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Can Navy Afford ‘Death Ray’ It Wants?

• wired.com

That was the message from Robert Work, the undersecretary of the Navy, to the opening of the Office of Naval Research’s annual science and technology conference in Arlington, Virginia, where the Navy and its contractors are showing off some of their most far-out designs. Work, a longtime defense wonk, is a big fan of all of those efforts, calling the research shop the “incubator for discovery, research and innovation” that’s kept the Navy and Marine Corps more tech-savvy than its rivals. But, he added, “the secretary and I consider cost a threat.”

Work meant two things by that. First, in a literal sense, the cost of maintaining the Navy’s 280 ships is growing at a rate faster than inflation. That’s not an auspicious sign for growing the fleet to its planned 313 ships, even as it takes unexpected cost-constraining measures like buying competing designs of its close-in fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship. “If the [scientific and technological] community cannot help us address total ownership cost,” Work said, “we will quickly find ourselves with a fleet too small” for the Navy’s worldwide missions.
 
 

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