Shipbuilding, Fighters, Carrier Port
Among Challenges for New SecNav
When the next secretary of the U.S. Navy walks
into the job, he or she will immediately face a
list of budgetary, political and other challenges that
will undoubtedly vie for their attention during the
early days of the Obama administration.
At press time, President Barack Obama had not yet
selected the top civilian leader for any of the military
services. But whoever the Navy nominee is, that person will have to grapple with a wide range of issues
that have vexed the service for years.
One Navy analyst said the problems are not historic
in their gravity and are probably common to any
changeover in administration. But the weight of the
lingering issues, coupled with a faltering economy that
could put additional pressure on the defense budget,
could be time-consuming for whoever assumes the
helm of the Navy.
Topping the list, analysts say, will be attempts to
right a shipbuilding program that many fear has wandered off course, despite the ever-watchful and often
critical eye of outgoing Navy Secretary Donald C.
Winter, who will stay on until March 13 unless
relieved before then.
“A likely major challenge for the next secretary of
the Navy will be to fix current problems in Navy shipbuilding — a part of Navy acquisition that has been the
subject of much criticism, and where the Navy’s credibility has taken a considerable beating in the last couple of years,” said Ron O’Rourke, a Navy analyst at the
Congressional Research Service.
Despite the often critical eye of Navy Secretary Donald C.
Winter, here testifying before the Senate Appropriations
Committee for Defense on the 2009 national defense
budget request March 5, Navy shipbuilding program problems have persisted. Getting these programs back on
course will be one of the major challenges facing whoever
succeeds Winter as secretary.
Areas of concern in shipbuilding,
he said, include cost growth and
overruns, construction problems and
deficiencies, year-to-year changes in
the shipbuilding plan, the affordability of the plan and accountability for
problems in shipbuilding programs.
In a November speech at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, Winter himself bemoaned
problems with shipbuilding and encouraged the Navy to develop a new
“quality culture” to guide programs
through design and procurement.
Winter also suggested that
future Navy officials invest more
heavily in the service’s acquisition
and systems engineering work
force. And, because there is now
little competition for top programs, he recommended the Navy
use profit incentives to motivate
contractors to stay on track.
Additionally, Winter, who took a
tough-love approach to shipbuilding, stressed the importance of accountability.