How the Navy could be torpedoing Trump’s chances in 2020

When it comes time to defend his red wall along the Great Lakes, President Trump is going to come face to face with the consequences of his Pentagon leadership’s failure to implement his oft-promised 355-ship Navy (up from 290 today).

Pennsylvania workers make many of the essentials that go into ships, including shafts manufactured in Erie and cooling systems in York. Every time the Navy awards a contract for a new ship, the president or vice president should be at one of these facilities talking about the jobs the contracts will provide. But the Navy hasn’t been issuing those contracts, so the president can’t make those announcements.

The Navy could have gone big — still could still go big — in Philadelphia. To extend the life of the existing fleet, a person familiar with the planning tells me, the Navy must perform roughly 100 more ship dockings in the next decade than current dock space can accommodate. Philly Shipyard has the capability to build floating dry docks to make up for this shortfall. Why isn’t Trump announcing a plan to expand the Navy’s dry-dock infrastructure while standing in Philly Shipyard?

Wisconsin benefits from Navy shipbuilding in two ways. First, there is the shipyard in Marinette that creates jobs in both Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Fincantieri Marine Group is a bidder on the new 20-ship Navy FFG(X) guided-missile frigate program, but politics cannot take precedence over ship design, so the contract is not guaranteed to land lakeside in Wisconsin. The least Trump could do, though, is insist that the Navy pick up the pace of its dreadfully slow design competition.

The Fincantieri Marinette Marine is already under contract to build four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships for Saudi Arabia. More work would be sent Wisconsin’s way if the Trump administration could persuade the Saudis to increase their order or bring other countries, such as Israel, on board.

Incredibly, Michigan ranks near the bottom of all the states when defense spending is calculated as a percentage of a state’s GDP — 47th out of 50 in fiscal year 2017 for what was once the arsenal of democracy. Per-resident defense spending in Michigan that year was a paltry $386, compared with $1,554 in Oklahoma.

When the Air Force decided in 2017 not to base F-35A fighter aircraft at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, it missed an easy way to achieve some equity in the distribution of defense-industry dollars in the states. Trump could direct the Pentagon to reverse that decision.

The Navy’s plans for a new “large unmanned surface vessel” calls for a ship which could be built at a Great Lakes facility; near Detroit makes sense, if only out of fairness to a state that has been largely ignored in the Trump military rebuild. Given the likely long-term need for many of these ships in the future, a new facility could be planted and grown along with the program. It pains this Buckeye to say so, but somewhere along the Michigan coast next door to Ohio would be equitable.

A focus on Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin need not be limited to the Defense Department. Recently, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) pushed successfully for the planned relocation of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction, Colo., in a brilliant move to bring bureaucrats closer to the citizens they regulate and whom they are supposed to serve. Sending large parts of the Environmental Protection Agency to Flint, Mich., or nearby locations would drive home the same message.

Trump has the chance to drain the swamp while making government agencies much more attuned to the people in flyover country. But he must act soon.

Yet, it is really the Navy’s utter failure to deliver even a bare-bones plan to realize the president’s promise of a 355-ship Navy that ought to rankle the commander in chief. A new chief of naval operations will arrive soon. The president ought to have waiting on his desk copies of the speeches in which he promised, and then promised again, a 355-ship Navy, along with the slogan famously used by Winston Churchill scrawled with the black Sharpie that Trump likes to use: “Action this day!”

Mike Pence Announces Cold War II

The administration is orchestrating a far-reaching campaign against China.

Did Cold War II break out last week while no one was watching? As the Kavanaugh confirmation battle raged, many Americans missed what looks like the biggest shift in U.S.-China relations since Henry Kissinger’s 1971 visit to Beijing.

.. Denouncing what he called China’s “whole of government” approach to its rivalry with the U.S., Mr. Pence vowed the Trump administration will respond in kind.
.. The speech sounded like something Ronald Reagan could have delivered against the Soviet Union: Mr. Xi, tear down this wall! Mr. Pence also detailed an integrated, cross-government strategy to counter what the administration considers Chinese military, economic, political and ideological aggression.
.. Navy plans for greatly intensified patrols in and around Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea were leaked to the press.
.. the recently-entered trilateral U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was revealed to have a clause discouraging trade agreements between member countries and China. The administration indicated it would seek similar clauses in other trade agreements.
.. Congress approved the Build Act, a $60 billion development-financing program designed to counter China’s Belt and Road strategy in Africa and Asia.
.. highlighting the danger that foreign-based supply chains pose to U.S. military capabilities in the event they are cut off during a conflict.
.. Mr. Pence warned that even higher tariffs are on the way. The White House report highlighting supply-chain vulnerabilities could provide the basis for new and more far-reaching restrictions.
.. Business and investors may still be underestimating both the Trump administration’s determination to challenge China and the amount of economic disruption that greater U.S.-China tension can bring.
.. To the mix of longtime China hawks and trade hawks now driving U.S. policy, national security matters more than economic friction, and many of the protestations from the U.S. business community may fall on deaf ears.
.. Both China and the U.S. are likely to move quickly, unpredictably and disruptively as they struggle for advantage; Wall Street should brace itself for further shocks.
.. Democrats who have relished attacking Mr. Trump for allegedly being soft on Vladimir Putin will have a hard time explaining why a hard line on Russia is a patriotic duty but a tough China policy is a mistake.

.. Replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement, reshaping the Supreme Court, and launching a new Cold War in the same week is quite the trifecta. America may or may not be on the road to greatness under Mr. Trump, but it is certainly going somewhere, and at an accelerating pace.

‘If You Want Peace, Prepare For War’

A new book provides a window into Reagan’s transformative Cold War naval strategy.

Scholars have already debated for decades, and will debate for centuries, the role U.S. policies — military, diplomatic, economic — played in bringing the Cold War to endgame and the Soviet Union to extinction. One milestone was Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative proposal, a technological challenge that could not be met by a Soviet economy already buckling under the combined weight of military spending and socialism’s ignorance.

But before SDI there was Ocean Venture ’81, initiated by Reagan as president-elect.

.. By 1980, there was rough nuclear parity, and the Soviets, with 280 divisions, had superiority of land forces. Reagan campaigned on building the U.S. Navy to 600 ships and using it for purposes beyond merely keeping sea lanes open to deliver supplies for land forces.

.. in the autumn of Reagan’s first year, Ocean Venture ’81 surged U.S. naval power into what the Soviet Union had considered its maritime domain, especially the Norwegian and Barents Seas. (And eventually under the Arctic ice pack, where the Soviets had hoped to hide nuclear ballistic-missile submarines.) By dispersing Ocean Venture ’81 ships when Soviet satellites were overhead, the arrival of a large flotilla in northern waters was an unnerving surprise for Moscow.

This “transformative” operation, Lehman writes, “came as a thunderclap to the Soviets, who had never seen such a NATO exercise on their northern doorstep.”

.. “The Soviets were particularly fearful of being attacked under cover of a forward U.S. exercise. Why? Because their own doctrine was to use military exercises to mask surprise invasions,”

.. By the end of 1986, with the Soviets having learned that they could not interfere with U.S. aircraft carriers operating in Norwegian fjords, the Soviet general staff told Gorbachev that they could not defend the nation’s northern sector without tripling spending on naval and air forces there. Thus did the Cold War end because Reagan rejected the stale orthodoxy that the East–West military balance was solely about conventional land forces in central Europe, so NATO’s sea power advantage was of secondary importance.

.. In the movie A Few Good Men, a furious Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) exclaimed to his courtroom tormentors — Navy officers — words that are actually true regarding almost all civilians in this age of complex professional military establishments configured for myriad and rapidly evolving threats: “You have no idea how to defend a nation.” Lehman’s book is a rare window on that world, and a validation of the axiom that if you want peace, prepare for war.

 

The Navy’s Stealth Zumwalt-Class Destroyer: Research & Development

SpaceX works because a lot of people want to put satellites in orbit. In a time of unprecedented peace, how many navy ships do we realistically want to be building?

$4.25B/ship is the wrong way to frame it. Think of it as $23B to keep our shipbuilding expertise current, to make sure we have the capability to build navy ships that incorporate a bunch of cutting-edge technologies (some of which have worked out and some of which haven’t, as is the nature of cutting-edge technologies). If a shooting war started to look likely we’d be building a lot more than 3 of them and the unit cost would come way down.
reply

.. It seems you should be able to bring down a 4 billion ship with a swarm of thousand drones for maybe 1 million each for the total cost of 1 billion. Same for aircraft carriers.

.. The lack of a missile defense system on the Zumwalts has more or less made them pointless beyond research/development testbeds.