued to mount, Luria and Congress have continued to supply Spencer and the Navy with ever more money and time. How much more helpful can they be, Mr. Spencer? They did everything you asked and backed you up and supported you when you failed, time after time.
What Congress did wrong was to aid and abet the Navy as they built their floating debacle. What they should have done was refuse to give the Navy any more money past the original budget request until those in the Navy who were responsible for that original failure were fired. Perhaps that would have motivated the next set of program managers to perform better and more honestly.
By the way, lest you think Rep. Luria is an uninformed, know-nothing, Congressional hack, you should know that she is a retired nuclear-trained surface warfare officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate. That is some top notch qualifications.
Apparently, Spencer believes that anyone who has the temerity to ask questions is ‘disparaging’. I guess Mr. Spencer does not know that Congress’ job is to exercise oversight AND ASK QUESTIONS. In fact, if Congress had exercised more extensive and effective oversight maybe Ford wouldn’t be such a disaster.
Here is Luria’s statement on the matter,
“I find it disappointing that the Secretary finds Congressional oversight disparaging. Here are the facts: The USS Ford will be six years delayed in its initial deployment, which causes incredible strain on the carrier fleet. Secretary Spencer himself promised the President that the weapons elevators would be fully functional by the end of this past summer. It is now fall and no elevators accessing the ammunition storage areas are functioning, which results in a carrier with no combat capability. I have yet to see a detailed plan to fix the multitude of problems with these new technologies. The Navy accepted the design of these systems and accepted the ship in an incomplete state from HII so it is absolutely my role to question Navy leadership on their current failure to deliver an operational ship to the fleet.” (1)
She could not be more on point.
Spencer also blames Congressional cost caps.
Spencer added it was Congress that placed a price cap on the carrier’s construction. The result, Spencer said, was that contractors made production decisions focused on saving money. (1)
Mr. Spencer again betrays both his ignorance and his total absence from reality. The cost caps were established by the Navy’s cost estimates as supplied to Congress. If the cost caps were inadequate, it was because the Navy
lied utterly failed to accurately predict the
costs. In fact, Congress has increased
the cost cap twice beyond the original cap, from $10.5B to $11.8B to $12.9B, as
the Navy has blown through each cap (which leads one to ask what the point of a
cost cap is if it’s simply raised every time the budget is exceeded – but, I
digress …) . Apparently, Mr. Spencer
believes that it is Congress’ job to give him unlimited money.
Mr. Spencer, instead of disparaging Congress and trying to tell them how to do their jobs, why don’t you do yours?
Mr. Spencer has already demonstrated that his word is worthless, now he’s demonstrating that he’s living in some kind of twisted, alternate reality.
It’s no wonder the Navy is in the shape it’s in. It’s no wonder that the Navy works harder at evading and circumventing Congress than they do at preparing to defend the country. It comes from the top.
The rot starts at the top and the top is rotten.
Mr. Spencer, show us you have a tiny modicum of integrity and resign, as you vowed to do. You promised, you failed, now do it like you said corporate America does and resign.
(1)USNI News website, “SECNAV Spencer Rebuts Congressional Criticism of Ford Carrier Program”, Ben Werner, 23-Oct-2019,https://news.usni.org/2019/10/23/secnav-spencer-rebutts-congressional-criticism-of-ford-carrier-program