Sunday, July 15, 2007

Uhhhh..... What Are We Doing?

Widespread Dust - Hi 110 Lo 86 for Baghdad, Iraq
Widespread Dust and Thunderstorms late - Hi 104 Lo 79 for Qandahar, Afghanistan
Scattered Thunderstorms - Hi 86 Lo 66 for Northern KY, USA

Song of the week: It's All Been Done,
Barenaked Ladies - Just two things on BNL. I really enjoy their music, hate their politics.


I believe I have mentioned that I am in military sales. I really love this market -primarily my world revolves around the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Understand this. In the 1980's we had over 600 ships, we now have 273 ships. Ich... that's a little disconcerting, don't you think? We really aren't thinking ahead... Yes, the Navy is working on the DDG1000 (next generation Guided Missile Destroyer), the LCS (smaller combat ship) and the CVNX (new generation carrier) which is all very cool technology, however the cost to manufacture these vessels are extraordinary. Back in the early spring, LCS-3 by Lockheed Martin was canceled after a 90-day work stoppage by the Navy due to going way over budget... and I'm not talking a couple hundred bucks- try $100,000,000.00.

Just this past week Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (Ingalls) was chastised by Navy Secretary Donald Winter on their delinquency of delivering and meeting pricing agreements.

“I am deeply concerned about Northrop Grumman Ship Systems’ (NGSS) ability to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, particularly in regard to construction of LPD 17 Class vessels. I am equally concerned about NGSS’ ability to construct and deliver ships that conform to the quality standards maintained by the Navy and that adhere to the cost and schedule commitments agreed upon at the outset by both NGSS and the Navy.”
Understand this. The DoD budget for the Navy continues to be cut year over year despite the increase in military spending. I fully support spending gobs and gobs of money on our military, but we are basically funding the war at hand and are not focused on anything on the horizon or beyond--- which is NOT good.

Cynthia Brown, President of the American Shipbuilders Association said back in 2004,
“Equally alarming is the fact that the United States is losing the industrial and skill capability to ever rebuild America’s sea power. Over the past decade, naval shipbuilders have eliminated jobs of tens of thousands of highly skilled engineers and manufacturing employees, and are
struggling to maintain their diminished workforce. The number of companies manufacturing critical ship systems and components has been reduced by 60 percent and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost. Today, there remains only one company still in business to make many of each of the critical components essential to a warships operation, and that remaining company is hanging by a thread.”
Understand this. My company is one of those manufacturers hanging by a thread when it comes to manufacturing for the Navy. We are a strong and diversified company and manufacturing for the Navy is one very small percentage of a percentage of what we do. For this particular business we have only one competitor. That's it! One! It doesn't stop there. Our vendors and their competitors have dwindled away as well. In MANY instances there is only one vendor to supply us and our competitor. Naturally prices have gone up because there is no competition and despite the shrinking fleet, demand has gone up, but not enough to sustain another manufacturer entering this business. The cost of raw materials since I have been in this field have gone up over 140%. As a company, we find it harder and harder to stay in this business.

Furthermore, the engineering teams at the governing agencies such as NavSea, NavAir, Naval Underwater Warfare Center (NUWC) and Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) which approve military specifications have dwindled down to a handful of folks. More and more these agencies DEPEND on the manufacturers to provide expert engineering advice. I'm not an expert, and by no means at the top of the ladder within my organization, but having checks and balances on something this critical seems pretty important... but that's just me...

The flip side of this coin is that everyone else on the planet thinks that building a navy with a large @$$ fleet is a good thing. Japan and Taiwan stand out in the crowd as do Israel and Turkey. And of course there is China.........................

Just wanted to offer a little food for thought... I see this every day and my heart grows heavy. I am nervous for our country.

I ask, am I being paranoid??

Navy League
Defense News
American Shipbuilders Association
Navy League - China's Navy Today
PLAN in San Diego

On a different more uplifting note, last week, I was able to help this Army Unit in Iraq! Instant gratification and relieved I could make it happen.

Check out those missile launchers... click on the picture for a better view.

Have a great week everyone!


BlackOps said...

These are some very heavy things to ponder, I wouldnt know where to begin. Its almost like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop between the war, our economy, and the how divided we are in this country on so many things.

btw, I have a cousin that does what you do for Lockheed Martin.

Cathy said...

Here's some more to consider -

China is the largest foreign investor to the United States government.

China has the largest population in the world.

China's Army and Navy are bigger than ours ever was or will be.

And what about the dark sinister underbelly of China? To start, China is said to be funding Iran's military...

Does your cousin like working for Lockheed? I enjoy working with most of the folks I have encountered- especially the engineers.

Heather said...

Someone I know who was working for a while in the shipbuilding industry for a company that has offices in both Germany and the US basically described the state of US shipbuilding as largely being "corporate welfare" at this point. That we simply aren't competing in any meaningful way, and much of the money companies get from the government is as much to keep them afloat as it is to get any kind of meaningful results. It kind of feels reminiscent of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, or something like that---I often wonder if we're on the downslide.

Genevieve said...

The quote about the status of shipbuilding is truly frightening. Thanks for enlightening me. Sadly, I think most of America is obsessed with living the good life and/or imagining that we can have peace by wishing it. I think (and this will sound terrible!) that it will take a nuclear strike in America before the public really supports the building and use of our military defenses.

Best wishes to you in your job in military sales. My husband is a retiree from the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES, aka the PX system.)