Several months ago, a very prominent defense researcher traded email with this blogs author regarding the role of blogging in the National Security Debate. The question was asked rhetorically, and I still do not have a good answer to the question. National Security Debates are not ones easily disseminated by generalists, and by that we mean prominent political bloggers, and we would not presume to consider ourselves professionals. We are however excellent researchers, and through the advantage of being well versed in the research of professionals we feel this blog comes armed for that debate with the best analysis publicly distributed in the Navy community, at least specific to discussions regarding the Navy.
The DDG-1000 discussion is the first discussion where a legitimate role for a blogger has emerged in the context of a National Security Debate discussion, and we are not quite sure we are comfortable being in that position. There is massive confusion on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, and inside the Navy regarding the DDG-1000 discussion, and if we had a dollar for every theory that speculates what is happening, we could probably buy seven Zumwalt class destroyers.
All indications tend to imply the reporter community is stuck in a bad place with this discussion, indeed outside the subscription defense websites, Google lists only 12 news article to date on the subject, and seven of the twelve are Maine based news organizations (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) covering the discussion in the context of Bath Iron Works. That indicates two things, first there is absolutely no political interest in this discussion by the citizenry of the United States, thus no momentum to effect such a massive shift in direction by the Navy, and second everything to be discussed in the DDG-1000 debate is speculation.
Responsible reporters are clearly having difficulty reporting on all the anonymous sourced speculation they are hearing. Blogging as a medium isn't bound by such rules, to both the detriment of the mediums credibility, and advantage towards the ends of forwarding a discussion. We leave it to the reader to decide which role this contribution plays in the context of the current DDG-1000 discussion.
Since 2005, the DDG-1000 has been cruising towards 7 ship construction, despite warnings since then from the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Studies (to name a few) who have been sounding the warning sirens. The 313-Fleet Shipbuilding Plan included the construction of the DDG-1000, including a building program that outlined 2 lead ships in FY07, followed in FY09 with 1 ship per year for five years. The first person we are aware of to suggest stopping the construction of the DDG-1000 at two ships is Bob Work, who made a compelling argument channeling Kenny Rogers with his report "Know When To Hold Them, Know When To Fold Them" when he suggested folding the planned DDG-1000s after two ships and the CG(X) program as a whole. Bob Work's point was to capitalize on the existing 22 CGs and 62 DDG-51s through robust modernization programs, build an interim replacement (he recommended the DDG-51), and begin design on a new Large Battle Network Combatant. His argument was extremely compelling, something shouted from the rooftops by the experts who comment within the Navy blogging community.
The primary reason why the Navy lost cost control over the DD-21/DD(X)/DDG-1000 was that just as the ship entered its design definition phase, the power of the Navy’s SCIB was waning, replaced by a Joint requirements definition process with no fiscal checks and balances. One of the first things Admiral Mike Mullen, the current Chief of Naval Operations, did upon assuming his office was to reconstitute the Navy’s SCIB. With a chance to start from a clean sheet of paper, naval design architects could leverage an additional decade of experience in the post-Cold War era to design an entirely new family of next-generation LBNCs, under the close oversight of the newly reconstituted SCIB. These new warships would have a common gas turbine or perhaps even a nuclear power plant that supplies enormous shipboard electrical generating capacity; common electric propulsion motors; common integrated power systems that distribute electric power to the ships’ electric motors, combat systems, and weapons, as needed; and advanced automation to enable them to operate with relatively small crews. Their single common hulls, or network frames, should be large and easily produced, based on the best ideas of naval engineers, with an affordable degree of stealth. The network frames would be able to accept a range of open architecture battle network mission modules consisting of sensors and onboard and offboard weapons designed explicitly to support a battle network rapid capability improvement strategy. The cost-constrained goal for the combination of network frames and network mission modules would be to build new LBNCs at a rate of five every two years, allowing the complete transition from 84 Aegis/VLS I-LBNCs to 88 next-generation LBNCs in 35 years.Emphasis ours. In other words, start over with designs from the reconstituted Ship Characteristics Improvement Board! In a future post, we intend to lay out the arguments against a class of DDG-1000s, but also highlight the reasons why building 2 DDG-1000s as technology demonstrators is a very wise national investment for the Navy. However, before we explore the DDG-1000s future, we think it is more important to review how we got to this point.
When we first observed the news on Saturday, we began asking questions. Our first concern is the state of the Navy, because our desire is to insure the future fleet is strategically aligned for the challenges of the 21st Century. With this in mind, we began feeling like we had missed something important. Our point of view had us asking questions like why is the Navy changing directions with DDG-1000? The Congressional pressure to change isn't realistically there, the Senate majority in favor of the DDG-1000 is intact, and there is no political pressure from the population on the issue. It just seems odd, it is very rare for any service to change positions without major political movements or some sort of leadership change. We have not observed any of the usual factors driving change, even in the wake of the recent Air Force problems, the view towards the Navy remained static until Saturday. Our question became as simple as "what just happened?" When posing such questions, we always retrace our steps to see what we may have missed.
We were stunned in early March when we read John Murtha had suggested the DDG-1000 would be halted after two ships, it was the first time anyone on Capitol Hill had suggested such a thing. We were stunned a second time when Gene Taylor incorporated it into his opening statement back on March 14th, when if you listen to the audio, you will hear Gene Taylor source the idea to someone "very high" in the Navy. Gene Taylor has mentioned this "high ranking naval officer" as the source of the idea many times.
The way we see it, that "source" is the key that unlocks the mysteries. Who planted this idea into the public domain through Gene Taylor? What makes Gene Taylor and John Murtha so confident that they have the support to push this change on the Navy without any citizen driven political support at all? Which high ranking Naval officer can't reveal his identity to push the Navy in a new direction in the form of canceling the DDG-1000, and replacing it with an interim build of DDG-51s? Why is the timing of FY2009 relevant?
The answer is blatantly obvious, and we completely missed it. We have repeatedly observed there is one person trapped in his position unable to force a change within the Navy, trapped by being the man in charge, but subordinate to another naval officer who just happened to implement the shipbuilding program the Navy is married to. A man whose superiors in the Office of the Secretary Defense not only pushed the DDG-1000, but the DDG-1000 is their resume. Gordon England was Secretary of the Navy and John Young used to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition when the DDG-1000 program was developed, they cannot speak out against the DDG-1000 because it would be admitting a mistake.
We should have seen this earlier. Christopher Cavas wrote a brilliant piece that highlighted all of the clues. Chris noted that there are reports of strong disagreements behind closed doors in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, but "when Navy leaders speak in open forums, their support for programs and philosophies lacks conviction and a clear sense of purpose." When we read that article, we bought into the theory the Navy was being run by a manager, not a leader.
Upon reflection, we feel like fools.
Because once you realize the person who planted the idea of building DDG-51s instead of more DDG-1000s with Gene Taylor is actually Admiral Roughead himself, everything makes sense.
Trapped underneath men whose legacy depend on Admiral Roughead managing the status quo, Admiral Roughead has done what nobody thought possible, changed the direction of the Navy in his first year. The only way Admiral Roughead could ever force a change with shipbuilding is to find someone with the power and influence to make the change happen, someone outside the Navy, someone like Gene Taylor. The reality is, the Navy does have new leadership and we'd say he has done a magnificent job. We feel like fools for not sticking with our instincts, because with Admiral Roughead, it has always been what he says, and what he doesn't.
Apparently it is also what he says, and who he says it to.
Do we have the facts to prove it? Not by a reporters standard, but analyzing the data available in reflection of how events have unfolded, there really is no other credible conclusion. Well done Admiral Roughead, we are thoroughly impressed by thee.