October 6, 2008
Roughead lays out future plans for IAs, smaller crews, ship readiness
By Philip Ewing
Duty on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere will continue as a part of Navy life for years to come, the service’s top admiral told Navy Times on Sept. 26, even as soldiers and Marines prepare to gradually withdraw from Iraq.
Although individual augmentee assignments won’t be going away, the Navy wants to make them as routine and predictable as sailors’ normal assignments, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said. With a new title — Global War on Terrorism Support Assignments, or GSAs — the temporary ground tours have proven to be beneficial for sailors as they’ve become more a part of Navy culture, Roughead said.
“Those that come back and those I see in the field really are very fulfilled by the work that they do and the contribution they feel they are making,” he said. “The awareness they gain from working for another service is very valuable.”
What’s more, Roughead said statistics show that sailors have better chances of advancing after they come back from IA tours.
Roughead spoke to Navy Times editors and reporters in a wide-ranging interview as he approached his one-year anniversary as CNO. He said he wants to maintain a fleet of 11 carriers while acknowledging that the law setting the requirement could change; reiterated his commitment to reducing crew sizes on ships throughout the fleet but said it needs to be done carefully; and said he was confident that the surface force was maintaining readiness, despite four ships that received bad inspections in the past year. Aircraft carriers
Despite rumblings that the Navy is considering making its temporary reduction to 10 carriers into a permanent plan — as well as a formal request to Congress to suspend the law requiring an 11-carrier force — Roughead said he is committed to 11 carriers.
“If you want to be able to be the global navy, I think the nation needs 11 carriers. That allows us to run the response plan that we have, and I believe that 11 carriers are the number we should have.”
The 10-ship exemption is only temporary, Roughead said, to account for the period between the decommissioning of the Enterprise in 2014 and the commissioning of the Gerald R. Ford some time after. But if Congress were to change the law permanently and permit the Navy to maintain one less carrier, the Navy would follow suit, Roughead said.
“If there is a decision that the risk associated with that is acceptable, and the law says you are going to have 10 carriers, then we will follow the law.”
Another issue that concerns him is the “fighter gap,” Roughead said, referring to the period predicted to start in 2016 when years of hard use will mean as many as 69 F/A-18 Hornets will wear out before the arrival of the replacement F-35 Lightning II. Buying more Hornets would bridge the gap, but it wouldn’t mean the Navy is turning its back on the F-35, Roughead said.
The F-35 depends on a broad range of U.S. and international buyers to keep the cost per plane relatively low; if any one customer pulls out or drastically changes its order, the entire program could be imperiled.
Roughead said he has no plans to walk away from the F-35 and said he’d prefer for Navy carrier wings to include different mixtures of aircraft, first Hornets and Lightning IIs, and eventually, Lightning IIs and a yet-to-be-developed sixth-generation fighter. Mixing up the aircraft means the Navy is insulated from problems such as the Air Force’s servicewide grounding of its F-15 Eagles in the spring, which created an air power vacuum in Afghanistan that the Navy had to fill.
As for a decision about what the Navy will do — buy more Super Hornets, speed up production of the Lightning II or something else — it’s all still under consideration, Roughead said. Crew sizes
Roughead reiterated his goal to get as many sailors as possible off ships, although he said the key was not smaller crews in and of themselves, but new, automated systems that would take the place of human sailors — “good, balanced manning,” he called it.
Planners determine crew sizes by calculating the amount of maintenance a ship needs, so as more aspects of a ship take care of themselves — as with the automated engineering and auxiliary spaces planned aboard a littoral combat ship — the ship needs fewer sailors.
Roughead acknowledged that cutting crew sizes too deep could mean that a ship wouldn’t have the personnel it needed to deal with accidents or battle damage. When the destroyer Cole was bombed in 2000, it was carrying 330 sailors, most of whom had to work to fight fires and save the ship. But the destroyers that sailed in August with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group were carrying about 240 sailors. In 2004, the House Armed Services Committee made an unofficial recommendation that the Navy try to man a destroyer with 200 people to save money.
Roughead said he wasn’t familiar with that specific recommendation and said the Navy didn’t have a set goal for the crew size it wants to reach on each type of ship, such as removing 40 sailors from every cruiser by a certain year. He conceded, though, that taking sailors off ships is an effective way to save the Navy money.
“People are very expensive,” he said. “They’re our most precious commodity. I wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise.” Readiness
After a year in which four ships — the destroyer Stout, the cruiser Chosin, and the amphibious transport docks San Antonio and New Orleans — all had serious deficiencies according to Navy inspectors, Roughead said he wasn’t concerned about systemic readiness problems in the surface force. The Board of Inspection and Survey, or InSurv, finds a few bad ships every year, Roughead said, but that doesn’t mean there are problems in the surface force that go beyond those individual ships.
“When I look at the readiness data, apart from the episodic examples you cite, and as I visit the fleet out doing the work, we are doing extremely well. I’m pleased with what I see with readiness,” he said.
Roughead said it’s critical for sailors to operate the machinery they’ll be using in the fleet, rather than relying solely on simulation and classroom instruction.
The problems aboard the combatants and the gators are a function of the ship’s “onboard programs and oversight,” Roughead said.
“They are great ships,” he said, “and if you’ve been on them, you know the quality of life is good.” Roughead’s take
Here are excerpts of answers from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead’s interview with Navy Times reporters and editors: Service dress khaki reaction --
The shirt that comes with it I think is not a good enough quality to represent the rest of the uniform because we were wearing a limited number. But that’s an easy fix. The issue for me on any uniform — whether it’s the new enlisted uniform, service dress khaki, our PT uniform — it really comes down to utility, practicality and cost. We take into account the wear-test. And for me, I will consider those three factors and make a decision on its applicability for the Navy. The one thing I have found is that the whole uniform enterprise, it’s a very expensive one. And when you say you are changing a particular uniform for the entire United States Navy, you are talking about a lot of folks, and it’s a lot of money. Something I take into account is the individual sailor’s pocketbook. Even though there are allowances that are provided, at the end of the day, we pay to maintain our uniforms, so that’s another factor. There is the initial cost factor that the Navy has to deal with but then I also think about what it means for the individual sailor and how much it will cost to maintain them. Rules and restrictions for the Navy Working Uniform --
We’ll look at what the policies are, and it’s quite possible that certain locales may have some different provisions than others. ... Every place and every uniform will have a rule set associated with it that we will provide to the fleet and then we will enforce the uniform standards that are there to identify our professionalism and the uniformity that’s part of being a military member. Limitations of the DDG 1000 --
The issue for me with the DDG 1000 is it protects itself. That’s what it does. And it is a gunship. It can shoot a bullet about 80 miles. It has a point defense system. I would say DDG 1000 was conceived in the early ’90s. The world has changed a lot. Cutting the number of ships in the program --
In the case of the DDG 1000, that’s the decision that I’ve made, because it has been optimized for a particular mission. It has missiles on it, but those missiles are really for self-defense. I consider it to be capable of meeting the pacing threat. There will come a point in time when there will be new systems, new developments, as there have been throughout history, on the part of the pacing threat, on the part of technology. Things will change. If you go back in time, the genesis of Aegis really came with [the] advent of the anti-ship cruise missile — that and large formations of airplanes. That’s what drove Aegis. The issue with respect to DDG 1000, it [was] designed to provide fire support in a littoral environment and operate in the littorals. The fact of the matter is that [there has been] proliferation since the early 1990s. For example, if [you] go and look at early ballistic missiles, I think in 1990, there were about nine countries that had ballistic missiles, and we’re now up to 26 or 25. That proliferation is taking place, the number of countries that have expanded, not just countries but organizations that have access to anti-ship cruise missiles. Who would have expected eight years ago that Hezbollah would have 802s? They do. That’s life. That’s what happened. So when I looked at all that, we have to be able to operate in those contested environments. We are not going to get a freebie. The Hornet gap --
As I look at naval aviation ... [there is one thing] we have looked at very carefully, and that’s the strike fighter shortfall. The Hornets are aging out. Some of the original Hornets we purchased are reaching the end of their service life. They have [served] us well but will have to pass from service. As that happens, starting in 2016, we begin to see a drop in inventory [lasting] for around eight years, and it will affect the flexibility we have with regard to rounding out the  air wings for the carriers.
You get to the point where if the inventory gets too low, then we’re moving airplanes among squadrons, and when your inventory gets too low, you lose that flexibility. At the present time, [the greatest the shortage of strike aircraft] will be 69. The Joint Strike Fighter is what pulls you out of that shortfall.
There have been some who have said that if we continue with Hornet production, there’d be concern we’d walk away from Joint Strike Fighter, and that’s not the case at all. I really do want our air wings to have more than one type of airplane, as we saw with the Air Force when they had to ground their entire fleet. That was really problematic, and in fact, we moved an aircraft carrier and put several squadrons on “prepare-to-deploy” orders in order to back that up.
So what I envision in the future is an air wing that will have a mix of F/A-18 Super Hornets and Joint Strike Fighters, and then when Super Hornets phase out over time, long after we are no longer writing about this stuff but maybe still able to read about it, then replace it with a sixth-generation fighter. Then you’ll have JSF and a new fighter. That’s how I believe we need to position ourselves, so [we] always have a mix of strike fighters on the decks of aircraft carriers.