This weekend over at DANGER ROOM, I posted the results of a conversation with naval analyst Bob Work about the DDG-1000 stealth destroyer (illustrated). The Navy had hoped to buy seven DDG-1000s for up to $3 billion apiece, but decided to end the class at just two ships, citing the high cost and the ship’s unsuitability for firing and guiding air-defense missiles.
Then the Navy added a third ship, apparently to appease senators representing big defense contractors.
I quoted Bob saying that the need for more ships fitted for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) truly drove the DDG-1000 cuts, despite defense contractor Raytheon’s claim that its DDG-1000 radar could in fact guide BMD interceptors. In the Navy’s assessment, BMD requires more of the older, cheaper DDG-51 class of destroyers.
I also relayed Bob’s comments that the current Navy chief, Admiral Gary Roughead, has long been opposed to the DDG-1000 but couldn’t say so in public until he had won over the costly vessels’ Pentagon supporters.
Now Bob writes in with some clarifications and additions. I mined his comments for an update over at DANGER ROOM, but I provide the whole message for reference here:
First, ballistic missiles are just one of the reasons behind the Navy’s decision to curtail the DDG-1000 program. Essentially, the guided weapons/battle network revolution that culminated in the 1990s over land is now exerting its powerful influence on naval warfare. The maritime area over which a strong coastal power can now influence with multidimensional, combined-arms naval reconnaissance-strike complexes is expanding. The combination of space-based sensors, over-the-horizon radars, maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance], patrol and strike aircraft, nuclear and [Air-Independent Propulsion] submarines armed with wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles, and now anti-ship ballistic missiles poses severe threats to any surface ship.
Under these circumstances, the Navy has to improve its ability to fight from range, in the open ocean. The DDG-51 is a better open-ocean ASW defender than the DDG-1000, and is a capable air and missile defender. With improved networking capabilities such as the cooperative engagement capability and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, it will get better. In addition, as you wrote in your article, ballistic missiles are a growing problem world-wide. Regional combatant commanders are asking for BMD shooters to remain on station in their areas of responsibility. So ballistic missile defense of allied territory and forward U.S. bases is posing increased demands on fleet assets. As a result, the Navy decided to stick with the DDG-51 until it could redesign and build an entirely new air and ballistic missile defense ship, the CG(X).
Second, an important clarification. The DDG-1000 can fire the SM-3, with modifications to its radar and software. It can also fire the SM-2 Standard missile and SM-6 extended range active missile, with modifications to the missiles themselves (they need to be given an X-band uplink). Raytheon believes these modifications can be made for a reasonable cost. The Navy evidently disagrees, which influenced their ultimate decision to shift over to the Burkes, which can employ all of these missiles, also with some modifications. As you say, this is a major point of contention.
This helps explain why Raytheon is “beside themselves.” They built what they believed to be a superior radar, and they also believed the radar was a good pathway to the CG(X). They continue to argue strongly that the DDG-1000 is the better way forward, and their arguments have merit. However, after reviewing the overall shipbuilding plan, the relatively known costs for the DDG-51, the uncertain costs on the DDG-1000, the impact that upgrading the DDG-1000 would have on the plan, and the requirements for the CG(X), the Navy disagreed and went with the DDG-51. Obviously, this is not a decision the Navy took lightly, given the certain political fallout. Indeed, the fact that Navy officials announced this move at this point in time rather than waiting until a new administration came in indicates they felt they needed to make this decision themselves, and not leave the fate of the surface fleet in the hands of either OSD or Congress.
Third, the Navy reversal on the ’09 DDG-1000 was not a reversal at all. In July, Navy officials made clear that they supported the ’09 budget as submitted (with a third DDG-1000). However, they clearly announced they intended to curtail the program. They would have preferred to shift the ’09 DDG-1000 to a DDG-51. However, after it became apparent that Senators Kennedy and Collins still had a lot of questions over the Navy’s plans, they essentially said we’ll take the ’09 ship and make the move to DDG-51s in FY 2010. In essence, then, a new administration will bless the Navy’s plan, one way or the other.
Fourth, I would amend the statement that Admiral Roughead hated the DDG-1000 from the time he assumed duties as CNO in this way. It seems clear from his public statements that he was never a big fan of the DDG-1000. Whenever given the opportunity to strongly defend the ship, he would defend it more in terms of technology than capabilities. In other words, he might have liked the technologies the ship brought to the fleet, but not necessarily the ship’s direct and indirect costs. Ron O’Rourke at CRS and Eric Labs at CBO have both commented on his apparent lukewarm support for the ship. However, I believe this lukewarm support for the ship was due to broader calculations about overall fleet capability, fleet capacities, and the affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plan, and not necessarily due to his dislike of the ship itself.
Fifth, my comment that Admiral Roughead needed to convince his superiors that they made a bad decision was poorly worded. He had to marshal his arguments and convince his superiors that he believed the surface combatant modernization plan was on the wrong track, and need to be switched. During this time, he was obligated to defend the President’s budget. Behind the scenes, he was arguing against it. It obviously took some time to get the DepSecDef, Director PA&E, USD for ATL, SecNav, CJCS — all of whom had supported the President’s budget (and the DDG-1000 program) — convinced that he was right. Ultimately, it appears he did.
On balance, after listening to all sides of the argument, I think that Admiral Roughead has made a good, measured decision. It will be revisited next year during the FY 2010 budget submission and 2009 QDR. At that point, we’ll all have more data by which to judge the Navy’s new plan. Until then, it seems certain that it will be vigorously debated on blogs like yours.