SAS12: SecNav touts ‘green fleet,’ shipbuilding

SAS12: SecNav touts ‘green fleet,’ shipbuilding

Navy leadership has heard the critiques leveled at its service loud and clear: The Navy isn’t building enough ships and it’s wasting money trying to go green.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus used his speech at the Navy League’s 2012 Air-Sea-Space Exposition to attack those critics, saying they are using “incorrect information” or trying to “protect the status quo.” Texas Republican congressmen and U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., have ripped the Navy for investing in alternative fuels, complaining that the added military capability does not justify the cost.

Mabus said the Navy has no choice but to pursue renewable energy sources and alternative fuels.

“We have to be, and will be relentless, in our pursuit of energy goals that will continue to make us a more effective fighting force, and our military and our nation more energy independent. Our Navy and our nation can afford no less,” Mabus said.

He argued that Congress would never agree to sell the Iranians a ship building contract, yet the U.S. military continues to allow the world oil market, which includes Iran, to dictate the service’s ops tempo.

“We buy too much fossil fuel from potentially, or actually, volatile places on earth. We would never let the countries that we buy fuel from build our ships or our planes, but we give them a say on whether those ships sail or those planes fly because we’re dependent on them for fuel,” Mabus said.

He compared the Navy’s progression to renewable energies and alternative fuels to past technological leaps in maritime history such as the switch from sail to coal, and then coal to oil, to power ships. Those advances cost more up front just like the Navy is experiencing with renewable energy. Like past technological advances, it will be worth the investment, Mabus said.

“If this argument would have carried the day than we’d still be using sails. We’d never have built nuclear subs and we wouldn’t be building them today because they are still a lot more expensive than conventional submarines,” Mabus said.

The Navy is already seeing a reduction in the costs for biofuels. In the future, renewable fuels will produce “considerable cost savings for the Navy and the Marine Corps,” Mabus said.

Shipbuilding concerns

Much like the repeated questions he receives on the Navy’s Green Fleet, the Navy secretary has heard enough comparisons of the service’s fleet size to the pre-World War I U.S. Navy.

In response, Mabus had a comparison of his own.

“Comparing our fleet to the one of 1917 is like comparing the telegraph to the smartphone. It is just not comparable. Technology that we have today, the ability to use our fleet today, is astoundingly different from what it was 100 years ago, than from what it was 20 years ago,” he said.

When Mabus took over as the Navy secretary in 2009, he said the ship building programs were a “mess” with costs spiraling out of control. The Navy has recaptured control by harnessing unrealistic requirements, he said.

The Navy now stands ready to field a fleet of 300 ships by 2019 and sustain that fleet size, Mabus said.

“We will have the right number of the right kind of ships to meet all our missions under the new defense strategy,” Mabus said. “I think that is something remarkable.”

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The difference between the Navy and the real world is that in the Navy technology continually escalates cost. In the real world, technology continues to decrease in price. Compare the cell phone you use now to the phone you used 20 years ago. The cost is 1/10th for 1000 times more capability. The Navy is only using this as a smoke screen to justify the cost explosion that occurred when they outsourced the design of Naval ships to defense contractors. The reason we can’t have a 600 ship navy like we had in the 1980s is because we outsourced their design to contractors who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by dragging out their design and jacking costs through the roof. It’s Maybus who is trying and failing to justify an unjustifiable status quo.

I can’t believe he’s really going to try and defend the Littoral Combat Ship and the DDG-1000. Three or four years ago, Admiral McCullough went before Congress and said the DDG-1000 was a waste, and they were cancelling in favor or eight more Arleigh Burke DDGs.
Well, we know how that worked out. They just announced the name of the third DDG-1000. Both those programs have been colossal wastes of money and time. Three fabulously expensive destroyers with what appears to be an antiquated (and as yet unproven for the 21st century) hull design. Fifty small, under-armed, under-equipped LIGHT FRIGATES that cost so much that if we get all fifty, we’ll probably have to sacrifice bigger, better ships to keep them.
It’s time to put force planning and design back in the hands of NAVSEA, and *out* of Lockheed-Martin’s.

Oh, and as for his comments about how the smaller fleet’s technology makes up for the lack of numbers…the Royal Navy’s been on the receiving end of that argument for a decade now, and they have to borrow ships from one commitment to meet another. (Like when the frigate assigned to the Falkland’s Patrol had to sail around Africa to hunt pirates and join exercises with the Indian Navy.)
It’s a terribly flawed argument, often spouted by politicians who want to force the Navy to “do more with less” to the point where the Navy can’t do ANYTHING.

Worthwhile alternative fuels are not necessarily renewable and/or “green”. For example, it may be possible to develop an improved colloidal coal (near nanoparticle size coal, cleaned of sulfur and particles of cap rock, and suspended in a suitable carrier fluid) as a good domestic alternative to fuel oil for use in the gas turbines that are used to power most modern warships. Cleaned colloidal coal could be cleaner burning than some other fuels with higher sulfur content, could be very much cheaper than algal biofuels, and colloidal coal would have the strategic advantage of being an alternative fuel from domestic sources, not vulnerable to foreign source disruptions. So where is the development effort?

justifying the status quo seems to the the case everywhere in government now, and traveling abroad “to scout out our next vacation” is also par for the course-sadly.…

Hell, make them all nuclear powered. It’s the 21st Century. Let’s start living like it is.

You are EXACTLY right. Ship design needs to be brought back in-house. Sort of a re-nationalization. Plus, it makes sense. Combat ship design and construction is a core U.S. industry with limited production, which means we are going to pay a premium anyway. So it might as well be a smaller premium that paying high monopoly profits to Lockheed Martin and friends.

Good point by why develop when you can spend the developmental dollars on something that can power the fleet, aircraft and land vehicles? Economies of scaled needed to supply all three modes plus civilian driving would drive the price down. Also coal has only about 1/3 to 1/4 the kcal’s per unit mass than petroleum based algal fuels in its solid state. You dilute that any further with the suspension fluid (unless itself was a significant source of kcal’s) and you would wont be getting much bang for the weight you have to carry around.

Maybe you could suspend the coal in the pond scum oil?

I do agree with some of what he is saying the ships today can do alot more than old ships of 1917 could do and fact is we are facing the German Navy or Soviet navy Which could fight to dominate a ocean and no real navy can now face the navy for ocean control, so the need for a 1000 ship navy isn’t needed right now. But a 500 ship navy would be preferable than 300 ships in the Pacific.

I agree with most of what he says. our ships can do sooo much more than ships 100 years ago can do and there is no real threat like of that of the German and Soviet navies could challenge us now in a Ocean control fight. But 500 would be better than 300 and really the Republicans are dreaming if they think they can get a 800–100 ship navy gain this decade like Mitty wants.

We could afford thousands of boats (small and autonomous).

Remember that first and foremost, this guy is a politician. I looked up his record and he never served in the military. So where are his real loyalties?

I’m starting to get where you’re coming from. I have no idea what the USN is like but in the USAF they don’t have guys with engineering degrees doing engineering work. They manage or provide oversight but never really build anything themselves. So do the services have the folks with the right education and experience to take over design duties? I suspect they don’t but that’s not saying they couldn’t get back to that point. It would require a new organizational culture in the services though. Someone with the education for building ships is going to expect officer pay and then will they get promotions by designing ships or by supervising others?

Looks like the Navy has their own Steven Chu onboard.

If you really did look up Mabus’s background then you are startlingly inept at research. Maybus served in the Navy aboard USS Little Rock and qualified as a SWO.

I dislike his policies and where he is going but give the man his due as he did in fact serve

We don’t and won’t have 300 ships in the Pacific. A significant percentage of the fleet will still remain in the Atlantic

It was such a minor blip in his Navy Bio that I missed it. I stand corrected. He’s still a career politician as many military people turn out to be. The fact that they didn’t even give his service its own sentence doesn’t indicate he really did anything in the USN.

He received as much credit for being a state auditor of Mississippi, whoop tee doo.

Talk to DoE about how much R&D money they are putting into removing sulfur dioxide from coal these days. It’s all about CO2 emissions now, man. They actually think that because they can regulate US coal-burning energy plants into burning lower sulfur content coal, that makes sulfur dioxide coal content a solved problem — so now the big money is going into removing CO2 from the discharge. Goodness, this is chemistry every 16 year old Appalachian high school student knows about.

The Air Force has companies like the Aerospace Corporation that are set up as not-for-profit companies under Air Force control. That way not everyone is a GS-whatever and they have a little more discretion with regard to who they hire and fire. Something like that may work well for the Navy in this regard. What all of the armed services do now is they hire good engineers to do contractor oversight work which requires them to pay these people as much as they’d make in industry, and then they don’t let them do anything technical other than watch over a contractor’s shoulder. After a while, the engineers the military hires are useless as technical people, but they still cost plenty and they hire about 1 person on their side for every 3 or 4 engineers on the contractor side. The federal government is fully aware of the conflict of interest that exists in their current business model. They believe capitalism is so weak that they can effectively regulate out its effect. This is the same assumption the Soviet Union made and their approach was not nearly as flawed as ours is in the way we procure weapons.

As for how they get promotions, typically back when aerospace companies worked there were 2 tracks an engineer could take. One was the management track, the more people you are in charge of the more money you make. The other was a technical track, the more valuable your knowledge is, the more you make. Engineers could choose one or the other at any point in their career. It kept a lot of brilliant but nearly autistic people out of management (thank God) but also provided them with an incentive to develop their technical skills. That would be the approach the Navy should take in setting up their own design house.

The Navy has a big one called “Center for Naval Analysis” and several smaller entities

It would be nice to see them set up a couple of ship design centers structured like the “Center for Naval Analysis” that would compete with each other in some manner. Competition brings out the best in people even when the stakes are relatively low.

When Mabus took over as the Navy secretary in 2009, he said the ship building programs were a “mess” with costs spiraling out of control. The Navy has recaptured control by harnessing unrealistic requirements, he said.

“Better is the enemy of ‘good enough’”. (Admiral of the Soviet Navy Sergey Gorshkov)

I weep when i read about our current shipbuilding and design.

This old SWO learned long ago that no matter how good your technology, that ship can only be in one place, and it is sloooow.…

PS: after the cold war, no one ever made 3 stars, let alone 4 stars, by doing the right thing. Those ranks are as political as political can ever be.

I’m a little curious how green ship building is supposed to work. Will it be a change in the process, raw materials, or both?


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