The following is the June 10, 2019 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.
On December 15, 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship force-level goal is the result of a Force Structure Assessment (FSA) conducted by the Navy in 2016. The Navy states that a new FSA is now underway as the successor to the 2016 FSA. This new FSA, Navy officials state, is to be completed by the end of 2019. Navy officials have suggested in their public remarks that this new FSA could change the 355-ship figure, the planned mix of ships, or both.
Some observers, viewing statements by Navy officials, believe the new FSA in particular might shift the Navy’s surface force to a more distributed architecture that includes a reduced proportion of large surface combatants (i.e., cruisers and destroyers), an increased proportion of small surface combatants (i.e., frigates and LCSs), and a newly created third tier of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). Some observers believe the new FSA might also change the Navy’s undersea force to a more distributed architecture that includes, in addition to attack submarines (SSNs) and bottom-based sensors, a new element of extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles (XLUUVs), which might be thought of as unmanned submarines.
The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests funding for the procurement of 12 new ships, including one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carrier, three Virginia-class attack submarines, three DDG-51 class Aegis destroyers, one FFG(X) frigate, two John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers, and two TATS towing, salvage, and rescue ships. The Navy’s FY2020 five-year (FY2020-FY2024) shipbuilding plan includes 55 new ships, or an average of 11 new ships per year.
The Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan includes 304 ships, or an average of about 10 per year. If the FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan is implemented, the Navy projects that it will achieve a total of 355 ships by FY2034. This is about 20 years sooner than projected under the Navy’s FY2019 30-year shipbuilding plan—an acceleration primarily due to a decision announced by the Navy in April 2018, after the FY2019 plan was submitted, to increase the service lives of all DDG-51 destroyers to 45 years. Although the Navy projects that the fleet will reach a total of 355 ships in FY2034, the Navy in that year and subsequent years will not match the composition called for in the FY2016 FSA.
One issue for Congress is whether the new FSA that the Navy is conducting will change the 355-ship force-level objective established by the 2016 FSA and, if so, in what ways. Another oversight issue for Congress concerns the prospective affordability of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan. Decisions that Congress makes regarding Navy force structure and shipbuilding plans can substantially affect Navy capabilities and funding requirements and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.
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