Tag Archives: Navy

Navy COVID-19 Procurement Acceleration And Troubleshooting

Image: U.S. Navy


The Navy has spent the past two years building systems that can provide real-time visibility into its supply chain, where there were gaps for major programs.

They’ve now overlapped that capability with hot-spot data, indicating where companies have shut down or there’s been an influx in cases.”


“The Navy has been awarding contracts faster since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but one of the biggest gains have been systems that can assess supply chain weaknesses, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition chief.

Geurts said doing that allows the Navy to “see what suppliers are at risk. When we understand that, we can start managing those potential delays into our supply system.” That information is then used to inform continuing operations, move supplies if needed and understand when suppliers are back online.

Geurts also said the Navy has geographically networked all of its 3D printers, which provides insight into where the need is on the local levels, “ensuring that we’re not competing or conflicting with each other.” Many organizations are using 3D printers to fabricate parts for medical devices and other needed materials that are not readily available through existing supply chains.

With contracts going out faster than anticipated, Geurts also said the Navy has been examining its business practices, learning how to better collaborate, reduce backlogs and not duplicate functions. All of that will hopefully aid in a faster recovery from the coronavirus, he said.

“Ships still have to come out on time, we’ve got to do the maintenance and continue to supply lethal capabilities to our sailors and Marines, and we can’t afford to lag the recovery.”

Navy Establishes 6th “Tech Bridge” Office For Partnering With Industry And Academia

Image: Secretary of the Navy https://www.secnav.navy.mil/agility/Pages/techbridges.aspx


The Navy is setting up a new office dubbed the Palmetto Tech Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, to focus on developing innovative technologies.

The effort is part of a set of “tech bridges” the service is creating under the Naval Information Warfare Center to develop partnerships among industry, academia and the services.


“The upcoming Palmetto Tech Bridge will be the sixth office. Other locations include: Newport, Rhode Island; Keyport, Washington; San Diego; Orlando, Florida; and Crane, Indiana.

Michael Merriken, director of the Palmetto Tech Bridge, said the office will be concentrating on autonomous systems, cybersecurity and communications. Specific problem sets will be determined by the Navy, he noted.

Cmdr. Sam “Chubs” Gray, director of Tech Bridges, said the centers are a platform that each of the regional offices can utilize to better connect to different resources. The service wants to tap into Charleston’s advantages, such as the city’s academic community and technology sector, Gray noted.

Charleston’s community will be particularly useful for exploring 5G technologies, Merriken said. The service hopes that will allow it to leverage industry input early in the technology development process.

“5G is a great example of a technology that’s really being led by industry,” he said. “This is where Tech Bridge really comes into play. We want to have that ability to connect with industry and collaborate with them.”

Because some of the Tech Bridge participants will be members of industry, many of the technologies may be dual-use systems that will be profitable for commercial companies as well, Merriken noted.

“We work with these solution sets to then build this product that eventually goes to the warfighter, and then the commercial folks can take that technology and then build it into some product that they can use,” he said.

Initially, researchers will be examining artificial intelligence solutions for network diagnostics, he said.

Merriken said developers are still examining specific locations for the Tech Bridge in Charleston. However, the Navy hopes to find a building that fosters teamwork with features such as meeting rooms and quiet rooms, he said.

“We’re looking for a space that we can have these people collaborate and work together,” he said.”


Navy IT Spending Offers Opportunities For Industry


Navy IT Spending


“Contractors will have an opportunity to compete for major Navy information technology and professional services contracts in the coming months.

Next Generation Enterprise Network II request for proposals is expected in the third quarter of fiscal year 2018. Another opportunity on the horizon is SeaPort Next Generation.  An RFP for a recompete is expected in June.”


“Although the majority of the Navy’s contracting goes toward large platforms, it is the second largest buyer of IT in the federal government, Laura Criste noted during a recent budget briefing for industry.

The top five vendors in the Navy’s largest market segments such as aircraft and submarines capture 90 percent of the market, she noted. “It’s not super competitive,” she said. “Where we are seeing more competition is in the IT and professional services markets where only 20 to 30 percent of contracting obligations go to the top five vendors.”

Cybersecurity is a top concern for the Defense Department as adversaries look for weaknesses in Pentagon systems. The Navy’s fiscal year 2019 budget request calls for increased spending in this area, from $1.1 billion in 2017 to $1.4 billion in 2019, including classified projects. Annual spending would grow to $1.5 billion by 2022, according to Criste’s slideshow presentation.

The overall information technology budget increased from $8.3 billion in 2017 to $9.7 billion in 2018, according to her slides. “Then it’s pretty stable all the way out through 2023” in the five-year budget blueprint, she added. “It looks like the Navy feels pretty confident that the 2018 budget [level for IT] is going to be what they stick with going forward.”

An upcoming opportunity for industry to keep an eye on is the Next Generation Enterprise Network II, she noted. It is the service’s largest IT contract vehicle. A request for proposals is expected in the third quarter of fiscal year 2018, she said.

“NGEN II is going to be interesting because right now it’s a single award … [but] it will be awarded to multiple vendors moving forward,” Criste said. The contracts have a potential value of $3.5 billion, according to her slide presentation.

Another opportunity on the horizon is SeaPort Next Generation. SeaPort is the Navy’s second largest IT vehicle and the top professional services contract vehicle, she said. An RFP for a recompete is expected in June.

“One of the things that we are expecting to see on SeaPort Next Generation is that it will offer spots to all qualified vendors,” Criste said. “This one isn’t going to be one that only a few are chosen. All qualified vendors will be able to compete.”



Acquisition Insanity: USS Ford Block-Buy Proposal



USS Ford. (Photo: U.S. Navy


“Less than a year after the first-in-class ship’s commissioning (before it ever launched or recovered an aircraft…a first in history), the sea service is exploring options to buy them in bulk. 

The program’s $6 billion cost increase earned the Ford-class program a spot on Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) “America’s Most Wasted Report.”  The ship’s electric advanced arresting gear is supposed to be able to go 16,500 landings between mission failures. So far, the best it can do is 19. “

“The Navy wants to go all in on the USS Ford-class aircraft carrier program.

The Navy has already repeated several common acquisition mistakes with the Ford program, but this latest scheme would pile on more problems. The Navy committed to this program—which includes several new major ship systems like nuclear reactors, catapults, and radar systems—while their designs were still in a conceptual stage, and the inevitable complications in their development have contributed greatly to the program’s $6 billion cost increase. Committing to such a large program with so many unproven systems earned the Ford-class program a spot on Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) “America’s Most Wasted Report.” Yet, James Geurts, the Navy’s Assistant Secretary for Research, Development, and Acquisition, said before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6 that the Navy is studying a potential two-ship block buy for the third- and fourth-in-class ships.

Geurts testified that such a plan could save $2.5 billion over the total cost of the program, although this is only a rough estimate at this point as they are asking for evidence of savings from the contractor rather than seeking an independent cost estimate. The history of this program should make everyone skeptical of such claims. The Government Accountability Office released a report in 2017 that stated cost estimates for the Fordprogram are unreliable because they do not take into account the risks associated with building the ships before the design has been completed and tested.

Navy leaders have made at least one step in the right direction with the program recently. Following pressure from several key lawmakers, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer announced that the USS Ford will undergo crucial full-ship shock trials in 2019 or 2020. Shock trials occur when explosives are detonated underwater in close proximity to a fully kitted-out and crewed ship. This is done to test the integrity of all the ship’s systems to determine if they are sufficiently hardened to withstand the rigors of combat. Shock trials are supposed to be done as early as possible in a shipbuilding program so design problems can be identified and fixes incorporated into the design before more ships are constructed. This helps avoid costly retrofits on already constructed ships. In 2017, the Project On Government Oversight called on Congress to demand the Navy carry out these tests.

This latest announcement reverses an earlier Navy decision to postpone shock trials to the second-in-class ship of the Ford program, which would have delayed these tests for up to six years, by which time construction on three of the ships would have been substantially completed. The Navy and the Pentagon’s testing director both agreed in 2007 to performthis important test to the first-in-class ship. But on February 2, 2015, the Navy abruptly informed DOT&E that they would not conduct shock trials on the Ford, citing concerns the tests would delay the ship’s first operational deployment.

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have been rather vocal about their wishes to see the shock trials performed on the USS Ford. Other Members of Congress, however, have been working to do the Navy’s bidding by inserting language in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would have allowed them to postpone the tests.

The Navy, in seeking a block buy, is following what is becoming a well-trodden path created by the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex in two significant ways. In a big-picture sense, they want to gain commitments to purchase as many units as possible before a design has been fully tested. We are seeing this now with the F-35 program where, at the current pace, taxpayers will be on the hook for more than 600 aircraft before testing can conclusively prove the design can actually perform in combat.

As with the F-35 program, block-buy plans for the Ford program skirt the margins of legality. The Pentagon can commit to multiple-year acquisition contracts, but only after certain criteria have been met. Title 10 U.S.C., Section 2306b stipulates that for a program to be eligible for multiyear procurement, the contract must promote national security, result in substantial savings, have little chance of being reduced, and have a stable design. Until any program completes the IOT&E process, it does not meet the criteria for a multiyear contract.

Pentagon leaders know this, which is why they are careful to request block buys instead of multiyear contracts. Calling such a plan a block buy means the scheme is not subject to the same legal requirements. This is little more than verbal jiu-jitsu because the net effect is the same: the American people are stuck with the tab for an unproven weapon that may never live up to the lavish promises used to sell it, leaving the troops with a system that could fail them at the very moment they need it the most. It should also be noted that that there are plenty of people in Congress who are complicit in this plan. More than 100 lawmakersrecently sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense pushing for the two-carrier deal.

While the announcement that the Navy will conduct shock trials on the USS Ford is a positive step, this program has a lot more to prove before lawmakers should commit more taxpayer dollars. No decision for any kind of a multiyear purchase should be made until after all operational tests are performed and the results are properly evaluated and reported. Any potential savings from a multiyear deal now could easily be erased paying for expensive retrofits should significant design flaws be found during the remaining tests.”


(Glad I Did Not Take the Job) Destroyer Still Doesn’t Have A Round For Its Gun


Zumwalt Final


In 2008 at the tail end of a 36 year career in Aerospace and Defense I was offered a job  in the procurement by BAE from Lockheed Martin of the long-range land attack projectile, or LRLAP, a round designed to be fired from the Zumwalt Stealth Destroyer’s massive 155mm Advanced Gun Systems weapon that BAE produced.  

I turned the job down and retired.  Now 10 years later the LRLAP, at $ 800,000 a round has been cancelled and the Zumwalt Stealth Destroyer is still without a round for its big gun as it heads for Initial Operating Capability (?). 

I am truly grateful I did not become a part of this debacle.

Ken Larson


“In late 2016, the service canceled plans to buy the long-range land attack projectile, or LRLAP, a round designed to be fired from the ship’s massive 155mm Advanced Gun Systems weapon.

At about $800,000 per round, the ammo was just too pricey to load up on the three ships in the limited Zumwalt large destroyer class.”

“But it’s now 2018, and the ship is expected to reach initial operational capability by fiscal 2020. And there’s still no substitute round for the AGS.

In a briefing at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium, Capt. Kevin Smith, Major Program Manager for the DDG-1000 [Zumwalt] Program Office, said the Navy continues to monitor future technologies and watch industry for a solution.

“The threat’s always changing out here and the requirements that the U.S. Navy’s looking at, as I said, this is a multi-mission ship,” Smith said. “There’s lots of things this ship can do but, right now, we’re going to be looking hard at what is the best technology to meet the requirements for the gun.”

Each of the destroyers costs roughly $4 billion. The USS Zumwalt, the first in class, was commissioned in late 2016; its successor, the Michael Monsoor, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in March. The final ship, the Lyndon B. Johnson, is set for delivery by 2020.

Capt. James Kirk, the first commanding officer of the Zumwalt, indicated that the designated purpose of the ship itself might be affected by its lack of a working mega-weapon.

“We’re going to be looking at shifting the mission set for this ship to a surface strike, land-and -sea-strike surface platform,” he said. “We’re predecisional on budget … but that’s what the focus is going to be, on a long-range surface strike platform, in contrast with previous focus on a littoral volume suppressive fires, in close to land.”

The AGS is designed to deliver a high rate of fire, as well as precision strikes.

As it stands, the Zumwalt is not without weapons: It’s built to carry RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles; Tactical Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles; Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Missiles; and two MK-46 30mm chain guns.

Officials have discussed the possibility of arming the AGS with a hypervelocity projectile, such as the one the Navy is currently testing out with its futuristic railgun prototype, but a decision on whether to move forward has yet to be made.

“We’re monitoring that technical maturation to see do we get that to get the kind of ranges and capabilities that we want, what’s the right kind of bang for the buck in cost and capability for the Navy,” Kirk said. “We’re monitoring that, but we have not made a decision on that.”


















Navy Will Lean on Drone Ships and Modularity to Expand Fleet Size



An unmanned boat operates autonomously during a U.S. Navy demonstration. The future Navy may rely heavily on unmanned ships. John F. Williams/U.S. Navy


“The Navy’s top officer said he’s looking for ways to build the service to a strength equivalent to 355 ships by the mid-2020s.

But it’s unlikely that all those ships will be traditionally manned and operated platforms.

In a nine-page document released Wednesday examining the future Navy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson consolidated the findings of three recent studies examining the target future force. He agreed with the conclusion of all three that the Navy needs “on the order” of 350 ships, up from its current 275, and calls for an “exponential” pace to deliver the growth decades ahead of current projections.

“I will tell you that my sense is that we’re on the dawn of something very substantial in naval warfare,” Richardson told reporters in a conference call Monday evening. “Something as substantial as the transition from sail to steam … from wood to ironclad … as the advent of nuclear propulsion in terms of what  it means for our naval power.”

To reach the target fleet size by the 2020s, Richardson said the Navy plans to do a few traditional things, including extending the service life of existing platforms. The workhorse Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is one example of a platform likely to be extended for this purpose, he said.

This and other platforms will be evaluated individually to find ways to increase their power and capability, both by networking them with other assets around the fleet and by installing transformative emerging technologies to extend their reach, Richardson said. He mentioned technologies ranging from unmanned and autonomous enhancements; information warfare and directed energy; and 3D printing and robotics as candidates for this effort to boost capability.

“Platforms on an individual basis need to become informationalized, need to become more capable platform by platform,” he said. “In my gut, there’s a real urgency to move out on this as briskly as possible, prioritize achieving this future Navy much sooner than projections might have led some to believe.”

While capability enhancements will allow the Navy to do more with fewer ships, Richardson said the service nonetheless needs to amp up ship construction as a crucial part of its fleet growth plan.

“There is kind of a demand for presence at different parts around the world,” he said. “And this has been an important part of that body of studies. You really need to be there to provide credible options. You can’t be virtually present and provide that credible option.”

According to the new analysis, the Navy asserts that the current industrial base could build 29 more ships and nearly 300 more aircraft over the next seven years than the current shipbuilding plan calls for.

And these ships will be built differently than they have in the past, Richardson said. The future of Navy shipbuilding, he said, lies in modular platforms that could be easily upgraded with the most current warfighting technology, maximizing their effectiveness.

“In all, analysis shows that today’s industrial base has the capacity to construct 29 more ships and almost 300 more aircraft over the next seven years than our current plan,” the document states. “Those platforms are ones that we are confident will continue to be relevant in the coming decades, and can better incorporate the modular approach described above.”

“The hull and power plant will last, ostensibly, the life of the ship,” Richardson said. “But we’ll design the rest of it, use the very latest technology that we have right now, but it will also be built to step into the future faster, to modernize faster, really from the ground up … so part of the ship that’s built to last, if you will, part of the ship that’s built to grow and modernize.”

Unmanned platforms, both surface and undersea vessels and aircraft, will also play a larger role in the future fleet.

Richardson offered few details on how many of these unmanned platforms would be built into the target fleet size number or what roles they would take on. But the future Navy document says they will play a key role in driving down unit cost of construction and will network with manned platforms to maximize reach.

“There is no question that unmanned systems must also be an integral part of the future fleet,” the document states. “The advantages such systems offer are even greater when they incorporate autonomy and machine learning. And these platforms must be affordable enough to buy them in large numbers, and networked in order to expand our presence in key areas.”

Many decisions have yet to be made. Richardson said Navy analysis puts the cost of the planned ship buildup at far less than the $102 billion per year for 30 years that the Congressional Budget Office assessed in April. But it’s still more than the Navy has traditionally spent on annual shipbuilding, he said, and a final way forward in terms of cost and budgeting is still being determined.

“We have to be open to the fact that if we want a larger, more powerful Navy, that’s going to require some resources to get there,” he said. “But we have to do everything inside the Navy to make sure that we’re prioritizing the right thing, we put those resources to the thing that’s going to deliver more naval power per dollar.”

According to the document, the Navy will take the year 2018 to “consolidate readiness and achieve better balance” across the service.

“We need to determine the best way to get the most overall capability in relevant timeframes, which will result from a mix of new and modernized hulls,” the document states. “From that starting point, we must focus our intellectual energies on defining the optimal mix of platforms for the future, within a timeframe appropriate to the dynamic complexity we face now and that will only intensify in the future.”

The first steps of the Navy’s fleet growth plan will likely become clearer later this spring with the president’s fiscal 2018 defense budget request.”


Sensitive Navy Information on Readiness Will No Longer Be Publicly Disclosed


Adm. John Richardson

Admiral John Richardson


“We can share that information with the Congress behind closed doors, but we don’t want to share that information with our competitors,”

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, issued a March 1 memorandum urging all naval personnel “to ensure we are not giving away our competitive edge by sharing too much information publicly.Adm. Richardson MemoIn their desperation to convince Congress that budget gridlock hurts military readiness, Navy officials made public some information that they shouldn’t have, Acting Secretary Sean Stackley told reporters here today.

Many of my fellow reporters here at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference said they’d felt a chilling effect from the CNO’s memo. I myself saw three admirals cite the need to say less in public. And, unlike in past years, the CNO himself didn’t address the conference in any public forum. (Richardson was consumed with prep for today’s congressional hearing on the danger of a full-year Continuing Resolution, Stackley said).

So naturally the new policy came up when Stackley sat down with us this afternoon. His response is worth quoting at length.

“We’re having a dialogue with Congress, trying to get Congress to understand the impacts associated with Continuing Resolutions, the shape that our budget is in, and the impacts that has on things like fleet readiness,” Stackley said. “And in doing that… what had been happening is, people were leaning further and further into talking about details associated with readiness — hey, that’s classified. We don’t promulgate that information.”

“We can share that information with the Congress behind closed doors, but we don’t want to share that information with our competitors,” Stackley continued, “so there has been a pullback in terms of how much detail we put out regarding materiel readiness.”

Stackley’s staff clarified to me afterwards that he was not accusing anyone of improperly disclosing classified information. That’s a relief. But a central point of the CNO’s memo, and of Stackley’s comment, was that even unclassified data can be damaging if disclosed.

China’s watching everything that we do, and we want to be very measured about what we put out in open, public forums,” Stackley said. “Are we in fact sharing information that creates vulnerabilities, crosses the line in terms of security?”

“I’ve read pieces myself, I’ve seen things in the literature (that made me think), ‘what the heck is this doing in the press?’” Stackley said. “These are our secrets, and we don’t need them to know exactly what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.”

“We do have a responsibility to share information with the public, (but) we need to be more measured about the information we’re pushing out in the public domain,” Stackley said. “There’s some recalibration going on, rightfully so. We have a very aggressive competitor out there.”




$4 Billion Stealth Destroyer DDG-1000 Biggest Trials Lie Ahead




“Problems developing and testing a weapon system at the same time.

It’ll be two more years before combat systems delivery occurs, and then the ship can begin IOT&E (Initial Operational Test & Evaluation) and starting the training cycle to deploy.

As shipbuilder Bath Iron Works laid the keel for the third and final destroyer of the DDG-1000 class, the Navy and industry were struggling to understand embarrassing breakdowns on the first ship, the USS Zumwalt. Congress fears there could be worse to come. “The hard work hasn’t really begun yet in terms of delivering the capability of the ship,” frets one Hill staffer. “We don’t even know really what we don’t know yet about the combat systems because they hadn’t done testing.”

On DDG-1000, there are months of testing still to come even as the third ship, the future Lyndon Baines Johnson, is nearly 60 percent complete (in the form of pre-assembled modules yet to be attached to the keel). “There’s definitely a lot of concurrency,” the staffer said. “It’ll be two more years before combat systems delivery occurs, and then the ship can begin IOT&E (Initial Operational Test & Evaluation) and starting the training cycle to deploy.”

Naval Sea Systems Command is still working out the root causes of engine breakdowns that, among other things, required the $4 billion ship to be towed out of the Panama Canal. But that’s the easy part. What failed in Panama was a relatively simple component called a lube oil cooler, something ships have used “since Noah had an ark,” lamented NAVSEA’s commander, Vice Adm. Thomas Moore. What the Navy has yet to test — indeed, what the Navy has yet to turn on as a single, integrated, ship-wide system — is the ship’s far more complex array of unique, high-tech combat systems:

  • the “integrated fight-through power” system to distribute the ship’s massive amount of electrical power to the highest-priority equipment while re-routing around battle damage, a lot like the fictional starship Enterprise;
  • the two 155 mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) cannon, designed to fire rocket-propelled precision shells that proved so costly the Navy is looking at cheaper but shorter-ranged replacements;
  • the AN/SPY-3 radar, which is new to the Zumwalt destroyers and the similarly troubled carrier USS Ford;
  • and the unique ship-wide computer system meant to control it all, the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure, with over five million lines of code, based on open-source Linux software.

Even when the Zumwalt appears to resemble earlier classes, it’s significantly different. For instance, the Mk 57 Vertical Launch System that allows the Zumwalt to fire a wide variety of missiles is slightly different than the Mk 41 VLS on the Navy’s mainstay warship, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class. In particular, the Zumwalt‘s missile tubes are squeezed in around the periphery of the ship, rather than forming one easy-to-load central block as on an Arleigh Burke.

“The combat system testing is a significant concern, since so much of it is new,” said Bryan Clark, a retired Navy commander now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments. “The Mk57 VLS launcher, AGS, SPY-3, and volume search radar are all unique to DDG-1000. While each system has been tested individually to some degree, the integration testing of all these new systems is likely to identify unforeseen problems, and subsequent delays in the ship’s first deployment.

Guns and Voltage

Even once everything is working and all systems are go aboard ship, Clark continued, the Navy will need to build a support infrastructure on shore. That means special training programs for the crews of the three DDG-1000s, distinct from other destroyers, he said, “because of all the DDG-1000’s unique systems, including a different electrical system, generators, propulsion system, combat systems, and hull equipment.” The DDG-1000 even draws a different voltage of power from other destroyers, he said, which means it’ll compete for high-voltage pier space with big-deck amphibious assault ships and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

Then there’s the cost of ammunition. The ship was built around its two 155 mm guns, a caliber used by no other ship in the Navy. The Advanced Gun System in turn was built to fire a unique hybrid of artillery shell and missile, the rocket-boosted Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP), able to strike targets about 100 nautical miles away. Unfortunately, as the DDG-1000 program kept getting cut back, and the production run of ammo with it, the cost-per-round rocketed to somewhere around $800,000. Now the Navy’s not actually buying LRLAPs and instead looking at the Excalibur round, which is precision-guided but not rocket-boosted: Excalibur costs about $70,000 a shot — less than 10 percent the LRLAP’s price — but can hit targets at most 26 nautical miles away — about 25 percent the LRLAP’s range.

That’s a tactical tradeoff that undermines the whole raison d’etre of the Zumwalt class, shore bombardment, argued naval historian and analyst Norman Polmar. “Less range? It doesn’t have enough range now (with LRLAP)!” Polmar told me. With everyone from China and Russia to Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemeni Houthis boasting anti-ship cruise missiles nowadays, “amphibious forces have to stay at least 25 and preferably 50 miles off shore,” Polmar said. With modern aircraft like the V-22 Osprey and the CH-53K helicopter, he went on, “we’re not going to land troops on the beaches…. We’ve got a capability of going more than a 100 miles inland easily.” So adding the distance ships must stand out to sea and the distance ground forces will go inland, you get ranges that even the LRLAP couldn’t cross, let alone Excalibur.

So what does DDG-1000 do? “It was designed for a mission that’s no longer relevant,” Polmar said, but bombardment of land targets with big guns isn’t the only mission the Zumwalt can do. Take away the guns and, “what do you have? A large ship with a lot of electricity,” he said. “The ship has phenomenal capabilities in terms of its power plant, so let’s get rid of the guns and let’s start putting lasers and other high-tech weapons on the ship.”

“The best things about DDG-1000 have to do with its electrical power (76MW) and internal volume,” agreed Clark. “It will be a great testbed and developmental platform for electric weapons like lasers, high-power radio frequency weapons, and railguns.”

The Hill staffer wasn’t so sure: “The idea that you would reopen the shipbuilding contract to put in a railgun begs for more trouble” on a program that’s already seen plenty. (That doesn’t rule out expensively extracting the 155mm guns and replacing them with railguns later, though).

On the other hand, the contract structure and the advanced state of construction makes it impractical to cancel the third ship, as the Pentagon once studied doing. “(DDG-)1001 and 1002 both are on fixed price contracts,” the staffer said. “The idea of not building the third one doesn’t make any sense; we’ve already paid for it” — all but $200 million — “so we’d better get a ship.”

So what, at this stage, can be done to fix and improve the Zumwalt class? The Navy is reviewing the ships’ missions and studying Concepts of Operation (CONOPS), which will likely reflect the reduced range of the guns. Congress will watch the combat systems testing closely, and it’s already reformed one aspect of shipbuilding. After the Navy commissioned the Zumwalt in October and formally accepted delivery of the ship from Bath, Congress enacted language in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 7301) defining delivery to occur only when “all systems contained” are ready and ordering the Navy to amend the Zumwalt class’s delivery dates accordingly. That statute should help prevent concurrency from rearing its troublesome head on future shipbuilding programs.

Then there’s the longer-term lesson of the DDG-1000 and similarly ambitious ships like the aircraft carrier Ford and the Littoral Combat Ship. On both sides of the Potomac, the emerging consensus is that the hoped-for 355-ship fleet should be built with incremental upgrades of proven classes, not with more ambitious, leap-ahead ships packed with new technologies like the Zumwalt.

“I think the ship has a lot of potential,” the Hill source said, “but we shouldn’t believe it until we see it demonstrated.”



The $ Price for Transformational New Technologies




“This week, the Navy finally announced a delivery date for the long-delayed and $2.4 billion over-budget aircraft carrier, the Gerald Ford (CVN-78).

‘In hindsight,” said Adm. Thomas Moore, head of Naval Sea Systems Command, the Navy should have tested the Ford’s ambitious new systems more extensively on shore before installing them aboard ship.

But building a new class of ship with “leap-ahead” technology is always risky, Moore told theSurface Navy Association: “We don’t build toasters. These are complex pieces of machinery.’

Given the problems the Ford has faced, we asked retired Navy commander Bryan Clark for an outside perspective on those problems and how to mitigate them. A career submariner,Clark has served at every level from enlisted man to head of the Chief of Naval Operations‘ Commander’s Action Group. He’s now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments.

The Navy is paying the price for attempting to incorporate too many new technologies at once into a new class of ship. The Ford is an example of how short-lived strategic themes such as “transformation” can create long-term problems. The Ford carrier, Zumwalt destroyer, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were all shaped in large part by services’ need to get them approved by the Bush administration, which was only interested in pursuing transformational new technologies at the time.

This is not history we want to repeat. In our quest to pursue “Third Offset Strategy” technologies today, we will need to be judicious in how we incorporate them into new programs. The current Defense Department leadership has done a good job of refining these technologies in R&D programs until they mature, but sometimes these lessons eventually get forgotten.

As for the carrier program specifically, the Navy now is building parts of the next two carriers (the Kennedy, CVN-79, and Enterprise, CVN-80) and is buying some equipment for CVN-81 (as yet unnamed). Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls has done some good work to get costs down, and has more to do. Many of the techniques they use for building nuclear-powered submarines, for example, can be applied to nuclear carriers, although it will require more investment and time due to the greater scale of carrier construction.

The Navy may be able to get costs for future carriers down further through multiyear procurement, essentially contracting for two carriers at a time and paying for them over multiple years. There are many pumps, valves, and other pieces of equipment on a carrier, and buying them in bulk for two ships can enable making them or buying them at a lower price. The Navy should start thinking about whether CVN-82, which hasn’t been started yet, should incorporate all the features of the first three Ford-class carriers. Some systems may be downscaled or removed to lower costs. (The Navy has already decided to install a more modest radar on CVN-79). Other options some have raised, such as shifting to a smaller carrier, would add more expense to develop and test the new designs.

It will be about three years before Fordconducts a deployment, since after delivery it will enter the Fleet Response Plan training and preparation cycle. To address the continued shortfall in carriers and begin developing a more effective Amphibious Readiness Group, the Navy and Marine Corps should start deploying USS America(LHA-6) and other big-deck amphibious assault ships (LHAs and LHDs) as F-35Bcarriers. (This is something CSBA recommended in our fleet architecture and amphibious warfare studies; F-35Bs are “jump jets” capable of operating off the shorter flight decks of amphibs, rather than requiring a full-sized carrier). This would make the ARG able to provide fire support to Marines over the long ranges at which their MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors can operate. It could also provide fighter support to support some of the small-scale operations, such as those in Syria, that are currently being supported part-time by aircraft carriers. The Navy has repeatedly tested such amphib-based air operations over Libya with its existing AV-8 Harrier jump jets, and the F-35B would be far more capable.”



Navy Took Away Job Titles – No One Knows What to Call Each Other




“Things have gotten awkward since the Navy abruptly eliminated sailor’s titles.

During a recent underway on the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, it was apparent that sailors weren’t having an easy time of it. If you ask sailors what they do, invariably they tell you their now non-existent rating. Others say they’re getting in hot water for still using those abbreviated titles, even though they’re the fastest way to refer to sailors (and doesn’t involve remembering dozens of last names).

What’s clear is that sailors still don’t know what exactly to make of the move, which was rolled out in late September with little detail about the larger career implications.

Some sailors said the decision genuinely upset the more senior sailors in the division. One airman who did not want to be identified to share candid views said his second and first classes were particularly distraught.

“It’s a waste,” the airman said. “They feel like it takes away from their accomplishments and their identities that they’ve built over their careers.”

Another junior sailor said he had little patience for all the bellyaching over the dumped ratings.

“It does seem pointless but people just don’t like change,” said the sailor, who also asked to remain anonymous. “In some ways though I like the idea of having greater career flexibility.”

Online the conversation around dumping ratings hasn’t died down. On a Navy forum on the link sharing website Reddit, sailors describe the daily annoyances that the ratings execution has brought.

“Does anyone get annoyed being corrected on addressing Petty Officers, etc. by their old rates?” one Redditor asks, a question that has generated 35 responses to date.

“For instance, I was talking with an officer and without thinking, referred to a Petty officer 1st class as HM1,” Redditor drm4490 continues. “She says, ‘you mean petty officer first class so-and-so?’ I mean, even though she’s technically right, it rubs me the wrong way when they actually correct you. I also just find it way easier to say three syllables.”

One Redditor said he disagreed with the change but would just be happy when it’s one thing or the other.

“I’ve been corrected for using both a generic PO1 X as well as (insert rate here) X. The try-hards are offended by the old and the salty ones are offended by the new,” the commenter said. “I’ll be happy when everyone gets on board or it’s changed back. As nice as it would be to have my rate back, I just want it one way or the other.”

Another sailor said his command has been using the “seaman” and “petty officer” honorifics in formal paperwork but have otherwise ignored the new rules.

“Have yet to see anyone in my command get butt hurt over us calling each other by rate,” the commenter said. “Most of us have put a half-assed attempt at saying Seaman or Petty Officer and mostly use it jokingly. Only our CO, XO, and CMC have put up a real attempt at not using rates. Normally just use SN or PO when writing emails and doing paperwork for formalities.”

One sailor noted that the change is still causing confusion in simple interactions such as telephone calls.”