The US Navy’s 313-ship fleet plan has been in question for some time; indeed, the Pentagon Office of Force Transformation was projecting a possible 40% budgetary shortfall through 2022 when it released its “Alternative Fleet Architecture Design study [PDF format, see also related CRS report]” in 2005. Rising costs in several key naval programs, and budget realities, have sharpened those questions. During a recent House Armed Services Seapower & Expeditionary Forces subcommittee hearing, the Navy found itself under fire from both sides of the political aisle, up to and including public and pointed expressions of disbelief in the Navy’s shipbuilding plan.
Rankling minority member Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD]:
“From Fiscal Years 2008 to 2009, the Navy has reduced the number of ships to be procured by approximately 25 percent – one quarter of the ships the Navy planned to build last year are gone. The long term shipbuilding plan still speaks to a 313-ship Navy, as does the Chief of Naval Operations, but it’s time we started facing facts. The Navy will never get there without either top line relief or a significant change in the mix of platforms. The Navy’s shipbuilding plan is based on the assumption that over the next thirty years the shipbuilding account will nearly triple in size. Do our witnesses really think this is realistic? How can you? If it’s not – and I tell you it’s not – then the only other alternative is to look at the mix of platforms.”
Subcommittee chair Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS] was even sharper in his criticisms: