Wednesday, March 18, 2015

U.S. Navy Secretary Mabus: 'Don't give up the ship'

Richard R. Burgess, Seapower, Mar 17

ARLINGTON, Va. – Navy Secretary Ray Mabus used a hearing of the full House Armed Services Committee (HASC) to hammer home his oft-made point that reducing shipbuilding would be the most debilitating cut the service could suffer in the event that sequestration returns in the fiscal 2016 budget.
“Cutting ships is the most damaging and least reversible course of action, “ Mabus said, testifying March 17 along with other service secretaries and senior military leaders before the HASC. “I’m committed to preserving our shipbuilding, following the Navy’s watchword, ‘Don’t give up the ship!’”
Mabus said the 70 ships put on contract since he began his tenure five years ago has the Navy on course to reaching a level of 300 ships by 2020, he said.
But Mabus warned that as he protects shipbuilding against sequester, “something else is going to break.”
“Overall, the president’s [fiscal] 2016 budget balanced current readiness needed to execute the assigned missions of today or rebuilding our highly capable fleet,” he said. “But it is the minimum we must have to do that. We are at the point at where we can no longer do more, or even the same, with less. With less, we will be forced to do less.”
Mabus said that with sequestration in effect the deployed ships would be ready but “the danger ... is that we will not be able to surge Navy ships because they won’t be maintained, we will not have done the training to get them ready to go.”
Mabus said the proposed 2016 budget would enable the Navy to catch up with its backlog in ship repairs in 2018 and aircraft repairs by 2020.
ADM Michelle J. Howard, vice chief of naval operations, standing in for Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan W. Greenert, stressed that strategic deterrence remained the Navy’s highest priority.
“But then the impact on the rest of the conventional force – our ships and submarines – would be tremendous,” she said. “Impact on readiness, our ability to train people, and our ability to forward deploy and be where we need to be, all of that would shrink. Our ability to respond to the nation’s needs would be greatly diminished.”
Mabus praised the Virginia-class attack submarine program, through which a multiyear procurement of 10 submarines was achieved at the cost of nine. But he warned that such good deals could evaporate with the return of sequestration.
“To break a multiyear means you would pay more money for fewer ships,” he said.
Mabus expressed his appreciation for the establishment of the National Sea-Based Deterrent Fund, noting that without additional funds the Ohio Replacement ballistic-missile submarine program would consume more than half of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget for 12 years.
Asked by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., about the potential effects of sequestration on the serial production of the littoral combat ship and follow-on frigate, Mabus said the program would be at risk of losing skilled craftsmen, losing the benefits of economies of scale and increasing the cost of the new frigate.
“You have to keep serial production,” he said. “I cannot over-emphasize how destructive it [interruption of serial production] would be.”
Responding to a question from Rep. Randy Forbes, R- Va., about the budget resetting the force to the readiness of a decade ago, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “We really are building capabilities that are more applicable to yesterday than tomorrow.”
Asked by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., what Congress should do to achieve effective acquisition reform, Mabus held up an exceedingly complex flow chart showing the myriad of steps in the acquisition process and said, “Cut out a lot of this.”
Mabus said the current system laid on too many requirements that did little or nothing to add value to the process.
Howard stressed that agility was key to an effective acquisition process and asked the committee to give the service chiefs a voice in the process.
In response to a question from Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., on the progress of opening more billets to women, Mabus replied that the “Navy and Marine Corps are absolutely on track to meet the deadline. The only one that remains closed today are the trigger-pullers for the SEALs.”
Mabus told the committee that pay and compensation growth in the services must be slowed or that it would crowd out the procurement of the tools personnel need to perform their missions.

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