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The Navy and Technology


Lake explores the organizational culture of the Navy and its approach to war, particularly how an enthusiasm for technology is moderated by its commitment to tradition, its conservatism, and its maritime environment. This chapter focuses on how the culture and priorities of the Navy manifest through its aircraft and ships. Lake analyzes Navy procurement using naval aviation, the DDG-1000 program, and the Littoral Combat Ship program, and shows how the Navy’s embrace of qualitative superiority and the potential offered by new technology have led to the Navy’s current vulnerability to overstretch.

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  • DOI: 10.1057/978-1-349-78681-7_5
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  1. 1.

    Note that the Constitution also requires the US government to “provide and maintain a Navy,” which makes the Navy the only service whose existence is constitutionally required.

  2. 2.

    This is not unique to the Navy. The US military in general seems to decide its “Base Force” (the supposed minimum forces needed for American national security) arbitrarily rather than through any systematic analysis. (Sapolsky et al. 2009b, pp. 3–4)

  3. 3.

    The F-35C and F-18E/F partially address this, but are still too short-ranged for the carrier to operate outside the range of shore-launched missiles.

  4. 4.

    For more on the importance of pilot training for combat effectiveness, see Sprey (1982).

  5. 5.

    CPFH for the F-35A, a plane that is probably cheaper to operate than the F-35C, was around $42,000 in 2015. That is more than double the CPFH of the F-16, and half again as much as for the F-15E (Drew 2016).

  6. 6.

    An automated weapons command-and-control system that uses a sophisticated radar system to track large numbers of targets including cruise missiles, aircraft, and ballistic missiles, and automatically engage them with the ship’s weapons.

  7. 7.

    The Navy concluded that the DDG-51 was capable of performing the desired missions and that by procuring DDG-51s instead of DDG-1000s it would be able to procure more ships at the same cost (O’Rourke 2015, p. 1, fn 5). The possibility this would happen was already apparent while it was still the DD(X) program (Pine 2006).

  8. 8.

    Small Surface Combatants such as the Littoral Combat Ship and frigates are the subject of the next section.

  9. 9.

    The Arsenal Ship was not part of the original SC-21 program but was championed by then-Chief of Naval Operations Jeremy Boorda until his suicide in May, 1996 (O’Rourke 2010, p. 1, 2015, p. 26).

  10. 10.

    Tumblehome hulls flare inward rather than the conventional outward as they rise upward from the waterline.

  11. 11.

    In 2010 the DDG-1000 program experienced a “Nunn-McCurdy breach,” which is when the program unit cost exceeds projections by enough that the DOD must halt the program until it certifies that the program is essential to national security and that there are no alternatives that will provide acceptable capability at lesser cost (O’Rourke 2015, 29; United States Government Accountability Office 2008a).

  12. 12.

    According to the Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 the confidence level for cost estimates is supposed to exceed 80% and if it does not, the lower confidence level needs to be justified. (Freedberg 2013; United States Government Accountability Office 2010, pp. 13–14)

  13. 13.

    The high operations and support costs for the LCS class have been well known for a long time (see United States Government Accountability Office 2014b, pp. 20, 23–26).

  14. 14.

    Using a clean-sheet design approach could delay procurement of the first ship until 2023.

  15. 15.

    The first ship in a new class typically costs much more, because the Navy’s practice is to assign all of the “detailed design/nonrecurring engineering” costs to that ship.

  16. 16.

    The Congressional Budget Office has found that the Navy consistently underestimates the cost of procuring new ships, in part because of the way the Navy calculates inflation (see also Congress of the United States: Congressional Budget Office 2013).


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Correspondence to Daniel R. Lake .

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Lake, D.R. (2019). The Navy and Technology. In: The Pursuit of Technological Superiority and the Shrinking American Military. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-33062-8

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