The following is the July 6, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the Report:
The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years. The Navy’s FY2019 budget submission includes proposed increases in shipbuilding rates that are intended as initial steps for increasing the size of the Navy toward a goal of a fleet with 355 ships of certain types and numbers.
The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests funding for the procurement of 10 new ships, including two Virginia-class attack submarines, three DDG-51 class Aegis destroyers, one Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), two John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers, one Expeditionary Sea Base ship (ESB), and one TATS towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The total of 10 new ships is one more than the 9 that the Navy requested in its amended FY2018 budget submission, 3 less than the 13 battle force ships that were funded in the FY2018 DOD appropriations act, and 3 more than the 7 that were projected for FY2019 in the Navy’s FY2018 budget submission. The three added ships include one DDG-51 class destroyer, one TAO-205 class oiler, and one ESB.
The Navy’s FY2019 five-year (FY2019-FY2023) shipbuilding plan includes 54 new ships, or an average of 10.8 new ships per year. The total of 54 new ships is 12 more than the 42 that were included in the Navy’s FY2018 five-year (FY2018-FY2022) shipbuilding plan, and 11 more than the 43 that the Navy says were included in the five-year period FY2019-FY2023 under the Navy’s FY2018 budget submission. (The FY2023 column was not visible to Congress in the Navy’s FY2018 budget submission.) The 11 ships that have been added to the five-year period FY2019-FY2023, the Navy says, are four DDG-51 class destroyers, three TAO-205 class oilers, two ESBs, one TATS, and one TAGOS ocean surveillance ship.
The Navy’s FY2019 30-year (FY2019-FY2048) shipbuilding plan includes 301 new ships, or an average of about 10 per year. The total of 301 ships is 47 more than the 254 that were included in the Navy’s FY2017 30-year (FY2017-FY2046) shipbuilding plan. (The Navy did not submit an FY2018 30-year shipbuilding plan.)
The Navy’s goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships, released in December 2016, is 47 ships higher than the Navy’s previous force-level goal of 308 ships. The force level of 355 ships is a goal to be attained in the future; the actual size of the Navy in recent years has generally been between 270 and 290 ships. Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017) states in part: “It shall be the policy of the United States to have available, as soon as practicable, not fewer than 355 battle force ships, comprised of the optimal mix of platforms, with funding subject to the availability of appropriations or other funds.”
Although the 355-ship force-level goal is 47 ships higher than the previous 308-ship force-level goal, achieving and maintaining the 355-ship fleet within 30 years would require adding more than 47 ships to the Navy’s previous (FY2017) 30-year shipbuilding plan, in part because that plan did not include enough ships to fully achieve all elements of the 308-ship force-level goal. CRS estimated in 2017 that 57 to 67 ships would need to be added to the Navy’s FY2017 30-year shipbuilding plan to achieve the Navy’s 355-ship fleet and maintain it through the end of the 30-year period (i.e., through FY2046), unless the Navy extends the service lives of existing ships beyond currently planned figures and/or reactivates recently retired ships. Similarly, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in 2017 that 73 to 77 ships would need to be added to a CBO-created notional version of the Navy’s FY2018 30-year (FY2018-FY2047) shipbuilding plan to achieve the Navy’s 355-ship fleet and maintain it not only through the end of the 30-year period (i.e., through FY2047), but another 10 years beyond the end of the 30-year period (i.e., through FY2057), unless the Navy extends the service lives of existing ships beyond currently planned figures and/or reactivates recently retired ships.
Consistent with these CRS and CBO estimates, the Navy projects that the 47 additional ships included in the Navy’s FY2019 30-year shipbuilding plan would not be enough the achieve a 355-ship fleet during the 30-year period. The Navy projects that if the FY2019 30-year shipbuilding plan were implemented, the fleet would peak at 342 ships in FY2039 and FY2041, and then drop to 335 ships by the end of the 30-year period. The Navy projects that under the FY2019 30-year shipbuilding plan, a 355-ship fleet would not be attained until the 2050s (and the aircraft carrier force-level goal within the 355-ship goal would not be attained until the 2060s). Consistent with CRS and CBO estimates from 2017, the Navy estimates that adding another 20 to 25 ships to the earlier years of the Navy’s FY2019 30-year shipbuilding plan (and thus procuring a total of 321 to 326 ships in the 30-year plan, or 67 to 72 ships more than the 254 included in the FY2017 30-year plan) could accelerate the attainment of a 355-ship fleet to about 2036 or 2037.