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Monday, September 12, 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 328 ships.

On September 1, 2011, it was reported that the Navy, in response to anticipated reductions in planned levels of defense spending, is discussing options for maintaining a fleet with considerably fewer than 300 ships, such as a 250-ship fleet that includes ten aircraft carriers or a 240-ship fleet that includes eight aircraft carriers.

The Navy’s proposed FY2012 budget requests funding for the procurement of 10 new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the 328-ship goal). The 10 ships include two Virginia-class 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 FY2012 30-year (FY2012-FY2041) shipbuilding plan, submitted to Congress in late May 2011, includes 276 ships. The FY2012 30-year plan does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s de facto 328-ship goal over the long run. Among other things, the Navy projects that the cruiser-destroyer and attack submarine forces would drop substantially below required levels in the latter years of the 30-year plan.

A June 2011 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the cost of the Navy’s FY2012 30- year (FY2012-FY2041) shipbuilding plan estimates that the plan would cost an average of $18.0 billion per year in constant FY2011 dollars to implement, or about 16% more than the Navy estimates. CBO’s estimate is about 7% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the first 10 years of the plan, about 10% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the second 10 years of the plan, and about 31% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the final 10 years of the plan. Some of the difference between CBO’s estimate and the Navy’s estimate, particularly in the latter years of the plan, is due to a difference between CBO and the Navy in how to treat inflation in Navy shipbuilding.

Issues for Congress include the appropriate future size and structure of the Navy in light of changes in strategic and budget circumstances, the sufficiency of the Navy’s FY2012 30-year shipbuilding plan for achieving and maintaining the Navy’s current 328-ship goal, and the affordability of the FY2012 30-year shipbuilding plan.

Date of Report: September
1, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
Price: $29.95

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