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Navy Shipbuilding Gap Grows

The big question for the Navy in advance of the QDR and the 2011 budget release was would DOD reconcile the growing gap between the Navy’s shipbuilding and funding plans? The answer is no. They didn’t even try. The QDR pretty much defers on the subject of tying future shipbuilding to strategy. There is some vague talk in the document about the need for the Navy and the Air Force to jointly develop an air-sea battle concept to ensure power projection, but it provides no further details.

As for the Navy budget, the 2011 request increases funding for new ship construction from $12.4 billion in 2010 to $13.8 billion this year. But, as we noted yesterday, OMB the Congressional Budget Office recently pointed out the simple fact that a funding profile of between $13-15 billion a year will not get the Navy to its stated goal of a 313 ship fleet. OMB CBO estimated that at least $21 billion per year was needed and that at $15 billion per year the fleet would fall to around 270 ships by 2025.

According to Navy budget documents, funding is provided to operate a battle fleet of 284 ships in 2011, including 11 carriers and 29 large amphibious ships.

The 2011 shipbuilding plan buys nine ships: two Virginia class subs, two DDG 51 destroyers, two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), one Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement (LHA (R)) ship (the follow on to the Tarawa-class LHA), one Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), and one Joint High Speed Vessel (JHV).

The Navy plan came in for some criticism Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi noting that the fleet is the smallest it has been since the 1980s, fact that .Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former chief of naval operations, sadly acknowledged. Mullen said the Navy still plans to build a 313-ship fleet but isn't getting there any time soon. "The Navy is very pressed right now, operating at a very high tempo," Mullen said. The service, "is sort of at the edge of being able to meet out global commitments."

Across the FYDP, LCS construction is projected to increase to 3 ships next year and then steady state procurement of 4 ships per year during 2013-15, for a planned total LCS buy of 17 ships by 2015.

The Navy requested $18.5 billion for new aircraft. That total includes low rate initial procurement funds for 13 F-35B Short Takeoff and Landing and seven F-35C carrier jets. The request includes funding for 22 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 12 EA-18G Growlers. Shutdown of the F-18 production line is delayed until 2013. Of course that could change as the F-35 JSF continues to battle development problems.

The Navy/Marine Corps budget buys a lot of helicopters, including: 2 new AH-1Z Super Cobra attack helicopters and remanufacture of eight more and 18 UH-1Y utility helicopters. The 2001 budget buys 24 MH-60R Seahawk and 18 MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters. The budget also funds 30 MV-22B Marine Corps Osprey tilt rotor aircraft.

Correction: The original story said the source for the shipbuilding budget gap was OMB. That was incorrect, it was CBO.

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