The DDG-1000 is the Navy's biggest, baddest, most expensive, most technologically-advanced destroyer, ever. But the service's chiefs don't seem particularly eager to defend it against Congressional critics. The admirals may not even want the so-called "Zumwalt" ship, Christopher Cavas writes in today's Defense News.
The Navy has never articulated a simple and forceful argument explaining the need for the Zumwalt-class ships, under development for more than a decade. Many officers remain confused about the destroyer's abilities and intended use.
"I certainly haven't seen a vigorous defense mounted," said one veteran retired officer. "The position papers are out there to support the ship, but nobody's standing up for it."
Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark "generally described DDG-1000 as a technology driver for the fleet," Defense News adds. Both of his successors, Adm. Mike Mullen and Roughead, who like Clark were surface officers, similarly offered only lukewarm support."
"Roughead is killing the ship by not advocating its specific capabilities," the veteran officer declared.
The DDG 1000 program manager, a captain, is trying to stir up support with a little-used, capabilities-based presentation dating from mid-2005. But he's getting little active support from the admirals - a fact noted on the Hill.
"That effort should be coming from the requirements flag officers," said one senior congressional staffer...
The Navy's insistence on calling these huge, expensive vessels "destroyers" also rankles critics, including likely Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The former naval aviator has noted that the Zumwalts, intended to fight in coastal waters and pound ground targets with 155mm guns, have very different roles than existing destroyers - and certainly have un-destroyer-like price tags.
"I've never heard of a $3 billion destroyer," McCain has said on several occasions.
The current plan to build seven ships also works against the service, which originally wanted 32 new destroyers.
"Seven of anything is nothing, not after you wanted 32," said House Seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., following a hearing in March. "Seven tells me they don't want it."