Monday, February 12, 2018

The Zumwalt mess

"Anyhow, I will expect great and grand things from the Zumwalt, the Monsoor, and the Johnson. Why? We paid enough for them to expect excellence. Now let's have it."

When I was fresh into the Navy, a new CNO was chosen. They decided to get someone who would shake things up a bit. Make things even more interesting. So they picked a man named Elmo Zumwalt. The young guys loved him. Why? He let sailors go traditional. A tradition from many, many decades ago. He let sailors grow beards.

Well, that lasted for a while, and then was gone. It was fun while it lasted. I was stationed on an Army base when the order came down that sailors could grow beards. It drove the Army nuts to have a bunch of hirsute faced sailors on their base. Oh, tough toenails. Like I said, it was fun while it lasted.

After I retired from the Naval Reserves, I worked at a company which was doing some development work on a new type of destroyer which would eventually replace the very popular and deadly Arleigh Burke class of DDG's. This new ship class was first going to be called the DD-21, which meant "destroyer for the 21st century". That idea soon evolved into calling this new ship class the DD(X). It was going to have a revolutionary new hull design which was going to by very stealthy. This new hull which would be used not only on the new destroyer, but also eventually on the new cruiser class, which was referred to as the CG-21, or CG(X).

After a while, it was decided by the Navy this new ship class (which looked like something out of Star Wars), would be named after the former CNO, Elmo Zumwalt. The first ship in the class would be the DD-1000, the USS Zumwalt. The Navy was so confident that this new design and hull technology would be a total game changer, it poured billions after billions into the R+D for the design. But who cares? The cost was going to be amortized over the 32 ships which were planned for the DD-1000 ship class. Then as a plus, they could further amortize the cost over the new CG(X) cruiser class ships.

However - there was a fly in the ointment. The costs for development kept growing, and growing, and growing. Pretty soon Congress mandated the number of ships be cut from 32 down to 24. Costs kept growing. Then 24 down to 7. Cost kept growing. Finally, Congress mandated the ship class be capped at 3 - and then the program killed. Oh - and the new CG(X) cruiser class? That died with it. 

What does the Navy have to show for all this time and money it put into the Zumwalt class of destroyers? It has the USS Zumwalt (DD-1000), which has been commissioned and in the fleet. Early this year, it will commission the USS Michael Monsoor (DD-1001). Then in a couple years, the third and final ship, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DD-1002) will be commissioned. 

It is estimated that when all is said and done, these three ships will have cost close to $25B to build. For three ships! That is $10B more than our brand new, state of the art, aircraft carrier (USS Gerald R. Ford - (CVN-78)) cost to build. The Zumwalt mess is the kind of thing which turns taxpayers cold on DOD spending. What a waste of money!

Anyhow, I will expect great and grand things from the Zumwalt, the Monsoor, and the Johnson. Why? We paid enough for them to expect excellence. Now let's have it.


  1. All new classes of ships have teething problems, but this is at least three major “engineering casualties” that the USS Zumwalt has experienced over the last few months, and it is emblematic of a defense-procurement system that is rapidly losing its ability to meet our national-security needs.
    the Navy actually took delivery of, and commissioned, a ship that is far from complete and years away from being ready for combat.
    To obfuscate this fact, many future “modernization costs,” new threat upgrades, and the like will appear, all funded under new programs with the goal of pumping more money into the Zumwalt to get it to where it should have been when it was commissioned. Unsurprisingly, as of May of 2016, the GAO reports that only three of eleven critical technologies the Zumwalt relies upon were considered mature.
    And we're now going to give these incompetent Pentagon folks even more money to waste, rather than re-think and re-organize under a new mission, called HOMELAND SECURITY.

  2. I know for fact that DOD procurement is overwrought with paperwork and pie in the sky expectations. But at the same time I cannot help but wonder if it is the math or the politics that is out of whack. For example, how many of the ships do we need? If we had purchased the original number, with the cost per unit have become reasonable? are the new technologies sufficiently advanced, by the time they become practical, to warrant the cost of development? Can the ships be built in such a way that new technologies are easy to retrofit when they become available?

    1. Of course the more ships bought, the unit cost goes down.
      No one can keep up with technology advancement.
      And can you download a program to make your Iphone 6 into and Iphone 8. NO Commerce doesn't work that way.

  3. You don't have to keep up with every advance of technology, just be one step ahead of the enemy.
    I recently upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and for free.
    My new 4TB drive fits in the same slot as my old 1TB drive. And my 1TB SSD is faster.

    The question remains, is the problem you are citing caused by the generals, or by the politicians?

  4. Money will not fix what ails our military. We don’t have a supply problem, we have a demand problem created by poor strategy. We have a military doing missions often beyond its purview, acting as the lead government agency in areas it is not qualified to do so, bearing impossible expectations in the process.

  5. You mean like providing sex change operations and fighting global warming?

  6. No, like defeating the Taliban.
    In an unexpected overture at a time of increasing bloodshed in Afghanistan, the Taliban have published an open letter expressing a desire for peace talks and calling on the “American people” and “peace-loving congressmen” to pressure the 45 administration into negotiations.

  7. these are the same people that just claimed credit for killing some 60 civilians in a terrorist bombing. These fanatics are not going to be defeated by inviting them to "peace talks."

    1. Don't need to defeat them, they are not a threat to us.

      The Taliban wish to wage war only on their own soil as they know it would be otherwise foolhardy. Per their own manifesto.

  8. They are not a threat to us? Remember a guy named Osama bin Laden and the date 9/11?

  9. It may not make sense to you, but it seems to me we have some obligation to help maintain some semblance of order, freedom, or whatever you call it.

  10. Three decades after we first decided to use Osama bin Laden and other imported Muslim zealots for our Cold War purposes, we feel cleansed by his death of any responsibility for his carnage.

    9=11 had nothing to do with the Taliban
    Fifteen of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt, and Lebanon
    All allies of Amerika.

  11. And AFAIK, all graduates of OBL's Al Qaeda terror schools in Afghanistan, protected and supported by the Taliban. Our foreign policy should not be constrained unduly by old nation-state boundaries. We need to attack virulent ideologies and behaviors. How many mass graves and torture victims have we found in recaptured ISIS territory? It's not Auschwitz in magnitude, but equivalent in inhumanity. Pick our battles? Sure. But evil triumphs when good men do nothing.