Debating Defence and Naval Policy (XXII)

David Perry: A new dimension was literally thrown into the debate when Ken Hansen passed around the report of the U.S. Navy's woes from the San Diego Union-Tribune of 1 February, 2007:

“Bedeviled with cost overruns, the navy's shipbuilding program is in danger of sinking under its own weight. Navy leaders have struggled to upgrade an aging fleet of warships with next-generation aircraft carriers, destroyers, amphibious assault ships and submarines that cost billions more than the vessels they replace. Navy leaders and military analysts have warned that if Congress doesn't boost the Pentagon's shipbuilding budget - $11.6 billion this fiscal year - the navy won't be able to meet its growing list of commitments...”

“You don't see it or hear about it, because the focus is on boots on the ground...” said Cynthia Brown, president of the American Shipbuilding Association, the industry's lobby group."(But) any time you talk about a global war, you can't be there, you can't get there without ships.”

“Sky-high shipbuilding costs are by no means new. A 2006 study by the RAND Corp., a Santa Monica-based defense consultant, showed shipbuilding costs over a 40-year period had risen 7 percent to 11 percent a year, far outpacing the rate of inflation.”

“As an alternative to souped-up ships such as the DDG-1000, the navy in the late 1990s hatched the bare-bones Littoral Combat Ship. Small enough to operate in the near-shore seas and estuaries that navy officials call "brown water," the littoral hull was designed without weapons systems. Instead, warfighting modules for functions such as antisubmarine or countermine warfare could be designed separately and loaded onto the ships as needed. The no-frills design would allow the mass production of at least 55 littoral ships, at a cost of no more than $220 million apiece.”

David Perry: After reading the Union-Tribune story, Lerhe noted the same day, “With the SCSC program peaking at an eye-popping $24 billion, Canada has very much the same problem. As Joel Sokolsky notes, its time to look at the USCG large cutter design, which admittedly has initial problems. I find this apt as they seem to have copied our CPF and updated it.”