ARLINGTON – The Navy’s top shipbuilding officer the service needs to focus on speeding delivery of new ships to the fleet, he said on Thursday.
The service and industry “need to look for areas where we can speed decision-making,” Vice Adm. Bill Galinis, who heads the Naval Sea Systems Command, said at the National Defense Industrial Association Expeditionary Warfare Conference.
For the Navy, reducing the time for shipbuilding lies in the design phase. In the yard, “how do learn from ship-to-ship” in how to hold down costs and increase the construction pace, he asked rhetorically.
Agility is a must to meet the challenges posed by China and its threats to invade self-governing Taiwan in the near future.
“The Davidson window is closing,” he said referring to testimony from now-retired Adm. Phil Davidson that Beijing could launch an attack as early as 2027.
“Measure twice; cut once” is still the mark to produce quality and hold costs in check, but the Navy needs to identify the places that can move the process along more quickly, Galinis said. Reducing change-work orders from the Navy to the shipyard was one example he used.
“We know how to do this [work more quickly and meet requirements]” with a “clear demand signal” for what’s needed, he said. In addition to the design phase speed, adopting an evolutionary approach on systems would also help.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s evolution over decades has proven to be a success story “with its continuous upgrades of combat systems,” Galinis said.
“Few of us believed we would still be briefing DDG-51 in 2023,” he said.
USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) was commissioned in 1989 as a guided missile destroyer. USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), the first of the Flight III build, is set to be delivered soon.
Galinis acknowledged when threats change, as they did in the mid-1990s, designs for classes of ships like Littoral Combat Ship and DDG 1000, “haven’t played out as we anticipated.” The Navy is looking for new purposes for LCS instead of scrapping them. The DDG 1000 class USS Zumwalt will be used to test fire a Navy hypersonic missile in 2025. That class was capped at three destroyers.
Galinis said at the NDIA event, there “needs to be a better balance between acquisition costs and sustainment costs” when building new classes of ships that more accurately reflect what impact these ships will have on Navy budgets over decades.
On the San Antonio-class landing platform docks “we took our lumps” early on referring to delays and rising costs, but “it turned out well over time, Galinis said.
Fincantieri Marinette Marine, in Wisconsin, “has got a pretty steep hill to climb” in producing the Navy’s new Constellation-class frigates. He added they “are working with a proven design.” On Landing Ships, Medium, “we’ve got to get the requirement right” for the vessel “to operate close to shore in a contested environment.
“We’re going to continue to build ships, ship classes,” he said.
“What we’re seeing are more C4ISR command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] systems and combat systems” being added to new platforms. Galinis added there’s “a strong linkage” between his command and Project Overmatch in construction design.
Equipment requirements for Marines under Force Design 2030 face a range of challenges from logistics for a dispersed force to resilient, secure communications needs in an environment complicated by electronic warfare’s impact on systems and salt-water corrosion, Brig. Gen. David Walsh said.
The top Marine at its System Command added “we can expected to be quickly targeted,” so these requirements need to be addressed speedily.
Logistics “allows us mobility,” but “it also has to be easy to maintain” so Marines come quickly from spot to spot and not carry long trains of spare parts. Walsh said real challenges exist in transporting water and fuel for forces on the move. C-130s and heavy lift helicopters help in that regard.
Sensors in that contested environment also have to be able to provide targeting information for strike from Marines and also to the joint force and partners.
Marines need to be able to “shoot, move, communicate.” On the “shoot” requirement for the littoral regiment, he cited the Corps’ NMESIS [Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System] anti-ship missile, mounted on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle [JLTV] as likely filling that gap. This was an example “of innovation without relatively heavy S&T work.” Production is expected to begin soon.
Walsh stressed that in new ground vehicles they need to remain light, weighing less than the JLTV. “Put more capabilities on these platforms puts more weight on the vehicle” and slows them down, he said.
Walsh added the Marines are also taking lessons learned from the United Kingdom’s Royal Commandos on advances they have made in small boats “for logistics, maneuver and fires.”
“The more gear we have forward [the] better off our Marines will be,” he said.
The military services rely on the U.S. defense industrial base and the industrial base of American allies and partners to meet those requirements.
“Right now speed is really important,” he said.