Academic journal article Naval War College Review

PROGRAMS VS. RESOURCES: Some Options for the Navy

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

PROGRAMS VS. RESOURCES: Some Options for the Navy

Article excerpt

The Navy, like other U.S. military services, faces a challenge in funding various program goals within a budget that is expected to experience little or no real growth. This challenge will be compounded if the change in the nation's projected budget and debt situation that has developed since the 2008 financial crisis leads to a real decline in the Department of Defense (DoD) budget.

The total number of ships in the Navy is to be bolstered over the next decade by the entry into service of substantial numbers of relatively inexpensive Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) and Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs). In addition, the unit capability of Navy ships, aircraft, and other systems will increase in coming years as a result of the introduction of new platforms and technologies. If, however, the Navy's budget does not increase in real terms, the Navy faces a longertermprospect of a decline in ship and aircraft numbers that would offset at least some of the gains realized in unit capability. The resulting fleet could have a rich collection of capabilities for performing various missions but lack the capacity (i.e., numbers) for performing those missions simultaneously in all desired geographic areas.

If Navy budget pressures are compounded by a real decline in the DoD budget, policy makers could face difficult choices to fund programs for some kinds of Navy capabilities but not others. If so, the resulting fleet could have gaps in capability as well as capacity. These developments could occur at a time when the United States faces various international security challenges, including a potentially significant challenge from a modernized Chinese military capable of acting as a maritime antiaccess force and otherwise influencing events in the western Pacific.

Although the Navy forms only a part of the U.S. military,which in turn forms only a part of the nation's overall tool kit for defending its interests and pursuing its policy goals, a Navy with insufficient ability to maintain desired levels of forward-deployed presence and engagement, to respond to contingencies and contain crises, or to conduct combat operations of certain kinds could contribute to a situation in whichAmerican policymakersmight need to prioritize key U.S. interests and goals and reconsider the national strategy for defending those interests and pursuing those goals.


Shipbuilding accounts for only 35 percent or so of Department of the Navy (DON) procurement funding and only 10 percent or so of DON's entire baseline budget.1 Even so, examining funding pressures in the Navy's shipbuilding account can be a usefulmeans of gaining an understanding of the service's overall programs-vs.-resources situation, for two reasons. First, the Navy balances funding demands for shipbuilding against those for other programs, so funding pressures in the shipbuilding account are likely to be mirrored by similar pressures in other accounts. Second, ships are central to the Navy: it is difficult to have a navy without them;many of theNavy's manned aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and weapons are based on them; and much of the Navy's other spending funds their basing, crewing, operation, maintenance, and modernization.

The Navy's five-year (fiscal year [FY] 2011-FY 2015) shipbuilding plan includes a total of fifty ships, or an average of ten per year. Such a rate represents an increase over the single-digit numbers of ships that have been procured for the last eighteen years (FY 1993-FY 2010) and is a little above the steady-state replacement rate for a fleet with 313 ships (the Navy's force-level goal), which is about 8.9 ships per year, assuming a weighted average ship life of thirty-five years.

The Navy's ability to assemble a five-year plan for fifty ships within available resources does not, however, necessarily mean that the service has solved its long-term challenge of shipbuilding affordability. …

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