Does Strategy Drive the U.S. Defense Budget?
Strategy is linked to less costly and smaller systems as well. And here there is, for now, a better picture. The forward defense that American seapower provides depends on technology that is sufficiently adaptable to meet the needs of combat ships. Those needs change. Fuel becomes very expensive. The possibility of separating hydrogen and carbon dioxide from seawater and then transforming these elements into useable fuel offers future cost savings along with certain increases in security at sea were the vulnerability of current underway replenishments to be eliminated.
Again, warfare at sea changes ceaselessly. As missiles improve in performance and proliferate, change is required. The electromagnetic-powered rail gun now scheduled to be tested at sea in two years could fire a projectile at seven times the speed of sound. The weapon would significantly multiply ships’ defenses against ballistic and cruise missiles as well as enemy aircraft’s offensive capabilities. Developing this weapon requires sustained investments in research and development. Similar investments are required to build and deploy the radars that will warn ships against ballistic missiles that come from overhead and planes and cruise missiles which travel closer to the earth’s surface. Known as air and missile defense radar (AMDR) this particular technological advance is an imaginative response to the decreasing cost and increasing availability of ballistic and cruise missiles as well as other potentially ship-killing missiles launched from land.
In its first demand -- for protection against the elements -- a household is similar to a nation. A well-run household cuts travel and entertainment in tight times. It does not fail to repair a leaking roof or replace dangerously aging electrical circuits. A nation’s first requirement is for the protection that its defenses offer. A well-run nation hews to the strategy that has served it well. The U.S. is failing to do this with the cloud that the Defense Department has positioned over the future of USS George Washington.
The Navy is succeeding where it continues with its plans to develop and deploy such systems as the rail gun and AMDR that assure offensive and defensive capabilities of the seapower that has succeeded for over a century in projecting combat power at a sufficient distances to keep trouble from approaching our own coasts. When the prudence demonstrated by investments in the smaller systems applies equally to increasing our capital ship numbers, American strategy will live up to the advice that President Washington offered in his farewell address, “that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it.”