From Aerospace Daily And Defense Report:
The U.S. Navy’s aggressive 30-year shipbuilding and modernization plan suffers from serious deficiencies and could become a victim of its own ambition, according to highly regarded Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) analyst Robert Work.
Named for the number of ships the Navy wants by fiscal 2020, the so-called 313-ship fleet plan would leave the service lacking in important capabilities to meet the operational demands of current strategic challenges, Work says in his new report. “Specifically, [the Navy] lacks the range to face increasingly lethal, land-based, maritime reconnaissance-strike complexes or nuclear-armed regional adversaries,” Work wrote. “Moreover, it does not adequately take into account the changing nature of undersea warfare, or the potential prospect of a major maritime competition with China.”
The former Marine Corps colonel also says the Navy’s plans are “far too ambitious” given likely future budget constraints. According to Work, between FY ’03 and ’08, the Navy spent an average $11.1 billion per year on new ship construction. But the Congressional Budget Office projects that cost will nearly double, to between $20 billion and $22 billion. And those costs do not factor in the funds required to build 12 replacements for the current strategic ballistic missile submarine force. “It seems clear, then, that the Navy needs to scale back its current plans,” Work wrote.
Work offers numerous recommendations, including:
• After completing the ongoing midlife refueling cycle for the first 12 of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs, immediately reduce the strategic deterrent fleet to its final target of 12 boats and start work on the SSBN(X) design immediately;
• Begin a concerted research-and-development program for small, manned undersea vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles and other unmanned underwater systems, as well as a new generation of littoral anti-submarine warfare weapons;
• Slow the production rate of nuclear-powered carriers (CVNs) from one every four years to one every five years, and consider accelerating the current unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstration program and planned operational debut;
• Halt production of DDG-1000 destroyers at three ships and restart the DDG-51 production line in FY ’10 while putting the futuristic CG(X) cruiser off until at least FY ’15;
• Ramp up production of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to four per year; and
• Build six Joint Multimission Submersibles as rapidly as possible.
Work also suggests a variety of additional detailed recommendations covering naval special warfare/Navy Expeditionary Combat Command ships and craft, naval maneuver and maneuver-support ships, joint sealift ships and combat logistics force and support ships.
The Navy’s ship plan has been criticized on Capitol Hill and elsewhere almost since the moment it was unveiled three years ago. The plan, which already acknowledged risk-taking with fewer subs and aircraft carriers than apparently required at times, was an attempt by the sea service to bring order and predictability to its shipbuilding for the Pentagon, Hill and especially industry. But congressional auditors have repeatedly reported on underfunding and disputed accounting methods.