Monday, April 16, 2012

#SAS12 - Countering 300 Ship Shipbuilding Plan Talking Points

This week is Sea-Air-Space. That means we are going to get all kinds of interesting Navy news all week, and it should be partly interesting to see what folks say that's new, and partly interesting to see what folks say that's ridiculous. I expect there will be plenty of both. As we prepare ourselves for the talking points, I have some talking points of my own that may help cut through the fog of talking points at SAS12.

First, go back and look at the 313-ship fleet and look at what ships added up to be 313. Now go look at the new approximately 300 ship fleet of the future and look at what ships will be needed to reach that number. It is worth noting there are several ship types that weren't counted to reach 313 that are now counted to reach the 300 ship total number. Given the way the approximately 300 ship plan leverages fuzzy numbers, the Navy might as well count ships like USNS Zeus (T-ARC 7) as a battle force ship. This week, when an Admiral mentions the "approximately 300 ship" fleet of the future, if you don't want to swallow the talking points - ask that Admiral to explain what ship types outside of traditional carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines are included to reach that number. The Navy is cutting shipbuilding and retiring ships early, so maybe they should be more up front and honest how they are reaching their stated 300 ship target.

Second, we keep hearing this is only 1 FYDP of a 2 FYDP plan, primarily because if you look at the 2 FYDPs (FY13-FY17 and FY18-FY22) the Navy reaches 300 ships starting in FY23. There is some irony in that, because if you take a closer look at the major surface combatant force after the 2nd FYDP, and suddenly you find the Navy is really building up the large surface combatants force. There are a lot of ways to read it, but if we note that the approximately 300 ship plan has 15 extra large surface combatants compared to the old 313-ship plan, we should also note it looks like someone went 11 years out (past the 2 FYDPs) and just started adding an extra ship 15 times in the last 20 years to give the Navy those extra 15 large surface combatants.

Finally, in what is planned to be the 2nd Obama administration term from FY14-FY17, the Navy intends to build 31 ships; 7 in FY14, 8 in FY15, 9 in FY16, and 7 in FY17. According to the approximately 300 ship shipbuilding plan, over the same 4 fiscal years the Navy intends to retire 37 ships; 14 in FY 14, 11 in FY15, 3 in FY16, and 9 in FY 17. In FY13 - this fiscal year - the Navy intends to build 10 ships but retire 11 ships.

The US Navy has 282 deployable battle force ships today, and expects to grow to 300 ships by FY23 (10 years from now) despite retiring 7 more ships over the FYDP than building. Worth noting, the Navy is retiring 3 Cruisers, 16 frigates, 10 submarines, and 5 amphibious ships - 34 total combatants, over the same period the Navy is building 31 total ships that includes combat logistics and support vessels. While it is perfectly viable to note the Navy has a very good chance of reaching 300 ships as advertised, the devil is in the details that are not being advertised, like what types of ships make up the new plan and how the new plan is not sustainable primarily because there is clearly a questionable commitment by the current administration towards sustainability through the time period this administration specifically intends to be in power.

This week has the potential to reveal a lot. Hopefully people at #SAS12 ask good questions. A lot of people have the opinion the 313-ship plan was never an executable plan. I am under the impression the 300 ship plan is not an executable plan. It seems to me the question that needs to be asked is - when are we going to admit to ourselves there really is no plan?

I find the Navy's leadership very convincing that there is no plan for how the US Navy will be used to achieve the strategic objectives of the United States - primarily because no one can define what those strategic objectives are. Until there are strategic objectives, any fleet will get the nation where it is going since the nations leaders have no idea where they are trying to go anyway. The order of the day, everyday, is the same: All ahead full, any course is fine.

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