In Praise of Bob Work’s New Navy


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USS Freedom. Photo by David Axe.


Prior to late 2008, he was everyone’s favorite naval analyst. Bob Work, a former Marine Corps artillery officer, crunched numbers and ideas related to maritime issues at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. He was a reporter’s dream: honest, accessible and accurate.

Then the Obama Administration plucked Bob out of CSBA to be Navy undersecretary. We lost a great analyst, and gained a great naval administrator. The new four-year defense review and its associated shipbuilding and plane-building plans have Bob Work’s fingerprints all over them. All the new catamaran transports? One of Bob’s pet ideas. The emphasis on tried-and-true Burke-class destroyers optimized for missile defense? Bob was singing that tune years ago.

The idea of “boxes,” where we conceive of different classes of ships as empty containers, of various sizes, that can be loaded with different things for different scenarios: helicopters and relief supplies in the aftermath of a disaster; trainers for partnership missions; robots and weaponry for high-end warfare. That, too, was something Bob always stressed.

So was the need for armed, high-performance robots for flying off carrier decks. Bob helped push the carrier-capable Unmanned Combat Air System, a.k.a. X-47 Pegasus, when even the Navy didn’t really want it.

Defense News just sat down with Bob to talk about the Quadrennial Defense Review, the ship and plane plans and the shape of the future fleet. The former analyst did not disappoint. He told Defense News we would maintain a 300-ship fleet with an expanded range of missions and the ability to boost developing countries while also fighting even the most determined first-world enemy. And because Bob Work said it, I believe it.

I’ll tell you what: the Air Force sure could use its own Bob Work.

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One Response to “In Praise of Bob Work’s New Navy”

  1. ELP says:

    Bob’s big miss was this statement. It amounts to; lets all jump off the cliff together.

    “There are always pockets within the Navy and the Air Force that have different opinions. If you search for them you can think there’s some type of big debate. But at the top level – the secretary and me, the CNO and the commandant – there is absolutely no wavering on JSF, in either the B or C form. We are committed to that platform. That is going to be the fifth-generation platform that we have.”

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