UPDATED: Fleet Growth Stymied by Navy Budget Request

May 28, 2021 2:42 PM - Updated: May 30, 2021 4:50 PM
Submarine construction continues apace in the latest US Navy budget request, which asks for two more Virginia-class submarines and another installment for the missile sub Columbia. Here, the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Montana (SSN-794) is seen just after launch in March 2021 at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding. HII Photo

This post has been updated with additional details from the Department of the Navy’s FY 2022 budget presentation. 

The long-delayed Navy fiscal 2022 budget request submitted to Congress May 28 reflects modest increases in several areas but overall shows no significant changes over the previous year, either in weapons procurement or readiness accounts.

The service is asking for eight ships, but only four are combatants – two submarines, one destroyer and one frigate – while the other four are support ships. The President’s Budget for 2022 (PB 22) request for new ships is counteracted by the decision to inactivate 15 ships, including seven cruisers and four littoral combat ships.

Aircraft purchases drop significantly, from 96 in 2021 to 59 in 2022, but the decrease reflects the end of several product lines, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The total request for the Department of the Navy (DON) – which includes the Navy and Marine Corps – is $211.7 billion, an overall increase of $3.8 billion over the $207.9 billion the department received in fiscal 2021. While procurement drops by 5.7 percent, the other appropriation groups – operations and maintenance, military personnel, infrastructure, and research and development – all rise.

Broken down further, shipbuilding procurement drops 3 percent from $23.3 billion to $22.6 billion. PB22 asks for eight ships: two SSN-774 Block V Virginia-class fast attack submarines; one DDG-51 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (a drop from last year’s plan to ask for two DDGs in 2022); one-FFG 62 Constellation-class frigate; one T-AO-205 John Lewis-class fleet oiler; two T-ATS 6 Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ships; and one new-design T-AGOS(X) ocean surveillance ship.

The request also asks for incremental funding for the FY 2021 SSBN-826 Columbia ballistic missile submarine and advance procurement funds for another frigate and another oiler.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2021) An F-35C Lighting II from the “Argonauts” Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 sits on the flight deck on Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson is currently underway conducting routine maritime operations. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Erin. C. Zorich)

Aviation procurement funding drops 15.6 percent to $16.5 billion from FY 2021’s $19.5 billion. The Navy notes that the drop is due to the end of buying further F/A-18 Super Hornets, P-8A Poseidons, VH-92A presidential helicopters and E-6B Mercury TACAMO aircraft, all of which reached their most recent program goals. Overall the request asks for 107 aircraft, including 17 F-35B and 20 F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters; five E-2D Advanced Hawkeye tactical command and control aircraft; five KC-130J Super Tanker aircraft; nine CH-53K King Stallion helicopters; multi-year procurement of three CMV-22 Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) variants of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft along with five MV-22B Ospreys; and 36 TH-73A training helicopters.

Unmanned aircraft requests include six Medium Altitude Long Endurance-Tactical (MALE-T) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs). Purchases of MQ-4C Triton long-range high-altitude unmanned aircraft are “paused” in Fiscal 2022, the Navy said, “to allow the Integrated Functional Capability-4 (IFC 4.0) design to mature, which will eliminate concurrency risk and minimize the retrofit cost.” The pause comes after the service has ordered 15 Tritons, including test aircraft, out of an overall planned buy of 68 production planes.

Weapons procurement drops $300 million, or .6 percent, to $4.2 billion. Among individual requests are 34 Naval Strike Missiles (NSMs) and 14 littoral combat ship NSM missile modules. Other shipborne weapons include 60 Block V Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles; 125 SM-6 Standard missiles; 100 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAMs); 108 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs) and 58 Mark 48 Advanced Capability heavyweight torpedoes.

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to depart Cold Bay, Alaska, in support of Northern Edge 2021 on May 10, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

Aircraft-carried missiles include 178 AIM-9X Sidewinders; 48 Long-Range Anti-Ship LRASMs; and 54 AGM-88A Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Munitions-Extended Range AARGM-ERs.

Marine Corps procurement goes up 11 percent from FY 2021’s $2.7 billion to $3.0 billion. Among the highlights are 613 JLTV Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, 92 ACV Amphibious Combat Vehicles and eight TPS-80 G/ATOR Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar systems.

In the readiness category, ship operations funding increases 6.4 percent over last year, although the provision for 58 days underway per quarter while deployed and 24 days underway per quarter while non-deployed is the same as in 2021. Funding for flying hours is increased $864 million although that amount meets only 83 percent of the requirement.

Personnel levels are down slightly. Active Navy military manpower drops 1,600 from the FY 2021 authorized level of 346,200, attributed by the service to efforts to “actively manage personnel to match the needs of the fleet.” Active Marine Corps military manpower drops 2,700 to an end strength of 178,500 reflecting, according to the DON, modernization efforts by the Corps and the divesture of older programs, such as tanks, bridging and law enforcement. Civilian DON employees rise slightly to 223,113.


USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) conducts cyclic flight operations while steaming in the Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 13, 2020. US Navy Photo

The Navy is asking for $2.4 billion for Ford-class aircraft carrier production, which covers the fifth increment for detail design and construction of Enterprise (CVN-80) and the fourth increment for the Doris Miller (CVN-81). The second increment of funding for ballistic missile submarine Columbia (SSBN 826) totaling $4.6 billion also is included, along with $6.4 billion for Virginia-class attack submarines that covers two Block V submarines and advance procurement for Fiscal 2024 Block VI ships.

The service is asking for only one $2.0 billion Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, DDG 137, rather than two, a decision sure to face significant pushback in Congress and one that breaks the Navy’s responsibility under the multi-year procurement (MYP) scheme, which covers 2018-2022. The choice to delay the ship does not reflect a cancellation, as the Navy is committed to buy two more ships, DDG 138 and DDG 139, under the MYP.

Delaying destroyer procurement “was absolutely an affordability question, where the goal of the department was to balance the first priority, which was investment in Columbia [ballistic missile submarine] recapitalization,” Navy budget director, Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, said May 28 during a press briefing. Responding to a question, he also acknowledged the Navy will pay a $33 million penalty for not fulfilling its obligations under the MYP.

A major question still to be determined is what happens next with destroyer procurement. Presumably DDGs 138 and 139 could be funded in FY 2023, but the White House and Pentagon decision to forego providing the usual Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) along with current year request means there is no public information on what lies ahead after 2022, and service officials are declining to provide specifics about what will be in next year’s budget.

Also to be determined are how many Arleigh Burke-class destroyers remain to be built before purchases begin of DDG(X), the follow-on design that has long been in development but is yet to be determined.

The 2022 request seeks $60.6 million in partial funding for Pittsburgh (LPD-31), an amphibious transport dock ship largely funded in 2021, as well as $68.6 million for the America-class amphibious assault ship LHA-9. The budget provides for four new LCU 1700-class landing craft, two new Landing Craft Air Cushion vessels and refurbishment of two older LCACs, and seeks funding to buy five used merchant vessels to begin upgrading the aging sealift fleet.

The surface ship acquisition program is offset by an increased program to decommission ships, including four littoral combat ships – USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), which entered service in 2012; USS Coronado (LCS-4), commissioned in 2014; USS Detroit (LCS-7), commissioned in 2016; and USS Little Rock (LCS-9), which has been in service only since late 2017. Fort Worth, Detroit and Little Rock all are Freedom-class (LCS-1) ships, while Coronado is an Independence-class (LCS-2) ship.

The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) conducts operations with an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, during exercise Phoenix Fire 2018, Nov. 1, 2018. Phoenix Fire is a small-scale littoral combat exercise conducted in southern California by Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Pacific to enhance combat readiness through robust, realistic training while providing joint and combined partners the ability to work with multiple assets in a maritime and littoral environment. US Navy Photo

While the service has defended its requests to inactivate the first four LCSs by calling them “prototypes” and out of specification with later ships, the Navy is also frustrated by ongoing problems with combining gears in the propulsion of the Freedom-class ships, represented by odd hull numbers. Gumbleton, in the briefing, explained the decision to inactivate Detroit and Little Rock was made solely on a desire to save the costs of fixing the ships, although he acknowledged an earlier LCS, USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), is being kept in service because it is being upgraded and refitted with the Naval Strike Missile in preparation for a deployment.

The service also is seeking to decommission seven CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, including USS Hue City (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-69), along with the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41) and a T-ATF ocean tug, although those two cruisers and the Whidbey Island have undergone recent upgrades. The Navy also seeks funding to inactivate 12 Mark VI patrol boats for a savings of $74 million, despite having spent nearly $200 million in recent years to buy the craft and establish training and support efforts. The patrol boats were part of an urgent need request from the US 5th Fleet, which said the vessels were needed to protect larger ships in the Persian Gulf and patrol the region. Disposal of the Mark VIs and retirement of the Cyclone patrol boat class will leave the Navy without any effective small combatants.


An undated photo of RQ-4A BAMS-D. Norfolk Grumman Photo

The service is speeding up the removal of legacy F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters, advancing the date all the aircraft are to be retired from 2024 to 2022. Interestingly, the Navy plans to cover some of the missions performed by the older aircraft with F-16 fighters transferred from the Air Force. Divestment of the BAMS-D Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator aircraft is being accelerated.

Information Warfare

Navy Information Systems Technicians assigned the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) provision more than 1,500 computer workstations for integration into their shipboard Consolidated Afloat Ships Network Enterprise Services (CANES) system in Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific’s Network Integration and Engineering Facility. US Navy Photo

While Navy leaders tout the increased importance of cybersecurity and Project Overmatch efforts to seamlessly network sensors, platforms and weapons, IW accounts show only a relatively modest increase of $256 million, from $5.615 billion to $5.871 billion. Command and control systems and integrated fires efforts such as electronic warfare systems and counter-C4ISR systems show increases, while battlespace awareness systems face cuts.

Research and Development

MQ-25 Stingray. Boeing Photo

Navy Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding jumps $2.5 billion, from $20.138 billion in FY2021 to $22.639 billion.

Leading the RDT&E request is $1.374 billion for Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS), an effort to design a missile comprised of a Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) and a 34.5-inch two-stage booster. The Navy intends to put the weapon into service in fiscal 2028 aboard a Virginia-class submarine fitted with the Virginia Payload Module. The weapon is also to be carried by Zumwalt-class destroyers.

Among the RDT&E highlights are $495.6 million for the Virginia-class submarine’s Tactical Submarine Evolution Plan; $356.4 million for the Columbia-class submarine; $98 million for the SSN(X) Future Attack Submarine; $166 million for the Ford-class aircraft carrier; $109.5 million for the Constellation-class frigate; $122 million for the DDG(X) Next Generation Large Surface Combatant; and $28 million for the Next Generation Logistics Ship.

RDT&E funding also includes $257 million for the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter program, primarily to cover continued software development and correct problems already discovered during Initial Operational Test and Evaluation efforts. The Navy also is asking for $46 million in RDT&E funds for the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter program. The helicopter is projected to enter service later this year.

Key unmanned programs also are included in RDT&E funding. The unmanned surface vehicles (USV) request of $375.6 million includes $144.8 million for the Large USV and $60 million for the Medium USV. The $290.6 million request for unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) includes $58.5 million for development, fabrication and testing of the ORCA Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle and $88 million for the Large Diameter Unmanned Undersea Vehicle.

The MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based unmanned aircraft, which the Navy first cast primarily as an aerial tanker, is being accelerated and its secondary missions expanded to include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, efforts reflected in the program’s $269 million request for RDT&E funding. Initial operational test and evaluation of the MQ-25 is scheduled for fiscal 2024, with service entry projected for fiscal 2025.

Military Construction

Construction Electrician 2nd Class Brandon Rivera (left), from Victorville, Calif., and Builder 3rd Class Lawrence Spears, from Houston work at Naval Base Sasebo, Japan. US Navy Photo

The MILCON request went up significantly over last year’s funding – $2.368 billion in FY2022 compared with $1.936 billion in 2021, but those totals pale in comparison to the $6.431 billion granted in fiscal 2020.

Christopher Cavas

Christopher P. Cavas is a long time naval writer and analyst.

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