Leadership: March 5, 2004

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The U.S. Navy is going robotic in a big way, even to the extent that it is shrinking the number of sailors even while  the number of warships grows. This should be no surprise, as the navy has long been talking about new classes of warships with crews more than 60 percent smaller than in current ships. But the navy is also shrinking the size of current crews by reorganizing the workload (something long overdue) and installing more labor saving devices. Next year, the navy expects to have 7,900 fewer people, and the $254 million saved will go towards buying more new ships. In the next five years, the navy expects to cut it's personnel strength by 50,000.

At the same time, more people want to join the navy, and stay in once they get in. So standards have been going up for new recruits and people who want to make it a career. This has produced the best educated force of sailors and officers the navy has ever had and made it possible to quickly introduce the changes that are lowering the personnel size of the fleet. 

The navy spends about 31 percent of its budget for personnel. There are 960,000 people working for the navy (active duty, reserve and civilians), and the plan is to cut 10-20 percent of that so the fleet can be increased from 292 to 375 ships. Most of the new ships will be the DD(X) class destroyers at $1.4 billion each and the LCS ships at $250 million each. Both classes of warship will have crews of fewer than a hundred sailors. The LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) is actually the new "destroyer" class ship and is the one truly original 21st century design. Highly automated, and using many robotic combat systems, the LCS won't be completely accepted until it has proven itself in actual combat. That could take a long time, as you can schedule testing, but you can't schedule naval battles. 

 


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