Surface Ship Shortfall
Navy faces a gap in cruisers and destroyers under its current plan
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
However, while the Navy will
achieve 94 ships on its current
path in 2020 and 2021, levels will
start to decline after that.
“Specifically, the Navy projects
that it will have, at most, 92 [ballis-
tic missile defense] ships in 2024
before declining to 65 in 2034,” the
Senate panel noted in its markup
report. “The committee is con-
cerned about this projected short-
fall and believes that the Navy
should begin to review and consider
options to close the gap.”
Currently, the service has little
to say on the issue, at least publicly.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Court-
ney Hillson told Seapower that the
fiscal 2012 shipbuilding plan had
been delivered to Congress on May 24, and until
President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request is
submitted in February, “plans regarding future force
structure are pre-decisional, and it would be inappro-
priate to discuss specific details.”
The fiscal 2012 plan that is currently a matter of
public record “reflect[s] the naval capabilities needed
to balance the challenges over the next three decades
of the 21st century, within reasonable fiscal con-
straints,” Hillson said.
She noted that the floor for the Navy’s overall force
structure remains at 313 ships. The current fleet stands
at 286 ships.
“The Navy will continue to examine this requirement
in conjunction with increased operational demands and
expanding requirements for irregular challenges, ballistic
missile defense and intra-theater lift,” she said.
The Senate panel’s report directs Navy Secretary Ray
Mabus to submit a report to it “at the same time as the
president submits the budget request for fiscal year
2013, which provides options for closing this gap.”
A Congressional Research Service report says the Navy’s 30-year
shipbuilding plan “does not contain enough destroyers to maintain a
force of 94 cruisers and destroyers consistently over the long run.”
; Another analyst argues that the Navy’s decision to purchase
55 Littoral Combat Ships has come at the cost of having enough
destroyers and cruisers to do the job.
; Adding DDG 51 destroyers to the shipbuilding plan, or extending the lives of legacy destroyers to 45 years, could help mitigate
the shortfall, but both scenarios also present drawbacks.
; According to the Navy, the current plan “reflect[s] the naval
capabilities needed to balance the challenges over the next three
decades of the 21st century, within reasonable fiscal constraints.”
The U.S. Navy’s CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruis- ers and DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroy- ers serve as the backbone of the surface fleet
and provide the nation with power projection and a
global presence, which is why alarm is growing in
Congress over the Navy’s proposed 30-year shipbuilding plan that would leave a large shortfall in the coming decades.
In September, the Senate Appropriations Committee
raised concerns in its markup of the fiscal 2012 defense
appropriations bill about the Navy’s current path based
on the submitted fiscal 2012 30-year shipbuilding plan,
which would result in the service’s destroyers and cruisers dwindling in number, particularly in the 2030s.
A recent Congressional Research Service report
penned by naval analyst Ron O’Rourke said the shortfall will increase to the point that the Navy will be
dozens of ships below the 94-ship cruiser and destroyer requirement in 2034. Today, the Navy is about 10
destroyers and cruisers short of that requirement, with
the plan to reach a fleet of 94 by 2024.