posted on October 13, 2011 09:27
Today marks the 236th birthday of our United States Navy. This morning the Secretary, Ray Mabus, the CNO and the MCPON offered their birthday messages to the fleet. We have a great deal to be proud of in our Navy and today we are represented by great young Sailors. At CNO Roughead’s retirement three weeks ago I heard him choke up as he repeated President John F. Kennedy’s line “… I served in the United States Navy.” I understood his emotion completely as I remembered my retirement ceremony in 2002 where I acknowledged that while my father had been an army brigadier, I always wanted to be a Sailor. Tomorrow night AUSN will be a sponsor of the Washington Navy Birthday Ball and we have invited a dozen of those Sailors as our guests.
Now back to what the title of this blog always implies: This past week the story broke that as one of the options being considered by the Navy to meet coming budget cuts, the Navy is considering foregoing the mid-life nuclear refueling of the George Washington and laying her up. That would reduce the carrier force to ten ships. We have written before that when the Navy experiences the near three year gap between the Enterprise retirement and the Gerald R. Ford entering service, that will result in only ten ships. Our opinion is that the Navy would not be able to go back to eleven ships and this plan for the George Washington guarantees that. It was also mentioned that of course the ten ship plan would also allow the Navy to cut one carrier air wing and save all that money. Immediately one can see a lower buy for the F-35 as an outgrowth of less air wings. Lots of financial problems helped along by one major decision.
How do we explain to the taxpayer why we would lay up a multibillion dollar ship with half of its planned service life left – a plan we carefully articulated when we asked to buy that ship in the first place – we buy fifty year ships, a national investment in the future? The answer is that when we decide we must cut force structure (if indeed this is the ultimate decision) we cut by retiring early so as not to interrupt current production plans. This allows the Navy to obtain the newest technology while also maintaining the industrial base. In this case we have only one shipyard that builds nuclear carriers and stretching out the new buying plans adds costs to each ship because the yard cannot maintain the workforce between ships and must rehire and retrain. These are complicated decisions and AUSN and you should keep your eye on what is being discussed. National security depends on the right decisions.
This week at his first major policy speech, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said that force structure decisions should be based upon requirements and not fiscal rationale. History says that is always true but seldom followed.