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Talking Naval Strategy in Newport

The Naval War College held its 61st annual strategy forum earlier this month at Newport R.I. and videos of the various speeches and presentations can be found here on the NWC web site.

Some quick hits from the keynote addresses:

Speaking to the faithful, CNO Adm. Gary Roughead extolled the importance of the Navy to the free flow of commerce across the world’s oceans, including the flow of information via undersea cables and fiber optics: “the internet swims with the fishes.” He also stressed the commitment of the Navy to the current fight as shown by the numbers: 14,000 sailors are on the ground in Central Command versus 10,000 at sea.

Pointing out the obvious, Roughead said the Navy faces serious financial challenges. The fleet actually shrank during the run up in defense spending that began in 2001 (and is now tapering off); it’s the smallest it’s been since 1960. Yet, the demand signal from the COCOMs continues to increase; they recognize forward presence is key to influencing friends and intimidating potential enemies.

He worries about a declining shipbuilding budget while China is in the midst of a naval buildup. He did say the two navies were working together and cooperating at sea (China is due to take command of counter-piracy TF 151).

The issue of rising costs of just about everything in the face of declining budgets dominated much of Navy Secretary and newly named Gulf Coast disaster manager Ray Mabus’ presentation. There are no sacred cows, he said, everything is on the table and open to cuts (I take that to include carrier strike groups).

A formal gate review will be conducted for every major weapons program that will gauge cost vs. capability. On time and on budget must be the standard; where that standard isn’t met, the program will be cancelled or restructured. Mabus vowed to provide industry stable designs and stable intentions. In return, the Navy expects platform costs to come down with each year of production. He also said to expect more fixed price contracts.

– Greg Grant

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

@Earlydawn June 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Fixed price contracts? Wow, it looks like someone finally has the idea.


Bob June 21, 2010 at 6:41 pm

The Chicoms are not our friends, not in the past, not in the present, and not for the foreseeable future.


Andres June 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm

^ that's why they call us stupid americans


Andres June 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm

but ur kinda right lol…


@Earlydawn June 21, 2010 at 10:42 pm

You sound a little indecisive.


LeoC June 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Is this the same Chinese military that knocked down a Navy plane, looted its electronics, tortured the American crew, and forced the USA to issue an apology for the return of said crew and plane (in pieces). If these are the acts of a friend, put me also in the Stupid American category.


ohwilleke June 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

The remarkable point is how few actual military skirmishes the Chinese military has engaged in for a nation of its size and bellicose rhetoric for so long.

The U.S. has suffered more casualties at the hands of North Korea, of Iran, of al-Queda, of the Taliban, of Vietnam, of the Somolians than it has from China, in the last 50 years.

Germany and Japan both engaged in multiple smaller international wars before facing off against the U.S. as Axis Powers in WWII. China's very low intensity international warfare has been pretty much confined to lobbing an odd mortar round at soldiers from India in the vicinity of uninhabited, snow covered mountains on their disputed border (without even suspending trade relations between the countries).

China has not so much as threatened to nuke anyone, despite the fact that it could.

Yes, Black Swans, etc. are a concern. One international war could be swift and devastating.

But, China is an astonishingly Westernized country for a nation that experienced first Mao, and then the Cultural Revolution so recently in its history. In the Carter Administration, China basically didn't have private real estate ownership or anything like it, now it has developers building skyscrapers everywhere you look. While the status quo isn't wonderful it has responded to sticking points internationally by significantly regulating its use of capital punishment (e.g. for financial crimes) and by unpegging its exchange rate (not completely, but far more than in the past). Similarly, it has not crushed different systems in Hong Kong and Macao entirely, even though it has slightly muted their trajectories towards democracy.

On a soldiers per 1,000 people basis, China has one of the smallest military forces in the world and it is reducing the size of its activity duty military (trading more professionalized forces for a smaller total force). Similarly, while its defense budget is growing, it is not growing as fast as its GNP (double digit percentages a year, for year after year after year). China is not a highly militarized country. It is simply huge and as a result has a big population and GNP to work with and is rapidly acquiring foreign technology in all fields of endeavor.


Chops June 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm

China has the same problem that Iran has-the people are decent and honest-its the leadership in both countries that hate America and that leadership controls their population through fear intimidation and brutality-if the leadership changed to decent people there would be a lot less tension and military posturing in the world-but why state the obvious-it will not change because the power hungry maniacs will not surrender to the wishes of their peaceful peoples.


ohwilleke June 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

"He also stressed the commitment of the Navy to the current fight as shown by the numbers: 14,000 sailors are on the ground in Central Command versus 10,000 at sea."

Meanwhile, 14/15th of active duty sailors are not in the Central Command area at all, and most of them never will be exposed directly to any hostilities, compared to a very large share of all Army soldiers who will at some point serve in a war zone during their tour of duty (something on the order of one in five are doing so right now and a far larger percentage have cycled through war zones or will do so before they muster out).

This isn't the Navy's fault, of course. The Navy isn't supposed to be a big part of wars with landlocked countries (i.e. Afghanistan), almost landlocked countries with no meaningful naval forces (i.e. Iraq), and coordinated efforts with allies in areas that are far inland (i.e. Northern Pakistan). In other wars (e.g. Vietnam and Korea) the Navy took center stage, this time, geography dictates otherwise.

It is also worth noting that even if the Navy had kept its fleet at the same number of ships, increased automation would have meant significantly fewer sailors. By one measure or another, the Navy will surely get smaller.

Still, the bottom line is that our ground force resources are much more stretched to their limits than our naval and air forces right now. They shouldn't be the first priority for procurement. One can argue over the degree to which this is the case, but the money that buys one ship can buy a lot of sources for comparatively cheap ground troops who are very pressed for resources while trying to fight a shooting war in Afghanistan and trying to withdraw in good order from Iraq.


Tenn Slim June 22, 2010 at 8:36 am

Recalling a Back in the Day stories of budgets.
VP outfit literally ran out of fuel money. Stopped flying in early June, out of a FY June to June. Many birds out of commission for parts, unable to buy anything. IF this situation occurs locally, and the whistle blows, everything reverts to emergency funding IE: Debts.
Not to worry, with present OBNA admin the whistle will never blow, we will never be needed to stand on the wall, and OBNA Czars can wheel and deal for our protection.
Shades of Korea, Pearl Harbor, Dien Bein Phue and countless other fiascos. We again stand in the mire of wordy Pols.
Semper Fi
We Probably will NOT Prevail


Nidi June 22, 2010 at 12:44 pm

"He did say the two navies were working together and cooperating at sea (China is due to take command of counter-piracy TF 151)."

They aren't doing this out of an attempt to foster international cooperation or improve relationships with the West, they are doing it because it serves their interests. It makes them look good and gets them good PR, but they also benefit by having open and safe shipping lanes for all their exports. Anyone who reads a benevolent intent out of this action is a fool.


Tony C June 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

The bean counter is mightier than the sword!!
The demise of the powerful battleships was decided,
not by gun fire, torpedo, or mines; but bean counters.
The US Navy is in dire straights here, it has no direct
role in the asymmetric warfare arena. Perhaps we will
take a page out of history and build a larger submarine
force at the expense of capital ships. Had Admiral Dornitz
had his requested submarine force, he may have beaten
Britain. The submarine and UCAV's seem to be the way of the future.


Roger June 22, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Declining budgets? The Navy's budget has doubled since 1998, and its bigger than during the Cold war. The problem is mismanagement, and too much unneeded BS, like Gitmo and the Blue Angels.


guest June 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Please, give me a BREAK.
North Korea? who do you think were the bulk of land forces in the peninsula? Chinese PLA.


Matt June 23, 2010 at 1:06 am

I think this obama admin needs to remember that afgan won't last forever and america will need an adaptive force… Look mabye FCS was too set in the cold war but destroying carriar groups and amphibious assult is not the future; it's just near sighted… Before the last amphibious landing people thought they were impractical and out dated… What happens if/when a country decides that America can't use it's ports to invade? If we don't have marine corps then all america could do is bomb…


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