Sunday, May 24, 2009

U.S. Navy Future: 200 ships?

A trio of C-Span presentations made a Hudson Institute forum worth watching. Takes about 3 hours:

Status of the Navy:
Particular attention should be paid to James Clad's presentation starting about 30 minutes in. And Aaron Friedberg's comments following. The theme is the long term effects of a decline in U.S. maritime capability in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. The post presentation Q&A discusses the "surprise" we are experiencing with China's rapid increase in potential power. And the perceived lack of U.S. Navy presence in the area. Has China already limited our access to the Strait of Taiwan and the South China Sea?
Retired admiral and current U.S. Rep Sestak (D. PA) presentation on the status of the Navy:
Capability vs. numbers of units. Interesting discussion re maneuverable ballistic anti-ship missiles and ABM Aegis ships about 43 minutes in. He likes the LCS about 47 minutes in. Except there is a problem with module shifting. And he does peg the Navy's pending lack of heavy lift helos when the H-53s go bye-bye. The H-60 cannot replace the lift that the H-3 and H-53s had.
Former SecNav John Lehman here at the same event:
"We should look like we know what we're doing." Telling the U.S. merchant fleet that it's not the Navy's job to provide freedom of the sea, even against Somali pirates in small skiffs, isn't sending the right message. The Chinese don't believe we can project sufficient force, perhaps with some reason. And we are not managing procurement well.
My thoughts:
  1. Capability based solely on models is a dangerous path;
  2. Hard to send one ship, no matter how capable to 2 different locations at the same time;
  3. Numbers do matter;
  4. When the nation is involved in land wars, the Navy needs to continually speak up loudly about the importance of the U.S. being a maritime nation.
UPDATE: Interesting discussion:
I was also interested to hear the Chief of Naval Operations state yesterday, at the Full Committee hearing, that the Navy still intends to maintain a minimum of 313 ships. It had begun to sound as if the Secretary of Defense, in his Foreign Affairs article, and the Navy, in its budget roll out, were beginning to back away from that number. It was not clear to me how the Navy planned to implement the joint Maritime Strategy, with its emphasis on forward presence, if the Navy intended to accept fewer ships. A ship can only be in one place at once and today’s fleet is the smallest it has been for nearly one hundred years.

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