Navy cuts next-gen tech under budget pressure, calls diversity programs ‘critical’ to readiness

The Navy has quietly proposed a slowdown in the development of next-generation ships, planes and subsurface vessels in light of flat military budgets, and may shrink the size of its on-shore facilities and cancel a planned nuclear sea-launched cruise missile due to funding limits.

Those recommendations were made in a June 4 memo from Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker in preparation for the fiscal year 2023 budget.

In that same memo, Harker proposed full funding for a range of other programs, including technology programs that allow for telework, mental health and suicide prevention programs, and programs aimed at boosting the diversity and inclusion of Navy Sailors. The memo called diversity programs “critical” to Navy readiness.

“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are critical to the readiness of our Navy and Marine Corps team, and ultimately to our mission success,” the memo states. “Funding priorities for programs will be directed towards enhancing or sustaining recruitment, career development, retention, and training programs that reduce/eliminate barriers to service or advancement and deliver resources and benefits equitable to all.”

The memo, which was leaked to the press this week, is the latest example of the rising tension in the Navy between operational readiness and social issues. In June, for example, the Navy released a new policy allowing Sailors to transition genders while serving, even as it acknowledged that this change will affect readiness.

“We’re so proud of the diversity we find in today’s Navy, which has existed for generations,” said AUSN Executive Director Jason Beardsley. “But we are alarmed that the Navy is planning on a much slower adoption of critical next-gen military equipment, which will surely reduce Navy readiness. This memo is a reminder that we cannot ignore these upgrades and expect the Navy to effectively defend America’s interests.”

Harker’s memo surprised policymakers this week with its specific recommendations to scale back equipment development.

The memo said in clear terms that the Navy most likely will have to choose between a next generation fighter jet, destroyer and submarine, and will only be able to develop one of these new platforms, not all three at once.

“The Navy cannot afford to simultaneously develop the next generation of air, surface, and subsurface platforms and must prioritize these programs balancing the cost of developing next-generation capabilities against maintaining current capabilities,” Harker wrote.

Harker said the Navy should scrap development of a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile, a recommendation that drew a rebuke from two members of Congress.

“Reports that an Acting Secretary of the Navy would cancel a new Nuclear Sea Launched Cruise Missile after submission of the FY22 budget, and before a Nuclear Posture Review has been started — much less completed — is bewildering and short-sighted,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (AL) and Sen. James Inhofe (OK). “The Biden administration has decided to project weakness ahead of a summit with Vladimir Putin – another gift to our adversaries. We have serious questions for senior Pentagon leaders on this reported decision and how it was reached.”

Harker also said the Navy’s shore-based facilities need to shave off 5 percent of its annual costs by “reforming shore business and financial processes; reducing shore-based personnel eliminating missions, functions and tasks; and restructuring organizations.”

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