new ships, the extended ships would
not be as capable.
Norman Polmar, a naval analyst
and author, said the Navy is in a
major bind due to the financial crisis
and coming cuts to the Pentagon’s
budget. He argued that the Navy’s
decision to purchase 55 Littoral
Combat Ships (LCSs) has come at
the cost of having enough destroyers
and cruisers in the fleet to do the job.
“We’re not building any real
warships in any numbers, so if you
don’t count [the LCS and Joint
High-Speed Vessel], the fleet’s
going down to 200 ships,” he said.
“You want to build more ships to
get up those destroyer and cruiser
numbers. I think we should, but
there isn’t any money to do it.”
He noted that the Obama ad-
ministration and even most of the
Republican candidates for presi-
dent, aside from Mitt Romney, are
talking about cutting back on
defense spending, which makes
finding the money to build the
ships nearly impossible.
“I think they’re at the mercy of
the budget,” he said. “Is it a problem? Yes. And the direction we’re
going of building 55 LCSs doesn’t help the situation.”
Polmar said LCSs are not an adequate substitute
because they lack the ability to launch strike weapons
such as the Tomahawk missile, and they cannot perform area and ballistic missile defense.
The Navy will have to make major changes in its
plans in order to solve the problem, Polmar argued.
The service would need to cut back the LCS program
to just one design and re-evaluate how many of them
should be built, stop including Joint High-Speed
Vessels in the fleet force levels, speed up modernization of the current destroyer and cruiser fleet, and cancel the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).
He also advocated going back to building more
DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers instead of restarting the DDG 51 line.
“Right now, the new DDG 51s are going to cost over
$2 billion per ship,” whereas DDG 1000s will cost a little more than $3 billion and provide a lot more capability, he said.
“I had a lot of problems with DDG 1000 when we
started that program, but it turns out to be a bigger
ship [and] it can handle larger missiles,” he said. ;
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George, front,
leads the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Momsen and
USS Sterett during a composite training unit exercise Sept. 25 in the Pacific
Ocean. According to a Congressional Research Service report, the Navy will
start to see a shortfall in its fleet of cruisers and destroyers beginning in 2025.
According to O’Rourke’s report to Congress, “Navy
DDG- 51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress,” released Sept. 16, the
Navy will start to see shortfalls in the fleet in 2025,
when it first dips below the requirement, and the gap
will continue to increase until it bottoms out at 26 ships
in the mid-2030s. The number will rise to 78 in 2041,
the last year tracked in the current 30-year plan.
O’Rourke wrote that the plan “does not contain
enough destroyers to maintain a force of 94 cruisers
and destroyers consistently over the long run.”
O’Rourke went through a number of mitigation
options at the Navy’s disposal in the report. One way is
to add DDG 51s to the shipbuilding plan or extend the
lives of legacy destroyers to 45 years — 10 years longer
than their current service lives. Without extensions, it
would take another 22 DDG 51s to mitigate the gap, an
unlikely scenario given the budget crunch the Penta-
gon is facing, coupled with the fact that the Navy
would be buying expensive ballistic-missile sub-
marines at around that time.
Extending the service lives of ships in the fleet has
drawbacks as well. While it would be cheaper than buying