WASHINGTON: To boldly go in a revolutionary ship where no one has commanded before. Why the clumsy Star Trek reference? Because the Navy’s newest, stealthy, most radical ship, the USS Zumwalt, will be commanded by the fabulously named Capt. James A. Kirk. The Navy couldn’t make something like this up, could they? The Zumwalt, launched… Keep reading →
PORTSMOUTH, VA: Go ahead and cut our budget across the board if you really have to. But please, then give us authority to move money around to save our top priorities — and give it to us soon. That’s the message, in a nutshell, from the Navy’s top officer. [Editorial note: Just to be clear,… Keep reading →
At 1:30 am this morning – 7:30 pm yesterday Hawaiian time — the Navy’s newest missile defense system marked its second successful shootdown in a month. Under what Lockheed Martin called an “operationally realistic scenario” – more on that in a moment – the USS Lake Erie picked up the target with its Aegis Ballistic Missile… Keep reading →
NATIONAL HARBOR: We all know that, since the end of the Cold War, the US military has vastly expanded its ability to precisely strike targets on the land. The dirty secret is that we’ve unilaterally disarmed our capability to strike ships at sea. The military calls this a “capability gap,” but it’s more like a… Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: Just when the Navy’s surface fleet had started pulling itself out of a 10-year, $2 billion hole, budget dysfunction may kick it right back in. We’ve written a great deal about the damage done to all four armed services by the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. But what is happening to the… Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: It’s been a rough 48 hours for the US Navy. Yesterday, the Littoral Combat Ship was battered by House appropriators and questioned by a leaked report. Today it was the Senate Armed Service seapower subcommittee’s turn to grill the Navy about its aircraft carrier and submarine programs. While the automatic 10-year budget cuts known as sequestration played a major role… Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: Sequestration is not the Navy’s only shipbuilding problem. In the near term, the automatic cuts to the 2013 budget are bedeviling efforts to save money by buying ships in bulk. Negotiators are racing the clock to salvage a multi-year procurement contract to buy 10 DDG-51 Aegis destroyers for the price of nine; Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told reporters today he was “optimistic.”
In the longer term, however, after the 10-year, $500 billion cut in defense spending required by sequestration, the Navy has dug a different hole for itself. The service has crafted a 30-year shipbuilding plan that requires massive increases in funding to levels that the Navy’s acquisition chief Sean Stackley admitted to Congress had not been seen since the Reagan build-up.
“Can you present… a scintilla of evidence” that the 30-year plan can be funded, an exasperated Rep. Randy Forbes, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on seapower, asked during a hearing this morning. Keep Reading →
CRYSTAL CITY: From standardizing paint schemes to buying fewer types of valves, the Navy is going all-out to save money as budgets tighten. This new emphasis on affordability goes beyond the usual mundane economies to a sea change in how the service develops new vessels and technologies, with the much-criticized Littoral Combat Ship as the high-stakes pilot project.
“You can’t just do some really effective system anymore; it’s got to be effective and highly affordable,” declared Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, who heads the Office of Naval Research. ONR is normally associated not with cost-cutting but with high-tech, high-cost innovations such as railguns. But at last week’s Surface Navy Association conference in Crystal City, just south of the Pentagon, Klunder framed even the case for railguns in economic terms, arguing they would let the Navy shoot down incoming threats much more cheaply than firing interceptor missiles. Keep reading →
[updated 9:45 am Wednesday with DOT&E data] CRYSTAL CITY: Navy crews don’t have enough sailors, training, or spare parts to keep up with operational demands, the Commander of Naval Surface Forces said bluntly this afternoon. The service needs to make better use of smaller budgets by standardizing equipment and adopting new training simulations, Vice Adm. Tom Copeman said, but even that’s not enough: Ultimately, he said, the Navy must get smaller to stay ready.
That approach doesn’t play well on Capitol Hill, which is so focused on the keeping up the size of the fleet that last year it refused to let the Navy retire three aging Ticonderoga-class cruisers which admirals said cost more they were worth to keep maintained. Keep reading →
[Updated Friday 12/21] CAPITOL HILL: It looks like the country’s getting a defense bill for Christmas, with provisions on everything from boosting cybersecurity to sanctioning Iran to loosening export controls on satellites.
In what passes for high efficiency in Congress these days, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees completed their conference on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 only two and a half months after the start of fiscal ’13 and just two weeks before sequestration may make many of their carefully wrought compromises moot. Keep reading →