Report to Congress on Naval Force Structure
The following is the June 21, 2020 report from the Congressional Research Service, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report
The current and projected size and makeup of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy vessel supply, the potential affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the ability of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute Navy shipbuilding plans were oversight matters for the defense of Congress. committees for many years.
In December 2016, the Navy released a force structure goal that calls for reaching and sustaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The target of 355 ships has become US policy under section 1025 of the National Defense Authorization Act FY2018 (HR 2810 / PL 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the force level target of 355 ships. The new target is expected to introduce a new, more distributed fleet architecture comprising a smaller proportion of large vessels, a greater proportion of small vessels and a new third tier of large unmanned vehicles (UVs).
On June 17, 2021, the Navy released a long-range shipbuilding document that introduces the Biden administration’s emerging successor to the force level goal of 355 ships. The document calls for a navy with a more distributed fleet architecture, comprising 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs.
The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 calls for the purchase of eight new ships, including two Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs); an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG-51); a Constellation-class frigate (FFG-62); a John Lewis class lubricator (TAO-205); two TATS tow, rescue and rescue vessels; and a TAGOS ocean surveillance vessel (X). The total of eight new vessels requested for FY2022 is one more than the total of seven new vessels that have been projected for FY2022 under the Navy’s budget for FY2021, or roughly two of less than the steady-state replacement rate for a navy of 355 ships (that’s about 10 ships per year) and four less than the 12 new ships shown in a long-term shipbuilding document the Trump administration has submitted December 9, 2020.
The Navy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 requests $ 18.1 billion for the construction of new ships as part of its shipbuilding budget (the Shipbuilding and Conversion Credit Account, Navy or SCN), vs. $ 17.8 billion for the construction of new ships in the SNA account planned for fiscal year 2022 as part of the Navy’s budget presentation for fiscal year 2021, $ 22.8 billion for fiscal year 2022 for the construction of new ships on the SCN account in the document of December 9, 2020, and a total adopted for fiscal year 2021 of $ 20.1 billion for the construction of new ships on the SCN account.
The question for Congress is to approve, reject or modify the Navy’s force level target, its proposed shipbuilding program for fiscal year 2022, and its longer-term shipbuilding plans. The key questions for Congress are: Is the emerging naval force-level objective appropriate to support the national security strategy and the national defense strategy of the United States? Is the more distributed fleet architecture envisioned by the Navy the most cost effective fleet architecture to meet future mission needs? Is the Navy’s proposed shipbuilding program for Exercise 2022 consistent with the emerging Navy strength objective? Given limited defense resources and competing demands for defense funds, what is the potential affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans? Does the US shipbuilding industry, including shipyards and suppliers, have adequate capabilities to execute Navy shipbuilding plans?
Download the document here.