Want a 30-yr Shipbuilding Plan Bad? Well, you’ll … well … you know
the world doesn't owe us a navy
American navalists must endure the hardships of a long march in the winter of their discontent. In this struggle we will see who is dedicated, who is strong, who will be best to bring the fight when the season changes and time is right to advance sea power to its proper place. The self-promoting amongst us will fade away. The weak shall perish. The dishonorable will change sides. The ideologically unsound will confuse themselves and others. This will be a filtering, a purifying, an ultimately strengthening trial of The Terrible 20s.
We are only partially through this march, but we are already seeing a healthful pruning of our ranks. The first tranche of the careerists, the lickspittles, the confused, and the just plain congenitally wrong are already sloughing off the navalist host like so much dead skin. The exposed flesh does hurt, but will heal and be stronger by the intellectual debridement it endures.
Like most of you I have been waiting for the required but long awaited 30-yr shipbuilding plan. Of course, we all know that it is only accurate for a few POM cycles, but it is a great tool to point out issues and problems, and to message. If you are looking at what we will have to fight west of Wake, you can ignore any of the dreaming past 2030 in the report. How it is written and phrased outside the tables can tell you much about the fight in the naval arena in the promotion of the natural comparative advantage – and requirement – of the Unites States; that as a maritime and aerospace power.
And so we have OPNAV’s “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2023.”
I printed it out, two pages per sheet of paper with pen and highlighter ready to go – as I do – and almost as excited as a kid at Festivus, but alas … I behold an almost unintelligible act of self-sabotage.
Even the most gifted navalists, if they squint and rotate OPNAV's N9’s cube 45-degrees along all three axis, can only guess at what the intellectual difference between Alt 1 & 2 are. Heck, get three of us together and we’ll give you five different answers. I’ve beta-tested this today with some of the best. We’re all … well … disappointed would be a nice thing to say.
They do help some with these graphs, where Alt 3 "give me more money" is the gold line, and the upper and lower limits of Alt 1 and 2 is represented by the blue band. Again, it is all after 2030-35, but still, it is just, "For Deposit Only" as we don't know the argument between Alt 1 and 2. We have OUR ideas what the intellectual basis of the difference is, but I want to know what N9's is.
Remember what I said about a few POM cycles? You know the "Davidson Window." Just look at 2030-35 - the timeframe that is most accurate.
Now, how interested are you in seeing what the PLAN's numbers are in WESTPAC by 2030? Do you want to see what they desire to have displacing water in 2055? Do you think N9 does? Congress?
What a lost opportunity this is at such a critical juncture where “sea blindness” is close to tipping in to “sea disinterest.”
At a time when we need something to help push the argument forward – the very top of the Navy shrugged.
If that is the state of things amongst the most interested, then of what use is such a document to 99.784% of other natsec people who are trying to read it?
How are our advocates in Congress, the press, and civil society going to get any use out of this to pursue the goal of building a navy that this nation needs?
Instead of making a good argument and providing a framework to argue our position from strength, it reads like something written by Qing Dynasty palace eunuchs for other palace eunuchs.
In the summary – at the very end – N9 kind of let the cat out of the bag.
Difficult choices must be made to ensure that the Navy best meets Joint Force operational requirements.
I’m not going to pull up a bunch of the graphs and charts, just maybe one or two, you can see them yourself, I am just going to pull out a few quotes for consideration because they tell the full story better.
This plan highlights the Navy’s work ... to build a modernized naval force that makes needed contributions to advance the Joint Force’s ability to campaign effectively, deter aggression, and, if required, win decisively in combat. ... For the ranges in the FY22 shipbuilding plan, the FNFS Future Fleet Architectures (FFAs) were adjusted for final analytic insights based on combat effectiveness, industrial base production feasibility, and no real budget growth.
If that isn't a weak tea pre-emptive surrender and masochistic desire to be a secondary power to the People's Republic of China in the Pacific, I don't know what is.
Well, there is a positive point to be found; it validates our criticism here at the Front Porch the last 18 years;
The DoN, working with industry partners, will deliberately reduce execution risk through improved cost estimation, prototyping, and landbased testing systems to de-risk critical technologies and ensure that new programs deliver on expected capabilities.
Just search for "program risk" here at CDRSalamander - this is not new. It is nice that in 2022 we're talking about it.
We should take the "W."
We should also take the "W" on frigates;
Increased numbers of smaller multi-mission combatants, such as Constellation Class Frigates (FFG 62), enable more efficient distribution of missions across the surface fleet, freeing up the more capable DDGs for critical high-end missions.
They could really just save the ink and say, "Salamander and the Front Porch were right about the Age of Transformationalism and we were wrong," but alas, we'll just have to pat each other on the back in the shadows.
This next line is simply gobsmacking.
New submarine tenders will be constructed to support the Navy’s new SSNs and SSBNs.
Considering how old the ones we have are, this is good, but why do a 1-for-1 replacement? Recent experience has shown the vulnerability of static support facilities in an age of exceptionally accurate conventional ballistic and hypersonic conventional weapons with global reach. We need to plan for attrition at war. We need more mobile repair facilities. We need destroyer tenders along with submarine tenders and more tugs, repair ships etc.
There is also a bit of wishcasting;
Unmanned platforms show significant potential
One thing demonstrated clearly the last few decades is that unmanned platforms overperform in unexpected areas, and underperform in others. Until you start operating them in an extended, unscripted operational environment with standard issue operators, you really don't know fully what they are.
We need to continue to build a little, test a little, operate a lot, learn a lot - and be humble. Just because we say something in 2022 does not mean it will manifest in 2035 - especially when it plays just too conveniently towards fixing your problems. Just look at the 2006 shipbuilding plan.
We will get some things right, some things wrong ... but in all cases, go in being humble and take your results with humility. No one, not even 'ole Sal, can see the future clearly. Neither can you. The Potomac Flotilla unquestionably can't.
One thing we can know with certainty is that negotiating with ourselves and pre-emptive surrender is no way to maintain our place as the world's premier maritime power.
Two decades of happy talk and self-delusion have eroded almost all the credibility our senior leadership has in Congress, press, and the American public. We have no expectations that anything will be done on time and on budget. We do not have an Executive Branch that is supporting a larger Navy. One month we will have the CNO say we need a 500 ship Navy, and then the next he will let his staff put their name - without protest, a document such as this.
Maybe there is an intention here to do a passive-aggressive 3D chess to make a point, but I'm sorry, it fails. I'm not sure what this does but signal that the Navy is supine and resigned.
To expect others to fight for you when you won't even fight for yourself is not indicative of an organization who wants to win - or for that matter - should be allowed to.
The cost to procure a larger Navy represented by the third profile in Table A1-5, is shown in the third graphic of Figure A2-1, and assumes industry produces future ships on time and within budget. The high range represents an additional $75B real growth beyond the FYDP in FY2022 constant dollars. The increased procurement level, informed by industrial base capacity and on-time and on-budget performance, achieves 326 manned battle force ships in the mid-2030s, and ultimately achieves 363 manned battle force ships in FY2045. The previous analytic work depicted in Table 1 will be updated with follow-on force structure assessment based on, and thus reflective of, the warfighting requirements of the 2022 NDS.
The cost to sustain a larger Navy is in addition to that required for procurement and is phased within the appropriate accounts (i.e., manpower, support, training, infrastructure) to match ship deliveries. Appendix 3 illustrates the projected cost of owning and operating (operations and sustainment) the fleet at the ranges that represent no real budget growth. This appendix does not include the funding associated with Appendix 5, which discusses the growing logistics requirement and sealift recapitalization.
How is one supposed to fight for something when you are handed a weapon without handle and no readily recognizable lethal edge?
How are we supposed to build new relationships and nurture established relationships in Congress when we do such things?
The Terrible 20s was not supposed to be characterized by internal malaise and self-loathing, but here we are.
Read the whole report here if you wish.