I may be jumping the gun on this because Governor Mitt Romney is still a presidential contender. However from President Obama’s jocular comments in the third presidential debate, it’s clear that he has no clear (or rational) understanding of either the US Navy or how a navy works to secure American interests beyond that understanding that one would expect a reasonably well read fifth grader to have.
Providing Governor Romney becomes President Romney, he plans to raise the number of US Naval ships built per year from nine to “approximately 15,” aimed at a fleet of about 350 ships. Mr. Romney offers a few specifics on how they would add more than 60 ships total over ten years and replace another 100 aging vessels during that time via former SECNAV, John Lehman.
John Lehman, President Ronald Reagan’s 600-ship-era Navy secretary and one of the architects of Romney’s plans for the military, sat down with Defense News on Oct. 4.
Among the new details he revealed: Plans are in place to create an 11th carrier air wing. F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighter production would continue beyond 2014. The amphibious fleet would be built up to the Marine Corps’ requirement of 39 ships. An entirely new, battle-group-deployable frigate would be procured, along with a ballistic missile defense ship. The Romney Campaign has pledged to build more submarines and destroyers, and production of the littoral combat ship (LCS) would continue.
USS Mesa Verde LPD 19 – maybe the hull type for the new AMDR
The newly developed Air Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) is simply too big to fit on existing cruisers, so the US Navy intends to create a missile defense ship, possibly deployed on a larger hull, such as the San Antonio Class LPD 17 hull, fitted out for the newer need rather than as an amphibious assault ship. These ships, equipped with the new radar are specifically designed to counter newer Chinese ballistic missiles designed to kill US Aircraft Carriers.
The Regional Air Defense Ship wouldn’t need to travel with a carrier battle group because its umbrella would be large enough to deal with threats “regionally”. The new AMDR Ship would also be equipped with a large number of larger, longer range missiles that won’t fit in existing hulls.
Governor Romney’s plan for the US Navy also includes replacing the aging FFG 7 Class of escort ships. The FFG 7 was of somewhat limited use when it was first envisioned as a Soviet sub hunter and today they are very old and are obsolete. The specifics of a new class of frigate are still being worked out and costs will rely on two or more competitive designs.
A Romney Navy would immediately reverse President Obama’s decision to stop production of the F/A-18 Super Hornet in 2014. “The actual mix of F-35s and F-18s on the air wings is something that will be looked at carefully.”
Mr. Lehman: One of the top priorities of the Romney program is to fundamentally change and fix the procurement mess. We used to be able to bring complex systems from initiation to deployment in seven years. Essentially, the F-16 only took about seven years. Polaris and Minuteman only took four years. And in those days, with comparatively primitive technology, there were far more complex challenges to integrate systems than even the F-22 today. F-22 took 22 years. In fact, according to the Defense Business Board, the average for the Department of Defense is 22 years. Well that’s crazy.
Trimming the Military Bureaucracy
There are now 250 joint task forces, and they all require uniformed manning from all the services. Most of that is driven by Goldwater-Nichols, because you had to create joint billets so that every officer could get their four years on a joint staff. And the Joint Staff itself in the Pentagon is, according to the Defense Business Board, almost three times the size of what it was during the Reagan administration, with half the size of the force.
Mr. Lehman: So there’s been this bureaucratic bloat, not driven by intention, but by the fact that all these new offices are created in [the Pentagon] and in the combatant commands and the functional commands, that you have to provide people for them. There’s just not a requirement for that. So that needs to really have a real serious scrub, and those billets freed up for our operational sailors.
Part of the reason for the large (and disproportional) number of flag officers is the artificial creation of all these joint task forces and requirements offices. All the new bureaucracy that’s been created over the years is pure overhead. You’ve got to eliminate that before you size the number of flags you have. There will be no hesitation to cut flags if that is what is needed. And my guess is it probably will be needed in all the services.
President Obama is a dangerous clown. I hate to refer to the Commander-in-Chief in that way, but he has such a limited understanding of what it takes to make the nation safe and secure in a meaningful and cost-effective way that it almost defies the imagination.
The Romney plan makes sense, isn’t overly ambitious and while expensive, is necessary to retain American credibility over the next decade.