CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Nov 03, ’23] Ep: 118 DoD China Report


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…The Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese Military Power was just released, and once again it is full of details about China’s continued military buildup. Naval analyst and long-time China Navy Watcher Tom Shugart is back with us to take a deeper dive into what the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been up to.

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

The US Senate on November 2 was able to confirm Admiral Lisa Franchetti as the chief of naval operations and Air Force General David Allvin as chief of staff of the Air Force. Both were sworn in within hours of confirmation, along with Marine General Christopher Mahoney to become assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. Meanwhile, Marine Commandant General Eric Smith is reported to be in stable condition after suffering an apparent heart attack on the evening of October 29 while out jogging in Washington DC. The vote on Mahoney’s nomination to become assistant commandant was added to the votes for CNO and Air Force Chief of Staff due to Smith’s medical emergency.

Franchetti, a career surface warfare officer, becomes the first woman to serve as the Navy’s top officer and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The votes have been held up for months due to a blanket block on top-level military nominations by Republican senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. Several Republican senators joined with their Democrat colleagues to push the votes for the three officers, although the nominations of nearly 400 officers remain blocked by Tuberville.

In the western Pacific, the recently-deployed USS CARL VINSON Carrier Strike Group is reported operating around Okinawan waters, while the USS RONALD REAGAN Carrier Strike Group with two cruisers were reported operating in the Philippine Sea on November 3 after a visit to the Philippine capital of Manila.

On November 3 the destroyer USS DEWEY carried out a Freedom of Navigation near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where US Seventh Fleet said China, Taiwan and Vietnam are engaging in excessive maritime and territorial claims – all three countries claim all of the Spratlys as their own. The DEWEY’s FONOP came 2 days after destroyer USS RAFAEL PERALTA and the Canadian frigate OTTAWA transited the Taiwan Strait, a move China quickly labeled provocative, saying the Americans and Canadians quote, “hyped up” the passage between Taiwan and mainland China. It was the third time this year a Canadian frigate and US destroyer made the transit together.

In the Mediterranean theater of operations, the USS DWIGHT D EISENHOWER carrier strike group joined with the USS GERALD R FORD carrier strike group for three days of exercises that concluded on November 3. Photos released by US Sixth Fleet showed the two carriers operating together along with Sixth Fleet flagship USS MOUNT WHITNEY and the Italian frigates CARLO MARGOTTINI and VIRGINIO FASAN. The EISENHOWER has been ordered to proceed US Central Command’s operational area and will shortly passed southbound through the Suez Canal to pass through the Red Sea.

Closer to home, the US Coast Guard on October 31 announced a series of operational reductions due to a shortage of more than 3,000 personnel. While details of the AY24 Force Alignment Initiative – AY for Assignment Year – are still forthcoming, the announced cuts are significant. Among them – three WMEC medium endurance cutters will be laid up pending decommissioning. Seven 87-foot WPB patrol boats will be placed out of service. Five 65-foot WYTL harbor tugs will be reduced to a ready status in case of need. Two WPC Fast Response Cutters will begin overhauls with no crew assigned. Staffing also is being reduced at 33 Coast Guard Stations and 36 Aids to Navigation Teams. The service said there will be no loss of search and rescue capabilities. A message from Coast Guard commandant Admiral Linda Fagan read in part, “the Coast Guard cannot maintain the same level of operations with our current shortfall – we cannot do the same with less.”

Servello Squawk:

After months of delays, the Senate has now confirmed Admiral Lisa Franchetti to be the 33rd Chief of Naval Operations.

A quick glance around the globe and it is more obvious than ever that America needs a strong and capable Navy. A sea service that is valued just as much for its deterrent ability as for its kinetics.

The next four years will be about rebuilding a dialogue with the workforce, with civilian leaders in the Pentagon and with the American public so that all understand the human and machine value resident in our Navy.

Admiral Franchetti is a brilliant, capable warfighter and is absolutely the right person at the right time to motivate and carry our Navy forward.

Over the last five or six years the Navy, due to a variety of factors, has fallen on hard times—public squabbling, loss of appreciation for some of its best and brightest, a shrinking fleet and political leadership afraid to stand up for the service’s core missions and capabilities.

In her first months in office our new CNO will need to right the ship by putting an end to parochial bickering, asking less creative leaders to retire and beginning a new dialogue with Sailors to win back trust and confidence.

This is a big job…a huge job. One that will test the talent and determination of Admiral Franchetti. And while I have absolute faith in her ability to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact, she needs a confirmed number two. And she needs one now. Sadly it took General Smith falling ill before the Senate got its act together and confirmed an assistant commandant — let’s not make the same mistake on the Navy side.

If Admiral Franchetti is to make the impact we need her to make she must have a VCNO and the rest of her team confirmed soonest.

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