Navy Efforts in Gulf Reflect New Maritime Strategy
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2008 The U.S. Navy’s efforts in the Persian Gulf are symbolic of the Navy’s future and reflect the essence of the forces’ new maritime strategy, the chief of naval operations said today.
“It’s that naval force … that is guaranteeing that free flow and the safety and security of those very precious commodities,” said Navy Adm. Gary Roughead today at a Pentagon news briefing. “That’s what navies do. And the fact that we are operating in concert with our friends in the region and other nations who contribute to the coalition speaks to the essence of our maritime strategy, which is one of cooperation and collaboration.”
The admiral spoke to reporters just as he is finishing his four-month mark in the Navy’s top military position. Roughead said he has spent the past months visiting servicemembers in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, where more sailors are serving on land than on ships, many doing jobs normally performed by ground forces.
“It was a good opportunity to see what our young men and women are doing over there and the contributions that they are making,” he said. “The individual augmentees that we have there are doing great work. They bring a range of capabilities and capacities to the ground forces that are there, and when they come back … they bring a perspective that I think is healthy for our Navy and actually enhance who we are.”
Besides visiting sailors overseas, Roughead said, he has also been visiting major shipyards in the United States, talking with contractors and reviewing building processes.
This is critical as he begins to try to build the Navy to 313 ships, a baseline for what is needed for future operations, he said.
“We need at least that number to be able to engage, to be present, to develop the types of relationships, and from that relationship, the trust that goes with being able to conduct cooperative and collaborative operations around the world,” the admiral said. “I do believe that being out there does require a Navy that has the capacity and the capability and -- equally important -- the balance across a range of mission areas that allow us operate a global Navy.”
One of the issues is the expense for building new ships. One of its new ships, critical to filling in gaps in its new strategy, is the small, fast Littoral Combat Ship. It is designed to patrol “green water” areas, or the regions along the coast. Already facing technical and financial problems, the ship’s building costs have doubled to about $460 million. Two contracts for LCS ships have been cancelled because of cost overruns. Two designs are due this year for testing before the Navy chooses one design for development.
Still, Roughead said, the LCS development drives the shipbuilding plan, and the cutting of the two contracts was necessary to preserve the program as a whole.
“We have to inject in our process the discipline to control the requirements that we’ve placed into the ships,” Roughead said. “We have to put in there what we need, not what we want. We also have to make sure that we’re doing everything to control costs.”
One plan for reducing costs of future shipbuilding is to explore using a common hull, he said. “We can no longer design a different ship for every different mission that we have,” he acknowledged.
To reduce costs and build the force, the Navy and shipbuilders will have to work together, the admiral said, “because at the end of the day the Navy and the shipbuilding industry have the same desire … to build capable ships for our Navy, and that is a high priority of mine,” he said.
Roughead said he sees building tomorrow’s Navy at the top of his priorities, along with maintaining readiness and bolstering the service’s recruiting and retention efforts.