Sunday, December 16, 2007

Defunding the Navy to Save It

Updated with figures below.

It is a fact that when budget time comes around, America's three armed services seek to defend a triad of main weapons. For example:

  • Air Force-Bombers, fighters, missiles
  • Army-Armored vehicles, helicopters, artillery
  • Navy-Aircraft Carriers, surface warships, submarines

Admittedly this "combined arms strategy" has given the individual services an unprecedented superiority, some might say overkill, in 21st Century warfare. Such military power controlled by one of the world's great democracies is very desirable but hardly affordable if our nation also wishes to continue spending on much-too-generous social programs for its citizenry. Beyond that is the fact that in this age of smart bombs, cruise missiles, and unmanned vehicles, known as Precision Warfare, such highly expensive arms more often than not duplicate the others' capabilities.

Concerning the naval aspect, this was the purpose of my call for "An All Submarine Navy". With the fleet's main purpose being to defeat an enemy battlefleet, modern undersea boats with their high speeds, unprecedented stealth and the long reach of modern cruise missiles, give this weapon of war no peer at sea. The subs can now be seen as the battleships of this new age and should be given the primary budget consideration over any overly-expensive, and perhaps outmoded ideas of combined arms.

To shake the Admirals out of their lethargy and away from their Cold War mindset, a reduction in shipbuilding funds might be in order. Such a drastic move could then force shipbuilding planners to utilize their precious resources more sparingly, directing them away from our current "luxury fleet" of every powerful warship imaginable, that can be bought only in greatly shrinking numbers. Moneys leftover should be given to the brown water navy, to buy patrol craft and smaller landing craft (such as the Austal high-speed ferries) to maintain our dominance of the shallow seas.

Update-Here are some figures I have worked on in the course of the day:

Navy shipbuilding is currently budgeted at $12.5 billion. In my own scheme, this figure could be reduced to around $10 or even $8 billion annually, with the bulk of procurement funds going to the construction of new submarines.

Two subs per year is the goal envisioned by naval planners for the near future, but my plan would produce 4 boats annually to match potential Blue Water aggressors such as China or Russia, and to takeover most of the missions of vulnerable and costly surface ships.

Northrop recently reduced the cost of new Virginia class subs to $2 billion, and with a doubling of purchases this can be further curtailed, perhaps to $1.5 billion each.

Even more desirable would be the acquisition of air-independent-propulsion submarines, copied for simplicities sake from European designs, built with little extra equipment which the Navy loves so well, and which too often raises the cost of warships. Such vessels currently are priced below $1 billion dollars and would be more relevant for cruising in shallow seas than the giant Virginia's.