Tomorrow's Fleet

By Scott C Truver

Similarly, the QDR's planning factor of only 50 nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) has been challenged. Recognizing the changed dynamics of the post-Cold War era, the Joints Chiefs of Staff recently called for as many as 71 SSNs-10 to 12 of which must have Seawolf (SSN-21) stealth-by 2012. On the other hand, some others have called for an even smaller U.S. submarine force, with the savings going into truly advanced technologies and designs, including 21st-century conventionally propelled submarines.

Meanwhile, the Navy's mine countermeasures force once again is challenged in operational planning, acquisitions, readiness, and logistics priorities. This is an odd turn of events, since the post-World War II experience through Desert Storm-with 14 of 17 U.S. warships that suffered combat damage since 1945 being mine victims-should underscore the global dimensions of this poor-man's, "anti-access" threat to naval forces.

In short, the future for tomorrow's fleet looks uncertain. Perhaps only in exploiting the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) does the Navy look to leap ahead into the next century. At its core, an RMA is a technological and organizational revolution that transforms the way war is fought. The most recent one, propelled by unprecedented advances in information processing pioneered in the commercial world, promises to strengthen the Navy's traditional forward-presence, sea-control, and power-projection missions, while greatly expanding the service's contributions to joint and combined operations. Under initiatives such as "Information Technology-21," "Network Centric Warfare," and the CNO's Innovation Task Force (or the Strategic Studies Group) at the Naval War College, the Navy's RMA "involves changing the prevailing paradigm-conceiving of new ways to achieve the military's fundamental objectives," recognized by the CNO's January 1997 report to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Strategy and Requirements), "Evaluation of Revolution in Military Affairs Activities."

. . . in a New Bottle?

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen opened his 19 May news conference announcing the results of the first QDR with the affirmation that it "was one of the most comprehensive reviews ever conducted by our defense establishment." Nothing was to be sacred: strategy, force structure, readiness, modernization, infrastructure, human resources, information, operations, and intelligence were all fair game for intense soul-searching and revamping. The cardinal objective was to support five essential components of the 1996 Joint Vision 2010 strategic concept and "template" for future forces:

  • Information Superiority
  • Dominant Maneuver
  • Precision Engagement
  • Full-Dimensional Protection
  • Focused Logistics

The QDR reiterated the fundamental U.S. strategy of being able to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major theater wars (MTWs) and to carry out numerous smaller-scale contingency (SSC) operations, which almost immediately came under attack as little more than decanting old wine into a new bottle. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) noted that "the problem with the QDR was that it was predictable. Tough decisions were not made." Chairman of the House National Security Committee, Representative Floyd D. Spence (R-SC), complained that the review "was long on commitments and short on resources.... In this regard, it truly looks like deja vu all over again." In addition, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) criticized the administration's "new" strategy as requiring U.S. forces to do too much, while not adequately taking into account allied contributions to future conflicts. He also was concerned that the Department of Defense was not sufficiently tough in its approach.

One of the critical challenges confronting the Defense Department and the Navy is to ensure that increases in procurement demanded by Congress actually materialize, to dispel charges about a serious mismatch between strategy and capabilities. A longstanding goal has been to reach $60 billion in annual procurement to fund recapitalization of the services. In each of the four years since the 1993 Bottom-Up Review, however, the Pentagon has had to postpone and defer planned increases in procurement accounts, largely to compensate for other expenses not anticipated. Secretary Cohen bluntly characterized the situation as a "procurement holiday," noting "It has become clear that we are failing to acquire the modern technology and systems that will be essential."

For example, the President's request for fiscal year 1998 defense procurement was $42.6 billion, this despite the fiscal year 1995 plan to have procurement funded at $54 billion for fiscal year 1998. From fiscal years 1996 through 1998, the Defense Department in essence "lost" $18 billion earmarked for procurement under the 1995 Future Years Defense Plan, largely the result of three dynamics outlined by the QDR:

  • "Unprogrammed operating expenses" e.g., for Bosnia and other real-world contingencies-led to "unexpected costs in day-to-day operations . . . especially for depot maintenance, real property maintenance, military construction, and medical care"
  • Unrealized savings from defense acquisition reform initiatives "like competitive outsourcing or business process reengineering"
  • New program demands, largely stemming from policy changes thrust upon the Defense Department (for example, some $2 billion added to National Missile Defense accounts), despite what Secretary Cohen underscored was "high schedule and technical risk" in some of these programs

For these reasons, the QDR proposed redirecting up to $7 billion by fiscal year 2003 into a reserve account aimed at correcting "funding instability" and partially closing the potential $12 billion gap in reaching the $60 billion annual procurement goal, which Secretary Cohen stated was "absolutely essential for our security." Even more draconian infrastructure reductions and personnel cuts loomed large to get back on track.

Thus, much of the putative procurement success of the QDR will be based on "sweeping and deep" infrastructure cuts by 2003, and Secretary Cohen unabashedly put the onus for success on Congress. In his introduction to the report, he empathized with the anxiety and trauma of base closure, "but ultimately," he concluded, "we need to decide what is more important:

  • Keeping a maintenance depot in government hands, or putting advanced technology in soldiers' hands
  • Protecting a facility, or protecting our forces
  • Preserving local defense contracts, or promoting solid enlistment contracts"

One of the most controversial elements of the QDR has been a proposal for two more base-closure rounds in 1999 and 2001 to accompany some 195,000 cuts in active, reserve, and civilian personnel by 2003. Secretary Cohen offered that these would be the means "to close the gap between force structure and infrastructure reductions to begin to reduce the share of the defense budget devoted to infrastructure."

Nearly 100 bases have been closed or are scheduled to be closed as a result of the four "BRAC" (Base Closure and Realignment) rounds in 1989, 1991, 1993, and 1995. But the resulting 21% decrease in base infrastructure ultimately will be overmatched by a 32% cut in active-duty people, let alone a 60% cut in procurement spending power since 1985, leading Secretary Cohen to remark, "Our infrastructure is stuck in the past. We must shed more weight." Not only are bases here and abroad to be targeted-including Rota in Spain, for example-but defense laboratories and engineering centers, such as the Naval Surface Warfare Center, also are to come under intense scrutiny.

Nevertheless, both Secretary Cohen and Army General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that they could not promise that the $2.7 billion in projected annual savings from additional base closures and alignments, even if fully realized, would actually go to modernization accounts. And Secretary Cohen warned that if savings from still other infrastructure reductions and efficiencies are not achieved, tactical aviation or shipbuilding programs would be cut.

This proposal has been a lightning rod for Congress. "I just don't see any more base closings," Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO) concluded. So complete was the congressional ire over this proposal that the Senate voted 66 to 33 in July to reject another two base-closure rounds, echoing the House's earlier move as the Fiscal Year 1998 Defense Authorization Bill moved through committee. "Think of what you have already been through," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) asked his colleagues as he handed out lists of bases previously considered but spared in earlier rounds. "Do you want that?"

Alternative Assessment Arriving. . .

In addition to congressional reservations regarding the QDR, the National Defense Panel, a group established by Congress to monitor and review QDR progress and to provide an Alternative Force Structure Assessment (AFSA) by the end of 1997, concluded that the Defense Department failed to go far enough in overhauling current forces and defining investment programs for the future. In its appraisal accompanying the QDR report, the panel concluded that there was "insufficient connectivity between strategy on the one hand, and force structure, operational concepts and procurement decisions on the other. This is important, since the QDR addresses an even greater array of challenges than we faced in the past with even fewer resources than were available four years ago."

The panel did praise the overall review, however, noting that it "opens the door to the Revolution in Military Affairs, which requires new warfighting concepts and new force structures that capitalize on rapidly improving technologies." That said, Andrew Krepinevich, a panel member and director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, faulted the Defense Department for an overly simplistic view of the RMA. "It seems we're just layering in technology on old ways of doing business," Krepinevich observed, "whereas we may have to do business in new ways." In this vein the panel cautioned that "to the extent that the QDR views major theater warfare as a traditional force-on-force challenge, this view inhibits the transformation of the American military to fully exploit our advantages as well as the vulnerabilities of potential opponents." Such a perspective could resuit in a vastly different future force structure than what the QDR envisions.

For example, the spring 1997 Transformation Strategy II Wargame, hosted by Andrew Marshall, Director of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, indicates what the National Defense Panel's alternative assessment could produce by year's end. (Indeed, panel member Krepinevich for several years was a key player in Marshall's Net Assessment shop.) Rather than planning for two major theater wars, Marshall's planners based their strategy and force structure on only one, but emphasized maneuver and surprise, mobility, stealth, multiple sources of precision fires, and highly advanced command and control, communications, surveillance, and intelligence nodes throughout the force. And one of the teams recommended cutting three Army divisions, three carrier battle groups, and six Air Force fighter wings, in addition to canceling the Joint Strike Fighter conventional takeoff/landing variant, the Army's advanced Crusader howitzer, and the Navy's CVN-77 carrier. In their place, the future DoD would have:

  • 20 airborne lasers, 40 B-2 Spirit bombers, 200 unmanned attack aircraft, 250 stealthy cargo aircraft, and 100 stealthy tankers for the Air Force, as well as ships for refueling and maintaining unmanned aerial vehicles
  • 5 surface arsenal ships, multiple submersible arsenal ships, precision land-attack systems, theater ballistic-missile defense provided by Aegis and SC-21 surface warships, and advanced carrier designs that resemble beehives for the Navy
  • 400 stealthy robotic transports for the Marine Corps
  • 1,200 remote-controlled missile launchers in the Army
  • 400 short takeoff/vertical landing Joint Strike Fighters for multiservice use

With prospects for such great changes in store, several key elements of the QDR could figure significantly in the transition from today's to tomorrow's fleet.

Naval Program Highlights

Force Structure. The QDR determined that as a baseline 12 carrier battle groups and 12 amphibious ready groups will be retained, which is identical to the result of the 1993 Bottom-Up Review. Surface warships in the active force, however, will be reduced from 128 in 1997 to 116 (the high-side of the BUR-derived surface-combatant force levels), which will be offset by new and more capable systems and warships coming on line. The nuclear-powered attack submarine force will be reduced from 73 SSNs in 1997 to 50 in 2003 (the BUR called for 45-50 SSNs). And some combat logistics support ships will be transferred from the active fleet to the Military Sealift Command. The resulting fleet size will be closer to no more than 330 ships compared to the 1993 force objective of 346.

During this period of explicit downsizing (no Defense official seems to have dared use the "rightsizing" euphemism this year), moreover, Navy active-duty and reserve end strength will be reduced by 18,000 and 4,100 people, and the civilian job force will be cut by 8,400 people. Of all the services, the Marine Corps will enjoy the smallest number of personnel reductions, losing only 1,800 active-duty personnel, 4,200 reservists, and 400 civilians. The Air Force took the biggest hits: 26,900 active-duty personnel, 700 reservists, and 18,300 civilians are on the block.

Operational Concept Innovation. The Navy clearly has begun to embrace elements of the current information-based RMA, generating what Admiral Johnson has described as a "fundamental shift from what we call today platform-centric warfare to something we call network-centric warfare." Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowski (Director of Space, Electronic Warfare, and Command and Control, N6) expanded on this theme at the June 1997 Current Strategy Forum, noting that the ability of widely dispersed but networked sensors, command centers, and forces will enable a revolutionary enhancement of massed effects . and perhaps a change in focus from "ordnance" to "digits on target."

Borrowing heavily from commercial information systems jargon, Vice Admiral Cebrowski likened the various platforms-spaceborne, airborne, surface, subsurface, and ground-based sensors and shooters-to sensor and shooter grid "peripherals" that are linked to an "information grid," which provides a "computing and communications backplane" for "sensor grid and shooter grid applications." In this scheme, the sensor grids generate battlespace awareness, synchronize battlespace awareness with combat operations, and increase the speed of information throughout the force. The shooter grids exploit this enhanced battlespace awareness to generate increased combat power, enable the massing of combat effects as compared to a massing of forces/platforms, and thereby maximize joint combat power. The QDR applauded the Navy's network-centric warfare initiatives, noting that by "combining forward presence with network-centric combat power, the Navy will close timelines, decisively alter initial conditions, and seek to head off undesired events before they start."

A vital element for the success or failure of such operational innovation is what the QDR explained were the Navy's at-sea battle experiments managed by the Maritime Battle Center. These are designed to explore new concepts and emerging systems to determine future needs. The first of these experiments, Fleet Battle Experiment Alpha, was conducted in March 1997 off southern California, and focused on "C4ISR"-command, control, communications, and computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance-capabilities and requirements for a sea-based joint task force.

Expeditionary/Mine Warfare . Other than reconfirming the requirement for 12 amphibious ready groups-and implicitly the 2.5 Marine expeditionary brigade assault echelon lift-and calling attention to the Marine Corps' Operational Maneuver. . . From the Sea concept and the five-year "Sea Dragon" experiments-"Hunter Warrior," "Urban Warrior," and "Capable Warrior"-the QDR is all but silent on any specific amphibious warfare ship platform or program and totally mute on mine warfare programs. Granted, the QDR report does point to the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) as "key" to attaining an operational maneuver capability, but it called out little more for special notice.

The Navy, however, is moving ahead with the acquisition of the 12-ship San Antonio (LPD-17)-class landing platform docks, which will comprise one-third of the nuclei of future three-ship amphibious ready groups built around aviation capable amphibious assault ships (LHA/LHD) and landing ship docks (LSD-41/LSD[CV]-49). The rejection of Ingalls Shipbuilding's protest of the LPD-17 award to the Avondale Shipyard in late spring prompted calls for ensuring that an adequate share of dwindling shipbuilding and conversion contracts be available to all six principal U.S. yards. Already in the works was an initiative championed by Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisition) John Douglass. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee in late April, Douglass admitted that "We cannot maintain the Navy industrial base with just four or five ships per year. That's why," Douglass recognized, "it's causing so much political angst when we let one of these contracts."

The LPD-17 program has indeed been the focus of much "angst," especially in the aftermath of the decision to uphold the award to Avondale. Senator Lott was especially concerned that a better solution could be at hand, which ultimately prompted the Director, Surface Warfare (N86), to propose requesting an additional Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class Aegis destroyer, in addition to the 12 programmed during the next four years, perhaps to be earmarked for Ingalls. Even more helpful in overcoming such angst have been proposals for a major upgrade to the first five Ticonderoga (CG-47)-class Baseline I Aegis cruisers, a baseline consolidation/upgrade for other Aegis warships, and other life-extension upgrades to the four Kidd (DDG-993)-class guided-missile destroyers, as well as selected Spruance (DD-963)-class destroyers and Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class guided-missile frigates, with most of the work that ultimately materializes perhaps intended for Senator Lott's hometown yard.

Meanwhile, confronting the prospect for significant cuts to programs from what had been planned for the fiscal year 1998-2003 period, the Navy's mine warfare force is looking to innovative operational architectures and an emphasis on organic mine countermeasures (MCM) capabilities throughout the fleet. This is necessary to sustain the mine warfare momentum since 18 February 1991, when both the Aegis cruiser Princeton (CG-59) and the amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LPH-10) became mine victims during the height of the Desert Storm air war. That said, readiness "challenges" do indeed continue to plague the 14-ship Avenger (MCM-1) class, while proposals have been advanced to mothball or sell to foreign navies Osprey (MHC-51)-class coastal mine hunters in the face of severe fiscal constraints.

"Mainstreaming" mine countermeasures organic capabilities to non-dedicated platforms thus looks to offer significant advantages. The new approach comprises a renaissance in survey and mapping efforts; a revitalized focus on strategic and tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and the means to get time-critical data to the operating forces when and where it is needed; and the use of "regular" operating forces as platforms for current and future mine countermeasures sensors and neutralization systems, including production of an MCM variant of the SH-60 Seahawk helicopter which would enable every ship with a helicopter platform to be a minesweeper . . . and not just once.

Still, dedicated MCM forces will be needed, and assessments continue to define future MCM platforms, systems, and technologies, especially in amphibious objective areas. For this focused warfare area, the Commander, Mine Warfare Command, in early 1996 stood up a Very Shallow Water Mine Countermeasures (VSW MCM) Test Detachment at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Three, Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. Comprising about 25 Navy explosive ordnance disposal and special warfare SEAL divers and Marine Corps reconnaissance troops, and two MCM-trained dolphins from the Navy's Marine Mammal Systems detachment in San Diego, the test detachment has focused its energies on several key tactical and equipment-assessment objectives outlined by the Chief of Naval Operations. It has been successful, despite a chronic lack of resources to keep its operations funded. And a long-term commitment to a dedicated, core capability is needed, as Major General Edward Hanlon, U.S. Marine Corps, the Navy's Director of Expeditionary Warfare (N85), acknowledged: "The VSW Test Det represents our last chance for success in this vital mission area."

Naval Aviation. According to the QDR report, 12 aircraft carriers are "necessary to satisfy current policy for forward-deployed carriers and accommodate real-world scheduling constraints." The carrier force level is actually 11+l, with the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) designated as an operational reserve/training carrier. By any other name, however, this ship looks to be fully deployable, and in May 1997 she left for a six-month Mediterranean and Persian Gulf deployment to help satisfy demands for carrier presence in those volatile world regions. Current plans show the John F. Kennedy retiring in 2018-an unheard-of 60-year service life.

The QDR also recognized the need for the tenth and final Nimitz (CVN-68)class carrier, CVN-77, to continue the modernization of the nation's carrier fleet. The Chief of Naval Operations now has proposed moving up funding for CVN-77 by several years, which could save more than $400 million on the more than $4.5 billion carrier. CVN-77 is scheduled for commissioning in 2008 to replace the then-47-year-old USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).

The second element of the Navy's two-track strategy for aircraft carriers focuses well beyond the mid-point of the next century. An entirely new carrier class, currently designated CVX, is being designed from a "clean sheet of paper," according to Rear Admiral Dennis McGinn, Director of Air Warfare (N88). Although the CVX will retain the core capabilities of today's carriers, Rear Admiral McGinn points out that the new class will feature much-improved characteristics in key areas, including launch and recovery equipment, flight-deck layout, ordnance-handling equipment, C41 systems, information networks, and propulsion systems. The lead CVX is scheduled to be authorized in fiscal year 2006 and will enter service in 2013, replacing the Navy's first nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). With service lives anticipated at 50 years, the last ship of the CVX class could well be in service in 2097.

The QDR determined that the number of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft procured will be slashed from 1,000 to no fewer than 548. At the same time, the transition to the Joint Strike Fighter will be accelerated as much as possible, perhaps to begin in fiscal year 2008. If such acquisition acceleration is not feasible, additional F/A-18E/F acquisition, up to a total of 785 aircraft, will be pursued. While the QDR significantly reduced the number of Super Hornets the service might acquire until the advent of the JSF, naval aviation's leadership seemed almost unconcerned. "While we would like to have had the 1,000 E/Fs in our original plans," a senior Navy official admitted, "we knew that it was increasingly unlikely in today's fiscally austere environment." The QDR "validated our fundamental need to modernize sea-based tactical air power," he continued, "and accelerating the Joint Strike Fighter was a win-win solution for us." In the future, the Navy also may address the need for a variant of the F/A-18E/F to replace the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft that has been given joint electronic warfare responsibilities with the demise of the Air Force's EF-I 11 Raven fleet.

Instead of the 942 multimission, stealthy Joint Strike Fighters originally planned for the Navy (300) and Marine Corps (642), the QDR calls for 1,089 naval JSFs (480 carrier-capable variants for the Navy, and 609 short takeoff/vertical landing variants for the Marine Corps). The total JSF buy has been reduced from 2,978 to 2,852 aircraft, and the maximum planned production rate of 195 aircraft per year for all services-and perhaps more earmarked for Foreign Military Sales, especially to the United Kingdom-will be reached in 2012 rather than 2010, principally because of affordability constraints.

The QDR recommended reducing the Navy/Marine Corps acquisition of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft from 425 to 360, but increasing the annual production rate for these aircraft to 30 in fiscal year 2004. "By increasing procurement within the program period but reducing the total buy, we will exploit the Osprey's demonstrated performance, dramatically improving our mid-term operational capabilities while saving over $3 billion in total program costs," the QDR report notes.

Submarine Warfare. Solomon-like, the QDR split the difference in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review assessment, which called for 45 to 55 nuclear-powered attack submarines at the turn of the century. With the accelerated decommissioning of the baseline, "straight-stick" Los Angeles (SSN-688)-class submarines, some with about half their service lives remaining, no more than 50 SSNs will be in the future fleet. With the eventual commissioning of the three Seawolf (SSN-21)-class submarines and the increase in New Attack Submarine (NSSN) building rates from no more than one per year to perhaps as many as two per year, by 2010 the Navy's submarine force will clearly be superior to any adversary's force, according to senior Navy submarine-warfare officers.

One of the service's major concerns, however, is maintaining the capability of the existing fleet as Congress focuses on SSN-21s and NSSNs. Nearly 70% of the Navy's submarine force in 2010 will be Improved-688s, and it will be increasingly important to find the resources to keep all elements of the nation's submarine force fully mission-capable. For this reason the service is championing the introduction of leading-edge technologies into today's submarines to ensure tomorrow's capabilities.

The President's "plan of record" for the NSSN has remained highly contentious, spawning calls for the Defense Science Board and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to address submarine technology and design issues and trends. The BUR directed the Navy to consolidate all future submarine design, engineering, and construction at Electric Boat Corporation, but Congress in 1996 mandated a competition between Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding and a competitive prototype "swim-off' that would derive a baseline design for NSSN series production. Congressional demands for "prototyping" were met with a four-ship, directed-acquisition program proposed by the Navy, which would involve both shipyards getting two NSSNs each, after which competition for annual production of about one NSSN per year would go forward.

Both yards have now proposed an innovative teaming agreement that would share production and reduce dramatically-perhaps by as much as $700 million-the Navy's new plan for the first four NSSNs. The rationale behind this was the recognition that annual production was simply insufficient to sustain two yards in a purely competitive environment and that it made good business sense and supported broad national security goals to keep two yards for nuclear-powered submarines. With the possibility of acquiring as many as two ships per year, the calls for true competition in submarine-building and accelerated introduction of advanced technologies into NSSN designs have become ever louder, especially in the House National Security Committee's Procurement Subcommittee chaired by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA).

The QDR's decision was to maintain the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) I force posture for fiscal year 1998. It calls for maintaining 18 Ohio (SSBN-726)-class fleet ballistic-missile submarines and a wait until the Russian Duma considers ratification of START II. Should that materialize, the United States is committed to negotiating further reductions in a START II, which may see the Ohio/Trident force reduced to 14 SSBNs. No decision has been taken to backfit the first four Ohio-class SSBNs, which are currently armed with the C-4 Trident I missile, with the more capable D-5 Trident II. Funding constraints and arms-control initiatives will converge to make the early Trident SSBNs vulnerable for early decommissioning. This, in turn, continues to generate proposals to convert them into submarine arsenal ships or special-operations platforms.

Surface Warfare/Theater Air Defense. The QDR identified the SC-21 family of new surface combatants and "possibly" the Maritime Fire Support Demonstrator as key elements in supporting the Joint Vision 2010 "precision engagement" template, which requires more capable attack platforms and advanced weapons and munitions in addition to the "C4ISR common backbone," This and the decision to draw a line at 116 surface warships for the future fleet were the sole focused discussions of surface warfare requirements and programs within the QDR's formal report.

The QDR did call for slowing the development of the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system because of "serious technical problems," and accelerating the Navy's Aegis-based area and theater-wide (formally "lower-tier" and "upper-tier") theater ballistic missile defense systems. This, coupled with a renewed commitment to consider National Missile Defense (NMD) a high priority, has stimulated some to propose a sea-based NMD solution. Constraints imposed by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty continued to be addressed, however, and the implications of the March 1997 U.S.-Russian Helsinki Agreement have been the focus of serious study within the Navy's Theater Ballistic Missile Defense community.

In recent years, the Navy has proposed, in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a joint development for an arsenal ship prototype that would demonstrate the design, engineering, and construction innovations, revolutionary manning and automation approaches (no more than 50 crewmembers), operational concepts, and command-and-control linkages necessary for the remote-control of numerous weapons loaded out in the ship's vertical launching cells-as many as 500 VLS cells. The combined Navy/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program started out with five contractor teams, slimmed to three in January 1997, and was poised to award the prototype demonstration contract to a single team in January 1998. As many as five "fullup-round" arsenal ships, in addition to the prototype, had been envisioned for the program, at a total cost approaching $3 billion.

The arsenal ship prototype was to be ready for tests in fiscal year 2001; however, in early spring 1997 the Director, Surface Warfare, responded to a particularly scathing attack on the arsenal ship program by the House National Security Committee, and all-but merged the arsenal ship with the SC-21 program. Now dubbed the "Maritime Fire Support Demonstrator," it will be used to test new technologies and design attributes that may be part of the first SC-21 variant, the DD-21 Land Attack Destroyer. That is if Congress goes along, which is doubtful. Follow-on SC-21 designs may see "Air Dominance Combatants" that would enter the fleet in the post-2015 period to replace the Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers.

Sealift/Strategic Mobility. The QDR reaffirmed decisions taken in the DoDwide 1995 Mobility Requirements Study Bottom-Up Review update. For the Navy, this means a surge sealift capacity of ten million square feet, to be satisfied by the 8 existing fast sealift ships (T-AKRs), 19 large medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ships (conversion and new-construction LMSRs), and the Ready Reserve Force. Forward afloat prepositioned capability three enhanced Marine Corps Prepositioning Force squadrons, one heavy brigade set of Army equipment, and selected munitions for the Air Force-will be sustained to meet the diverse requirements ahead.

The Road Not Taken. . .

The stark reality of the situation has continued to sink in. With the agreement reached between the White House and Congress in May calling for a balanced budget by 2002, more than $60 billion will have to be ripped from defense programs during the next five years. Although Secretary Cohen predicted that Defense will maintain a budget that is roughly 3.2% of U.S. gross domestic product and 15% of all Federal outlays, he admitted that it may well go below 3% of GDP, the lowest since before World War II. The real dilemma, however, is what happens after 2002.

Many observers, more cautiously pessimistic than the Defense Secretary, believe that any hoped-for real/after-inflation increase in DoD spending simply will not materialize and that it will be impossible to sustain even "flat-line" annual budgets of $250 billion, which was the QDR's baseline. This throws into grave doubt the Navy's-and all other services'-ability to conduct the necessary research and development; to acquire the needed technologies, systems, and platforms; to attract and sustain highly skilled and motivated people to do the job at hand; and to provide funds for routine and contingency operations around the globe.

Former DoD strategist Dan Gourd, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that "there is no way to take a force this size, keep it ready, and modernize for tomorrow. This means essentially that the force will rot," a view echoed by Representative Ike Skelton, who is concerned that the QDR condemns the U.S. armed services to a "hollow force, a poorly trained, illequipped, demoralized military."

"Two roads diverged . . . and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference," Robert Frost's poem concludes. While the road not taken by the QDR might be redirected by the National Defense Panel and Congress, Admiral Johnson and his advisors would be well served if they prepare now to inform the President that greater commitments and demands cannot be satisfied in some future crisis or conflict . . . or to tell the Navy's men and women that they, once again, will be asked for even greater sacrifices in the years ahead.

 

Mr. Maxwell is the Deputy Commander, Human Systems Integration Directorate, Naval Sea Systems Command, and Mr. Bost is the Technical Director, Human Systems Integration Directorate, Naval Sea Systems Command.

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