Navy Performing Well, Keeps Eye on Future Force
Navy Performing Well, Keeps
Eye on Future Force
By Jim Garamone,
American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. -- (AFIS)
February 11, 2005 -- The Navy is performing
magnificently around the world, but there are concerns that need to be addressed
to assure the long-term future of the force, the chief of naval operations told
the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 10.
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Johnny Bivera
Adm. Vern Clark, who's announced he'll retire in July, said
the Navy is busy. In the past year, the sea service has maintained an average of
20,000 sailors a day as part of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf region.
"They've flown 3,000 air sorties and delivered over a hundred
thousand pounds of ordnance in support of U.S. and coalition forces on the
ground in Iraq," he told senators.
In addition, sailors have boarded more than 2,000 ships at
sea to deter, to delay and to disrupt the movement of terrorists. There are more
than 7,000 sailors on the ground in the Middle East to include SEALS, medical
corpsmen operating with the Marines, Seabees and hundreds of support personnel
in Iraq and throughout the theater.
But even with these accomplishments, the Navy is looking to
the future and assessing the means needed to deal with unexpected threats. "While
transnational terrorists and criminals are, correctly, the focus of today's
efforts, we are also keeping a weather eye on increasing anti-access and sea-
denial capabilities being developed by other nations in the world, particularly
in the Middle East and Asia," Clark said.
The Navy must determine what the intentions are of "those
nations who are displaying emergent investment patterns that could challenge the
sea control that we currently possess," he said.
Clark said rising operational and
overhead costs are competing with the Navy's ability to transform. He said the
service is absorbing costs of the war on terror not funded via supplemental
New ships and new classes of ships are slowed because of the
budget crunch, and costs are escalating at an alarming rate and eroding buying
power, the admiral said.
"Finally, personnel costs continue to rise, especially
regarding health care," he said. "While we owe our men and women and their
families a solid standard of living that reflects the great value of their
service to our nation, we must also ensure that our force is properly shaped,
trained and educated to provide maximum return on the investment we are making
in their growth and development."
The Navy needs congressional support to implement more
flexible ship and aircraft procurement funding mechanisms, Clark said. This
includes advance procurement and split funding, and aggressive use of research
and development funds. "Such tools will allow us to better leverage economies of
scale, help the industrial base and speed the delivery of advanced technologies
to our fleet," he said.
Clark said the service must continue to experiment with
innovative force- shaping tools, to ensure the Navy is properly sized and shaped
and skilled to meet future challenges. "In fact, we need a 21st century human
capital structure to meet the military needs in this new century," he said.
"It's time … to replace the near 50- year-old system that we possess today with
one that will compete in the 21st century marketplace."
Clark addressed the Navy contention that it can eliminate one
carrier – the USS John F. Kennedy – in fiscal 2006, bringing the carrier fleet
from 12 to 11. He said he told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that with
the changes the Navy had made, "we had learned how to extract more readiness out
of our total operating force."
The Fleet Response Plan, modified maintenance procedures and
improved training processes allowed the Navy "to extract more readiness utility
out of our force," Clark said. He told Rumsfeld the United States "would take
some risk if we eliminated a carrier from the structure, but it was our view …
that this was an offset that should be given very serious consideration."
Adm. Vern Clark