Friday, May 12, 2017

Aimless

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 – Alabama
Luther Strange – Alabama
Ron Johnson – Wisconsin
Tammy Baldwin - Wisconsin
Marco Rubio – Florida
Bill Nelson - Florida

On a seemingly unrelated note, do any of you remember what states the two LCS variants are manufactured in?  That’s right, Alabama and Wisconsin!  Now, do you happen to remember what state the east coast LCS’s are based in?  Right again, Florida!  It’s probably just coincidence that six of the eight Senators who want more LCS’s are from Alabama, Wisconsin, and Florida where the LCS’s are manufactured and based.  United States Senators would not use the LCS as a jobs program at the expense of the welfare of the country and the Navy, right?

The other two Senators are from Michigan.  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 …

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!



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(1)Breaking Defense website, “Key SASC, SAC-D Senators Push More LCS”, Sydney J Freedberg, Jr., 29-Apr-2017,


7 comments:

  1. "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,"

    AMEN!

    Giving the Navy more money now is like giving a gambling addict more money in the hope he squares his debts and goes on to live a normal life. Unless he has a plan for recovery to which he is commited, he gets bupkiss.

    I'm *SO* tired of the 'Sequestration is our problem' arguments. Yes, defense spending is important. But its a national resource like anything else. If you are ridiculously inefficient with the money we give you then you shouldn't get more till you figure it out.

    The biggest problem I see is that Congress makes noises about efficiency, and some might even believe it. But I think alot of them are hand in glove with the defense industries and the branches.

    Its nice for a politician to speak about 'the need for national defense' while they stump for an impotent Zumwalt built in their district while looking forward to a nice board position at Bath or GD.

    Demanding fiscal responsibility from the military is not unpatriotic or anti-military.

    As the old saying goes, money is the sinews of war. And if the military is blowing it recklessly, like they seem to be, then just feeding them more in a time when we have huge national debt is a threat to national security.

    Great post.

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  2. Michigan has quite a few foundries that specialize in making aluminum plating.

    Personally I'm against any further increases in budgets until the military goes thru an audit of it's property and supply programs. Then after that and resulting "pork" cutting, then we can discuss bodies increases.

    Furthermore, I feel senators should have to recuss themselves from military projects that benefit their home states, because I feel that is a conflict of interest exactly the same as if they had a controlling interest in the company.

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    1. First, I know it's bad form to comment on a typo in an informal comment but requiring Senators to re-cuss themselves is completely appropriate! I suspect "recuse" is the word you were going for but recuss works brilliantly!

      Regarding Senators and conflicts of interest for their states, that's kind of the whole point of the Senate and House. Each representative is supposed to act in the best interests of their state and their constituents. The check and balance to that is the rest of the representatives. In this case, six Senators will act in a very narrow (and inappropriate, in the overall scheme) perspective and the rest of the Senate will vote them down (or support them if their cause is worthy) and provide the balance against their conflict of interest. The point is, given our legislative setup, there is no conflict of interest. Senators are supposed to represent their narrow interests.

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  3. I agree with you about the lack of CONOPS and that the LCS is a poster child for this.
    This article is an eye opener !
    https://news.usni.org/2017/05/12/stackley-capable-frigate-requires-full-open-competition-lcs-builders-may-cost-advantage

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  4. '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'

    Concur. The reason the USN is aimless is mostly a function of the job its current jobs is to be a spending sink. More damning is also the fact that most of the spec sheets aren't being generated by NAVSEA but instead by the contractors or ADM's who will soon be working for said contractors.

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  5. The river Marinette Marine launches LCS into is the Wisconsin - Michigan border. Folks at the yard live in both states. Thats probably why you see Michigan senators supporting the program.

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    1. Ahh! You got it, I'm sure. Good one.

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