Change is on the horizon as we begin 2011. Many observers expect Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to step down in the first few months of this year. As most readers know, Gates has not been one to shy away from making tough choices during his tenure at the Pentagon. Each service branch has felt the effects of his attempts to cut the budget and accepted cutbacks in cherished programs, and earlier this year the Navy found itself a target in two of his public speeches.
These trends look to continue under Gates’ successor, whoever it is, as money will have to come from defense to fund other programs. How will the Sea Services, and especially the Navy, respond? Does it even know how to respond? Some experts say no, citing the fact the Navy has no sound planning document like the Maritime Strategy of the 1980s, which was very clear about who the enemy was and how it would be countered. That clarity made it easier to formulate a coherent shipbuilding plan and budget.