Assistant Secretary Of Navy Outlines New U.S. Program To Achieve Maritime Superiority

The year 1981 is a watershed, "a point of basic change in the direction and momentum of American maritime policy" that will see the start of the restoration of U.S. superiority," stated Assistant Secretary of the Navy George Sawyer in a recent address to the graduating class at Webb Institute of Naval Architecture.

Speaking to Webb's class of 1981 at the Glen Cove, N.Y. campus, Mr. Sawyer said that the restoration during this decade "is clearly a policy hallmark of the Reagan Administration." In deliniating the plans for the Navy, Mr. Sawyer noted that the classic definition of seapower also includes the merchant marine. He expressed the hope that the newly formed joint White House/Industry Task Force "can develop and implement a unified national policy helpful both to our commercial maritime and our strategic interests." The Navy policy, he said "is a policy which many of us believe the country should never have relinquished some 20 years ago; should certainly have corrected 10 years ago; and which by now will be difficult and expensive to execute. Make no mistake. It is absolutely essential that we as a nation must persevere this time.

History does not often provide second chances.

"In the substance of material and economic dependency, the United States is an island—a factual condition which is even more prevalent today than during our emergence initially as a nation and s u b s e q u e n t l y as a world power.

"Today, a third of our total business profits are dependent on foreign trade; more than 50 percent of over 20 key and strategic materials comes f r om foreign sources; as do some 40 percent of our petroleum stocks. Thirtyeight out of our 40 allied nations are overseas. Thoughtful individuals," he s t a t e d , "have noted these and other similar statistics many times before—and so have our potential adversaries.

"Since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the Soviet Union—itself not an island nation and either self-reliant or possessing internal lines of supply with its principal allies and trading partners—has amassed under the single-minded purpose of Admiral Gorshkov the greatest Navy and merchant marine in its history. Today it rivals the combined naval and maritime force of the U.S. and our Allies, and is well positioned to threaten the vital lifelines which comprise our strategic and economic commerce.

One need only ask himself —'Why does a nation not dependent on a maritime lifeline dedicate itself toward achieving superiority over its potential adversary who does?' — to understand what our response must be.

Nevertheless, during these intervening years we have rather consistently been lulled into thinking in terms of parity—thereby gainsaying the basic geo-political facts of our mutual coexistence and, indeed, the proofs of our own history.

"By setting our sights each year on parity, we have achieved only continuing deterioration and decline. In the past 15 years, we have been effectively disarming our Navy from well over 900 to 460 deployable vessels, while our commitments have increased by at least a third. Similarly, our merchant marine has declined from a poor sixth position to a dismal 10th position in the world, carrying in 1980 only 5 percent of our total trade, and less than 27 percent of the important general cargo segment. In 1979, the last complete year before the Afghan invasion, the Soviet merchant marine carried more American cargo than did our U.S.-flag fleet.

"So much for history; what of the near-term future under the now espoused policy of maritime superiority and what of your roles in t h a t f u t u r e ? First, with regard to our Navy, we have enunciated a clear policy and, with a viable consensus in our Congress and our public, have started its implementation.

The net effect of the Reagan supplemental was an addition of $1.1 billion to the Department of the Navy TOA in fiscal year 1981, and $8.7 billion in fiscal year 1982. This represents real program growth of approximately 11 percent in fiscal year '81 and approximately 15 percent in fiscal year '82 compared to the Carter budget. With p r o m u l g a t i o n of our five-year shipbuilding plan later this year, the full significance of this policy will become clear." Secretary Sawyer said the U.S.

will "Rebuild our active fleet from its current level of 460 vessels to over 600 before the end of the decade. The core of this new Navy will be 15 carrier battle groups capable of taking the fight to a formidable adversary — a force which can take a punch as well as deliver it. The Navy plans to augment these forces with up to four more s u r f a c e a c t i on groups." In addition, the Secretary said plans include the upgrading of the fleet of nuclear attack submarines from 81 to 100, and the continued building of the Trident SSBN forces.

"We will develop our vital amphibious lift capability to sustain an entire Marine Amphibious Force, plus an additional Brigade —about a 70,000-man total force.

Finally, we will b r o a d e n and strengthen the Navy's related SEALIFT assets, both to sustain our fleet at sea and to deliver e s s e n t i a l material under both standby and rapid response modes during the initial deployment period before the sustaining lift capability of our own and allied merchant marines can be brought to bear.

"To achieve this 600-ship objective and accommodate the inevitable afflictions of age and obsolescence, we will need to build and convert an average of over 25 ships a year. Numbers, however, are not the only criterion.

We plan to build more capable, as well as more, ships." Mr. Sawyer said that similar initiatives are planned in naval aircraft, weapons, and readiness programs. The accomplishment of these objectives, he noted, will not be simple in a peacetime environment.

"It will require a concerted, sustained investment of human, financial, and material resources." He said that studies indicate that the U.S. physical shipbuilding and manufacturing base can respond to this challenge.

"Theoretically, our human resources should also be equal to the task — but this, probably, is the area of greatest concern. Specifically, can our professional and management cadres in government and industry respond rapidly and capably and avoid our becoming bogged down in cost overruns, programatic delays, and technological shortfalls ? I believe that the answer to this critical question is yes, but its proof will depend largely on how you and the relative handful of others like you respond in the immediate years ahead as you proceed from today's graduation into your professional careers.

"The technological challenges inherent in our proposed shipbuilding program are both abundant and significant," Mr. Sawyer noted. He cited a few examples which, he predicted, will be developed and probably employed in new ships.

"The first real application of the modular weapon systems concept on a first line combatant, our DDGX. This development will achieve complete physical modularity, and an important beginning will be made toward realizing the technologically complex but highly important distribution of computer processing and data base concepts.

"The development and application of more energy efficient propulsion and ships service electric concepts to combatant ships. Included here will be the COGAS, RACER plant, and further application of integrated mechanical/ electrical or all e l e c t r i c al plants.

"Substantial developments in all technologies relating to 'survivability,' including improved arrangements and s u b d i v i s i o n; more sophisticated applications of convential materials and the more exotic, lightweight armor; 'citadel' ventilation concepts to provide adequate protection to ABC warefare at sea; and automatic fire foam and other damage limiting systems.

"The first, operational applications of the a d v a n c e d hull forms, SWATH and ACV.

"Comprehensive development and initial application of STOL and VSTOL technology in either a 'small' carrier or new concept amphibious attack vessel, including SKI JUMP, stand alone catapults, and related A/C handling systems.

"New shipboard weapons and weapons delivery systems such as the vertical launch system, the TOMAHAWK cruise missile, the guided projectile, and ASW standoff weapon.

"In the sealift enhancement area we will devote significant funding to various merchant ship cargo-handling improvements of value to the Navy, such as container over-the-shore s y s t e m s, SEASHED, and refueling/replenishment at sea equipment add ons.

"The Navy rebuilding will not be based entirely on new construction," Mr. Sawyer said, "but will include a number of major conversions during the next five years, including battleships, several TAKs, nuclear cruisers, at least one hospital ship and one or two of the laid-up Essex class aircraft carriers.

"The funding requested in the 30 newbuildings and conversions involved in the Reagan 1982 ships construction and associated R&D budget submitted is in excess of $10 billion — about 30 percent more than the Carter 1981 budget.

And we intend to increase this level of funding by an average of over 7 percent in real terms over the next five-year period," he stated.

"We fully intend to rebuild our fleet and to achieve this in real terms of capability as well as numbers. It will be an exciting albeit challenging period.

"Whither our merchant marine —that essential second element in what historians and strategists equate as 'Seapower'? It is, I am saddened to say, in a continuing declining condition, without as yet a clear policy either articulated or implemented. This is a critical, national problem. In my judgment, the current reality of significant dependency on foreign nations both for our world trade in peace and for our strategic sealift in war is intolerable.

Unfortunately, t h e s o l u t i o n is multifaceted — a number of elements are involved. Technology alone is only one factor, as the growth and commercial maturity of t h a t American innovation, containerization, vividly attests.

"I can only pray that the newly formed joint White House/Indust ry Task Force and the eventual new Administration team together can develop and implement a unified national policy h e l p f ul both to our commercial maritime and our strategic interests. In the final analysis, all of us who comprise this industry—including we in the Navy—must put aside narrow self-interest and work together to formulate consistent policies and programs which will finally reverse this long slide toward dependency. I have some definite ideas where I believe the Navy can help—but we cannot do it alone. Management and labor in both our fleets and shipyards, along with our various governmental regulatory agencies involved must also do their part.

In the past, the American naval architect and marine engineering community has consistently pointed the way toward greater productivity and operating efficiency.

I predict that we will continue to do this through innovations such as the application of newer slow and medium-speed diesel technology; coal firing for specialized bulk vessels; and continued advancements in computeraided and integrated ship design and manufacturing technology." The achievement of our nation's primary objective — maritime superiority — will not be an easy task, nor is it even assured, Mr. Sawyer stated. "Although we have the physical facilities and the financial resources required, the principal test will be the adequacy of our collective will and skill—in other words our management perseverence and professional ability. Our principal adversary has amassed a fleet over three times the size of ours, and each year out builds us by about the same factor of three.

We can't 'out muscle' him in numbers ; but we can 'out think' him through the strength of our technology and innovation. It has worked for us as a nation in the past, and it will continue to work for us in the future, because both technology and innovation themselves stem from the core strengths of our society — freedom — to think, to express ourselves, and to choose our individual destinies."

Other stories from September 1981 issue


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