ANALYSIS: Battleground year for Navy and Marine Corps
By ROXANA TIRON, Seapower Correspondent
SEA SERVICE SPENDING SNAPSHOTS
■ Shipbuilding dominates Navy budget discussions. Page 24
■ Growing, resetting the force focus of Marine Corps request.
■ USCG takes cautious spending approach. Page 32
The 2009 fiscal year looks to be crucial for the
Navy and the Marine Corps, not just as a battleground for resources, but also for the competing concepts that will ultimately determine how
those resources shape the services’ future.
The dilemma over the right mix of surface combatant ships and a perceived strike fighter shortfall is as
much a quandary over funding as it is over which decision will yield the best outcome.
In many ways, the 2009 budget and policy will
inform program decisions during the next five years
and prove fertile ground for a new administration to
influence the future makeup and capabilities of the
services. Much depends on the resolution of these
issues in order to avoid a domino effect that could have
troubling consequences for the Navy and Marine
Corps, as well as the shipbuilding industry.
The chairman of the House defense appropriations
subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said shipbuilding is his biggest concern in fiscal 2009.
Revitalizing shipbuilding and growing the surface
combatant fleet to the 313 ships the Navy seeks is no
easy task in a tight budget environment, with competing interests and the ballooning costs of new classes of
ships, such as the planned DDG 1000.
The Navy said during the summer that it wanted to
cancel the DDG 1000 after the second ship, and
instead build additional Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51)
destroyers. The Zumwalt class had been planned to
comprise seven ships.
Weeks later — after intense pressure from the Maine and Massachusetts delegations with large stake in
the program — the Navy said it
would build a third Zumwalt ship,
and stop at that.
One advantage the Navy has in
its predicament is that some strong
supporters in Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives,
want to see the fleet grow and are fighting to readjust
the balance sheet.
Lawmakers are particularly troubled that the Navy
does not plan to request funding 10 new ships a year
until fiscal 2012. They believe that the low rate of production not only will hurt the shipbuilding industrial
base, but take the Navy further away from its stated
goal of a 313-ship fleet.
Congress is not opposed to building a next-generation
destroyer. Some delegations, such as those from Maine,
Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with high stakes in the
program welcomed the decision to build a third DDG
1000 and could push for more ships.
How the Navy proceeds in 2009 with the DDG 1000
will determine the future of the San Antonio-class
landing platform dock ships, the Lewis and Clark-class
T-AKE dry cargo/ammunition ships and the DDG 51s,
as well as the production rate for Virginia-class submarines.
The destroyer, meant to provide long-range fire for
Marines fighting onshore, is “one of the more significant
FY09 defense procurement issues,” said Ronald
O’Rourke, a naval analyst with the Congressional
Research Service. “The resolution of this issue could, in
turn, affect the amount of funding that might be available for application to other shipbuilding programs.”
The DDG 1000-versus-DDG 51 debate is seeing intense
lobbying from two defense giants: Lockheed Martin and
Raytheon. Raytheon’s equipment would run all computer
systems — from launching missiles to sending e-mail —