Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Navy Shipbuilding Plan "Pure Fantasy"

The hi-tech military is wrecking havoc on the Navy's modernisation plans. Recently Congress hit nearly every new ship program as too costly and the 313 ship Navy totally unrealistic under the present budget cycle. Via Defense Industry Daily, here's Congressman Roscoe Bartlett:

“From Fiscal Years 2008 to 2009, the Navy has reduced the number of
ships to be procured by approximately 25 percent – one quarter of the ships the
Navy planned to build last year are gone. The long term shipbuilding plan still
speaks to a 313-ship Navy, as does the Chief of Naval Operations, but it’s time
we started facing facts. The Navy will never get there without either top line
relief or a significant change in the mix of platforms. The Navy’s shipbuilding
plan is based on the assumption that over the next thirty years the shipbuilding
account will nearly triple in size. Do our witnesses really think this is
realistic? How can you? If it’s not – and I tell you it’s not – then the only
other alternative is to look at the mix of platforms.”

The article goes on to deal with specific future ship classes, including the Zumwalt DDG-1000, with costs up to $3-5 billion each, a huge chunk considering the shipbuilding funds are only about $12 billion annually. Even the Navy's holy grail, the new CVN-78 Gerald Ford class comes under fiire, as does the LCS program and the T-AKE replenishment ships.

The problem is course, is not that we are currently buying too few ships, or that the budget isn't big enough, but last century procurement practises are clashing with new century warfare. All the services are suffering, from the USAF's tanker, bomber, and fighter plans, to the Army's future tank designs. Lightweight and easy to build platforms, kept in continuous production could ensure steady jobs and experience for shipyards suffering from too few orders, as well as maintaining a continuous supply of new weapons for our frontlines forces, without having to rely on ancient and worn out arms from the previous century.

Galrahn at Information Dissemination is all over this story.