CSIS Fires A Broadside at US Naval Acquisition Strategy
The US Navy’s lack of a credible plan for its future naval forces has become a growing problem for the service. In Congress, the leadership of the HASC Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee has weighed in from both sides of the partisan aisle, with Navy plans squarely in their sights. Beyond, independent think-tanks and analysts (vid. Information Dissemination’s maritime strategy archive | FY 2009 budget analysis), and even official reports like the CBO’s Dr. Eric Labs (2005 testimony [PDF]), the late Vice-Adm. Cebrowski’s Alternative Fleet Architecture Design study [PDF] (q.v. also derivative 2005 CRS analysis: HTML | PDF), et. al. have been expressing grave doubts for several years now concerning the Navy’s ability to finance or implement its existing “313-ship navy” plan. Which is itself a major step down from the Reagan era’s 600 ship Navy.
The latest broadside comes from the respected center-right think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and was prepared with the assistance of US Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal winner Anthony Cordesman. The synopsis and title of “ABANDON SHIPS: The Costly Illusion of Unaffordable Transformation” [PDF] mince few words:
“The Navy’s procurement policy is in serious disarray. Unrealistic force plans, overoptimistic cost estimates, unrealistic projections of technical feasibility, and inadequate program management have created an unaffordable ship building program, led the Navy to phase out capable ships for new ships it cannot fund, and threaten the US Navy’s ability to implement an effective maritime strategy… The problem starts at a conceptual disconnect between strategy and reality. The Navy’s Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower is a set of concepts that was not linked to any clearly defined force plan, modernization plan, program, or budget. Navy shipbuilding plans are now shaped more as the result of budgetary constraints than as a response to strategic requirements. They seem to be an expression of wishful thinking rather than a realistic strategic guideline for naval procurement… This reality-strategy disconnect in the entire shipbuilding program is a case study in failed leadership on the part of the most senior officers and civilians in the Navy. No reforms in procurement, changes in program management, cost analysis, and test and evaluation can begin to compensate for taking hard and realistic decisions at the top, and holding senior flag officers, senior civilians, and the Secretary of the Navy accountable.”