posted on August 25, 2011 10:52
It’s the Dog Days of Summer in Washington, hot and humid. Just because Congress is in recess, however, things don’t slow down. CAPT Puzon still has the usual number of committee meetings to attend as do I. In fact, with all the budget churn there are more meetings than usual. The National Military Veterans Alliance is meeting in our conference room as I am writing this and the Association of Naval Aviation Board will be in on Friday.
Part of the reason for Irons is to give you a heads up about coming events. You will read in the September magazine that we are going to six issues a year next year. The Board directed that we do this and it will allow us to do two things. We will have more time to produce each issue which will further increase quality and eliminate errors. Secondly, we are going to be able to devote efforts and resources to our electronic media. Our first combined issue will be this DEC/JAN
Last Monday evening CMDCM Jerry Featherstone and I attended the dinner following the first annual Navy Safe Harbor Foundation golf tournament. We presented their Board with a check for $1,000 earned for them at our golf tournament in May. Tuesday this week President Moon and I met with VADM Jim Amerault, NSHF Chairman and Chris Decker, President of NSHF. We have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Agreement detailing how each organization will help the other. This is a big step for us in our relationship with the Navy. Chris and I will work up the agreement for our Boards to sign.
Tuesday evening of this week VADM Debbink was the official host for the Navy Band Concert at the Navy Memorial. He invited a number of associations to join him at the Heritage Center for a reception before the concert. I was pleased to represent us and used that opportunity to solidify our agreement with MCPON West for an interview in the magazine.
The staff is busy right now making plans for a career development symposium most likely in Norfolk next SEP-OCT. You may remember that we wanted to do our first one in Washington this October but put that aside when the Navy wouldn’t support financially. Recently I discussed such events with ADM Greenert and I think we now have a better picture of the way forward. Once we have this event laid out we can set place and time for our conference. They will most likely not be at the same time or place.
On a similar topic we were approached by the Sea Services Leadership Association to be involved at some level with their symposium next March at the National Harbor in Washington.
As soon as we get a response from our invited speaker we will be setting the date for another Navy Now Forum in Washington in November. We hope to use the Ronald Reagan Building again for this event. We also intend to involve the Navy Intelligence Professional Association in this project.
This past week I have arranged for us to have a small presence at the Tailhook 2011 conference in Reno Nevada in September. Floor space for this centennial Hook was sold out in the first week in May but I have negotiated a place that will at least get our foot in the door. CAPT Bill Overend will cover that for us. We are working these opportunities because we need to gain visibility with the Active Component in order to gain membership.
This e-mail now goes to a pretty wide audience of elected officials past and present and conference attendees. I don’t remove people from the list, just add after a conference and elections. It is our attempt to communicate directly with those most involved in the Association. I used to receive some feedback but lately I don’t hear much when one of these goes out. Without feedback it’s pretty hard for us to know if we are hitting a nerve one way or the other so let me know what you think.
What I think is that our Navy and our Veterans are in trouble. There are always problems to be solved but the near term budget outlook is more worrisome than usual. While the defense budget has grown 35% over the last decade, not counting funding for the wars, the Navy has been shrinking in terms of end strength and numbers of combat vessels. We know that we are heading into lean times but potentially the depths are staggering if certain parties get their way. On the right you have the T-Party folks bent on cutting everything. On the left you have folks willing to cut almost anything to preserve entitlement spending. In the middle is the defense budget. I address this a bit in the September editorial.
When Congress is looking for excuses to cut one program or another it is not the time to have programs that look like targets. Unfortunately the large cost overruns in the F-35 and LCS programs to name just two put them in that category. At the same time Navy shipboard maintenance has come under increasing scrutiny lately as stories of cannibalization have surfaced. There are always challenges and the Navy will get its maintenance house in order but this is not the time for Congress to be reading about such things. If the F-35 B, the Marine STOVOL version is not bought in the planned numbers what happens to those large deck amphibs?
Many of you probably know that Enterprise is getting ready for its final deployment. When she is laid up the Navy will have about a 30 month gap before the Ford is commissioned. During that time there will be 10 carriers. While the Navy is not saying this publicly, I don’t think you can find a flag officer who thinks that we will ever see 11 again in their lifetime. The real worry is will it be 8 or 9. It’s ugly out there folks.
On the personnel front there have been three major military pay and benefits studies in the last decade or two. Thus far Congress and the Defense Department have failed to act on any major reform recommendations. The current fiscal situation may change that and this past week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it was on the table. So, stay alert and get involved by going to our web and contacting Congress yourself. Every bit helps. If you won’t do it who will? Also please go to the web and read our blog entitled Happening in Washington that Might Affect YOU.
I’ll close with a couple bits of news: September 23 will be the CNO change of command at Annapolis. VADM Ferguson has already vacated the CNP office and is turning over with ADM Greenert for the VCNO position. The Navy has announced the name of the second carrier in the Ford class, the John F. Kennedy. Clever politics as the Dems won’t want to cut that funding.
That’s plenty for now. Please get engaged. If there ever were a couple of years when we need to be there for both the Navy and our own interests IT IS NOW!