So by now you might be starting to see what I'm talking about in regards to the questionable figures and statistics listed in the Navy's new 300 ship plan. If the hint on Monday wasn't enough, perhaps the visual aids from Tuesday were more effective in making the point.
You see, the issue here is specific to counting rules and how one creates a 300 ship fleet so as to not be the administration that let the Navy fade away quietly into the night. If you have been paying attention to the details of the new shipbuilding plan, you would note that the Secretary of the Navy himself is the one who brought the subject up regarding what ships count and what ships don't count in the plan. From the February 16, 2012 House Hearing on the Navy's FY13 Budget, written statement by Secretary Ray Mabus, page 11.
Future Force Structure Assessment and Re-designation of Primary Mission PlatformsI have a question. How exactly did the Navy's ~300 ship shipbuilding plan expect to ever get the fleet total to 300 ships as stated in this February testimony under "current counting rules" when the final plan released on March 28, 2012 before the Senate changed the counting rules - except they changed the counting rules without reporting or publicizing to the Senate those changes despite the SECNAV suggesting he would. The Navy quietly added the PCs and T-AHs into the final shipbuilding plan submitted to Congress to reach 300, then conveniently forgot to report and publicize that change. Oops.
Given the broad refocus of the DoD program objectives reflected in the new defense strategy, the Navy has undertaken analysis of the existing Force Structure Requirements and, in conjunction with ongoing internal DoD studies and planning efforts, is reworking an updated FSA against which future requirements will be measured. The new FSA will consider the types of ships included in the final ship count based on changes in mission, requirements, deployment status, or capabilities. For example, classes of ships previously not part of the Battle Force such as AFSBs developed to support SOF/non-traditional missions, Patrol Combatant craft forward deployed to areas requiring that capability, and COMFORT Class Hospital Ships deployed to provide humanitarian assistance, an expanded core Navy mission, may be counted as primary mission platforms. Any changes in ship counting rules will be reported and publicized. Any comments on total ship numbers in this statement are based on current counting rules.
The shipbuilding plan was released for the Senate hearing on March 28, 2012. Why didn't the Navy "report and publicize" the changes to counting rules at the hearing like the SECNAV said he would? Lets see, "Any comments on total ship numbers in this statement are based on current counting rules" was clearly an inaccurate statement, because without the changing the counting rules the plan would never be 300 ships. Saying "any changes in ship counting rules will be reported and publicized" also appears to have an accuracy problem, because the only person reporting and publicizing this counting rules change is me.
I don't know if these are SECNAV lies of omission or lies of commission, but the truth is hiding in the vast distance somewhere between CNO hope and SECNAV change.
I would like to hope Wednesday's 3:00pm House hearing on Navy Shipbuilding puts an end to the shell game the Navy is playing with shipbuilding - and has been playing for years. It is past time someone in the Navy just states outright the ugly truth about how the fleet numbers under tbe counting rules of the 313-ship plan are not going up under this new plan, and any cost growth in shipbuilding from this point going forward - like the future DDG-51 Flight III and it's AMDR gallium nitride (GaN) hail mary - means the fleet is likely to shrink even further. The new shipbuilding plan makes assumptions that carry a very high risk of failure, and the credibility of Navy leadership is on the line.
It's time to shake the "stay the course" addiction because that really is a rocky shoal ahead - the CNO can admit this but apparently does not want to admit what it really means for the future of the Navy. The new shipbuilding plan is as much a house of cards as the old plan, and the solution demands innovation in force structure sooner rather than later. The first step is admitting there is a legitimate force structure problem is to acknowledge that the evolution of existing warship platforms has become too expensive to meet operational requirements while sustaining pace on competitors, and the revolution in aircraft platforms has become an unaffordable money sink that draws resources from the innovations necessary to make NAVAIR relevant to the threats of the 21st century. No, even a perfect Joint Strike Fighter cannot make up for the loss of capabilities it's price tag prohibits from the modern carrier air wing, and JSF is destroying the value of big deck aircraft carriers to the total battle force with every extra dollar dumped into the program. If the Navy cannot admit these things, the Navy will never find suitable answers to the question the Navy has failed to answer since the cold war - what is the link between resources and strategy for the US Navy?
An entirely new force model is needed under current reduced resource investments, and both the SECNAV and OPNAV folks ignore this plainly obvious truth. Until the unaffordability reality can be admitted by the various communities inside the Navy, the shell game will continue with fewer platforms, fewer systems, and less capacity to meet the political and COCOM demand signal. The Navy doesn't have a plan, and the reason is simple:
The solution is big deck CVNs, constantly bigger surface combatants, and constantly big nuclear submarines - as many of all of them as possible - now Mr. President, what was your problem?
There is no such thing as a plan that links resources to strategy when the resources are predetermined regardless of resources available or political objectives stated in policy. The current Navy strategy is designed to inform towards a predetermined resource conclusion - the Navy will do everything, but only with these specific platforms.
The inflection point the CNO has discussed is here, now. The Navy raced past the Tipping Point months ago. It's time for folks to stop the political shell games with the future of the Navy and demonstrate some leadership. Will a leader step up to the enormous challenges of the moment?
Doubtful. Perpetuating a state of denial is easier.