Ray Mabus also vowed to protect ship construction from budget cuts.Richard R. Burgess, Seapower
2 June 2015
ARLINGTON, Va. – The secretary of the Navy stressed forward deployment as the way to maximize the use
of naval forces as he also championed shipbuilding, which he vowed to protect as budgets roll toward enactment.
“You’ve got to have these big gray hulls on the horizon,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told an audience June 2 at the American Enterprise Institute. “You’ve got to have that presence ... to give our leaders options. You’ve got to have those hulls around the world.
“What the Navy and Marine Corps uniquely give America is presence,” he said, “being not only in the right place at the right time, but the right place all the time, being around the globe, around the clock.”
Mabus said that if ships and other forces “are not close, they may not get into the fight.”
He backed up his words with evidence that the Navy has or is shifting more ships forward, especially in the Western Pacific, in concert with the defense strategy of re-balancing to the Pacific. He mentioned the move of two more destroyers to Japan; four littoral combat ships to Singapore; a fourth attack submarine to Guam; and four destroyers to Spain primarily as ballistic-missile defense units.
“We have as many ships forward today as we did 20 years ago when our fleet [had] 100 more ships,” he said.
Key to Mabus’s strategy is to maximize shipbuilding. He pointed out, as he has before, that in five years as secretary he put 70 ships under contract, compared with only 27 ships put under contract in the previous five years.
Mabus pledged to defend shipbuilding even if the budget caps of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are not modified or repealed. He said that shipbuilders need stable designs, mature technology, and certainty in the number of orders in order to meet the needs of the fleet in the budgets provided. In return, he said of shipbuilders, the Navy needs them to invest in infrastructure improvements and train the workforce such that every subsequent ship of a class should cost less than the one that was built before it.
Mabus also stressed the need to devote scarce resources “more into tooth, less into tail,” and said that more steps need to be taken to reduce overhead and duplication, getting the acquisition process to be “more simple, more accountable.”
He said that overhead reductions and the savings they are meant to achieve often are illusory and that some theoretical savings in reality never happen. Manpower reductions sometimes are compensated for by hiring of more contractors, for one example.
Mabus used the example of fuel purchases by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The theory is that fuel bought in bulk for all of the services would achieve savings. In reality, he said, it does not work, because many of the fuels needed are used only be specific services that could be ordered by the service itself. He said the efficiency of the DLA’s fuel purchase model is “questionable.”
In a brief meeting with reporters after the event, Mabus announced that on June 1 he signed out the design for the new frigate, the "way ahead" for engineering and weapons for the modified littoral combat ship.