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Navy hauls in budget's largest share among services

The U.S. Navy receive the largest chunk of funding among the three services out of the $527 billion within the president’s 2014 baseline budget request unveiled on Wednesday.

The $155 billion the Pentagon requested for the Navy outpaces the $144 billion requested for the Air Force and the $129 billion requested for the Army.

Of course, the base line budget request did not account for the Overseas Contingency Operations funds that pay for the war in Afghanistan in which the Army will receive the largest chunk. The Pentagon plans to unveil that budget later, but it will add another $14 billion in funding for the Navy.

Many predicted the Navy might receive the largest portion of the baseline budget as the sea service pivots its forces to the Pacific and grows to a 300-ship Navy. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Wednesday at the Sea Air Space Expo that the budget allows the service to continue buying ships and furthering the Navy's forward presence.

Overall, the President’s 2014 budget request for the Navy aims to shore up needed investment in key areas of technological capability and preserve a forward-leaning force posture for the service in support of the Pentagon’s broader strategy involving a pivot to the Pacific theater, service officials said.

The total obligation authority for the Navy’s budget request for the baseline budget is $155 billion, an amount which includes a wide range of areas to include modernization, operations and maintenance, personnel and construction.

A key thrust of the Navy’s budget priorities include not only investing in modernization and the development of next-generation technologies – but an interest in maintaining a strong forward global presence, Mulloy explained.

“Right now there are 27,000 deployed sailors along with 3,100 Marines. We also have 29,000 Navy personnel living forward and 26,000 Marine personnel living forward. We have 101 ships deployed including three aircraft carriers and four large deck amphibs. You can also see the 52 ships that are in the Pacific and about 30 ships in the Mid-East. This is our role as part of the national strategy,” Mulloy added.

Although the ongoing sequester continues to cause budget uncertainty for the Navy and challenge plans for certain maintenance, readiness and training activities, Congress’ recent passage of an FY 13 appropriations bill has improved the service’s overall budget outlook, service officials said.

The appropriations bill, passed by Congress in late March, funds the military for the rest of the year and ends the Continuing Resolution, a circumstance limiting service budgets to FY12-year budget amounts and preventing “new-start” acquisition programs as well as multi-year contracts.

“It solved about half of my O&M problem. I’m still sequestered a total of $4.5 billion but I’m not at an $8.6 billion deficit. With the CR and a sequester, the Navy was tremendously short in O&M [Operations & Maintenance]. Ship construction was broken under a CR,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Budget.

In fact, the FY14 budget request doesn't reflect the implementation of sequestration, said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Courtney Hillson.

“The budget submission is part of the president's balanced deficit reduction plan. Should we be asked to resubmit the ‘14 budget and include sequestration, we remain flexible and ready to do so,” she said.

The president’s 2014 budget request includes $8.4 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter program and increases the expenditure on cyberspace operations over 2013 by boosting the request up to $4.7 billion from $3.9 million

The Navy will increase its electronic warfare capabilities with the acquisition of 21 new EA-18G Growler aircraft and a carrier-based electronic warfare variant of the F/A-18F Super Horne. The president’s budget request for Growler aircraft jumped by one-billion dollars compared to last year, going from $1 billion up to $2 billion.

“Between OSD and the Navy, there is a desire to grow the electronic jamming force and the Navy has picked that up essentially as a national force. This is a significant investment by the Secretary of Defense to say electronic jamming is important to the U.S. military and the projection of our airplanes,” Mulloy said.

The Growler funds will also include money for additional EA-18G Growler support ground squadrons, he said. The Navy flew EA-18Gs from Iraq to Aviano Air Base, Italy in 2011, and were instrumental in supporting NATO during the military operations and the enforcement of a no-fly-zone in Lybia, Mulloy added.

The Navy is also hoping to plus up funding for its Virginia-class submarines by increasing its $5.0 billion request in 2013 up to $5.4 billion in FY 2014.

The end of the CR means the Navy can now formally request budget authority to add two more Virginia-class submarines to the eight approved in last-year’s budget, through a multi-year contract, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Courtney Hillson said.

“We’re requesting authority for follow-on multi-year procurement for up to 10 submarines, beginning in fiscal year 15,” she added.

Other key Navy priorities in the FY 2014 budget request include $945 million to finance the design and construction of the John F. Kennedy  (CVN 79) as well as $588 million to build the Gerald. R. Ford (CVN 78).  Each of these carriers are part of what’s referred to as Ford-class carriers, a new variant of Navy carriers being engineered and developed with a host of next-generation capabilities, according to the Navy’s budget manual.

The FY14 request also includes $1.7 billion in advanced procurement funding for the Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) ship repair and modernization efforts for the Abraham Lincoln, work which is slated to begin in March of this year, service officials explained.  The FY 14 request also allocates $246 million of advance procurement RCOH funding for the USS George Washington, work which is slated to begin in FY 2016.

As for delays and potential budget setbacks, Mulloy said funding for the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAS program, a service effort to build and deliver a maritime variant of the Air Force’s Global Hawk, has been slightly delayed to allow time for additional design work and integration of the software and sensors.

“There are two technical issues causing a delay in testing. The Naval variant is designed to work with our P-8 and fly over the Pacific with a different set of sensors than the Air Force variant,” he added.

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