Defensenews.com has a fantastic interview with Mitt Romney’s key Naval advisor, John Lehman, about what exactly a President Romney’s larger and more cash flush US Navy would look. Here are the highlights:
- Increase yearly ship building from nine hulls to fifteen.
- Goal of 350 ship US Navy within 10 years, an addition of about 60 hulls.
- Create an 11th Carrier Air Wing, one for each carrier, the 11th Air Wing will be a reserve unit equipped with front-line gear
- Not only will the Littoral Combat Ship production continue, but a true Battle Group deployable frigate will also be procured to replace the vanishing Perry Class. Romney’s team seems to totally understand that the LCS cannot fulfill the role of a traditional frigate. Cost for this new ship is targeted around $650M per frigate.
- Romney wants a dedicated missile defense ship, sporting the massive Air Missile Defense Radar, which will not fit on the Burke class hull. It looks like the favorite hull for this new class of ship would be based on the new San Antonio Class albeit with major modifications. Utilizing the large San Antonio design would allow the ship to not only carry the massive radar and associated tracking gear required for its challenging mission, but also larger interceptor missiles than the VLS tubes can accommodate aboard current AEGIS equipped ships. These ships could act as theater missile defense ships and would not necessarily escort a carrier. The other hull alternative for this mission is the cutting edge and costly DDG-1000.
- Almost every ship mentioned will feature competition between shipyards or even designers in an attempt to pare down costs.
- F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornet would stay in production past 2014, under Obama it would cease by this time. This would hedge against the F-35 program and would supposedly increase competition and thus lower each fighter’s price. No direct changes to the F-35 program was mentioned due to lack of information.
- Bring development of new fighter aircraft down from 22 years on average to 7 years through “fixing the procurement mess.”
- Dedicated to reducing the massive “bureaucratic bloat” within the Navy, especially of flag officers and high level command folks and refocus any funds saved to field more front-line sailors.
What is not included anywhere in this piece is how exactly Governor Romney plans on paying for all this without cancelling any existing programs. In fact this seems like a very “un-rationalized” vision for the future of the United States Navy. Sure, I think it would be great to have all this, but certainly some programs can go in exchange for others that are more capable. For instance, creating a new Frigate while also keeping the LCS in production seems ridiculous and unrealistic. The same can be said when it comes to building more Super Hornets while also procuring the F-35C. Doing so would put the F-35C in grave jeopardy, which will then put the whole JSF program, including the USMC’s B variant and the USAF’s A variant, at risk as shrinking numbers will lead to spiraling unit costs, which will lead to even smaller procurement numbers overall and so on. In other words, keeping the Super Hornet in production for the US Navy while buying F-35Cs as well will surely put the F-35 program into the quintessential defense program “death spiral.” In fact I think the point of view expressed in this piece is almost adolescent in nature due to its lack of rationality and prudent defense spending controls. If this is truly what Mr. Romney’s key Navy adviser, who was Reagan’s “600 ship” Secretary of Navy (an arbitrary goal that never even got close to being accomplished), thinks are the correct or even feasible investments for our Navy I would beg the Governor to fire this man immediately. I understand that candidates do not want to give full details about what programs they will cut or elevate because jobs are at stake, and thus votes. Yet still, some talk about rationalization would really be beneficial here, even if it remains somewhat vague in nature. Just ordering the whole menu at dinner may be exciting and sure the restaurant will love you, but in the end it’s a total waste and will leave your wallet empty and you will go home with one hell of a stomach ache.