Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure

August 12, 2022 9:04 AM

The following is the July 28, 2022, 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 annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 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 goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

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