The Navy has unveiled its new 30-year shipbuilding plan, which offers three different proposals for building up the fleet – but only one paves the way for 355 ships, which has been the sea service’s goal since 2016.
The proposals, which do not differ until fiscal year 2028, propose two supply scenarios under a “budget without real growth”, while the third scenario offers options under a budget without constraint.
The Navy would reach 316 ships by 2052 under the first plan, but build nine more under the second, reaching 327 ships in the same time frame. In the unconstrained plan, the service would reach a fleet size of 367 ships in 2052 – crossing the threshold of 355 ships in 2043. Although Navy officials believe the industrial base can support the third option, the report indicates that no independent assessment has yet been conducted. .
“The further you go from 2022 in years, the less certain the future is,” Vice Admiral Scott Conn, deputy chief of naval operations for combat requirements and capabilities, told reporters on Wednesday. “And there is an uncertainty that continues to increase over time – uncertainty in terms of the fiscal budgets that we are going to have to face, and uncertainty in terms of what China and Russia can do and be able to produce.”
The Navy provided several scenarios that account for some of the ambiguity regarding a hybrid force of manned and unmanned vessels and the resulting technical issues that remain unknown, Conn said. Once these answers are nailed down, the ranges will become more specific.
At the same time, the options provide a “floor” and offer lawmakers and industry leaders insight into where the Navy would like to go if more resources became available, said Jay Stefany, who exercises the duties of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.
The biggest difference between the first two plans is the fleet composition due to unmanned systems, Conn said. In the absence of real budget growth, the Navy plans to have 89 to 149 unmanned platform systems by FY45, according to the report.
The Navy would also purchase five new aircraft carriers between FY28 and FY52 under the first two proposals, while the third plan calls for seven carriers to be acquired within that timeframe.
The shipbuilding plan also sheds light on which ships the Navy will seek to decommission next. Specifically, plans call for decommissioning the Jackson and Montgomery Independence variant littoral combat ships in FY24. The Navy is currently pushing to decommission nine Freedom variant littoral combat ships in the budget for fiscal year 23.
Additionally, the proposal calls for the decommissioning of the Ticonderoga-class cruiser fleet by FY27.
Some lawmakers warned they would challenge the proposal. Members of Congress have frequently criticized the navy not only for failing to expand the fleet to counter China’s growing power, but also for its lack of maritime strategy. The legislature is not expected to agree to the Biden administration’s FY23 proposal to decommission 24 ships.
“President Biden’s shipbuilding plan is a model for American weakness,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said in a statement. “For years, our Navy fleet has suffered from underinvestment and a lack of planning to meet the needs of our country’s 355 ships. President Biden’s plan would worsen this trend by ending production of critical ships early, with no plan to replace their capabilities.
“If the president doesn’t help us get there, Congress needs to step in and do the job ourselves,” Wicker said. “We cannot afford to surrender naval superiority to our adversaries.”
Reps. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., echoed similar sentiments and said trying to “save a few bucks” now jeopardizes the safety of American fighters amid China’s growing naval presence. As a result, they said Congress must “reject this plan.”
“It takes years to build a ship, and we no longer have the industrial strength we had in World War II to almost instantly produce thousands of ships in times of conflict,” Wittman and Rogers said in a statement.
“The Biden administration’s 30-year naval construction plan reduces our ability to protect our carrier strike groups, reduces the Navy’s ability to clear an enemy’s minefield, reduces the Corps’ capability Marines to conduct forcible entry missions and reduced nearly 10% of our fleet’s capacity. to launch missiles,” Wittman and Rogers said.
But Conn countered that tough decisions had to be made based on “fiscal reality” and noted that buying back ships the Navy wants to retire before the end of their expected lifespan would cost billions of dollars.
“We think there’s a better use of these taxpayer resources to prevent a war, and if we end up in a war, to be able to fight and win this,” he said.
Under the Navy’s current FY23 budget proposal, the fleet would reach a size of 280 by FY27. of their lifespan. This group includes nine coastal combat ships of the Freedom variant, one cruiser and two expeditionary transfer docks.
Additionally, it is requesting funds to build nine ships, including two Virginia-class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, a Constellation-class frigate, and an America-class amphibious assault ship.