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Navy taking steps to move toward irregular warfare

Defense secretary Robert Gates has called for 55 Littoral Combat Ships, which are designed to operate in shallow, or littoral, waters. “The littoral areas, I believe, are going to become increasingly important. We currently have about 70 percent of the world’s population that lives within about a 100- to 200-mile band along the coasts,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations.

COURTESY OF THE U.S. NAVY

By KEVIN BARON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 7, 2009

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon wants a 6.1 percent budget increase for the Navy to build eight new ships next year.

The ship buy, coupled with cuts to other programs, Pentagon budget officials said Thursday, is designed to help restructure the military with a better "balance" toward handling contemporary threats, and to squash the department’s legendary out-of-control spending, per Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ directive.

"A balance between competing priorities, balance between the right mix for addressing such issues as conventional vs. irregular warfare, balance between addressing current events and anticipating future events," said Adm. Terry Blake, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy.

Next year’s budget would pay for three new shallow-water capable Littoral Combat Ships, which Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, last week said was "extraordinarily important to the future of the Navy and the nation."

The budget also would continue expansion of the fleet of nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines and aircraft carriers.

This would be the 12th Virginia-class submarine.

The budget also calls for the purchase of a third and final DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer, ending that line of ship as expected, and restarting the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyer, the budget for which would rise from $199 million to $2.241 billion.

Additional increases would convert six Aegis ships with upgraded missile defenses by fiscal 2015.

But the Pentagon delayed the CG(X) program, known as the "next-generation cruiser" to replace the Ticonderoga-class ship.

The Pentagon said it did not lay out spending estimates for any years beyond 2010 in deference to this summer’s Quadrennial Defense Review, a strategic guideline used by defense appropriators.

And officials would not say whether the Navy intended to stick with its goal of a 313-ship fleet, as was put forth in last year’s 30-year plan delivered to Congress.

The Navy said it was holding its planned reduction of end-strength at 328,000 servicemembers.

Gates has called for 55 copies of the LCS, which is designed to operate in shallow, or littoral, waters.

And Roughead, in a speech last week at CSIS, said, "I predict when it is all said and done that they will be the workhorses of the fleet, and that the LCS will have a thousand fathers."

"The littoral areas, I believe, are going to become increasingly important. We currently have about 70 percent of the world’s population that lives within about a 100- to 200-mile band along the coasts," he said.

Critics have said the Navy’s continued purchases of aircraft carriers and submarines add to an oversized Cold War-era force that has grown unnecessarily bigger than the rest of the world’s naval fleets combined.

But Roughead said last week that in early phases of Operation Enduring Freedom, 80 percent of sorties came off of aircraft carriers. And as for subs, he said, "If you’ve played chess, a nuclear submarine is the invisible queen."


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