Navy Re-Engineers to Meet Budget, Operational Challenges

February 12, 2009
By Henry Kenyon

Panelists offering "straight talk from the warfighter" include (r-l) panel moderator Col. Robert Work, USMC (Ret.); Vice Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline, USN; Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, USMC; Rear Adm. Michael C. Bachmann, USN; and Capt. Pete Gumataotao, USN.

The U.S. Navy must re-invent, re-set and re-design to meet its mission challenges in the face of anticipated defense budget cuts, said panelists presenting "straight talk from warfare commanders." This re-engineering must include new technologies to improve system efficiencies; increased training and simulation; and improved acquisition processes.

Contradicting a previous panel which suggested that the United States should continue to spend about 4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, Col. Robert Work, USMC (Ret.), vice president, strategic studies, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, declared that an unachievable goal. Not only will defense budgets face cuts because of the current economic environment, pegging defense spending at 4 percent of the GDP would add another trillion dollars to the national debt.

Rear Adm. Michael C. Bachmann, USN, commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, chimed in that information technology is a growth area amid declining budgets. He noted that several systems under development or being deployed are drawing interest from non-Defense Department customers. Maritime domain awareness in particular is at the forefront, he declared.

Capt. Pete Gumataotao, former captain of the USS Decatur, said the littoral combat ship (LCS) as a top priority for the Navy. He described the versatile vessel as "a new way" for the Navy.

New technology also is at the heart of re-engineering efforts for Naval Air Forces (NAVAIR). Vice Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline, USN, NAVAIR commander, described how the tailless unmanned combat aerial vehicle that the Navy is testing offers both challenges and opportunities. "We will have that aircraft for our carriers," he declared.

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