SAS12: CNO wants ‘good enough,’ v perfect

SAS12: CNO wants ‘good enough,’ v perfect

“The perfect is the enemy of the good,” as the old legislators’ expression goes — now that evidently applies to Navy acquisitions, too.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said the Navy and its vendors needed to have some “frank conversations with each other, and you should ask us hard questions,” to ensure the fleet can actually buy and field the many ships, aircraft and other toys it’s counting on for tomorrow’s fleet.

That may prompt the Navy to turn to “common hulls,” Greenert said — though he did not detail what that could actually mean — and to elevate the importance of cost so that it’s “an entering argument; it has to be a key performance parameter.”


“Perfect will not work in the future,” he said. “It’s got to be good enough and we’ve got to figure out what that is.”

The good news is that the industrial base is performing well today, Greenert told the lunch audience at Sea Air Space. He was pleased with the quality of the ships the Navy has accepted since he’s been in charge: The destroyer USS Spruance; the amphibious transport USS San Diego; and the fast-attack submarine USS California. He likes the new P-8 Poseidon patrol planes.

Keep it up, Greenert told the Navy’s vendors — and as for the 32 ships the Navy now has under contract, he wants them delivered earlier and fielded faster, so they can begin replacing the older warships now reaching the ends of their service lives.

Missing from it all, however, was a sense of what could make anything actually happen. As the federal government blushes amidst this week’s General Services Administration overspending scandal, you won’t hear any official, let alone one from DoD, stand up and say: “Hey, y’know what, corporate defense giants? Go nuts! We’re not really doing anything pressing so if you need to spend more and take more time, knock yourselves out.”

So the get-tough, squeeze-every-cent rhetoric is all very well, but there’s only so much the Navy can do. The “competition” in its shipbuilding is Coke-and-Pepsi competition, not cellphone competition, and sometimes it chooses to do without it altogether, as when it opted for twin parallel classes of littoral combat ships. Generations of Navy leaders have talked tough after the poor quality of the early San Antonio-class amphibious transports, but they kept buyin’ em. Taxpayers are paying more than $1 billion more for the USS Gerald R Ford than they were supposed to, but what’cha gonna do?

One thing Greenert can do on his own is use the fleet he has today more effectively, and he promised the Navy would do so. It will soon transport four more mine countermeasures ships to Bahrain to step up readiness there. (The ships will probably be  as valuable for their spares as their operational availability to commanders.) The fleet is upgrading its Mk 54 and Mk 48 torpedos so they’re better able to handle “smaller” submarines, Greenert said.

And it’s going to do real-life training more often, a break from its years of reliance on more “virtual” training. Greenert said the Navy will buy more high-speed maneuvering surface targets, so sailors can practice against the swarm threat, as well as targets so cruisers and destroyers can practice defending themselves with their SM-2 missiles. “We were woefully low on sonobouys,” Greenert said, so the Navy is buying more of those to let P-3 and helicopter crews train to hunt submarines.

The basic goal, he said, is that even as the Navy tries to get the ships and equipment it wants tomorrow, it also needs to be able to execute today.

” You’ve gotta be able to shoot straight,” Greenert said.

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“That may prompt the Navy to turn to “common hulls,” Greenert said”

Ugh. This sounds suspiciously like the Joint Strike Fighter of ships. A common hull isn’t necessary. A centralized design and planning practice IS. Stop letting the car salesman design your car, and you’ll save a LOT of money and time.

“good enough” like NLOS-C?

The problem is that even “good enough” can be expensive. If you define “good enough” as a system with performance high enough to be useful and reliability high enough that we’ll actually use it, then there’s gonna be a cost associated with that.

As with many other technologies, we’re finding that we’ve already solved all the easy problems. The only problems left are the hard ones, and they’re more expensive to solve. The fact that I could lift a five-pound weight five hundred times easily doesn’t mean that I can therefore lift a 2500-pound weight.

if “good enough” is not intended to mean “useless”, please cancel the LCS program ASAP. 800 million dollar ships wihout weapons, what a tragedy of weakening the USN.

“Good enough” is acceptable now??!! Gee we could have used that kind of thinking a decade ago before we wasted billions of dollars and decades in trying to field too risky technology… such as in DDG-1000, the Gerald Ford class aircraft carriers, and the F-35. Gotta love it when reality hits the brass like a cold glass of water in the face. Of course, he could just be talking a good talk to prove he’s hip with the times…

Overall the Navy needs less About subs updated LA class and Virgina Class and Ohio class subs can last one more decade. They need to upgraded and get more destroyers and Cruisers into service and the P-8 is less needed than a new carrier plan to replace old worn out Hornet and Super Hornet fighters. Overall the Navy may have to make due with cuts that came and are coming they may have to pick just one or two programs and stick to that for modernization for years to come. They will have to pick carefully a DD-1000 is alot more important than a P-8 in future conflicts.

I agree they need to update/replace the cruisers (though replacement seems like a pipedream, the only reason we have these is because they were an outgrowth of the Spruance class DDs), but I don’t think the Super Hornets qualify as “worn out” yet. :-) The “regular” F/A-18Cs certainly do, especially the USMC Hornets, which have seen hard service.

I recall reading that Admiral Gorshkov, the former commander of the Soviet Navy, had a plaque on the wall inscribed: “BETTER IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD ENOUGH”. Does the CNO recall what happened to the Soviet Navy?

“Common hulls”? If he’s contemplating something on the order of the USS SPRUANCE class, then it makes sense. If he’s putting in a plug for more of those ineffective and overpriced LCS hulls then I fear for the future of the USN.

What the Navy really needs to do is work with MARAD and DOT to revive the Merchant Marine and increase ships in the fleet. If this country could build up it’s merchant fleet again, instead of having materials transsported on foreign flag ships, then the shipyards would have something to build other then just Navy vessels. With sources of income other then the Navy, the shipyards would not have to charge as much and then the Navy could stop building vessels it does not want just to maintain the industrial base.

If the Navy doesn’t build up it’s oiler fleet to support what it has and will have, it won’t matter a whit what is built because they’ll become pier-side military motels.

Well, the Soviet Navy aside, the spirit of the saying is that if you keep waiting for the best of the best, or the perfect technology, then you 1) probably will never build anything, and 2) it’ll cost way too much when you do.

Ironically, back in the 60s/70s that saying was adopted by the teams developing the Spruance-class DDs, and worked on adapting Aegis to the Spruance hull that resulted in the Ticonderoga-class CGs. :-)

Dear CNO, please explain why we need a $200M stealth F-35B to fly CAS?

The Soviet AK-47 and the MiG design bureau basically had the same design phylosophy. Good enough was good enough, if you were fighting in Africa, or some other backwoods location. Just ask the Iraqi army if good enough was “good enough when the Western powers came to town?

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