US Navy Seabees stand by for the budget axe

Insignia of the United States Navy Seabees. Fo...

Insignia of the United States Navy Seabees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve seen this coming:

Reserve slashes 6,000 billets

No one will be forced out; Seabees take big hit
By Sam Fellman - Staff Writer
Posted : Tuesday Dec 4, 2012 10:39:08 EST
The Navy Reserve is cutting roughly 6,000 billets over the next three years, officials announced Nov. 29, as the force reorganizes as part of the Afghanistan drawdown. The cuts, which center on reserve Seabees, also drove down advancement rates from the latest cycle.

To read the rest, you have to subscribe to the Navy Times Prime, but don’t bother, I think we can summarize together without the filler. It goes like this -

The US Navy is heavy on high tech weaponry, expensive ships, submarines, and planes. Seabees are fast about to be shuffled off to the “nice if we could afford them” bin.

Our carrier fleet is rapidly aging, and with the retirement to the USS Enterprise, shrinking as well:

News broke recently that the USS NIMITZ, one of 11 USN super carriers, has had her deployment to the Persian Gulf delayed by several months due to engineering problems. This delay will reduce the availability of carriers in the Gulf to just one active vessel for much of 2013.

This news, while in itself not exactly unexpected – after all NIMITZ is nearly forty years old now, and it is inevitable that vessels that age develop machinery challenges – does perhaps illustrate a wider concern about just how thinly stretched the USN is now, and how this is likely to get more challenging.

On paper from next week the USN will operate 10 aircraft carriers, all NIMITZ class, after the USS ENTERPRISE is decommissioned. In reality those 10 vessels are going to be thinly stretched across the globe. Right now, of the 10 hulls, Nimitz is undergoing repairs, three are forward deployed (two are in the Gulf, one is in Japan) and another is available for tasking in the US. One (Abraham Lincoln) is available, but is about to enter deep refit for refuelling, while two more are in deep refit or being refuelled, with a further two in minor refit. As of today, the US Navy has just three operational deployed aircraft carriers at sea, with a fourth available in the US if required, and this is unlikely to change before summer 2013. (A good source of information can be found here.)

In the “Expensive Plane Department”, the F-35 is late and over budget:

With a record price tag — potentially in the hundreds of billions of dollars — the jet is likely to become a target for budget cutters. Reining in military spending is on the table as President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress look for ways to avert a fiscal crisis. But no matter what kind of deal is reached in the next few weeks, military analysts expect the Pentagon budget to decline in the next decade as the war in Afghanistan ends and the military is required to do its part to reduce the federal debt.

Behind the scenes, the Pentagon and the F-35’s main contractor, Lockheed Martin, are engaged in a conflict of their own over the costs. The relationship “is the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in some bad ones,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan of the Air Force, a top program official, said in September. “I guarantee you: we will not succeed on this if we do not get past that.”

In a battle that is being fought on other military programs as well, the Pentagon has been pushing Lockheed to cut costs much faster while the company is fighting to hold onto a profit. “Lockheed has seemed to be focused on short-term business goals,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, said this month. “And we’d like to see them focus more on execution of the program and successful delivery of the product.”

Everybody wants something for nothing, and the entitlement mentality that a majority in this country voted for last month would seem to dictate that Lockheed Martin build the F-35 and make zero profits from it. I digress.

The bottom line is this: with the big weapons systems and thousands of plane and shipbuilding jobs on the line (not even counting missile systems and other relatively less costly items), something has to give.

“Thank you, Seabees,” they’ll say, “for a job well done in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Now with the wars winding down, comes the ‘Peace Dividend’, we won’t be needing you anymore.”

At least not as many of you. And trim they will, and already are, as I’m sure you’ve noticed with the lowest rates of advancement I’ve ever seen in 20 years.

Overweight? Even slightly? Gone. Forms that have to be turned in by a certain date? Make damn sure you and your people do, because when they say “…or you may be ADSEPed.” they aren’t just blowing smoke. They’re under orders to reduce forces, and that’s what they’ll be doing.

Watch out for each other, brothers and sisters.

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About Erick Brockway

Living in Camarillo, CA, about 45 miles North of LA. I have a son, and two daughters. Working two jobs (welcome to California life), plus a (now retired) reservist in the US Navy Seabees so life is busy!
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