THE PENTAGON – The Navy wants to purchase nine battle force ships and decommission 11 hulls in its Fiscal Year 2024 budget request.
The proposal, formally unveiled today at the Pentagon, is asking for $255.8 billion for the Department of the Navy – $53.2 billion for the Marine Corps and $202.5 billion for the Navy. The total DON request is a 4.5% increase over what Congress appropriated last year, according to the service’s budget presentation.
The request asks Congress to purchase one Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine, two Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class attack boats, two Constellation-class frigates, one John Lewis-class fleet oiler and one next-generation submarine tender replacement known as AS(X) for a total of $32.8 billion in the Navy’s shipbuilding account. The service sped up the first AS(X) procurement to FY 2024 from a previously planned start of FY 2025.
In addition to the battle force ship request, the Navy wants funding for one Landing Craft, Air Cushion Service Life Extension Program, two Landing Craft Utility 1700s, and two used sealift ships.
The Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), or the Pentagon’s five-year budget outlook, shows the Navy buying two Flight III destroyers and two Virginia-class attack boats a year through FY 2028. It also shows the Navy buying one Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine per year from FY 2026 through FY 2028, one Ford-class aircraft carrier in FY 2028, and the next America-class amphibious assault ship in FY 2027. The Navy previously planned to buy that ship – LHA-10 – in FY 2031. For the Constellation-class frigate, the Navy plans to buy one in FY 2025, two in FY 2026, one in FY 2027 and two in FY 2028.
The Navy is also seeking $1.8 billion in incremental funding for LHA-9, which the service bought in FY 2021, and $1.9 billion for the two Ford-class aircraft carriers it previously purchased in a block buy.
“With $1.9 billion requested in FY 2024, the Department will finance the seventh increment of funding for the third Ford-class carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 80), and the sixth increment of funding for the fourth Ford-class carrier, USS Doris Miller (CVN 81),” the Navy FY 2024 budget highlights book reads.
The five-year outlook shows the service starting the Landing Ship Medium program – previously known as the Light Amphibious Warship – in FY 2025 by purchasing one ship, one in FY 2026, two in FY 2027, and two in FY 2028. The ship is meant to have a beaching capability so it can shuttle small units of Marines between islands and shorelines in the Pacific.
The request seeks to decommission eight ships in FY 2024 before they reach their expected service lives: three Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships, three Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and two Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships. Of those eight ships, the Navy sought to decommission four of them last year: cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG-69) and dock landing ships USS Germantown (LSD-42), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) and USS Tortuga (LSD-46). Congress prohibited the Navy from retiring those hulls in FY 2023. The Navy also wants to decommission cruisers USS Antietam (CG-54) and USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), and Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Juan (SSN-751), all of which are past their expected service lives.
The service performed a “ship-by-ship review” to consider the decommissionings for both the LSDs and other ship classes, Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven told reporters last week.
“What we’ve found on the LSDs is that they are challenged in terms of readiness. We want to make sure that the capabilities that we field are the right capabilities and are able to perform the mission to the standards that we expect,” Raven said. “And so we’re proposing those divestments because we think the return on investment for their investments on those particular ships – as just hull by hull – the return on investment is not there.”
The service also wants to decommission cruisers USS Cowpens (CG-63) and USS Shiloh (CG-67) and LCSs USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Montgomery (LCS-8). While Shiloh, Jackson and Montgomery were slated for decommissioning in FY 2024 under the FY 2023 30-year shipbuilding plan, the Navy previously planned to decommission Cowpens in FY 2026, but opted to retire the cruiser sooner for $130.1 million in savings across the FYDP.
“USS Cowpens has experienced increased maintenance availability costs and poor return on investment in terms of operational employment and capability. This reduction is in line with the Defense Planning Guidance. Cost avoidance is realized when manpower and maintenance costs are avoided for a ship already scheduled to decommission,” the budget highlights book reads.
Jackson and Montgomery – built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., – were commissioned in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and are expected to have 25-year service lives.
“The Department is looking at exactly what we might be able to do with selling LCS,” Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, Navy deputy assistant secretary for budget, told reporters on Friday. “The particular decision for the six and eight hulls was not about, ‘oh we’re going to sell these.’ But the Department is looking into that strategy [for] vessels we’ve already decommissioned.”
In the Navy’s annual budget briefing on Monday, Gumbleton attributed the decision to retire the two LCS to the Navy changing the mine countermeasure ship inventory to 15 vessels.
Over the last few years, the Navy has tried to decommission both LCS classes but focused more aggressively on the Freedom-class hulls due to problems with its complicated combining gear that pairs the ship’s diesel engines with its gas turbines.
The latest five-year budget outlook notably does not include a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock that the Navy previously planned to buy in FY 2025, USNI News previously reported.
Asked last week about amphibious ships and the Navy’s plans to do more analysis on their requirements and capabilities, Raven said: “What we are looking at is making sure that on the acquisition track, that again, that we’re looking at the right capabilities for amphibs and that we’re going to procure them in the right way and so we’re continuing to look at that.”
For aircraft procurement, the Navy wants to buy a total of 88 aircraft for $17.3 billion. Those aircraft include 15 U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35Cs, 16 U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs, 12 multi-engine training systems for the Marines, 14 multi-engine training systems for the Navy, 15 CH-53K King Stallion heavy-life helicopters for the Marines, two KC-130Js for the Marines, two MQ-4C Tritons for the Navy, three MQ-25As for the Navy, and five MQ-9A Reapers for the Marines. This year’s request includes the last planned buy for the KC-130J, the MQ-9A, and the MQ-4C.
For the Navy, the budget request seeks $63.7 billion for procurement, $23.3 billion for research and development, $67.3 billion for the service’s operations and maintenance account, $42.9 billion for personnel, and $5.3 billion for family housing and military construction. For the Marines, the request includes $13.1 billion for procurement, $3.6 billion for research and development, $17.3 billion for the operations and maintenance account, $17.7 billion for personnel, and $1.5 billion for family housing and military construction.
The Navy plans to spend a total of $2.3 billion in research and development money on next-generation platforms, according to the budget presentation slides. That money breaks down to $1.53 billion for the next-generation fighter known as F/A-XX, $545 million on the future attack boat known as SSN(X) and $187 million for the next-generation destroyer known as DDG(X).
For three consecutive budget cycles, the Navy classified the research and development costs for the Next-Generation Air Dominance program attached to the F/A-XX effort. While the service published the FY 2024 research and development costs for the next-generation fighter, Gumbleton noted the supporting information about the program is still classified.
“What I can tell you though is that is about a $600 million increase from last year’s request,” Gumbleton said of the $1.53 billion research and development investment.
The FY 2024 proposal asks for $6.9 billion for weapons procurement – about $2 billion more than what lawmakers appropriated for FY 2023 – which includes 34 Tactical Tomahawks for the Marine Corps, eight Conventional Prompt Strike weapons systems, and 50 Maritime Strike Tomahawks. The CPS system, which will get fielded on the Zumwalt-class destroyer, is an FY 2024 new start.
The service is also seeking multi-year procurement contracts for several weapons systems: SM-6, Naval Strike Missile, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile and the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The multi-year procurement scheme would continue for the current five-year budget outlook through FY 2028. The FY 2024 request seeks to buy 125 SM-6s, 13 Naval Strike Missiles for the Navy, 90 Naval Strike Missiles for the Marine Corps, 374 AMRAAMs, and 81 LRASMs.
For ship maintenance, the service needs money for 75 maintenance availabilities. It’s asking for $13.9 billion – a $1.9 billion over what Congress appropriated in FY 2023 – for 100 percent of the scheduled maintenance in the private and public yards.
The Navy is also asking for $2.7 billion to fund its Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP), the effort to overhaul and modernize the service’s four public shipyards. That’s a 47 percent, or $900 million, increase compared to FY 2023. All of that funding is for military construction, with $1.3 billion going toward replacing the dry dock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, $545 million toward multi-mission extensions for the dry docks at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, $145 million for design and planning, $81million for a dry dock saltwater systems at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and $195 million for shipyard electrical work.
The request also includes a 5.2 percent pay raise for military and civilian employees. It asks for $38 billion in funding for active-duty Navy personnel, $2.5 billion for the Navy Reserve personnel, $15.58 billion for active-duty Marine Corps personnel, and $904 million for Marine Corps Reserve personnel.
According to Navy presentation slides, the proposal also speeds up the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 initiative to overhaul the service and optimize it for a conflict in the Indo-Pacific with China. That effort consists of $16.9 billion to modernize equipment, including $62 million for long-range fires.