CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Mar 03, ’23] Episode 85…Time Is Not On Our Side


Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello…a weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world. This week…Should the US Navy reorganize its fleets in the Pacific Ocean to counter rising Chinese threats? We’ll talk with noted China and Pacific military analyst Brent Sadler of the Heritage Foundation about why that could be a good idea, and about recent notable developments in the Western Pacific.

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

The Chinese amphibious assault ship HAINAN led a task group on what the Chinese call a “far sea exercise” in the South China Sea and Western Pacific, multiple Chinese media outlets reported. HAINAN left Zhanjiang, China in late January to begin the month-long cruise. The destroyer HOHHOT, frigate LIUZHOU and supply ship CHAGANHU accompanied the HAINAN on the mission. It was the first time, Chinese media said, that the assault ship had carried out such a long-ranging operation, which covered more than 9,000 nautical miles. The HAINAN is one of three 40,000-ton Type 075 assault ships, all of which have entered service since 2021.

The Iranian light frigate DENA and sea base ship MAKRAN were finally allowed to enter Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Feb. 27 after having been denied entry for about a month. Several nations, including the US and Israel, protested Brazil’s granting permission for the ships to enter. The two ships are in the midst of a planned round-the-world cruise.

The aircraft carrier USS GERALD R FORD got underway from Norfolk March 2 to begin a COMPTUEX – Composite Training Unit Exercise – with Carrier Air Wing Eight and her strike group. The exercise is the final pre-deployment test before the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier at long last begins her first full-fledged overseas deployment in a few weeks.

The French carrier CHARLES DE GAULLE returned to Toulon March 3 to complete a 108-day Mission Antares deployment that stretched into the Indian Ocean. A number of NATO ships and aircraft, including from the U.S., joined the DE GAULLE’s task group for various periods during the deployment.

In new ship news, the French Logistic Support Ship JACQUES CHEVALLIER was delivered March 3 to the French Navy from Naval Group at Saint Nazaire. The first of four ships in the class will be based in the Mediterranean at Toulon.

In San Diego on March 1, the Expeditionary Sea Base ship JOHN L CANEY ESB 6 was delivered to the US Navy from General Dynamics NASSCO.

 Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced February 28 that the new Virginia-class submarine SSN 808 would be named JOHN H DALTON, honoring the former US Navy secretary in the 1990s. Dalton was also a 1964 graduate of the US Naval Academy. The announcement came a day after Del Toro renamed the cruiser USS CHANCELLORSVILLE CG 62 to become USS ROBERT SMALLS, honoring a Civil War hero who, as a slave, commandeered the Confederate steamer PLANTER to turn the ship over to Union forces. CHANCELLORSVILLE was named for the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, a Confederate victory. Notably the US Army already has a logistic support vessel named for Smalls. The move to rename the CHANCELLORSVILLE – planned to leave active service no later than 2025 – makes the first time since the US Navy began building steel cruisers in the 1890s that one of the ships bears a person’s name, rather than a city or battle.

And in old ship news, the US Coast Guard medium endurance cutter DECISIVE WMEC 629 was decommissioned March 2 at Pensacola, Florida, having been in service since her first commissioning in August 1968. Built by the Coast Guard’s only shipyard at Curtis Bay, Maryland the DECISIVE served for nearly 55 years. Bravo Zulu and well done indeed.

Servello Squawk:

On March 9th the Biden Administration will release its fiscal 2024 budget request. As is normally the case, DoD will spend the afternoon of the 9th going service by service diving into the numbers and connecting plans and programs to their national security and defense strategies.

Typically the discussions lead by defense officials and members of the media center around money…increases, decreases, millions and billions…you know the game.

This year however, I challenge our listeners to try and move beyond the dollars and decimals and think in terms of time.

People in and around the Pentagon always cheer when the topline goes up and more money is allotted to their programs…but seldom are public conversations about how that money increases or decreases the time of potential conflict the focus of our budget debates.

Even a trillion-dollar defense budget is of little value if the warfighting capability and capacity is too late to prevent or if needed prevail in the impending conflict.

As we discussed with Bret…the next 2-4 years are critical to our ability to deter and if needed defeat China in high end competition.

Without pandering…we are blessed with an intelligent and influential audience that regularly speaks with and moves decisions makers across government.

Together we need to make the congressional and media debates about more than puts and takes. We need to look at each investment and decide if it will have a positive impact on competition over the next FYDP (Future Years Defense Plan).

Obviously we can’t abandon future planning…but we need to think hard about what investments will yield immediate and short term benefits.

I hope to see investments in readiness, workforce and supply chain protection, munitions and incentives to move programs currently under way into warp speed so we can produce more now and learn where war time adjustments will be needed.

It has become very fashionable to label one-self a fiscal conservative or a budget hawk…I yearn for the days when we see time as valuable as money.

I promise you that every moment saved or needed program sped up will result in casualties prevented and conflicts deterred. 

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