The Naval War College held its 61st annual strategy forum earlier this month at Newport R.I. and videos of the various speeches and presentations can be found here on the NWC web site.
Some quick hits from the keynote addresses:
Speaking to the faithful, CNO Adm. Gary Roughead extolled the importance of the Navy to the free flow of commerce across the world’s oceans, including the flow of information via undersea cables and fiber optics: “the internet swims with the fishes.” He also stressed the commitment of the Navy to the current fight as shown by the numbers: 14,000 sailors are on the ground in Central Command versus 10,000 at sea.
Pointing out the obvious, Roughead said the Navy faces serious financial challenges. The fleet actually shrank during the run up in defense spending that began in 2001 (and is now tapering off); it’s the smallest it’s been since 1960. Yet, the demand signal from the COCOMs continues to increase; they recognize forward presence is key to influencing friends and intimidating potential enemies.
He worries about a declining shipbuilding budget while China is in the midst of a naval buildup. He did say the two navies were working together and cooperating at sea (China is due to take command of counter-piracy TF 151).
The issue of rising costs of just about everything in the face of declining budgets dominated much of Navy Secretary and newly named Gulf Coast disaster manager Ray Mabus’ presentation. There are no sacred cows, he said, everything is on the table and open to cuts (I take that to include carrier strike groups).
A formal gate review will be conducted for every major weapons program that will gauge cost vs. capability. On time and on budget must be the standard; where that standard isn’t met, the program will be cancelled or restructured. Mabus vowed to provide industry stable designs and stable intentions. In return, the Navy expects platform costs to come down with each year of production. He also said to expect more fixed price contracts.
-- Greg Grant