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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The planned size of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been matters of concern for the congressional defense committees for the past several years.

The Navy in February 2006 presented to Congress a goal of achieving and maintaining a fleet of 313 ships, consisting of certain types and quantities of ships. Since then, the Navy has changed its desired quantities for some of those ship types, and the Navy’s goals now add up to a desired fleet of 320 or 321 ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2012 budget requests funding for the procurement of 10 new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the 320-321 ship goal). The 10 ships include two Virginiaclass attack submarines, one DDG-51 class Aegis destroyer, four Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), one LPD-17 class amphibious ship, one Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) ship (i.e., a maritime prepositioning ship), and one Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV). The Navy’s five-year (FY2012- FY2016) shipbuilding plan, submitted to Congress in conjunction with the Navy’s proposed FY2012 budget, includes a total of 55 new battle force ships, or an average of 11 per year. Of the 55 ships in the plan, 27, or almost half, are relatively inexpensive LCSs or JHSVs.

The Navy’s FY2011 30-year (FY2011-FY2040) shipbuilding plan, submitted to Congress in February 2010 in conjunction with its proposed FY2011 budget, includes 276 ships. The FY2011 30-year plan does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s de facto 320-321 ship plan over the long run. Among other things, the Navy projects that the attack submarine and cruiser-destroyer forces would drop substantially below required levels in the latter years of the 30-year plan.

The Navy last year estimated that executing the FY2011 30-year shipbuilding plan would require an average of $15.9 billion per year in constant FY2010 dollars. A May 2010 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimated that the plan would require an average of $19.0 billion per year in constant FY2010 dollars, or about 19% more than the Navy estimated.

A near-term issue for Congress is the potential impact on the executability of FY2011 Navy shipbuilding programs of a year-long continuing resolution (CR) for FY2011 at FY2010 funding levels. Several FY2011 Navy shipbuilding programs, including the Virginia-class attack submarine program and the DDG-51 destroyer program, would face executability challenges under this scenario because of increases in ship quantities and/or funding levels from FY2010 to FY2011.

Additional issues for Congress include the sufficiency of the Navy’s FY2011 30-year shipbuilding plan for achieving and maintaining the Navy’s current 320-321 ship force-level objective, the affordability of the FY2011 30-year shipbuilding plan, and proposals that some study groups have made for Navy ship force structure.

Date of Report: April 13, 2011
Number of Pages: 42
Order Number: RL32665
Price: $29.95

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