From a floating city to a floating village?

Navy wants under 1,000 sailors on new carriers

Navy Times:

The Navy wants to figure out a way to put an aircraft carrier to sea with a crew of fewer than 1,000 sailors…

In an era when manpower costs devour 60 percent of annual Navy budgets, the service has been hard pressed not only to reduce its end strength so it can afford the ships and aircraft it wants, but to pare down crew sizes while making the most of each sailor.

Current carriers put to sea with about 5,700 personnel aboard, including ship’s crew and air wing. I believe that it’s about a 60-40 split between ship personnel and air wing personnel, so this reports is really talking about a cut from around 3,400 to 1,000.

The next carrier, CVN-78 USS Gerald R. Ford, will have fewer men aboard. The current projection is around 4,600 total, with most of the cut probably coming from the ship’s crew.

The cut down to 1,000 seems nearly impossible, to be honest.

I can see the Navy putting a carrier to sea with only 1,000 sailors aboard, but it would take about 1,500 to 2,000 private contractors along to do it. Bada-boom.


  1. I don’t understand why they can’t make more a more reasonable cut – say a goal of eliminating 500 to 1000 personnel – then try to do the same thing again. With the military it seems they’re always over-ambitious and usually fail to meet goals because of it, rather than forming more realistic goals and aiming at incremental improvement. Notable exceptions are systems like the Standard missile, which is one of the best ABM missiles right now because of the number of iterations it has gone through, as previously discussed.

  2. My old agency has been doing the same thing for years. Of course they’re now paying everyone 2 or 3 times as much for doing 2 or 3 peoples jobs! LOL! I’ve got an idea, why don’t they pay the swabbies the big contractor wages upfront, and skip all the health care, retirement, education and other crap………….same results as hiring contractors. Ma, I can’t stand being over water that I can’t see the bottom of……………no worries about me putting infor a Navy job! On the other hand……….I’ve always wanted to dress up in pirate gear and give the command, ‘stand by, to repel borders’………………that would be cool! LOL!

  3. That’s what we really need is some more contractors:

    Even a turnover in administrations doesn’t guarantee reform. J. Cofer Black, the longtime C.I.A. hand who is now Blackwater’s vice chairman, has signed on as a Mitt Romney adviser. Hillary Clinton’s Karl Rove, Mark Penn, doubles as the chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, the P.R. giant whose subsidiary helped prepare Mr. Prince for his Congressional testimony. Mr. Penn said the Blackwater association was ‘temporary.’ War profiteering happens even in ‘good’ wars. Arthur Miller made his name in 1947 with ‘All My Sons,’ which ends with the suicide of a corrupt World War II contractor whose defective airplane parts cost 21 pilots their lives. But in the case of Iraq, this corruption has been at the center of the entire mission, from war-waging to nation-building. As the investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele observed in the October Vanity Fair, America has to date ‘spent twice as much in inflation-adjusted dollars to rebuild Iraq as it did to rebuild Japan -an industrialized country three times Iraq’s size, two of whose cities had been incinerated by atomic bombs.’ (And still Iraq lacks reliable electric power.) The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq. Colonel Westhusing’s death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book ‘Blood Money.’ Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America’s engagement in Iraq as a suicide note. ‘I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,’ Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. ‘I am sullied.’

  4. Shipmates, Here’s the problem with reduced manninglevels: They directly affect a vessel’s survivability in combat. Certainly systems can be designed to reduce manpower and increase efficiency for mannung the ship, operating the vessel and it’s component systems. However, when rounds beginh to impact and sailors become causalties, operational effectivness of the vessel is reduced by a greater degree than would be otherwise expected. Fires con’t fight themselves. Crewmen are needed for damage control and repair parties. Seawater will not pump itself out, nor will plugs and patches magically leap into holes and breaches and weld themselves into place. Casualties must be evacuated in order to effect treatment, and that evacuation requires humans, especially in confined spaces that may be further restricted with debris, chemicals, smoke, fire, etc. And when casualties and damage occurs, who will operate the ship’s systems when the operators are busy trying to address damage and casualties? There are large numbers of sailors on vessels for a very good reason. Watches need to be manned 24/7. There needs to be sufficient hands available for firefighting, damage control, casualty replacement, etc. Those who persist in the notions of ships operating effectively with reduced manning levels are playing a fool’s game with the lives of those same crewmen, and with the navy as a whole. respects,

  5. You could get it down to a thousand crewmen. A typical commercial vessel of comparable size has crew size of 20 or so. Yes a carrier is lot more crew intensive. One thing to remember, is that the Nimitz design was set before ship automation was even dream let alone a practical reality. You could cut the crew size in half without really pushing the envelope. AW1 Tim – has a good point on the damage control aspects. That said, the track record of modern warships and damage control has not been a ringing success. (The Cole, The Stark, the Shefield) Modern ships are built to be disposable.

  6. James, Interesting you should bring up the Sheffield. That one instance brought to light several flaws in ‘modern’ ship construction, not all of which have been rectified. Sheffield did not sink as a result of the Exocet strike. She sank in heavy seas a few days later while being towed back to port. Has she been built differently, and had her crew done more, she might well have been saved. However, the Exocet which hit Sheffield failed to detonate. The damge was cause by residual fuel which vaporised and ignited, causing wide-spread damge and toxic fumes that overwhelmed many who became casualties. Cost-cutting maesures forced upon the RN by the Labour Party reduced Sheffield to one single fire-main system. When the missile damaged that loop. there was no way to get water to the fire without stationing pumps and daisy chaining them along the passageways. Additionally, much use was made of vinyl flooring and wall coverings which saved many man hours and accompanying costs for maintenance, but which burnt rapidly and gave off a black toxic smoke which caused the majority of casualties. The heat generated by the fire(s) also overcame the aluminum which replaced much of the steel in construction, and caused further rapid heat transfer and resulting burn-through and damage. Had Sheffield been constructed with redundant fire mains, at the very least much of the fire damage could have been avoided and many lives saved.

  7. As both an airwing member and ship’s company (Navigator) on a Nimitz-class carrier I am here to say that cutting total crew size to 1,000 is a fool’s errand. We absolutely cannot ignore the long, hard lessons we and the RN (among others) have learned of sustained damage control efforts that last days – not hours, while trying to reconstitute and conduct combat operations. It was, is and by very nature will continue to be manpower intensive. Additionally, a Nimitz-class was built with a sizeable manpower pool in mind – from the steam-powered catapults to the weapons assembly areas to the flight deck. That said, some savings may be gained from new designs and equipment, but unless you go back to a Yorktown-class CV with an airwing of UAV’s, a crew of 1,000 is but a mere Chu-inspired wet dream. Not to put too fine a point on it that is… – SJS

  8. With full respects to those who have close knowledge of ship board operations, this is exactly why vehicles should be designed by engineers and not sailors, pilots, drivers, etc. Sure, you cannot just arbitrarily start pulling sailors off of existing carriers, but we’re not talking about existing carriers. We are talking about the carriers we could have, not those we do have. Engineers have already reduced the number of people it takes to maintain aircraft, what makes ships so special that they have to have thousands of people on-board to function? Nothing, that’s what. Many of the people on board a carrier are there to take care of the other people on the carrier. By reducing the tasks people have to perform there is a multiplier effect on the reduction of the crew compliment because you reduce the number of support crew as well. Is there no way to automate any aspect of on site ship repair? Why could it not be as easy as closing a water tight door or a series of them? Why not design in damage tolerance instead of necessitating repair, and where repair would be necessary, why not design the ship to assist in the repair? When they design tanks, they put fuel and ordinance in places where they can explode without necessarily killing the crew. In aircraft we install self sealing features in the wings and inerting systems so fumes don’t explode. The same can be done to ships. Mostly what we need is good ship designers who have the freedom to do the work they are capable of, not more sailors in harm’s way.