2015-02-02 By Ed Timperlake
“We are entering an era where American dominance in key warfighting domains is eroding, and we must find new and creative ways to sustain, and in some areas expand, our advantages,” Hagel said in a memo to Pentagon leaders announcing his innovation initiative.
Hagel noted that while the United States has been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, powers such as Russia and China have invested heavily in military modernization, fielding advanced aircraft, submarines, and both longer-range and more accurate missiles.
What can be easily missed is what he was talking about was not just innovation in briefing slides; but innovation embodied in deployed systems.
Because everyone but industrial workers populates Washington, what can be forgotten is that innovation is what is built by the hands and minds of American defense industrial worker. In fact, few have actually visited the defense industrial plants, to see the challenge of translating new platform concepts into new deployed capabilities.
In the Carter Administration, Mr. Andrew Marshall Director Net Assessment/OSD sponsored research that was directed at defining and if possible measuring military “modernization.” The effort was called TASCFORM –technique for measuring force modernization project. It was a worthy effort that had its time and place. One of the lasting legacies is not in the math model, which is a multi-attribute utility function, but in the opening definition, which were all acted on when Ronald Reagan became President.
The question of defining “modernization” has historically proven to be surprisingly difficult.
Modernization of a military force can always be carried out for various reasons. To gain some new capabilities not previously available: to add new components which then provide for enhanced or more reliable operation of existing equipment; or simply to replace worn out equipment with newly manufactured ones.
Modernization has to also take into account capital investment in facilities for production and modification of existing weapons or support systems. (The TASCFORM Air model, 1 February 1980, Timperlake et al).
There is much criticism of new platforms as they come off of the assembly line, ranging from the Osprey to the F-35 to the USS Ford to the USS America.
What is missed in all of the criticism is the denigration of the efforts of the American workers who create the combat capabilities for the American warrior.
When visiting factories, it is hard not to miss the generations of workers stretching back to World War II which have built the “arsenal of democracy.” When I attended the christening of the USS Arlington, I met many workers who represented three generations of shipyard workers who were proud to see their ship go to see and to represent America abroad.
Modernization is built on the foundation of the American and Western defense industrial workforce. Disrupting the rhythm of production for the regular “debates” in Washington misses the whole point of the need to keep the work force in place to shape new capabilities. Shifting from the old to the new is fine; as long as the workforce is trained and engaged in building these new systems.
Only deployed systems in the hands of skilled warfighters deter; not claims in “innovators” briefing charts.
As the never-ending U.S. political revolution continues with the make-up of Congress having changed, the opportunity arises for both the House and Senate to answer Secretary Hagel’s parting challenge.
There are three examples that can give notice to Russia and China and others that America is building our real capabilities and not just enjoying a procurement holiday.
The first example is the most simple to describe. Gaining new capabilities by increasing the production of the F-35 to an efficient industrial number in order to drive down unit costs and more rapidly build up inventory numbers. Once the F-35 is proliferated to US and allied partners the aircraft will have the ability to not only be a catalyst for warfighting changes it will be its own follow-on.
The Lightning II is the first tactical air-to-air, air-to-ground, electronic warfare software upgradeable aircraft ever built. And to understand who the workers are who build this plane, you need to visit Cameri, Tokyo, Denmark, Norway, Australia and meet with computer scientists and engineers as well as those working on the final assembly line in Fort Worth. Many of today’s aviation workers read Wired Magazine.
“The learning curve to improve sensors, system capability and weapons carried quickly compared to building another airframe may be a new American way of industrial surging. The American arsenal of democracy may be shifting from an industrial production line to a clean room and a computer lab as key shapers of competitive advantage.”
The second military modernization initiative that is underway is the addressing the procurement holiday with regard to the Triad. A new bomber strike aircraft, and new sub and increased attention to the Minuteman Missile system is all underway.
Again Secretary Hagel a Vietnam Veteran infantry Sargent who was wounded in combat lead the way:
“I think the Long-Range Strike Bomber is absolutely essential for keeping our deterrent edge. … We need to do it. We need to make the investments. We’ll have it in the budget. It’s something I have particularly put a priority on.”
With the USN modernization of their contribution to the triad an Ohio Class replacement it is both good news and other story. Yes “Rosie the riveter” is reading Wired, but has also been on an extended vacation:
“The original Ohio-class builder General Dynamics Electric Boat hasn’t built a boomer in more than 20 years and the durability of the drive and the boats to last until 2080 is a tall order.”
The number one priority of the US Military is to deter a major nuclear strike on America. Consequently, it is essential that Chuck Hagel’s support for a new bomber and the navy getting on with an Ohio class sub replacement is fully supported by both the Houses and Senate. A nuke strike on US is the only thing that has the distinct possibility of ending the United States and a nation, it is that serious.
The final example of proving today that the US is back with a truly state-of-the-art military modernization initiative is seen in the construction in Newport News Virginia of the CVN-78 class of Aircraft Carriers; the Gerald Ford class. The next in line of the CVN-78 Class is the Kennedy followed by one of the most historic ship names in the US Navy: The Enterprise.
It is time to immediately put a marker down by the Legislative Branch and put US shipyard carrier construction on an aggressive signal to the world by laying a keel every three years.
The debate over the cost and effectiveness of a modern carrier is over and is now nothing more than a rear guard action designed to continue to create paralysis by analysis. It can be looked at as for the most part as the constant intellectual empowerment of many who do not even know what is an “OK-3 Wire.”
And what is missed is that the US is the only nation that can construct a “super-carrier” which is the most difficult design-build engineering endeavor in the history of the world, very large building and monuments do not race from the arctic to the equator and points in between while launching soon to be the most modern aircraft ever designed.
So let’s just get on with it.
Russia and China are not slowing down. In fact the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) wishes it had the skill and ability to build and operate a Ford class, but they cannot.
The Ford class are being built using a Nimitz Class hull so to all they may look like classic “super carriers” but do not let the “look” fool you.
The CVN-78 carriers absolutely personify the second definition of modernization mentioned above by adding significant new 21st Century design components especially increased internal power generation, for enhanced command and control, C&C, and the coming directed energy evolution.
The Ford Class design incorporates the ability to reconfigure rapidly 17 interior spaces based on the need to focus its combat role to being more than just a strike carrier.
The new carrier essentially provides at sea computer labs and centers for additional C&C state-of-the-art information centers as the combat mission requires.
However, there is also some good news in that the US Navy and their industry partners are focused on the most immediate future.
U.S. Combat commanders at any moment have to fight the force they have. Our current carriers are still being modernized from within and are also awaiting the arrival of new or upgraded Carrier Air Group (CAG) aircraft, such as F-35, V-22, the E-2 D Hawkeye (another software upgradeable aircraft) and more powerful 4th Gen Growlers to protect 4th Gen F/A-18s.
So laying a keel every three years while modernizing the Nimitz class will be seen as a very prudent measure in light of declining numbers of U.S. air and ship assets, and the growth of Chinese, North Korean, Russian and other powers in the world.
It is not just about us versus them; we have allies our adversaries have clients.
But to bolster our global allied relationships we need to have modern combat platforms at the disposition of the national command authority.
Even to lead from behind requires capability beyond which we are currently building now.
It is important to be visionary on military technology, but getting on with matching our determined adversaries modernization efforts in quantity and quality with U.S. and allied capabilities that are already a generation ahead and currently on the factory floor or in a ship yard is essential.
But to do this, the U.S. needs political leadership on Capitol Hill to furnish appropriate resources and support for the way ahead.
Ed Timperlake was the Principal Director for Mobilization Planning and Requirements/OSD in the Reagan Administration.
The mission was to build accurate dynamic iterative models and studies to understand the consequences of warfighting from the Nuclear Triad and Continuity of Government programs, to the numbers and quality of performance of US tactical units of ships planes and ground units.
The most important question was combat losses and the industrial base surge capability, while concurrently acquiring replacement combat warriors properly trained and equipped to fight and win as long as necessary.
The Office no longer exists with the ending of the Cold War.
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