A New Norm, and NOT a good one…

This will be the lead article in the Navy Times for 5 Dec, and the  KEY takeaway is this is BEFORE the additional $600B in cuts hit the military…

Cuts in the numbers of ships, airplanes, submarines, personnel, etc. with more to come, but NO reduction in the required ‘presence’ the Navy has to maintain world-wide…

For years the Navy has attempted to maintain OPTEMPO/PERSTEMPO roughly in a 50/50 balance that gives folks time off and time to perform maintenance on the equipment during at home cycles, but that will go out the window as you will read below.  Mr. McMichael has done an outstanding job with this article.

The New Norm: Longer Tours

With fewer ships, high demand, 6-month deployments are history

By William H. McMichael

You could practically set a clock by it. Navy and Marine Corps overseas deployments lasted six months.

But 9/11 changed all that — as did the greater flexibility called for in the 2003 Fleet Response Plan and a 2007 policy change that set the maximum deployment length at seven months for units with a single deployment within an FRP cycle.

A total of 10 carrier strike groups or amphibious ready groups have exceeded seven months over the past five years. The latest is the amphibious assault ship Bataan, the amphibious transport dock ship Mesa Verde and the dock landing ship Whidbey Island, which will have been gone 10½ months when their ARG returns to Norfolk in February, officials have confirmed.

That goes for the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well. “They’re on for the whole time,” confirmed Capt. Greg Wolf, a Marine spokesman.

Officials say it’s an anomaly, noting that Bataan deployed three months early to provide relief to the Kearsarge, which was launching airstrikes over Libya.

Long cruises, however, seem to be becoming a habit. The destroyer Roosevelt, an independent deployer to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations, returned Nov. 6 to Mayport, Fla. It spent 200 of its 213 days underway and at one point pulled 113 straight days at sea. The ship did make three port visits, the Navy said.

Meanwhile, say goodbye to the carrier Carl Vinson, Carrier Air Wing 17 and the cruiser Bunker Hill, all setting sail Nov. 30, a mere 5½ months after returning to Naval Station North Island, Calif., from a 6½-month deployment that included supporting the takedown and at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden. Vinson will violate the Navy’s goal of spending at least as much time at home as spent at sea during the previous deployment.

The pressure is clearly on.

The busy pace — atop the Navy’s mounting budget pressures and a maintenance backlog — raises the question: Are longer deployments and short turnarounds the new norm?

“No,” Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. John Fage said. “Here’s the analogy. You go into your 9-to-5 job. At 4:30, the boss comes along and says, hey, I know it’s 4:30 and I hate to ask, but we’re really busy today; I need you to stay a couple hours late. It’s the same thing. Our sailors are going to go out there, and they’re going to get the job done.

“We flex to meet emergent requirements,” he said.

A Marine Corps spokesman didn’t deny that longer cruises are in the cards, but said it’s too early to make such a pronouncement.

“Given their capability and flexibility, it’s no wonder that the demand signal for ARG-MEUs is strong,” said Marine Corps media officer Capt. Greg Wolf. “But to say that longer floats are the ‘new norm’ would be speculation at this point.” Behind the brave faces, however, the Navy, at least, is deeply concerned.

The Navy is “desperately trying to come up with some kind of rationale that will explain … why we’re going to be riding them hard and putting them away wet,” said a Washington-based senior naval analyst familiar with fleet planning who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I’ve heard concern about material readiness,” the analyst said. “Availabilities will be missed, simply because they’ve got to turn ships around. Crews are going to be turned around. There are already some situations of cross-decking of people from one ship to another — when they come back from deployment, turning around and going back out within a relatively short period of time. They just don’t have the skilled and trained people in the fleet to be able to man the ships. There are some real concerns.”

It’s why the Navy has announced plans to forward-deploy four destroyers to Rota, Spain, is negotiating sending littoral combat ships to Singapore and is discussing the basing of additional attack submarines in Guam, the analyst said.

“It’s the Navy realizing that the demand signal is still very strong, and they just don’t have the resources to do it,” he said.

No one in uniform is admitting that yet. The chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told Navy Times that the demand for naval forces is “unlikely” to go away. Greenert gave no indication that he’s pushing back against some of those demands but said if it gets to the point where the Navy finds itself in a “continuing surge” environment, “We’ll wear out the ships and people.”

The commander of Fleet Forces Command agreed, but with stronger language. “We need to take care of our ships and sailors and Marines and make sure that in the future we have the force we need,” Adm. John Harvey told attendees at a joint war-fighting conference earlier this year. “Perhaps that means saying no to things today so we have the wherewithal to have the forces we need tomorrow.”

Fage, however, said that the Navy is “going to continue meeting current demands while still planning and posturing for whatever may happen in the future in those emergent requirements.”

How the Navy will respond to those requirements, he said, “is going to be dependent on a lot of different factors, including available platforms and capabilities.”

Navy ships and squadrons took on a far more nimble readiness posture with adoption of the Fleet Response Plan, which called for the ability to “surge” three carriers atop three already deployed — along with the ships in their strike groups — within 30 days and another within 90 days.

The Navy hasn’t pulled off a full-scale surge as envisioned by FRP since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But carrier strike groups are in heavy demand. And they’re spending a lot of time at sea.

The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group was deployed 223 days in 2008 and 2009. The Nimitz group clocked 239 days in 2009 and 2010. The Harry S. Truman group was gone 214 days in 2010. If Vinson spends only 6½ months at sea this time out, it will have been on deployment 13 out of the previous 18½ months.

Nimitz and Truman were extended because of a delay in completing repairs to the carrier Enterprise, celebrating its 50th birthday and making its final cruise in 2012. Its retirement will leave the Navy with 10 operational carriers until the Gerald R. Ford comes on line — a 33-month gap. And if budget pressures drive the Navy to reduce that 11-carrier fleet to 10 — high-level sources tell Navy Times the Navy might opt not to refuel the Japan-based carrier George Washington in 2016 and remove it from the fleet — and no adjustment is made in carrier presence requirements, longer deployments will continue.

The Navy currently meets Central Command’s requirement that two carrier groups be on station in the region 70 percent of the time. This “ensures the U.S. military has additional naval and air capabilities to support operational requirements, while adequately meeting other security commitments in the region,” according to 5th Fleet.

Citing operational security, no one’s saying whether that could change. CENTCOM is “continuously looking at requirements in the area of responsibility and analyzing the forces required to fill those needs,” 5th Fleet said.

What’s driving that demand is anyone’s guess. Naval analyst Norman Polmar thinks it could be a signal to a potential adversary.

“Right now, there’s concern for a number of areas in the world, and it’s increasing — especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, of course,” Polmar said. “But is this somehow a signal to Iran that, hey, we may be pulling out of Afghanistan … but man, the U.S. military is still there and ready to beat your ass any day of the week?”

Or, Polmar said, combatant commanders could be driving the Navy so the Navy can make the case, in the wake of two ground-centric wars and strong sentiment to cut military spending, that it remains a vital national asset that needs proper funding.

Whatever the reason, demand remains high in the amphibious fleet as well. The numbers tell the story.

Bataan’s 2009 cruise lasted 210 days — just shy of seven months. The pace didn’t let up. Thirty-four days later, Bataan and the 22nd MEU got underway to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support to earthquake-stricken Haiti.

That deployment lasted 10 weeks. Four months of ship maintenance began in August 2010, followed by at-sea training — and the current deployment, which started months ahead of schedule. While it is unclear when crew members and their families learned how long the Bataan ARG would be away, the Facebook page of the lead ship offers hints.

A June 9 post offered short-sleeve T-shirts commemorating the ship’s 2011 deployment as a fundraiser for the family readiness group. On Nov. 8, a new shirt was offered for sale. It was long-sleeved, acknowledging the approach of cold weather. And the words on the front had morphed into “Deployment 2011/2012.”

Kearsarge and the 26th MEU, which left a month early to provide humanitarian relief to a rain-flooded Pakistan, were gone 260 days — the Navy’s fourth-highest total since 9/11. That was a day less than Boxer logged from Sept. 13, 2006, to May 31, 2007. Two other ARGs also pulled lengthy deployments in recent years: Iwo Jima, with 214 days in 2008 and 2009, and Bonhomme Richard for 224 days in 2007.

Less than five years ago, the Navy had 12 amphibious assault ships. But it has since decommissioned three of them: Saipan, Tarawa and Nassau. With Wasp dedicated to supporting tests of the Marine Corps’ joint strike fighter variant, that leaves eight to choose from.

Also, Peleliu is scheduled to go away in three years.

Meanwhile, the newest amphibious assault ship, America, won’t be delivered until fiscal 2014, and won’t be ready to deploy for perhaps another two years. The Corps wants the Navy to delay Peleliu’s demise until America is ready.

The Navy has a goal of 33 amphibious ships but falls short through 2016, according to a 2011 Congressional Budget Office study; it currently has 28. The goal also falls well short of the Marine Corps’ goal of 38 — what the Marines and Navy say would be required to pull off a wartime amphibious assault with two Marine expeditionary brigades, according to CBO.

CBO says the Navy will have enough amphibs to meet peacetime goals for overseas presence for the next 30 years similar to the presence it provided in 2007. More important to the defense of the nation, CBO projects that the Navy’s 2012 plan does not provide enough amphibs for the Corps to prepare and train for all the missions it might be called upon to perform over the next three decades.

About 30 percent of the force is deployed overseas at any given time, according to CBO. In 2007, combatant commanders requested nine amphibs, a request that could be met without strain.

By 2010, COCOMs, asked how many they would require in an unconstrained financial environment, said they’d need 18 amphibs. Meeting this request, CBO said, “would substantially increase deployment time and reduce time in ships’ home ports.”

For a given ship, over the typical 27-month operating cycle, deployment time would more than double — from 26 to 62 weeks. Time in home port would fall from 57 percent to 36 percent, “well short of the Navy’s goal of 50 percent,” CBO said.

The Navy already comes up short in terms of meeting the Corps’ shipboard training needs. According to CBO, Navy amphibs were able to meet only 57 percent of such needs in 2010. In January and February, the Navy and the Corps will conduct Bold Alligator off the Atlantic coast. It will be the first large-scale amphibious training the Corps has been able to conduct in more than 10 years, according to CBO. The goal, according to Fleet Forces Command, is to “revitalize Navy/Marine Corps amphibious expeditionary tactics, techniques and procedures” and to reinvigorate their joint training culture.

The Navy’s 28 amphibs include nine amphibious assault ships, seven amphibious transport docks and 12 dock landing ships. An ARG typically includes one of each.

The demand for ARGs raises the question of whether other ships or at least fewer ships could perform the missions set by combatant commanders. That would require detailed knowledge of Bataan’s activities; 5th Fleet officials said only that the group, which arrived in its area of operations Aug. 13, has been conducting the standard ARG missions: maritime security operations, theater security cooperation engagements, and standing by as U.S. Central Command’s theater reserve force.

Elsewhere in the fleet, potential deployment pressure comes as the Navy ramps up the ballistic missile defense mission and boosts the number of BMD-capable AEGIS ships from 23 to 41 by end of fiscal 2016. It’s not yet known whether those ships will be dedicated solely to the BMD mission or will answer other requirements as well.

In addition, the attack submarine force is slowly shrinking. But officials say sub deployments won’t increase in length save for rare occasions.

The Navy’s top submarine operator, Vice Adm. John Richardson, told Navy Times that submarines “very, very seldom” deploy beyond the norm. For attack submarines, that remains six months, while ballistic missile subs are on patrol for an average of 77 days, according to spokeswoman Cmdr. Monica Rousselow. About 10 percent are “sometimes extended” due to operations or maintenance requirements elsewhere, she said.

The Navy’s stated goal is to maintain a fleet of 48 attack subs and should be able to do so through 2024 under its fiscal 2011 procurement plan, according to Ron O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service.

The overall Navy fleet could easily shrink further. “It’s going to get even worse,” said the Washington-based senior naval analyst. “I’ve seen internal documents that say, OK, what can we do with a 280-ship Navy, what can we do with a 240-ship Navy? And one even said, what if we get down to 180? What’s going to be left and what can we do? And the answer is, not a whole lot.”

As a result, he said, “I think the new normal is a much higher personnel tempo that we’ve seen since the Vietnam War. … These are tough times for the Navy.”

Welcome to a hollow military… and prepare for it to get worse… dammit…


A New Norm, and NOT a good one… — 24 Comments

  1. Okay, I read it … and it reminds me why I used to cuss.

    I spent 18 months in a forward-deployed DESRON in the Med, back in the early ’70s, but we weren’t underway as much as the current forces.

    No matter which way they slice this, it’s still gonna suck.

  2. OUCH!
    I almost went to work on the Boeing SBX after I got laid-off from Sea Launch, but the thought of being gone 6 months at-a-crack wasn’t too appealing.
    Guess I’ll just have to say a few extra prayers for our military people and their families….

  3. With any luck (and given the way some people talk, it is luck), we might have another person elected in about a year that will change this.

  4. The chicoms are expanding their naval and air forces, and enhancing their anti-ship missile capabilities.

    Piracy is increasing in the Indian Ocean.

    We are facing continued threats in the mid-east and Africa.

    And our response is to reduce the size of our Navy and other armed forces.

    God help us…

  5. The choice is going to have to be whether to strengthen the fleet, the MEU’s, and the rest of the armed forces to an end strength that can handle the optempo, or cut the optempo. There just isn’t any other way to do this without wearing out an already well-used force.

  6. Yep “Teh One” has been systematically destroying our country from within, just as the Reds always said they would.
    He was bought and paid for by funds from all over the world, and now he’s paying them back.

  7. I will be curious how this affects my former units with the turn-around time.

    When I got out a Carrier or Amphib group would do a six to eight-month workup for a six-month deployment. Conversely, an EOD or SEAL unit who would be attached to them would do a two year workup for that same deployment – only attaching to the Battle Group for the last bit of the cycle. Given the number of schools, training issues etc. there was no reasonable way to do it otherwise.

    Now, not counting the increased workload the guys are seeing on the ground, you’re going to turn the battle group around even faster? I am curious how the Special Operations side of the house is going to meet this need.

  8. I think that SPECOPS will be exempt. Technically, they report to JSOC, a joint Army command, even though they’re part of the (world’s finest) Navy.

    And with this increased tempo, there will come a time when the dry dock needs will come home to roost. The more you use them, the faster they wear out. (cause and effect)

  9. Once in a great while I’ll read the free post newspaper that gets thrown on my lawn every once in awhile. There have been elegantly-worded statements from generals talking about how “the Army needs how to learn to do more with less” and the like.

    My husband is supposed to ETS in the fall of 2014. Since he’s a reservist on active duty, we’re just WAITING for the axe to fall right now, and he’s doing everything he can to stay in until his ETS date.

  10. By the time 2016 rolls around, the personnel and equipment of out armed services will be worn out. The ships, tanks, rifles, airplanes, trucks, and all the ancillary equipment will need to be replaced and the men will worn out or getting out.

    Is there anything about it that doesn’t seemed planned?

    The question is who and why, and what would we do if we then had to face an actual war with an enemy that had a navy and an army. Like some hypothetical country that was doing development on aircraft carriers and new planes.

  11. One major problem is deploying to Show The Glag, if the only thing the military did after training in our backyard was going somnewhere to bring death and destruction under a declaration of War and we were there for the duration (only until peace is declared) then back for refit and retraining – IF – then it would be good. But that isn’t what “They” want.

  12. 118 beats the 89 days out the The Rosevelt did in 93 enforcing the no fly zone over Bosnia.

    More draw downs…. Déjà vu.

  13. Question: When did it become our job to fight the rest of the worlds battles for them?

    We are the patsy of the rest of the world.

    We need to pull back anf rebuild ‘our’ strength. Secure our on damn borders, get our own damn house in order, before we start dictating to the rest of the world. I’m not even sure if we can keep ourselves from collapsing let alone the rest of the world.

    I’m not an isolationist as I do believe we meed to stomp on current immediate threats like Iran’s nuculare program, and keep our promises in Afghanistan.

    Why is it we are worried about China and they spend a 3rd what we do?

    “Restructure JSF. The fiscal 2012 budget request includes $9.7 billion to continue implementing the long-term acquisition plan for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and supports continued development and production of three variants. Due to cost and development problems, the JSF program has been restructured for fiscal 2012, adding more than $4 billion over the future years defense program for system design and development and limiting procurement to 32 aircraft. Also, because of technical issues, the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) model has been placed on probation for two years, pending further successful development. To compensate for unanticipated JSF delays, DoD plans to procure an additional 41 F/A-18s in the fiscal 2012- 2016 timeframe.” – WTF about the time it goes into prodiction, if ever it will be out dated. F-22 anyone? We can still kick the shit out of 99% of the worlds armor just with the A-10 Thunderbolt II.




  14. “Long-Range Strike (LRS) Family of Systems (FoS). The fiscal 2012 budget includes funding to begin development of a new bomber able to operate effectively in future threat environments. The new bomber will be the key element of a long-range strike family of systems portfolio for power projection. The new aircraft would augment and eventually replace the nation’s current bomber fleet. It would be long-range, carry precision-guided conventional weapons, and be nuclear-capable. It would also be optionally manned which will provide enhanced mission flexibility.” – Why do we need forward air bases? Or, forward deploded troups anywhere for that matter?
    Cost would go down and quality of life would go up, if our troups were housed at home. We could man a ready force for any out breaks any where in the world.
    Why do we still have troups in Germany, South Korea? Why are we effectively still Japans military?

    Effectively we get to spend are hard eard tax dollars on our military so other contries don’t have to.

    F’the rest of thr world if they can’t learn to defend themselves.

    My 2 cents,

  15. Rev- It’s backkkk… dammit

    WSF- Concur

    drjim- Ouch is right.

    Keads- concur

    Andy- that would help, and getting control of the government back would help too…

    Tim- Yep!

    DB- You and I both know OPTEMPO is NOT getting cut…

    drjim- Can’t disagree… sigh

    Capt/LL- Good question and good answer, SOCOM will be exempted, but the impact will be less support to the Fleet due to lack of bodies and required training… Figure more ‘dets’ to support u/w ops, then dropping off and picking up the next unit.

    MM- That is the other side of the coin, which is NOT getting any play inside the beltway… Hope he can hang on!

    ASM- Bingo…

    Earl- Good point, now days the ‘Show the Flag’ trips have turned into extended combat deployments…

    JOsh- All good points, but we DO need to re-equip, as the current state of the force is ‘hurting’. Everything from rifles to tanks to airplanes to ships need upkeep/SLEP/rebuild NOW…

  16. Speaking only towards my old part of the Fleet, I think its time to pull a SLEP on all the Los Angeles Boats, (instead of Scrapping them), do the same for the Ohio Class Boomers, and have the Fasties do “Blue and Gold” crews. Realistically, there isn’t much enemy ASW out there that threatens them, and as long as you want to keep launching Tomahawks for “Gun Boat Diplomacy”, you need the Boats to do so.

    As why it takes 6-8 years to launch a Proven Design, well, Nimitz must be doing 60,000 RPMs in his Grave!

  17. Josh- Talk to the Administration, THEY are the ones that have us spread far and wide…

    Les- True, but you’ve got to remember they do ‘time out’ just like the Big E is…

    Josh- Again no disagreement, but the other services would pitch a bitch, and so would the Congresscritters with jobs in their districts…

  18. Shrinking the military is an “easy-out” because it will not lose nearly as many votes as cutting entitlement programs will. But in this day and age, not a good idea.