VCNO Moran: Navy is Less Ready Because ‘We’re Too Small’

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“A historically small fleet and a relentless operational tempo are proving the Navy is too small to meet more than its bare minimum requirement around the world, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

“We know we’re too small for what we’re being asked to do today,” Moran told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support.
“A smaller fleet operating at the same pace is wearing out faster. Work has increased, and we’re asking an awful lot of our sailors and Navy civilians to fix [it].”

Currently, the Navy has about 275 active ships and about 322, 000 active duty sailors. According to Moran that’s down from a 2001 total of 316 ships and more than 400,000 sailors. That difference is also compounded by an increased demand on the service by the geographical combatant commanders – for whom the Navy can only meet 40 percent of their demand, he said.”

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Pentagon Reviewing ‘Unsafe’ Military Aircraft Encounter Over South China Sea

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“The Pentagon is reviewing an unsafe encounter between a People’s Liberation Army and U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea, a defense official told USNI News on Friday.

The Wednesday encounter between a Navy P-3C Orion the PLA KJ-200 was deemed “unsafe” according to a statement from U.S. Pacific Command.

“The U.S. Navy P-3C was on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law,” read the statement.
“The Department of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with any Chinese military forces.”

The Pentagon is now reviewing the encounter, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross told USNI News on Friday.”

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Navy Will Be ‘Just Flat Out Out Of Money’ Without Supplemental Funding; Would Cancel Flight Hours, Ship Avails

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“WASHINGTON, D.C. — Without a readiness-focused supplemental spending bill passed by lawmakers this spring, the Navy and Marine Corps would stop flying at home and ship and submarine maintenance availabilities would be canceled, the vice chief of naval operations and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said at a hearing today.

The continuing resolution currently funding the government at last year’s spending levels is set to expire on April 28, 2017, and even if lawmakers could pass the Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill for the second half of the fiscal year, budget caps already in place mean that the Navy would receive about $5 billion less than it did in FY 2016. Having started the year, then, at a higher spending rate, dropping down to the FY 2017 budget would cause the Navy to almost immediately run out of operations and maintenance dollars in parts of its budget.

If the Navy did not receive a supplemental spending bill with additional funds for FY 2017, “within a month we are going to have to shut down air wings, we are going to have to defer maintenance on several availabilities for our surface ships and submarine maintenance facilities,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told the House Armed Services Committee today at a “state of the military” hearing.”

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Mattis Budget Guidance Prioritizes Readiness, Previews 2018 Defense Strategy

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“Defense Secretary James Mattis released an initial budget guidance memo that prioritizes current readiness, filling in shortfalls and then building a larger and more capable force.

The Jan. 31 memo, released today, states that “the ultimate objective is to build a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force, driven by a new National Defense Strategy,” though it does not preview the new strategy itself.

Rather, the memo calls for intermediate goals of addressing “immediate and serious readiness challenges” and “addressing pressing programmatic shortfalls.”

Phase 1 of this effort calls for a FY 2017 budget amendment that would be delivered to the Office of Management and Budget by March 1. This would increase current-year defense spending over what the Obama administration recommended and Congress marked up and approved, though that budget plan is not actually in use right now; rather, the federal government is still operating under a continuing resolution due to lawmakers not passing their spending bills last fall. For the budget amendment to have an effect, Congress would have to take action this spring.”

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NASSCO Starts Work on Fifth Expeditionary Sea Base

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“General Dynamics NASSCO started work on the fifth mobile sea base to act as a lily pad for Marine, special operations forces and Navy mine countermeasure aircraft, the company announced.

The latest in the U.S. Navy’s Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)/Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) program began construction on Wednesday following an award of $106.2 million long lead contract for the program in June.

“The ship, ESB 5, is the fifth to be added to a contract between NASSCO and the U.S. Navy that originally called for two Expeditionary Transfer Docks: USNS Montford Point (T-ESD-1) and USNS John Glenn (T-ESD-2),” read the announcement.”

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Navy, Marines to Test, Stretch Aviation-heavy USS America Before Deployment

By: Gidget Fuentes, USNI News

“The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will experiment with two different mixes of aircraft during at-sea training exercises before leaving with amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) for its first overseas operational deployment, officials told USNI News last week.

America is the first of two ships designed without a well deck for employing landing craft but with spacious decks for aircraft, repair and aviation fuel storage that will support more aviation missions than the Navy’s existing fleet of big-deck amphibious assault ships.

“We have a plan to experiment with two different kind of basic configurations for the first two at-sea periods, so by the third one, we are going to go ahead and try to validate what we think… our load plan is going to be,” Col. Joseph Clearfield, commander of the 15th MEU, said in a Jan. 19 interview.”

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Update to Navy Unfunded Priorities List Emphasizes Readiness; Would Add More Super Hornets, Additional Amphib

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“The Navy wants $2 billion in additional funding this year for much-needed ship maintenance and fleet operations, and would also buy two dozen Super Hornets and an additional San Antonio-class amphibious warship if money were made available, according to an early January draft wish list obtained by USNI News.

While the list is not as official as the February 2016 Unfunded Priorities List from which it stems, it is meant to be a conversation-starter with Congress and the new Trump Administration on the Navy’s needs for today and in the near term, a senior service official told USNI News on Tuesday. The main message of that conversation is that current readiness must be addressed first, with acquisitions wishes being addressed afterwards with whatever funding may remain, a senior Navy official told USNI News.”

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In Between Carriers, 11th MEU, Makin Island ARG Are Busy In 5th Fleet

By: Gidget Fuentes, USNI News

“The new year began with no U.S. aircraft carrier and carrier strike group on watch in the Middle East.

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group returned home two days earlier, having spent four of its seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet region conducting missions and strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria after 10 days of operations from the Mediterranean while in U.S. 6th Fleet.

The late-November exit of Eisenhower (CVN-69) from the Persian Gulf created a carrier gap that remains today, pending the arrival of USS George W.H. Bush (CVN-77). Bush left Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 21 and today was transiting the Atlantic on course for the Mediterranean.

But the volatile Middle East region wasn’t devoid of U.S. military projection from the sea. For almost two months – and through the nation’s transition to a new administration – the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the three-ship Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, has been standing post.”

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Mattis Orders Comparison Review of F-35C and Advanced Super Hornet

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“Defense Secretary James Mattis is ordering a Pentagon review to compare the capabilities and cost between the emerging carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter and an upgraded version of the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, according to a memo obtained by USNI News.

The three-paragraph directive orders Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work to, “oversee a review that compares F-35C and F/A-18 E/F operational capabilities and assesses the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.”

The memo also directs Work to look at the overall F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to find opportunities to significantly reduce cost while maintaining the requirements for the program.”

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Summary of the Navy’s New Force Structure Assessment

“Navy’s Force Structure Assessment (FSA) was developed in an effort to determine the right balance of existing forces, the ships we currently have under construction and the future procurement plans needed to address the ever-evolving and increasingly complex threats the Navy is required to counter in the global maritime commons. This FSA assumes that the future plans for our Navy, in ship types and numbers of ships, continues to replace the ships we have today with ships of similar capability and in similar numbers as we transition to the future Navy – it does not address potential options that may come out of the ongoing review of the potential Future Fleet Architecture studies that were directed by Congress and completed in October 2016. As we evaluate the options presented in these studies and move to include them in our plans for tomorrow’s Navy, this FSA will need to be updated to reflect those changes that are determined to be most beneficial to meeting the Navy’s missions of the future.”

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