U.S. Sea Supremacy Permits Naval Budget Shifts, Lynn Says
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2009 The United States’ maritime supremacy allows the Defense Department to slow production of sea-based defense systems, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said today at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Oxon Hill, Md.
Lynn addressed the group days before the department is slated to submit its budget proposal to Congress. Echoing remarks Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made last month when announcing his budget recommendations, Lynn said the new fiscal breakdown reflects the need to balance traditional and unconventional capabilities.
“The United States stands alone unsurpassed on, above and below the seas,” Lynn said. “One consideration as we rebalance the department’s priorities is that the military dominance that we enjoy is greater in some areas than in others. We look for ways to strengthen irregular warfare capabilities while maintaining the overwhelming edge we enjoy in conventional capabilities.”
In terms of tonnage, the U.S. battle fleet is far larger than any potential combination of adversaries, and no other fleet can match the reach or combat power of a single American carrier battle group, he said.
The defense budget that is slated to reach Congress this week recommends shifting the Navy aircraft carrier program to a five-year build cycle to place it on a more “fiscally sustainable” path. This will result in 10 carriers after 2040, defense officials said.
The department also proposes delaying the Navy “CG-X” next-generation cruiser program to revisit its requirements and acquisition strategy. To allow more time to assess costs and analyze its necessity, Gates also proposed delaying the amphibious ship and sea-basing programs known as the 11th landing platform dock ship and the mobile landing platform ship until fiscal 2011.
Meanwhile, the department plans to use the budget to place greater emphasis on the Navy’s ability to conduct nontraditional missions.
“The Navy must be ready for counterinsurgency and other irregular operations, which means dealing with nonstate actors at sea or near shore or with a swarm of speed boats sent by military groups from hostile countries,” Lynn said.
Accordingly, Gates proposed improving the Navy’s intertheater lift capacity by increasing the charter of joint high-speed vessel ships from two to four until the department’s production program begins deliveries in 2011.
The defense secretary recommended buying more littoral combat ships – a key capability for presence, stability and counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions – from two to three ships in fiscal 2010, with the long-term goal of eventually acquiring 55 such ships.
“The requirement is predominance, for speed, it’s the ability maneuver in shallow waters,” Lynn said. “The ship that best fills this bill is the LCS, which, despite its past development problems, is a versatile ship that can be turned on a dime, go places that are either too shallow or too dangerous.
“And as we’ve seen off the coast of Somalia, it does not take a big ship to carry out anti-piracy missions,” he said, referring to the U.S. Navy-led rescue of an American ship captain kidnapped by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa.
“American people our more aware today of our maritime forces than they have been in a long time,” he said. “Piracy off the Horn of Africa and the dedicated actions of our skilled and brave Navy SEALs have reminded us of why we have sea services.”
Lynn underscored the role U.S. maritime forces have played in operations since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The first thing is to acknowledge how grateful we are to the men and women of the Marines, the Navy and the Coast Guard since Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “They have been engaged in operations around the world to defeat terrorist groups and to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The progress we’ve made owes so much to their skill, their dedication and too often, to their sacrifices,” he said.