Interview: Admiral Michael Mullen - US Chief Of Naval Operations


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280PLUS
January 9, 2006, 04:24 PM
Jane's Defence Weekly
January 11, 2006

Interview: Admiral Michael Mullen - US Chief Of Naval Operations

By Andrew Koch, JDW Bureau Chief, Washington, DC

New US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen sees the naval services playing important roles in the coming years, especially with the concept of sea basing for all the armed services.

With the availability of bases from which US troops can operate around the world "drying up" and the amount of time they can stay at the remaining ones being limited, Adm Mullen says the ability to use ship-based forces will play an increasingly vital role.

Building a navy with the right force structure, size and composition to meet tomorrow's needs such as sea-basing "is my biggest challenge", he notes. "The centrepiece of that future is a stable shipbuilding account. The fact that we had four ships in the [Fiscal Year] 2006 budget was the bottom of the heap as far as I am concerned. We have continued to get a smaller and smaller navy and, in my view, from a risk standpoint it is as small as we can get," Adm Mullen said.

The navy has been working on formulating an architecture for the future fleet that incorporates warfighting requirements, affordability concerns and industrial base issues and that plan is being incorporated into the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, he explains. A common problem, he says, is the practice of cutting available funding for a given shipbuilding programme by 30 per cent or more from the time it enters the five-year Future Years Defense Budget to the time the programme is actually executed. "Everybody in the business likes to pay for other things [with the shipbuilding funding account]. That has got to stop." Once stability is achieved, "the expectation is for industry to start reducing costs" through better planning.

To reach the new force structure architecture, the navy is also going to be forced to cut shipbuilding costs in ways it has not been able to do in years. Adm Mullen notes that the service has already chopped an estimated USD300 million off the cost of each DD-X destroyer through reducing operational requirements. "DD-X is a very strong programme technically and in risk reduction. I recognise that it is not inexpensive and that we have got to take some of the requirements out to make it affordable," he said.

He added: "I am going to do the same thing with the CVN-21, with the LHA-R and with every single ship we are building," including submarines. "I cannot afford to build all of my systems to 'objective' [requirement specifications]. My very steady approach on this will be [to buy] to 'threshold' because there is clearly not enough money."

According to Adm Mullen, the navy will also seek to save future shipbuilding funds by extending the lives of existing ships and through the greater use of existing designs. "We need to modernise, to get full service life out of our fleet and we often have not done that," he noted. For example, he says that "we lost our way on sea-basing because it became heavily programmatic, based on the MPF-F [ship]" that was originally looking at new designs. Now he says MPF-F will "leverage current hulls".

Likewise, the navy has been struggling with the costs of keeping its submarine force structure and needs to start building two boats per year or see that number drop. However, Adm Mullen said: "If we do not get them down to USD2 billion per submarine, it is not affordable." Still, he rejects the notion that the navy move away from a pure nuclear-powered submarine fleet. "It is my view that there is not much of a place for diesel submarines in our navy... The tyranny of distance and sustainability is something that nuclear power has solved for us in a very positive way."

After solving force structure plans for ships, Adm Mullen says he will turn his attention to similar efforts in other parts of the service. "Step one was to do this for ships. Step two is to do it for aircraft," the navy chief noted. The navy is also looking at its personnel force levels, which according to Adm Mullen constitute 60 per cent to 70 per cent of all navy investment.

"People are my most important resource and my most expensive resource," he said, noting that formulating a personnel strategy is his next big body of work. "I have got to understand the right end-strength for us on the military side and I have to answer that question on the civilian side."

Creating tomorrow's US Navy will involve "more interoperability requirements across joint and coalition nations", including greater international co-operation, Adm Mullen says. He has talked about the need for extending co-operation to allies so that together these partners can achieve "the 1,000-ship navy". In discussions with such partners about co-operation on global maritime security, Adm Mullen says he "found their appetite for this to be very high", noting particular interest in regional initiatives. To make such initiatives effective, he notes, "our investment needs to be such that for operations, doctrine, training and exercises we are able to leverage that capability".

To enable that coalition interoperability, Adm Mullen says the allies "need to exchange information in key areas or on key systems, not every system. CENTRIX [the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System] is an example of that ... We are now pressing hard on this". He cites plans to put automatic identification systems on all US Navy ships as one example of how this information sharing can be achieved. "What that provides is an opportunity for a pretty good wide-area shipping picture that was difficult to get before. This is an international requirement and it will be an international technology." Adm Mullen says, this co-operation should include a continued close relationship with the US Coast Guard. Noting that he is a big supporter of the National Fleet Policy, he said: "We have to work together from the operational concepts that we have to the training that we do and the ships that we buy."

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WT
January 9, 2006, 05:37 PM
You guys really know how to push my button ...........

Old Dog
January 9, 2006, 06:01 PM
heh heh ...

280PLUS
January 9, 2006, 06:26 PM
Apparently the CNO has been reading here at THR and decided to answer you directly?

:p

Pilgrim
January 9, 2006, 06:53 PM
After solving force structure plans for ships, Adm Mullen says he will turn his attention to similar efforts in other parts of the service. "Step one was to do this for ships. Step two is to do it for aircraft," the navy chief noted.
It seems to me the Navy has already accomplished it with aircraft. It no longer has long range fleet defense once provided by the F-14. It has given up fixed wing carrier based anti-submarine capability provided by the S3. It no longer has long range strike capability once provided by the A6 and A7 because it no longer has a good aerial tanker aircraft. F/A-18s tanking other F/A-18s doesn't cut it.

VMI 1991
January 9, 2006, 11:21 PM
With a new SECNAV also declaring the importance of building more ships, one has to wonder what will actually happen...

SAN ANTONIO is moored here in Norfolk. I haven't been aboard yet, but at least from the outside, she looks like someone put some thought into her design...

monsternav
January 10, 2006, 12:20 AM
It seems to me the Navy has already accomplished it with aircraft. It no longer has long range fleet defense once provided by the F-14. It has given up fixed wing carrier based anti-submarine capability provided by the S3. It no longer has long range strike capability once provided by the A6 and A7 because it no longer has a good aerial tanker aircraft. F/A-18s tanking other F/A-18s doesn't cut it.

Actually a 5-wet E/F has about as much give as an S-3, if not a little more. Still not as good as a Whale or a KA-6D. Or a KC-130 (shameless plug from a tanker guy). I agree about all else though, too many eggs in the F18 basket. You know the EA-6B is next? EA-18G is coming soon to a carrier near you! The vulcan is removed for "E" mission equipment I do believe (gotta mention a gun somehow!).

CAnnoneer
January 10, 2006, 12:53 AM
IMO, the major problem of the Navy is not operational, financial, or technical. It is political. Our politicians should stop playing the globalist game of projection of force across the world. There is no longer a USSR to oppose and vie with. It is time we retreated to our own waters. If we do, suddenly the Navy would find out it has more than enough ships to fulfil its redefined tasks.

280PLUS
January 10, 2006, 09:13 AM
Our politicians should stop playing the globalist game of projection of force across the world. Fair enough. How do you propose we keep our enemies at bay while we retreat to our borders?

Old Dog
January 10, 2006, 12:43 PM
I'm with ya, Pilgrim. Disposable airplanes those F/A-18s ... I sure loved those A-4s and A-7s ...

SAN ANTONIO is moored here in Norfolk. I haven't been aboard yet, but at least from the outside, she looks like someone put some thought into her design...And that's a spiffy platform as well. I'm an old gator sailor myself and am privileged to know an amphib guy who had some input in the design. Definitely the wave of the future. Having spent time on the old LPDs, I wish I could have done at least one last at-sea period on this new bad boy ...

Leatherneck
January 10, 2006, 12:56 PM
San Antonio (LPD-17) had a disastrous INSURV Trial. So many cables had to be replaced that the trials lead doubted that she could ever regain water-tight integrity. Many ship systems were "delayed" and the cost is over $1.5 Billion. Not a happy example of modern shipbuilding.

TC

CAPTAIN MIKE
January 10, 2006, 01:09 PM
Fair enough. How do you propose we keep our enemies at bay while we retreat to our borders?
As a now-retired senior naval officer who came up through the ranks, it's clear from past History that our country has always been at its most vulnerable when we practice "Isolationism" in our foreign and military policy. We live in a modern world that is smaller than ever due to technology and we must adapt accordingly. The CNO is right on.

Old Dog
January 10, 2006, 01:19 PM
Thank you, Captain Mike; it's good to see that there are a least couple others onboard here who understand the big picture ...

Leatherneck, yeah, been following that story; it's quite sad ... but the situation seems more of an indictment of that particular shipyard, and the way ships are built today and the fact that there are so many contractors and subcontractors involved now, along with powerful unions, incompetent labor, and also -- extremely poor management from the Navy itself. We've had in the past couple years or so some big heads roll at the shipyard up here following a couple -- let's just say, problematic -- yard periods for a certain carrier and a submarine ...

Pilgrim
January 10, 2006, 02:10 PM
Actually a 5-wet E/F has about as much give as an S-3, if not a little more. Still not as good as a Whale or a KA-6D. Or a KC-130 (shameless plug from a tanker guy). I agree about all else though, too many eggs in the F18 basket. You know the EA-6B is next? EA-18G is coming soon to a carrier near you!
I talked to an F/A-18 pilot in church who was on the Vinson when the first deployed Super Hornets were tasked to fill the tanker role. He said it worked, but it wasn't a desirable solution to the problem.

I commented that it seemed the Navy had surrendered its long range strike capability to have a carrier capable of defending itself, nothing more. He said the Air Force has noticed this in that Naval Air, in order to fill its mission taskings over Iraq, is heavily dependent on Air Force big tankers.

Pilgrim

CAnnoneer
January 10, 2006, 02:43 PM
Fair enough. How do you propose we keep our enemies at bay while we retreat to our borders?

Please tell me who our <physical> enemies are and I will be happy to do so. One can never have enough ships to fight a notion or an idea.

CAnnoneer
January 10, 2006, 02:53 PM
our country has always been at its most vulnerable when we practice "Isolationism" in our foreign and military policy. We live in a modern world that is smaller than ever due to technology and we must adapt accordingly. The CNO is right on.

One might say we were most powerful and full of life exactly then.

Now we blindly and pridefully follow the imperial example of Britain, bankrupting ourselves in projecting force we no longer can afford.

If we should follow historical examples, unsustainable military and overstretching for psychological and political reasons have always been the first sentences of the last chapter of every major power. It is up to us to decide if we want to finish our tome in history just yet.

Times indeed have changed. What we see every day is that asymmetric warfare makes a big navy in foreign waters primarily a big target. All the POS jihadists needed to do was stuff a little motor boat full of explosives and they managed to kill 17 sailors and severely damage a billion dollar destroyer...

SSN Vet
January 10, 2006, 03:23 PM
Two thoughts...

1. In my experience of 8 years driving fast attack submaines...the only platform with a ghost of a chance of catching an SSN is a better SSN. No offense to the Naval Aviators in the crowd....but if we didn't want to be detected, we simply were NOT detected.

2. Strategically thinking...the U.S. has maximized "homeland security" by following this idiom....

"We fight our enemies in their back yard, so we don't have to fight them in ours"

This implies power projection, and despite what some think, power projection requires a large, first class, blue water navy.

Case in point... despite all my concerns about the global war on terror in general... and the Iraq invasion in particular... in my final analysis, MY Commander & Chief (and I say MY, even though I'm no longer active duty, and regardless of whether I voted for him or not) has successfully put a lightning rod in the sand in the middle of Jihad land, which has enabled us to fight our enemy with uniformed soldiers, instead of uniformed firefighters!

Now if we could just get a little more concerned with killing the enemy and a little less concerned with hurting his feelings, we might get somewhere.

VMI 1991
January 10, 2006, 03:33 PM
First, the SAN ANTONIO. Yes, they had a disastorous INSURV report, but, by all other accounts, they are progressing forward. The first ship in the class that uses a lot of new technology was bound to have problems. The ARLIEGH BURKE class guided missile destroyer started off with some issues. Did we trash the class? No. Instead of building 35ish as originally planned, we are now at 50+.

Retreating to our own borders has never guaranteed our security. History has taught this lesson countless times. Those who fail to learn it condemn future generations to pay in blood.

As I said before on an earlier post, we need a balance between brown and blue water forces.

Leatherneck
January 10, 2006, 04:50 PM
...but the situation seems more of an indictment of that particular shipyard, and the way ships are built today and the fact that there are so many contractors and subcontractors involved now, along with powerful unions, incompetent labor, and also -- extremely poor management from the Navy itself. I agree, Old dog. That shipyard is straight out of the dark ages.

He said the Air Force has noticed this in that Naval Air, in order to fill its mission taskings over Iraq, is heavily dependent on Air Force big tankers. Strategic decision made several years ago. The USAF is responsible for providing theater tanking for Navy and Marine TACAIR. Seems to be working OK.

VMI 1991: I didn't mean to advocate scrapping the class--those twelve ships are badly needed by the gators. But the quality has to be improved on -18 through -28.

TC

SSN Vet
January 10, 2006, 05:08 PM
These big tankers can fly half way around the world, re-fuel a strike mission and go home to an air strip in the USA.

Remember when the frogs wouldn't give overfly permission for the strike in Lybia? Those F-111 fueled multiple times on the way to and from.

But they sure shut up Ghaddafi.

Technosavant
January 10, 2006, 05:29 PM
War is best played as an away game. We don't want it here. The only way to be the visiting team and win requires a large and effective navy; otherwise you won't be able to 1) get the troops over there or 2) sustain them while they are there. If facing an enemy with a navy of their own, yours had better be better.

It isn't who are can point our fingers at and say without doubt "we will fight them." It is who we can see rattling sabers and realize "we might end up having to fight them." A strong navy keeps them in a saber-rattling mode. Were we weaker, everybody and their dog would rise up, and then you would have more potential enemies than fingers to point at them.

This is before you get into the idea that foreign soil bases are not always desirable for basing troops.

Without our naval fleet we run the risk of not only losing stability outside our borders, but that such instability would eventually come inside them. Arguing that a navy is useless because we shouldn't be fighting overseas is like saying you need nothing other than a snubnose revolver because somebody far away is not a threat. You have the longer range weapons because, God forbid, there are situations where they are indispensable.

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