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West 2014 Day Three
Morning Keynote Panel: What Are the Industrial Base Issues That Need to be Considered in any Strategy?
Open and honest dialogue between business and government is crucial if industry is to effectively deliver during an era of fiscal austerity, executives from some of the nation’s top defense contractors said during a morning panel discussion on the final day of WEST 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center.
Thursday’s program began with a panel discussion with industry leaders entitled, “What are the Industrial Base Issues That Need to be Considered in Any Strategy.” All three speakers agreed the biggest challenge is operating in an era of limited spending and demands for further cost cutting.
Ellen Lord, president and chief executive officer at Textron Systems Corp., said the Pentagon needs to provide detailed directions through more open discussions. Business, Lord said, “wants more ability to have discussion.” The government has certain needs, and businesses “need to understand what those are.”
She added later, “We can adapt if there is a fundamental dialogue about where the Navy is going.”
Jeffrey Napoliello, vice president for strategy and business development at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, agreed.
“As an industry, we’re highly responsive,” he said. “We’ve cut a lot of fat out. We’re getting to the point where we’re going to be cutting into muscle. We need to have a dialogue.”
Mike Petters, president and chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries added that Pentagon planners need to be cautious in its decisions and warned against “making a hard left turn” that could have profound consequences on expenses. It was a topic addressed by some former Navy leaders during informal discussions later in the day, who blamed many cost overruns on government guidelines that can suddenly change.
Lord said businesses can be more cost conscious by taking several steps, including looking for opportunities to drive efficiency and innovation. She pointed to the LCS as a prime example. Not to be overlooked is developing talent and leveraging commercial off-the-shelf technology.
In short, she said, “We need to have efficient product development.” Industry, she added, needs to look at existing platforms and improve upon them.
She also encouraged a greater use of fixed-cost contracts. “Have our feet held to the fire and deliver,” Lord said.
Panel: What About China?
If anyone was expecting Navy Capt. James Fanell to have been chastened by the reaction to the outspoken comments he made about China at last year’s WEST convention, they were sorely disappointed.
Fanell, again seated at a panel discussion entitled, `What About China?’, said he had to later apologize for portraying China as a bully intent on seizing territory and natural resources off other nations’ coasts.
The message Thursday from the Pacific Fleet intelligence officer? “I told you so.”
“Last year I told you China has quote, taken control of maritime areas that have never before been administered or controlled in the last 5,000 years by any regime called China,” Fanell said. “As it turns out China’s navy and similar maritime organizations have more than validated our concerns. As a senior government official recently stated, there is growing concern that China’s pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects an incremental effort by China to assert control of the area contained in the so-called 9-dash line despite the objections of its neighbors, and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law.”
If anything, he said, last year’s comments were conservative.
He then detailed a series of what he called aggressive actions taken by China against its neighbors over the past year. Some of those actions, including combat drills in the south Philippine Sea, were described as China’s “protection of maritime rights.”
“By the way, protection of maritime rights is a Chinese euphemism for coerce seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors.”
“The next week, in the East China Sea, Japan said that a Chinese warship locked its fire-controlled radar onto a Japanese warship. China denied it for a month, but then admitted that it occurred, but said that it was not in danger since the range between the two ships was too close for a weapons system. Seriously, you just can’t make this stuff up...”
Fanell noted, “It’s important to lower tensions, to turn down the rhetoric, to exercise caution and restraint in this sensitive area.” But that’s hard to do with a nation that is hard to do “with the Chinese Coast Guard playing the role of antagonist, harassing China’s neighbors while PLA Navy ships, their protectors, (make) port calls throughout the region promising friendship and cooperation.”
He said the amount of time PLA navy surface action groups train in the Philippine Sea now rivals that of the U.S. Navy.
Further, Fanell said Chinese newspapers have “heavily publicized the development of their submarine ballistic missile capability,” and one particular Chinese daily “was filled with helpful facts like, because the Midwestern states of the United States are sparsely populated, in order to increase the lethality, (China’s) nuclear attacks should mainly target the key cities on the West Coast of the United States, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.” The story noted that nuclear warheads from such a strike could kill and wound 5 to 12 million Americans.
“Imagine the outrage if a similar statement had been made by any U.S. media outlet. Imagine the outrage.”
“I don’t know how China’s intentions can be any more transparent. And remember. I told you so.”
Luncheon Town Hall: What Do the Sea Service Leaders Want to See in A New Maritime Strategy?
Reducing the number of Marines to 175,000 by 2017 as planned will strain the Corps’ day-to-day operations in the coming years, Gen. James Amos, Marine Corps Commandant, said during a Thursday panel discussion that concluded WEST 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center.
“We could do the strategy,” Amos said. “We have a sense of what that major theater war would require…in our case it’s infantry battalions and everything else that applies to, that is multiplied on top, layered on top of an infantry battalion.”
But the day-to-day requirements are another story. “Training, MEUs, forward deployment, the special purpose MAGTFs (Marine Air-Ground Task Forces), the RFF of response forces that are required to deploy around the world as the result of something going on, exceeds the capacity that we have, and will have, when we go down to 175,000…. It’s going to be pretty strained.”
The general was responding to a question from the panel’s moderator, Adm. Peter Daly (Ret.), who also serves as chief executive officer of the U.S. Naval Institute. USNI co-sponsored the annual three-day gathering with AFCEA International.
“Are we in a mismatch between what we say we want to do and what we really do?” Daley asked.
Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of Naval operations, said the Navy will get its job done as long as a premium is placed on presence forward and partnerships. But as challenging as matters are now, “We’re going to have a difficult time if we revert in fiscal ’16 to the sequestration levels of the budget.”
All three military leaders said changes are in store. Said Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Robert Papp, Jr.:
“There should not be any seam, there should not be any gap between homeland security and national defense. So, one of the things I’ve been trying to focus on and actually the new strategy has played into something that I’ve been talking about for years, is the fact that the Coast Guard, within the limits of its resources, really needs to focus on the Western Hemisphere.”
“The world we’re going to live in and operate in over the next two decades, in my personal opinion, is going to be a world where American forces aren’t just going to be welcomed on sovereign soil of other nations. They’re going to want to train with us, their going to want our help with helping their borders and setting up their militaries, but they’re not going to want us to build bases. Those days, for the near term, are gone…
“A lot of what’s going to take place in the world of the future is going to come from the sea, it’s going to come from the sea bases.” While some may think of a sea base as “some huge floating armada,” it could, in fact, comprise just a few ships.
He also said naval forces need more amphibious ships, which he called “the m,ost utilitarian” in the fleet. “A problem we have is they’re not very sexy looking. They’re not pointy, and they don’t shine real bright but they’re the Swiss army knife of the fleet… They can do an awful lot that quite honestly this world is going to need us to be able to do for the next two decades.”
He continued, “The truth of the matter is we don’t have enough amphibious ships right now. And that’s a fact. We’re meeting less than half of the needs of the combat and commands.”