USN Combatant Ships: 2005 A Look Forward & Backward
Remember Reagan's 600 ship Navy? A new low point has been projected during 2005 with 285 ships still in commission. That is 119 more than in 1912 (5 years before WWI). According to the Navy Times, personnel reductions already planned call for 3,200 cuts in fiscal 2006 and 7,400 more in 2007. An unnamed Los Angeles class submarine will be decommissioned (the San Francisco, now?). Submarines will be hard-hit by delays in out-year, new construction as well. Funds for a single Virginia class SSN have been included in next year's ship construction budget.
On a slightly more positive note, project funds are provided over the next 4 years for submarine propulsion improvements such as reducing nuclear plant size and replacing reduction gear with electric drive. The U.S. submarine fleet stands at 54 boats, about twice as many as we had in 1912, when the U.S. was building 13 new ones. But a study by the Navy suggested it needs only 37 - 43 subs!
Taking BRAC’s intention to close sub base Groton at face value and adding what Lt. Raymond Perry USN ret. had already noted regarding the impact of Joint Duty service on submarine admirals, an unbiased observer might suspect an ominous shift in NAVY thinking. The submarine service would embark on a path to less distinction in order to reduce its costs.
Since the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, Joint Duty has been a requirement for military officers. For Clinton's JAG LAWYERS it assured greater infiltration of the frontline command structure, but for submariner officers it was a distraction they first tried to exempt. An important, but predictable consequence of Joint Duty to the Sub Force ("Senior Submarine Force leaders frequently remarked at that time that if they could not obtain such an exemption then submariners would withdraw from joint duty altogether" -Lt. Perry) was fewer qualified submarine admirals, thus fewer in high places. The latest JCS Vice Chair appointment (Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr.) could well be the last submariner in or near a top military post under current NAVY thinking.
What to look for over the next 6 years, if a shift is actually occuring:
1) Pentagon sees need for more submarines than the NAVY; for background,
visit Bubblehead's Connecticut Counterattack and read about Senator Dodd's concern that a Navy study was incomplete and resulted in a projected need for far fewer subs (37-43) than thePentagon study (43-50);
2) Groton SSN squadron transferred to a non-submarine base (surface admiral command) ;
3) Women sailors assigned with men to those submarines ;
4) No more sub pay.
Only surface admirals could think this way.
After the guff taken from the Air Force over the NAVY JAG experience, the world of Navy admirals is collapsing on them, budgetarily at least. Have submarines lost again?