Vago Muradian, Defense News
24 August 2015
WASHINGTON – Adm. Jon Greenert retires in September as the US chief of naval operations, having begun his tenure a month after the Budget Control Act of 2011 sharply cut DoD funding and derailed programs, training and maintenance – cuts that continue to impact the force. Despite budget challenges, Greenert pushed innovation, advocated for key efforts like new ballistic missile subs, changed Navy culture and opened opportunities for women.
DoD continues to grapple with an uncertain budget future. Congress is expected to go around spending caps by increasing DoD wartime supplemental spending, a move President Obama has said he would veto. If that happens,
Congress would likely fund DoD with restrictive continuing resolutions – which, for example, limit the services’ ability to start any new work without specific waivers. Analysts predict CRs could end up lasting through next year’s presidential elections.
Q. What impact would a full-year CR have on the Navy?
A. We’re still living with the Budget Control Act. That’s the law of the land. We’ve had a two-year hiatus from it with the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, but that’s what you look forward to, so we have to understand that, if there’s no change, we’re at budget control- like numbers. We’re assuming that we’ll be under continuing resolution for at least the first quarter of this next fiscal year.
We’ve looked at our programs and said “where do we have new starts, where do we have new projects” and from the Navy perspective we’re okay for the first quarter. Now, the level of fiscal year ’15 driven into ’16, that’s not what’s really the issue so much as what we need in ’16.
What did you assume that you would get in ’16 to make yourself an effective service? We assumed more funding than at a ’15 level.
We can deal with that for a quarter – we will work with the Hill in that regard. But if we go into the second quarter and third quarter and we’re deferring important projects – shipbuilding and aircraft building – all of the procurement programs are affected by that. Then you get into the possibility of breaching multiple years, and you can just understand that cascading effect.
We have to understand the consequences. For us it’s about midway through the second quarter. So we would have to kind of gird our loins and decide, okay, how do we deal with this, how do we deal with the shipbuilders.
Unfortunately, we have been here before when we dealt with sequestration.
Q. Secretary Carter wants innovation and you’ve made pushing new capabilities to the fleet, such as new laser technology, a priority. How do you see innovation and the offset strategy?
A. I put it in three categories.
First, the one at which most people look, is the technology aspect. You mentioned one, the laser. The railgun is another, and there are cyber areas and electromagneticspectrum manipulation that are classified and I can’t go there, but that’s the high tech.
There’s another one, which we call the re-purposing. That would be taking something you have today and using it differently.
Taking a missile or a torpedo and you plug in a new warhead, a new seeker, and it suddenly becomes a better weapon, a different weapon that you can now put in a different location, and you can employ it differently. It’s taking a tanker and asking somebody to take the centerpiece out of it and put ballast in there, and you have a mobile landing platform. Then you ask can you put a helicopter deck on, and they say ‘I can do it.’ And then lastly, asking our people. Take junior officers. I have this CRIC, (CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell). I’ll give you a little bit of money. What do you guys see out there, what would you do if you wanted to do something differently; we’ve gotten great return on that. It’s technology, repurposing and unleashing the innovation of our kids.
Q. China and Russia are arming rapidly and destabilizing their regions. What is the biggest overall threat? What is the biggest naval threat? And is the Navy on the right track to address them?
A. We had a senior-leader council a few weeks ago. We sat down with the secretary of defense and we talked about threats. We kind of came to an agreement that we have a condition, we kind of refer to it today, dealing with counterterrorism, and it’s really about the IS, ISIL and al-Qaida threat. That is out there today in various shapes and forms. It keeps morphing.
Then we have Russia’s emergence. China – I don’t openly and routinely call them a threat, but they sure could be a threat. To me they’re opportunity right now, which could turn into a threat if we blow this and don’t do it right.
We have North Korea and we have Iran. Those tend to be if you will – some are higher end, Russia, China. Then you’ve got kind of the medium weight, middle weight. Those are the threats that we’re dealing with for the Navy.
How do I posture the force around the world, day in and day out to be where it matters when it matters to respond to that, and how quickly can I respond with the right capability of the current measure. That is probably one of my bigger challenges today, to get that back where it needs to be, the response force. That’s the recovery from sequestration, that’s the readiness recovery. It’s the distribution of forces and setting a force posture.
Q. You mentioned China. What progress has happened with China in terms of improving dialogue?
A. About a year and a half ago we got together and signed a document called a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea. What we said [is] when we encounter each other’s ships at sea here is the protocol we will use. We’ll talk in English, we’ll use the following documents ... We need to apply this to the air. We also said we ought to talk to our coast guards about this, but that’s a future project. So we laid that in and everybody agreed to train our people and get after that. I would say the last numbers I’ve gotten from Admiral Harris and Admiral Swift, three out of four encounters with the Chinese go just according to [that] code.
Something I should mention: a lot of times people talk about interactions with Chinese ships, and they’re auxiliary ships or their amphibious ships. Those are Army ships. They’re not Navy ships. It’s PLA, not PLAN. My point here would be that we have to continue to spread this [cooperation] and show how it can be effective. It has been effective. It has worked. It’s not the answer to it all, it just helps prevent miscalculation, [but] I believe we need to continue to work in this.
Q. Sen. John McCain wants to change acquisition authorities, moving power from the Pentagon acquisition chief toward the services. Where do you come down in that debate?
A. One of the things I know Sen. McCain wants to get clear is, at any given time who is accountable for the performance of this program? Who is accountable for the decision, the funding put in, the schedule it is on, and the
requirements ? Right now that is not very well laid out. There are different people who make changes in programs, in requirements, the schedule and cost. To me as a service chief, that needs to get clarified. I think that’s kind of drifted in the acquisition process that we have out there today.
We’re not following [Goldwater-Nichols] like it should be written, so I would like to cosign any change to any program because I’m the customer. I’m responsible to my sailors to deliver an effective program. I’d also like to understand if we’re going to change the cost and the schedule because once again, I got the end state. I have to make sure that this thing integrates right, and if somebody’s going to change the requirements, I need to cosign that.
We’ve got to get clear, and this is ultimately what Sen. McCain said.
Q. What are the options to execute the Ohio Replacement Program?
A. We haven’t decided the strategy to fund the Ohio Replacement. In other words, we’ve looked at things like, if we understood what the funding will be, we might be able to work on a multi-year. You say, ‘a multi-year for something like that?’ Well, yeah. We can probably get 12 for the price of 11.
That’s how multi-years work. The vendor can plan. The vendor can buy in quantity.
But we’ve got to come to grips in the Department of Defense how are we going to address the strategic modernization programs – Ohio replacement followed by the [Air Force’s new bomber]. By the way the nuclear command and control needs to be upgraded. The missile is right behind that. I think we need to take a broader approach to all of that.
Q. The Navy has been torn internally about whether the UCLASS should be primarily an unmanned surveillance or strike system. What do you think it fundamentally needs to be?
A. It was originally designed to go ship to shore. We got the task and requirement from Secretary Gates. The first comeback was give me a Reaper from an aircraft carrier, because we needed the sovereignty at sea to go ashore.
As we started working I said, ‘we could put a decent payload on this thing, a kinetic payload,’ [and also] sensors, because we got smarter about the different sensors. They got lighter. They got smaller. Weapons got a little lighter and still lethal.
If there’s a lot of payload, it won’t go as far. It won’t be nearly as persistent. If you lighten the payload [then you] say, ‘I don’t know if I have enough kinetics to go deep.’ It’s that balance. We in the Navy felt comfortable that we reached the right balance. It was validated by the JROC a number of times, and we said ‘here you go. Let’s ask for a request for proposal and see what industry can give us.’ The Deputy Secretary of Defense said, ‘I want to see how this fits into the broad portfolio of unmanned before we proceed forward.’ That’s what we’re undergoing right now. At the end of this budget cycle we’ll show you where it fits in the whole portfolio.