It’s been another busy week for the Navy. Here are seven stories in seven minutes from the past seven days that are worthy of notice:
1. Defense Bill passes HASC. This bill has tons of important stuff – far too much to put in this blog. You can check Monday’s edition of Navy Times for the complete scoop. But among the highlights is this news that lawmakers bucked the Pentagon’s 1.4 percent pay raise request, and looks to instead give service members a 1.9 percent boost.
In addition, the bill aligns the 30-year shipbuilding plan with the QDR, which bodes well for the 313-ship Navy. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., and the Seapower committee he chairs, put the following in the bill:
- $5.1 billion to fund two Virginia-class submarines, $1.7 billion for advance procurement of two more subs next year and requirement for certification on the Ohio-class replacement program;
- $949.9 million for LHA-7;
- $3 billion to fully fund (and restart construction of) two DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers;
- $1.5 billion to fully fund two Littoral Combat Ships (variant yet TBD);
- $180.7 million for one Joint High Speed Vessel;
- $380 million to cover remaining construction costs for the first Maritime Landing Platform Vessel
- $2.8 billion for 22 Super Hornets and 12 Growlers, and allowance of a multi-year procurement contract;
- $4.1 billion for 20 Navy and Marine Corps F-35 Joint Strike Fighters;
- $4.6 billion for 100 Navy and Marine Corps rotorcraft.
The committee also fully authorized a $3.1 billion budget request “for Marine Corps procurement with an additional $126 million for unfunded requirements to help protect our Marines during combat operations.”
And just two weeks after Defense Secretary’s questioned whether the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was needed, the committee had this to say: “The Committee continues to support development efforts associated with new Marine Corps ground vehicles, including the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.”
2. Carriers on the move. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group deployed today from Norfolk Naval Station, Va., marking the key event in a busy week for the carrier fleet. The strike group was fully qualified and ready to deploy in October. However, its scheduled deployment was delayed when the carrier Enterprise was seven months late coming out of the yard. The six ships, air wing and 6,000 sailors who comprise the strike group are scheduled for a six-month deployment. It’s their first since November 2008.
After 23 months in the yard – seven months more than planned – Enterprise continues to knock out qualifications in preparation for the ship’s forthcoming 21st deployment. Its flight deck on May 14 became certified and trapped two E-2 Hawkeyes, the first to land onboard since December 2007, according to a Navy release.
On the West Coast, John C. Stennis on Monday started a $137 million, six-month planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash. The carrier will have extensive work on propulsion and aircraft launch and recovery systems, according to the contract. Radar and communications systems will also be upgraded.
Ronald Reagan returned to sea the following day after six months of upgrades, modernizations and maintenance. The work was done at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., the carrier’s homeport.
In the Western Pacific, the forward-deployed George Washington Carrier Strike Group departed Yokosuka, Japan Tuesday to conduct equipment testing and carrier landing qualifications in preparation for an upcoming deployment. This comes on the heels of 213,000 man-days worth of repairs and upgrades the carrier received during a 121-day selective restricted availability period, according to the Navy.
And in the future fleet, Chris Cavas of Defense News reports that engineers are making design changes on Gerald R. Ford to avoid “electrical cable routing issues” that could interfere with some internal arrangements. You can read his story here.
3. Coast Guard leader sticking around, sort of. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen will step down May 25, but has agreed to remain as national incident commander and continue to coordinate the federal response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to this story.
Allen will retire July 1 after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Adm. Robert Papp will replace Allen as commandant.
4. Another skipper fired. After enjoying two quiet months, the Navy saw its eighth skipper canned May 18. Cmdr. Neil Funtanilla, commanding officer of the destroyer The Sullivans, was relieved of command in Manama, Bahrain, after a non-judicial hearing found he was “derelict in the performance of his duties.” His destroyer struck a buoy in the Persian Gulf in March.
Though not fired, Cmdr. Eric Cash was reprimanded last week for being “derelict in the performance of his duties.” He is commander of the amphibious transport dock San Antonio, which lost a sailor at sea last year. You can read about it here.
5. Trouble brewing on the peninsula. No shock here … South Korea officially laid blame on its northern neighbors for the sinking of a corvette. Specifically, the alleged torpedo essentially ripped the 1,200-ton warship in two, and killed dozens.
The South Koreans want justice. North Korea is threatening full war if they are attacked. And the United States, which has 28,500 troops based there, is trying to keep things cool. Indeed, the administration isn’t eager to get into another war, but some see this approach is akin to sitting on a powder keg in Hades and hoping all turns out well.
6. Plebes, arriving! Here we see plebes navigate the low crawl obstacle as they wonder “What did I get myself into?” The event happened during Sea Trials at the Naval Academy on Tuesday. The Navy calls Sea Trials “the capstone training evolution for academy freshmen.” In truth, this is a great mechanism to tell new arrivals to get their heads in the game, because they aren’t in Kansas anymore. Sure, you aced your SATs — but how are you in a combat environment when your body aches, the answers are elusive and some senior with a grudge is shouting payback three years in the making?
And for those with interest in all things academy, we encourage you to take a look at this piece penned by a professor who is calling for change. A LOT of change.
7. And speaking of the academy … Scoop Deck’s own Philip Ewing is breaking news again, being the first to report that star football player Marcus Curry resigned Monday. You may recall his name – unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Many folks cried foul when the academy refused to boot the controversial slotback from the team … or the school … after he popped positive for smoking pot. And that was not his first infraction. You can read all the details in this story.