- ‘build a bigger Navy’
- ‘claw our way out of readiness and lethality shortfalls’
- ‘begin a 40 year recapitalization of our nuclear ballistic missile submarine force’
Note that neither the cost reduction nor the driving forces are legislatively mandated. These are, essentially, self-imposed requirements although to listen to the Navy moaning about them, you’d think they were imposed on the Navy by outside forces.
The only legislatively imposed factor is the semi-legislatively imposed prospect of flat budgets for the next few years. I say, ‘semi-legislative’ because until each year’s budget is passed by Congress and signed into law, the budget is free to increase or decrease by any amount. The prospect of flat budgets is just the military’s attempt at anticipating the future. They may well be correct but it is not yet law.
Why does the Navy need to find $40B? What will it do with money?
We must find savings within the Department to reinvest in the kind of decisive naval force that will provide for our nation’s future economic and political security. (2)
That’s certainly generic and vague enough but what does it mean? According to SecNav, it means:
These savings will be repurposed in accordance with my top three priorities: designing and building a future integrated naval force structure (355+ ship Navy by 2030); advancing our intellectual capacity and ethical excellence; and accelerating digital modernization across the fleet. (2)
Pardon my language but, holy shit !!!!!! Have you ever seen a bigger pile of steaming crap than that? We’re going to cut ships, aircraft, and personnel in order to ‘advance our intellectual capacity and ethical excellence????? What the hell does that mean? How is that going to win us a war? Are we putting pastors with Ph.Ds on the front lines?
An ‘integrated naval force structure’ is a euphemism for unmanned and networked. This is saying that the Navy wants to transition from a firepower based force to an unmanned, networked, distributed, multi-domain force with the smallest possible labor force to operate it. This is the Navy’s current vision of the future.
I have no idea what ‘digital modernization’ is. Maybe every sailor gets a new Game Boy console to pass time while on watch?
Here’s a couple thoughts to consider about the Navy’s cost cutting drive.
- If the Navy were content with today’s firepower based Navy then they wouldn’t need any cost savings. That’s something to ponder, isn’t it?
- The Navy’s budget is at near historic highs. The issue is not the size of the budget, it’s how they’re spending it. For example, $15B carriers is insane! Or, $8B Zumwalts that have no main weapon is equally insane.
I could go into a long post about the stupidity of the Navy’s rationale and actions but I’ve essentially done that over the course of years of posts, haven’t I? You all know the idiotic decisions that have gotten the Navy to this point. Rehashing them won’t cover new ground. Instead, let’s play a game of pretend. Let’s pretend that we buy into the Navy’s rationale and need for cost cutting. Where would we go for cost savings? What would we cut? Here’s some of my candidates.
$5.77B. Eliminate 220 of the 250 Admirals and staffs (say, 20 staffers per Admiral?). At, let’s say, $250,000 per Admiral and staffer, times 220, that would save $1.155B per year. Over the target 5 year timeframe that provides $5.775B savings.
$6B. Cancel the Ford program and build new Nimitzes. For an average of one carrier over the next five years, that would save $6B ($15B Ford - $9B Nimitz = $6B).
$1.92B. Scrap the LCS fleet and save the annual operating costs. I don’t have an exact figure for the operating cost but the Perrys supposedly cost around $16M per year so let’s call the LCS around $12M. For 32 ships, that’s $384M per year for the LCS fleet and $1.92B over the five year target time frame.
$1.2B. Scrap the Zumwalts and save the annual operating costs of, say, $20M per year. For three Zumwalts over five years that’s $0.3B. Given that none of the Zumwalts are yet complete, there are additional construction and fitting out costs that would also be saved. Let’s estimate those costs as an average of $300M per ship for a total savings of $900M. That gives a total savings of $1.2B.
$19.7B. Scrap the F-35 purchases (30 per year x $100M per aircraft x 5 yrs = $15B) and associated operating costs (say, $35K per flight hour x 180 hrs/yr x 150 aircraft x 5 yrs = $4.7B). Note, this calc is not strictly correct because the aircraft would be phased in over the five year period but I don’t feel like doing the exact calc and this gives us a ballpark idea.
$42B. Cut shore side manning by 30%. Currently, there are around 280,000 shore-based naval personnel (this will be documented in a near future post). Cutting 30% would eliminate 84,000. At a yearly cost of, say, $100,000 per person that’s a savings of $8.4B per year which, over five years, would save $42B.
Total Savings = $76.59B
Note: The above calculations are just ballpark estimates to demonstrate what general savings could be had. Don’t bother replying to tell me that I’m 0.4% off on some specific cost estimate – it’s irrelevant.
It’s important to note that these savings, which total far more than the target of $40B, simply cut items that are truly worthless. They do not touch readiness, maintenance, training, parts supplies, or anything necessary or useful.
The only item that is remotely debatable is the shore-based personnel. Did you know that our fleet billets number only around 53,000 versus the shore-based component of around 280,000? While a certain degree of shore-based support is required, clearly our tooth-to-tail ratio has gotten out of hand. Eliminating most of the legal, public relations, green initiative, gender/diversity, compliance, useless/duplicate joint positions, etc. we should be able to easily cut 30%.
I’d also give serious consideration to eliminating NAVSEA since they aren’t doing their job, anyway. They accept incomplete ships, ships with massive, serious problems, and fail to find problems on the ships they inspect. Can’t we accept incomplete, flawed ships without needing NAVSEA? But, I digress …
Well, there you have it. We can instantly and easily achieve far more than $40B in savings without impacting anything useful. It took me all of about ten minutes thought to come up with my list. The Navy, on the other hand, is going to agonize over this for the next year and, undoubtedly, assign a blue ribbon panel of Admirals (did I mention that I’d cut them?) to come up with a list of recommended cuts which will certainly impact readiness, maintenance, and training – the things we can least afford to cut.
So, there you have my easy list. What’s on yours?
(1)USNI News website, “Acting SECNAV Kicks off Navy ‘Night Court’ Cost Savings Drive with Aim to Save $40 Billion”, Megan Eckstein and Ben Werner, 18-Feb-2020,https://news.usni.org/2020/02/18/acting-secnav-kicks-off-navy-night-court-cost-savings-drive-with-aim-to-save-40-billion
(2)Memo from SecNav, “Department of the Navy Stem-to-Stern Capability-Based Strategic Review”, 18-Feb-2020