CNO Franchetti Focused on Growing Shipbuilding, Weapons Industrial Base

March 27, 2024 6:03 PM
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti tours the Independence-class littoral combat ship PCU Kingsville (LCS-36) at Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., Mar. 4., 2024. US Navy Photo

Faced with flat budgets for the foreseeable future, the Navy’s top officer wants to devote the resources she has to develop capacity for shipbuilding and munitions to preserve the existing industrial base.
Speaking during a prerecorded interview with Defense One broadcast on Wednesday, Adm. Lisa Franchetti said her four-year term as chief of naval operations would pay particular attention to industry.

“I think during my tenure, my job is going to be to really invest heavily in our defense industrial base in our weapons industrial base…really working with shipbuilding industry, on workforce development, on getting the long lead type materials they need on having the infrastructure they need to be able to really speed up production that will help us procure more ships, more submarines and everything else we need in the future,” she said.

Since becoming CNO, Franchetti has pushed the idea of “more players on the field,” a recognition of the service’s push for a larger Navy to meet its goals as part of the 2022 National Defense Strategy. Last year, the Navy told Congress it needs 381 ships plus up to 150 unmanned vessels to meet its commitment to the current NDS. According to the most optimistic version of the Navy’s shipbuilding plan, the service may reach that goal in the early 2040s.

However, in the short term the Navy submitted its smallest request for new hulls in recent memory – six battle force ships and has pushed its next-generation sub, destroyer and fighter to further in the future. Likewise, a fleet of unmanned ships that were to act as adjunct missile magazines and sensor platforms for the manned platforms have also been delayed several years in the most recent budget submission.

Those cuts and delays are “a recognition that there are really tough choices to be made with the budget that we have with this Fiscal Responsibility Act,” she said, referring to the agreement made in Congress two years ago that placed a cap on the defense budget for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025.

One tough choice included buying one less Virginia-class attack submarine in FY 2025 as the Navy continues to face headwinds in shoring up the submarine industrial base. Now, the service delivers submarines at about 1.3 a year annually – far lower than the 2.33 boats a year the service needs to build the Virginia-class attack boats and support the three earmarked for the Royal Australian Navy as part of the AUKUS agreement. The two yards building the boats, HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat are also up to a year behind on the Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine, USNI News reported earlier this month.

Instead of the second Virginia, the Navy is pushing money toward advanced procurement for the submarine industrial base. Over the next five years, the Navy is investing more than $17 billion into the effort with SIB money topping the Navy’s unfunded list on top of other investments, USNI News reported this week.

“We really need to invest in the foundation of our American shipbuilding arsenal to be able to produce those ships and submarines that we need on a pace at which we need them,” she said.

Franchetti’s comments come after Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told shipbuilders they needed to “invest more” of their own capital in shipyards and do more to recruit and retain workers.

“Two words: invest more. You’re not where you need to be,” he said on March 7.
“For those companies that are having problems in retention, damn it take better care of your people … If they can’t find housing in your local communities, well then work with the governments to build housing in the local communities to get about it. That’s what problem solvers do.”

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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