The Future of Naval Shipbuilding May Be in This Veteran’s Hands
Nickolas Guertin served in the Navy as a naval systems engineering and acquisitions expert. Now, he could be in charge of naval shipbuilding for the next 30 years, as Congress has nominated him to serve as assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition.
The Navy’s 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan
The long-term plan was first developed and announced in spring 2022 as part of the annual required updates for Navy ship development by Congress. Before the plan was announced, the Navy only had documents and numbers covering ship retirement and replacement through the end of 2027. Now, the 28-page report gives numbers and data that outline budget proposals, analyses from previous years’ shipbuilding plans, and preparations for advancement in ship technology through 2052.
The plan outlines three different options depending on predicted future variables for the Navy. The first two options assume there will be no budget growth within the upcoming 30 years, and the third option takes heavily from the Navy’s Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment (INFSA).
The INFSA-inspired option hinges on an extra $75 million being added to the Navy’s budget between now and 2052, but the newest National Defense Strategy from the Biden administration might make this option difficult.
What’s certain regarding this plan is that the Navy will purchase two Virginia-class submarines and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The development of new aircraft carriers is currently not a part of the plan. Before 2029, the Navy expects to acquire the newest and highest-priority craft on their list: the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.
All in all, 77 ships will be retired before five years are up. The Navy could have as many as 363 manned Navy ships, 11 total aircraft carriers, and 59 amphibious warfare ships.
It’s taken a long time for the government to announce a nominee for the research, development, and acquisition position. Now, with Guertin almost certain to fill the role, officials are looking toward the future. How will Guertin spearhead and streamline the Navy’s existing 30-year shipbuilding plan?
Nickolas Guertin’s Service and Plans for Shipbuilding
Between his time in the Navy and his work as a civilian, Nickolas Guertin has 40 years of ship construction and maintenance under his belt. He reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander during his service from 1979 to 2002. He’s also well-versed in submarine testing, operations, and development.
He’s currently serving as an advisor to the DOD secretary regarding the Pentagon’s weapons systems, but Congress has just named him as the lead choice to spearhead the Navy’s shipbuilding plans.
Though his experience is great, he’ll face tons of initial challenges from the get-go if he’s appointed. For one, there’s been a push from the Marine Corps to move to hybrid/unmanned fleets. While this could be an incredible step forward for the branch, it also poses many hurdles that are likely to take years to overcome.
New companies will have to be contracted to develop specialized artificial intelligence, communications, networking, and autonomy for these new U.S. Navy ships. When these complicated steps are complete, experimentation, prototyping, and testing present more long-term barriers.
Additionally, Guertin will have to lead the Navy in the transition to the DDG(X) program by the end of FY28, after which he has two years to get the next-gen program off the ground.
Shipbuilding Is in Good Hands
Given his lifelong experience in the field of shipbuilding and management, plus his lengthy service in the Navy, we’d say Nickolas Guertin is a great choice for the position. The 30-year plan may be complicated and difficult at best, but they’ve put the right man at the helm of that ship!
Image: American Society of Naval Engineers