Oh dear, those mucky-muckys in the military really believe in earning their money- The new enemies are China? and ??India maybe- because they are competing with us for the commodities of life..And we are the greatest pigs (consumers of natural resources) on the planet
Date: 12/5/2005 8:45:26 AM ( 16 y ) ... viewed 1608 times
Navy to Expand Fleet With New Enemies in Mind
By DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: December 5, 2005
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 - The Navy wants to increase its fleet to 313 ships by 2020, reversing years of decline in naval shipbuilding and adding dozens of warships designed to defeat emerging adversaries, senior Defense Department officials say.
Bob Child/Associated Press
Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, wants to reverse years of decline in shipbuilding.
The plan by Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who took over as chief of naval operations last summer, envisions a major shipbuilding program that would increase the 281-ship fleet by 32 vessels and cost more than $13 billion a year, $3 billion more than the current shipbuilding budget, the officials said Friday.
While increasing the fleet size is popular with influential members of Congress, the plan faces various obstacles, including questions about whether it is affordable in light of ballooning shipbuilding costs and whether the mix of vessels is suitable to deal with emerging threats, like China's expanding navy.
"We are at a crisis in shipbuilding," a senior Navy official said. "If we don't start building this up next year and the next year and the next year, we won't have the force we need." The officials would not agree to be identified because the plan had not been made public or described to members of Congress.
The Navy's fleet reached its cold war peak of 568 warships in 1987 and has been steadily shrinking since then. Admiral Mullen's proposal would reverse that, expanding the fleet to as many as 325 ships over the next decade, with new ships put into service before some older vessels are retired, and finally settling at 313 between 2015 and 2020.
"The Navy appears to be grappling with the need to balance funding for supporting its role in the global war on terrorism against those for meeting a potential challenge from modernized Chinese maritime military forces," said Ronald O'Rourke, a naval analyst with the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress.
The plan has not been formally adopted by the Bush administration, though officials said it had been examined by senior civilians in the Pentagon as part of a larger strategic review of all military programs. The proposal is not expected to change much, if at all, before the review is made public in February, the officials said.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, which is home to major shipyards, endorsed the Navy proposal when told about it recently and called on President Bush to finance it in next year's budget.
"Military requirements should drive the budget, not the other way around," Ms. Collins said. "I hope that the Navy's requirement for a fleet of 313 ships will be matched with adequate funding in the president's budget to achieve that goal over time."
But Defense Department officials acknowledged that with financial pressures mounting and the overall Navy budget not likely to increase, their plans could come apart unless they could trim costs in other areas.
The Navy is planning to squeeze money from personnel and other accounts, and ask shipyards to hold down costs, even if it means removing certain capabilities.
Admiral Mullen is in some ways paying for the priorities of his predecessor, Adm. Vern Clark, who improved pay and benefits during his tenure as the service's senior officer but also agreed to trim the Navy's budget in an unusual sacrifice to help pay the Army's bills in Iraq.
Now Admiral Mullen is seeking a fleet that will give the Navy a greater role in counterterrorism and humanitarian operations.
The plan calls for building 55 small, fast vessels called littoral combat ships, which are being designed to allow the Navy to operate in shallow coastal areas where mines and terrorist bombings are a growing threat. Costing less than $300 million, the littoral combat ship is relatively inexpensive.
Navy officials say they have scaled back their goals for a new destroyer, the DD(X), whose primary purpose would be to support major combat operations ashore. The Navy once wanted 23 to 30 DD(X) vessels, but Admiral Mullen has decided on only 7, the Navy official said. The reduction is due in part to the ship's spiraling cost, now estimated at $2 billion to $3 billion per ship.
The plan also calls for building 19 CG(X) vessels, a new cruiser designed for missile defense, but the first ship is not due to be completed until 2017, the Navy official said.
The proposal would also reduce the fleet's more than 50 attack submarines to 48, the official said. Some Navy officials have called for keeping at least 55 of them.
The choices have led some analysts to suggest that the Navy is de-emphasizing the threat from China, at least in the early stages of the shipbuilding plan. Beijing's investment in submarines, cruise missiles and other weapon systems is not expected to pose a major threat to American warships for at least a decade. That gives the Navy time, some analysts argue, to build capabilities that require less firepower and more mobility, a priority for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The plan also calls for building 31 amphibious assault ships, which can be used to ferry marines ashore or support humanitarian operations.
"This is not a fleet that is being oriented to the Chinese threat," said Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, a policy research center in Arlington, Va. "It's being oriented around irregular warfare, stability operations and dealing with rogue states."
But the Navy would keep 11 aircraft carriers, just one fewer than the dozen it has maintained since the end of the cold war. Retiring the 37-year-old John F. Kennedy could save $1.2 billion a year.
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