Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure

December 18, 2019 7:39 AM

The following is the Dec. 16, 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. A new FSA—referred to as the Integrated Naval FSA (INFSA), with the term naval referring to both the Navy and Marine Corps (i.e., the two naval services)—is now underway as the successor to the 2016 FSA. The Acting Secretary of the Navy states that he expects the INFSA to be published no later than January 15, 2020.

Statements from Department of the Navy (DON) officials suggest that the INFSA could result in a once-in-a-generation change in the Navy’s fleet architecture, meaning the mix of ships that make up the Navy and how those ships are combined into formations and used to perform various missions. DON officials suggest that the INFSA could shift the fleet to a more distributed architecture that includes a reduced proportion of larger ships, an increased proportion of smaller ships, and a newly created category of large unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Such a change in fleet architecture could alter, perhaps substantially, the mix of ships to be procured for the Navy and the distribution of Navy shipbuilding work among the nation’s shipyards.

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 how the INFSA will change the Navy’s fleet architecture, the Navy’s current 355-ship force-level goal, the mix of Navy ships to be procured, and the distribution of Navy shipbuilding work among the nation’s shipyards. A related issue for Congress is the degree to which the results of the INFSA will be incorporated into the Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget, and how Congress should assess the Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget if additional aspects of the INFSA will not become clear until the Navy submits its proposed FY2022 budget or its proposed FY2023 budget. Another issue for Congress concerns the prospective affordability of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan. Another issue for Congress concerns the potential impacts on FY2020 Navy shipbuilding programs of using one or more continuing resolutions to fund DOD operations for at least some portion of FY2020. 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.

Download the document here.

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