The right-wing Heritage Foundation recently published an in-depth paper that addresses the destroyer shipbuilding debate in Congress. The USA’s reconciled FY 2009 defense budget approves $2.5 billion to “fully” fund DDG-1002, but that will not end the debate. Official reports place the ship’s likely cost at up to twice that amount, and the FY 2009 bill includes a clause that could divert the $2.5 billion to fund additional DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers instead.
“Changing Course on Navy Shipbuilding: Questions Congress Should Ask Before Funding” contains a great many links to existing research. It can reasonably be characterized as leaning toward building more DDG-1000 ships, but the offers key questions to ask rather than recommendations. This is more than just a rhetorical device. The answers to those questions could tip the debate either way, and the report does point to discrepancies between recent and past Navy statements that need clarification. The think tank also offers research evidence that disputes some recent Navy statements, with an especial focus on the ships’ air defense and anti-submarine capabilities:
“The recent testimony by Admiral McCullough and Deputy Assistant Secretary Stiller has raised new questions and left other concerns unanswered. The Navy’s leadership has an obligation to provide Congress with full answers to these questions in a timely manner. Before deciding which plan to fund in 2010, Congress should demand the appropriate information to conduct its due diligence…”
The proliferation of UAVs and fighters equipped with stabilized, high-magnification video pods and imaging radars has a number of corollary consequences. Bandwidth has become a key battlefield constraint. Specialized reconnaissance fighter aircraft are a dead concept. And some poor analyst has to sift through the video tsunami at the other end, in order to find items of interest.
That last item explains why Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control, Orlando, FL kicked off FY 2009 with a $5.5 million cost plus fixed fee contract to “develop and demonstrate a Video and Image Retrieval and analysis tool system for video data exploitation.” One that lets an analyst quickly find and retrieve video content of interest from archives containing thousands of hours of video data. One that also provide alerts of “events of interest” during live operations, forwarding them to an analyst’s attention. That last item is rather double-edged. If it works – which DARPA projects by their very nature cannot say with assurance – it could trigger timely, lifesaving assistance to combat missions. It could also be used for annoying, soldier-killing battlefield micromanagement. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, work will be performed in Cherry Hill, NJ; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Littleton, CO, with an estimated completion date of March 29/10. Bids were solicited via the Web, and 20 bids were received by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, VA (HR0011-09-C-0027).