A step towards building a Navy we can afford

Elements of the US government are having second thoughts about building a third DDG-1000 (cool website for an ugly ship).  Hat tip to Information Dissemination (a professional Navy-centric blog).  That a nice return to sanity, as a global maritime power needs a large Navy — but one that we can in fact afford.  The next four years will likely see the first-ever trillion dollar government deficit, which must be largely financed by increasingly reluctant foreign central banks.  Our defense needs and budgets might soon collide.


  1. Defense: FY2009 Authorization and Appropriations“, Congressional Research Service (CRS), 18 June 2008
  2. In major reversal, navy aims to curtail DDG-1000 Program“, Inside the Navy, 14 July 2008
  3. “Is the {Defense} Budget Too Small? The 4% Debate”, page 15 of the above CRS report — Delusions of senior DoD officials.
  4. The Nation Has a Date With the Navy“, Information Dissemination (13 July 2008) — This goes to the heart of the issue!


I.  Defense: FY2009 Authorization and Appropriations“, Congressional Research Service, 18 June 2008 — Excerpt:

In related action, the House passed its version of the defense authorization bill (H.R. 5658) on May 22 authorizing $612.5 billion, including $70 billion for war related costs. The bill would deny authorization of the $2.5 billion requested for a third ship of the DDG-1000 class. Instead, it would allocate those funds to buy an LPD-17-class amphibious landing transport, and two T-AKE-class supply ships and to purchase either components to be used in another DDG-1000 or components that would be used to continue production of DDG-51 class destroyers, the type the DDG- 1000 is intended to supplant.

… The Administration’s FY2009 request includes $2.6 billion for a third DDG-1000. Several legislators on the defense committees have proposed eliminating the funds and using the money instead to buy a mix of LPD-17, TAKE auxiliary ships, and DDG-51 destroyers. This would spread available shipbuilding money more widely to sustain the industrial base, provide funding to programs in which costs are stable and more predictable, and also allocate funds to less expensive ships that might

II.  In major reversal, navy aims to curtail DDG-1000 Program“, Inside the Navy, 14 July 2008 – Subscription only — Summary:

In a dramatic, behind-the-scenes about-face, the Navy is rescinding support for its Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyer program, seeking to persuade Pentagon leaders to limit the program to two ships and resume construction of Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers, Inside the Navy has learned.

III.  “Is the {Defense} Budget Too Small? The 4% Debate”, page 15 of the above CRS report — Delusions of senior DoD officials.  Excerpt:

Over the past few months, a number of senior military officers, as well as research groups and advocacy organizations, have been arguing that defense spending needs to be substantially higher in the next few years to avoid drastic cuts in major weapons programs or in the size of the force. Many have called for a baseline defense budget, not including war-related costs, pegged to about four percent of Gross Domestic Product — an amount that would be anywhere from $70 to $180 billion per year higher over the next few years than the current Administration plan.

Senior leaders of the military services have been particularly vocal in arguing for substantial increases in the defense budget.

  1. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, has, for some time, urged 4% of GDP for defense.
  2. For the past two years, the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force have argued that the Air Force needs an average of $20 billion more each year for the next several years in weapons acquisition accounts.
  3. In the past few months, senior Army officials have pointed out that the Army budget, including war costs, has grown to over $230 billion. … several more years of spending at near that level will be needed to repair, replace, and upgrade equipment consumed by the war-time pace of operations.
  4. For their part, Navy leaders now calculate that the long-term shipbuilding plan they have proposed for the past few years will, in the future, cost an average of $20 billion a year in FY2007 prices, an increase of about 40% over earlier estimates.

These arguments for a substantial increase in the defense budget, however, come at a time when, by historical standards, military spending appears to be very robust.

  1. Between FY1998, when the post-Cold War decline in defense spending reached its zenith, and FY2008, the baseline Department of Defense budget, not including war costs, has increased by almost 40% above inflation (see Table 2).
  2. After adjusting for inflation, the requested FY2009 baseline DOD budget is more than $100 billion, or about 20%, greater than the average during the Cold War (measured from the end of the Korean War in FY1954 through FY1990).
  3. Requested funding for weapons acquisition (procurement plus R&D) in FY2009 is more than $45 billion — or about one-third — higher than the annual Cold War average.

The disconnection between the size of the budget and the appeals for more money appears even more striking when amounts that have been appropriated for war costs are added to the equation. … The fact that so large a level of spending appears to the military services to be so inadequate has several explanations …

IV.  The Nation Has a Date With the Navy“, Information Dissemination (13 July 2008) — Bold emphasis added.

The future of the Navy and Bath Iron Works is on the line with the cancellation of the DDG-1000, and July 31st just become an important date to be blunt, be honest, and tell it as it is. There will be calls to go overseas and take one of the solutions there, but that doesn’t have to be the answer. The question is, what is the best way ahead to begin rebuilding both the Navy and the Shipbuilding industry in a sustainable way that gets American shipbuilding back in business towards the national interest while also competing on the global market?

That would be the strategic question regarding Navy shipbuilding to ask on July 31st, but the Navy, Industry, and Political question is whether the DDG-51 should replace the DDG-1000. There are strategic solutions, but where are the Navy leaders who take a strategic view towards shipbuilding? There are plenty of leaders who take a tactical approach to shipbuilding, Gene Taylor being one such example now, but isn’t there a better way?

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information about the US Navy

On this site:

  1. DoD Death Spiral – the US Navy version, 31 January 2008
  2. Update to the “Navy Death Spiral”, 22 April 2008
  3. A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief”, 8 July 2008
  4. “Amphibious Ships are the Dreadnoughts of the modern maritime era”, 2 September 2008

To see all articles on the FM sites on this topic:  Naval warfare and strategy.

Other sources:

  1. For in-depth coverage of these issues, see Galrahn’s work at Information Dissemination.  His blogroll has many other sites of interest discussing these matters.
  2. Providing for the Common Defense: Four Percent for Freedom,” Jim Talent and Mackenzie Eaglen, Heritage Foundation, 13 December 2007 – An example of those calling for Defense spending at 4% of GDP.
  3. Upcoming FY2009 Debate For the Navy   (8 July 2008) 

3 thoughts on “A step towards building a Navy we can afford”

  1. Solid post, FM

    Now what do you propose for force structure for the other services? And what about weapons programs (FCS obviously has to go…)

    S/F, SE
    Fabuis Maximus replies: My posts are about the process — the institution and its dynamics. Writing about what DoD should and should not do is entertainment, since they do not care what any of us think. If we can build public support for reforming DoD, then we can get a War Department capable of making these decisions correctly.

    This is a fine distinction, of course. One is just entertainment (no effect on DoD), the other is hopeless (DoD seems impossible to reform).

  2. A fine distinction, to be sure, and one I certainly understand.

    However, for some, mobilizing reform is easier if people know what kind of outcome may be produced through our efforts at reform. So, there is utility in my qustions. R/S, SE
    Fabius Maximus replies: I did not see that! Will do a brief post in answer.

  3. Robert Petersen

    I think the core issue is the question about quantity versus quality. Which matters most? Many would argue quality, but even a superb warrior could be overwhelmed by a swarm of hornets (or – in case of a ship – missiles). It is a strange thing, but the American Navy is smaller than it was before the outbreak of the Second World War, but at the same time far more expensive. Is it also more efficient? Only a war can tell, but the fact is there might not be enough ships available. Just like with the F22 – also a superb weapon, but too expensive to build in large quantities and therefore not available to fulfill the military need for a replacement of the large fleet of ageing F16 and F15-planes.

    The point is of course that admirals and generals – generally speaking – don’t know nor care about economics or money. They also shouldn’t because we need them to fight, but civilian control is simply not enough. There are so many stories about military waste that it is hopeless to count: The toilet seat that used to cost 600 bucks or the coffee machine for the Galaxy aircraft at the price of 7.500 Dollars. But of course it had the advantage that it could make five cups of coffee AFTER the plane was hit and experienced a loss of cabin pressure. The large weapons like the DDG-1000 are only at the top of the mountain. Will it ever change? I believe if the money runs out it have to. But we might also experience the same story like we see in Russia today: The generals kept their divisions in place even while there was no money for pay or for maintenance. The waited until the money came back and when it did (because of Russian oil) it instantly began to update old cold war-plans for new missiles, new submarines and even several aircraft carriers. It is like nothing happened! Perhaps the Pentagon will do the same: Put themselves into hypersleep like in the movie “Alien” only to awake when the money returns.

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