Inside the Navy has a report by Rebekah Gordon called Winter: Shipbuilding Must Balance Desire With Budget Constraints, where Navy Secretary Donald Winter is at the Naval War College quoted commenting on the state of shipbuilding and looking to the future. It starts out with some interesting comments:
Much of the solution also lies, he said, in a diverse fleet portfolio, and thoughtfully matching ship requirements and capabilities with the maritime security requirements of a region.We believe this is in line with how Admiral Roughead discusses the future fleet. Roughead, who has yet to make any changes to the shipbuilding plan in his first year as CNO, can be found using the word "balance" in every single discussion on the topic. We think that is important, because there is no balance in today's Navy where every surface combatant in a battleship, with one exception.
“We do not need high-end capability ships to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia or the Gulf of Guinea, and it is reasonable to accept some degree of risk in assigning lower-capability ships to many regions of the world,” Winter said.
“We do need warships to respond to crises and some threats, but we do not need a carrier strike group in all cases.
“While we talk about a global fleet and the need for a full spectrum of capabilities, we do not need the full spectrum of capabilities all over the world. In reality, we need to tailor capabilities to the region, potential missions and the security environment,” Winter added.
We now have front and center the only saving grace of the little crappy ship. The Navy Secretary went from discussing strategic considerations regarding shipbuilding... to grabbing something because it is affordable.
“LCS, for example, even at current cost projections, is still significantly less expensive than any other ship we have and is an affordable response to our presence requirements,” Winter said. “At current cost levels, we can build several of these highly capable warships for the cost of a major combatant.”OK, so the line "affordable response to our presence requirements" and LCS in the same sentence is a laugher, but even if we let that slide, observe that Winter isn't identifying the solution rather he is illustrating the problem. The LCS is the only ship the US Navy is even considering right now under 9000 tons, so its affordable, thus great! Intellectually compelling? We don't think so...
Remember when everyone was excited about the Littoral Combat Ship because of its unmanned platforms that were going to change the way the Navy fought during wartime? That time has come and gone. We need unmanned systems to fight war, because the scouting capabilities unmanned systems bring to the force insure information power over the enemy. Too bad we are putting that advantage on the least survivable ship in the strike group, but hey lets ignore the strategic discussion and stick to the industrial narrative!
We need small combatants to manage peace, in fact it is noteworthy that Winter is essentially suggesting this is a shortcoming of the US Navy. If there is such a thing, we tend to agree. Why then are we building small combatants and loading them up with the tools to fight war?
Motherships need to be large, they are for fighting war. The small combatant has an important role to play managing the peace. SC-21 had it right, the Navy needs a combatant and a mothership to manage the 21st century maritime domain. SC-21 got it backwards, we need large motherships (not the LCS) and small combatants (not the DDG-1000) to effectively execute the strategy, and the Navy is nuts if they think anyone is buying the theory you can shove your unmanned systems into a small combatant to consolidate, and call that a peacemaker.
When the Navy Secretary is touting the LCS as a great thing because of its cost, we have officially stopped thinking strategic in fleet development. At the Naval War College no less... embarrassing.