When Defense Secretary Robert Gates finished his speech to the Navy League at the Sea-Air-Space expo today you could, pardon the cliche, hear a pin drop; a very muted applause finally came after a long silence. Gates went right at the sea services, saying the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is way too costly and there isn’t much of an amphibious warfare mission, building a new class of boomers, at $7 billion a copy, will bankrupt the shipbuilding budget, and he even went after the holiest-of-holies, saying the Navy has too many carriers.
“At the end of the day, we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 to 6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers.” His implication was the answer to that question is clearly no. Well, he’s already let the Air Force have it, I guess it was the Navy’s turn.
“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore. On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?”
“Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040. To be sure, the need to project power across the oceans will never go away. But, consider the massive over-match the U.S. already enjoys. Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need eleven carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?”
They must have a class over at the Pentagon where they teach officers and officials to frame any touchy issue in the form of a question. Gates made it clear that the shipbuilding budget is not going up. The funding priority for the foreseeable future is reset — repairing and refurbishing the Army and Marine Corps equipment coming out of Iraq, he said.
– Greg Grant