US Navy CNO vows bold steps to improve efficiency

* Focus on affordability, accountability

* Sees 313 ships as minimum needed

* More arms sales, international cooperation deals

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. Navy’s top
uniformed officer vowed to take bold steps to improve the
efficiency of naval operations and make hard decisions to buy
weapons that are truly needed — not just desired.

“There is no option,” Chief of Naval Operations Gary
Roughead said on Monday in a 15-page annual guidance document
that mapped out his priorities. “We will question every
requirement and only develop those capabilities we need, not
just want.”

Roughead underscored the Navy’s commitment to winning the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where 14,500 sailors are deployed
on the ground, and another 12,000 support operations offshore.

As the United States draws down ground forces in that
region, he said it would also be increasingly important to
maintain a strong naval presence, especially in the western
Pacific and Indian Ocean, areas vital to shipping and trade.

Defense contractors like Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N: ),
General Dynamics Corp (GD.N: ), and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: ),
are awaiting for news from the Navy and other military services
about their future weapons spending plans.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has launched a drive to cut
$100 billion in overhead and low priority programs over the
next five years, to ensure that overall defense spending can
continue to grow by 1 percent after inflation. But many
analysts and industry executives fear a decline may be in the
offing.

Roughead said the Navy would focus on five key areas:

* continuing as the dominant naval force in the world and
ensuring that limited resources are invested appropriately

* reaching appropriate force structure based on a
shipbuilding plan that envisions building the current fleet
from 288 ships to a minimum of 313, and a peak of 320 ships by
2024, and cuts overhead and unneeded infrastructure

* further work to improve the security of naval computer
networks, with an eye to using “information as warfare”

* accountability and affordability in acquisition
processes, looking at total ownership costs, common ship hulls
and airframes, lower energy use and reduced manpower

* greater emphasis on cooperative agreements with foreign
allies and nongovernmental organizations, and support for arms
sales to improve the capabilities of partner navies.

Roughead gave no details on specific Navy or Marine Corps
programs that could be cut as a result of the fiscal 2012
budget process, but said the U.S. military clearly faced great
challenges in the current economic environment.

“As I look to the future, I see continued disorder in the
global security environment, a slow economic recovery, and
increasing demand on our Navy,” he said, saying naval costs had
never been greater and continued to rise.

Many analysts expect the Pentagon’s fiscal 2012 budget, to
be released in early February, to scrap the Expeditionary
Fighting Vehicle being developed by General Dynamics.

Roughead did not mention the program by name, but
underscored his commitment to working closely with the Marine
Corps, whose funding falls under the larger Navy budget, and
helping the Marines get back into more amphibious warfare.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

US Navy CNO vows bold steps to improve efficiency