In the last post, Budget Cuts, we saw that CNO Greenert has announced that the Navy will begin cutting back on maintenance in order to meet budget limitations. We noted that there was no call for cutting new ship construction. We concluded that CNO Greenert was either being recklessly irresponsible or was playing a dangerous political game. Well, we have a counterpoint to the CNO’s plans from within the Navy itself.
Navy Times website (1) reported on comments from Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of Naval Surface Forces, who was responding to audience questions at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium in
“Vice Adm. Tom Copeman said the surface fleet was ‘pretty close’ to going hollow …”“When a combatant commander says a ship’s supposed to leave on deployment and it doesn’t leave on time for whatever reason, then we know we’ve probably gotten there, “ Copeman told an audience of hundreds of officers and industry leaders. “And there’s ships right now that aren’t doing it.”“In a speech that centered on the challenges of shrinking budgets, Copeman warned that the surface Navy may need to sacrifice ships in the coming budget battles to ensure the ones it keeps are fully manned and equipped.”“We’re cross-decking people like crazy to get ships on deployment, out the door. And what does that do? It allows the ships that are deployed to do their mission, but the ones back home – we can’t certify them because we took the people off of that team.”“… Copeman cautioned that deploying ships in the first three quarters of next year may have to leave [on deployment] with degraded capabilities.”
Quite a difference from the CNO’s plans, huh? Adm. Copeman sees, though dimly, that the surface Navy is on the verge of becoming a hollow shell. In reality, it already is and has been for some time. The cross-decking he refers to, along with several years of increasing failure rates for INSURV inspections, badly neglected maintenance, fleetwide degradation of Aegis capabilities, atrophy of ASW capabilities, and so forth have provided plenty of evidence that the Navy has been hollowed for some time now. Still, it’s good to see that someone in Navy leadership sees the problem, however poorly, and is willing to say so. It’s this latter aspect that really caught my eye. Copeman just publicly told the Emperor that he has no clothes. He’s right, of course, but I suspect that he will be severely reprimanded at the very least and, more likely, will be quietly shuffled off to a backwater post in the relatively near future. His comments had to be embarrassing for the CNO.
I’m also struck by Copeman’s response to budget pressures. He advocates the common sense approach of cutting back on new construction in order to ensure that the existing ships and aircraft can be properly maintained and operated – exactly what I called for in the previous post.
Perhaps this is the man who should be CNO.