WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy will talk to the private sector as part of a strategic readiness review amid questions raised about operational capabilities after two fatal collisions this summer, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said Wednesday.
Spencer’s remarks were made at the Defense News Conference on Wednesday, where he made a brief statement about the current and future Navy.
Spencer, who was sworn in nearly a month ago, said the strategic review will have a higher-level, organizational focus, while Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s ordered review will assess the more tactical, day-to-day practices.
As part of the higher-level look, the Navy will explore how certain industries have dealt with disasters.
BP, Crowley Maritime and other private sector organizations that have experience with disasters will be tapped, Spencer said.
“Best practices for people who come out the other side,” he said.
“We’re going to learn from those events,” he said of the fatal collisions involving the destroyers Fitzgerald and McCain this summer.
The disasters have raised questions about the command’s readiness, maintenance and training, as well as the prospect that 7th Fleet’s issues could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“West Pacific is the pointy end of the spear, but it’s also the most brittle,” Jerry Hendrix, a senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security think tank said during the conference.
These reviews come in a changing world, at a time when the Navy has its fewest ships since 1960, even as responsibilities increase, Spencer said.
While sailors and Marines do more with less every day, making that more of the norm will hinder retention and further burden the troops, Spencer said.
“We cannot stifle our sailors and Marines’s can-do spirit,” he said.
Growing the fleet will involve getting the right mix of frigates and littoral combat ships, as well as looking at unconventional ideas like reactivating some Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, Spencer said.
The reality of keeping an average of 85 to 100 ships forward deployed, all while shoring up deficiencies, puts the Navy between “a rock and a hard place, where we are beginning to see fracturing and breakdown in the fleet structure,” Hendrix said.