Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fixing the Navy's "Death Spiral"

It seems naval reformists have a friend in Congress, Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md:

The Pentagon's latest estimate of weapons costs documents this mindset. Counting research and development dollars, the Pentagon puts these price tags on the Navy's new ships: $12 billion for each CVN 21 aircraft carrier; $3.6 billion for the DDX destroyer; $3 billion for the SSN 774 Virginia class submarine, and $850 million for the supposedly simple Littoral Combat Ship for fighting enemy vessels in the shallows.
Bartlett, who took over the subcommittee in 2003, is still suffering from sticker shock. He believes the Navy is not only pricing itself out of a fleet large enough to cover the world's hotspots but also is making it easy for the bad guys to sink it by having so few ships.

So what changes does the Congressman propose?

For one thing, he wants a blue ribbon committee of experts named to recommend how to make shipyards efficient, even if it means letting some of them go out of business. He wants the commission's recommendations to be put to an up-or-down vote in Congress, as is the case with recommended base closings, rather than see them debated to death.

He also wants to force new looks at building smaller and cheaper aircraft carriers; manning ships with smaller crews through automation; building small, unmanned ships that could be operated in distant waters by crews sitting at consoles in the United States, as is done today with Predator drone aircraft in Afghanistan and Iraq; arming some ships one way and other ships another rather than packing every conceivable system into one Cadillac of a ship.

I would love to see this happen. I've maintained for years that the Navy's problem is building too expensive ships, and shipyards which depend on government orders like welfare. Hope this guy gets his point across.