Monday, August 25, 2008

Fantasy Shipbuilding is not like Fantasy Football

Galrahn has laid down a challenge to Naval bloggers concerning the current shipbuilding plan:

"Given Huntington's advice, the Navy's existing plan, the operational considerations, the Maritime Strategy, and $35 [sic] billion over 5 years... what would be your shipbuilding plan, and why? The FY09-FY13 plan the Navy released in this budget year can be found here for comparison. Remember, we are talking about 5 years from FY10 - FY14 here, but it should be part of a larger strategy."

So far, Galrahn has provided his own plan, in which he emphasizes adding sealift and motherships over more battleships like the Arleigh Burke or Zumwalt classes. He also alters the Navy's LCS plans to purchase multi-mission combatants based on the same hulls, creating some sixth-rates to balance out the line of battle. In the process, he exceeds the $65 billion budget by 15%, which makes me think he's missed something.

Mike Burleson at New Wars takes a different approach:
Notice my emphasis on littoral warships, which I think is where the Navy needs to be for now. A total freeze on Big Ship production would ensue with FY10, and several classes would be delayed or canceled outright. None of the poorly defended and too costly DDG-1000s would ever hit the water in my budget. Ever!
Mike's plan buys 301 ships and craft in the five-year period; it includes 20 Virginia-class SSNs, 25 HSVs, 50 Sea Fighters, 200 Stiletto fast attack craft (FAC), and six Large Medium Speed RO/RO ships.

Updated (8/26 07:40): Moose at Theory on Everything chimes in with his thoughts. In addition to the Navy, Moose includes the commitment to Coast Guard resources - the first forward thinker I've seen make this link. He's got some other good ideas in there as well.

Both All three proposals are interesting changes to the fleet composition, and would add capabilities that the United States doesn't currently possess. I have gut-reaction disagreements with both conceptual fleets as proposed, but I'm closer to Galrahn's position than Mike's. Galrahn gives us a change in emphasis and rebalances existing capabilities, while Mike takes a giant leap toward a sea denial rather than a sea control fleet.

The shipbuilding plan, as Galrahn noted, has to be "part of a larger strategy." One of the key criticisms of the Navy's plan is that it does not tie to the Navy's own "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower." Compounding the problem, the strategy does not discuss the specific means of execution.

The first task in building a plan, for any effort, is to understand the desired end state. The strategy provides that end state as a set of capabilities and tasks for the Maritime Force, each of which has some force structure implication. By matching up the capabilities needed with the current (and projected) fleet, we can develop some recommendations on modifying the shipbuilding plan to achieve the ends desired.

My take on the required capabilities, gaps in the current plan, and a possible solution is coming up in a later post.