The United States Navy has been working towards a goal of 306 warships by Fiscal Year 2043 (exemplified by the attached image). While the fleet currently resides at 283 warships, lawmakers are beginning to view the plan as financially and strategically uncertain for the future. These lawmakers fear that the Navy’s upgraded destroyers will not be able to sustain the new technologies that would drive down maintenance and sustainability costs, specifically with lasers and directed energy. In response, the Navy says its Surface Warfare Directorate has set up a 90-day working group, who will assemble a road map for future warships. They have also been working closely with industry stakeholders to develop a flexible design, but there is still doubt in lawmakers’ minds.
Current events have also created obstacles in the Navy’s objective. The imposed fiscal constraints and global instability have affected the ability to reach a desired fleet size, obtain the correct capabilities, and hit a targeted budget. Despite this, the Navy is still optimistic about their purpose. The Navy delivered its annual 30-year shipbuilding plans to Congress, as noted in AUSN’s Capitol Hill Blog, which has concluded that the Pentagon will need to focus its efforts on smaller ships in order to reach its 306-ship goal. In addition to the challenges the Navy has been facing, senior lawmakers are rejecting the service’s request to early retire aging Ticonderoga Class cruisers (CG’s) due to a lack of strategic analysis.
However, Pentagon strategists believe that the capable and financially sound laser technology shows great promise for the Navy’s financial and defensive future. After several years of research, laser technology has evolved to the point where they would allow the surface ships to secure a wider range of an area, as well as protecting against ballistic missiles. Critics have questioned the deployment strategy of these lasers, because it appears that only aircraft carriers and large-deck assault ships have enough space to accommodate this new technology. However, the Navy has stated that smaller lasers could begin demonstrations on smaller ships.
The Navy has also explored another cost-friendly option called a “rail-gun.” This gun option would cost a dollar per shot, as opposed to approximately $1 million that longer-range missiles entail. The savings associated with the rail-gun would reduce operation and sustainment costs, reducing 70 percent of the overall weapon’s system price.
The biggest issue for lawmakers is funding for the 30-year plan. The Navy typically receives $13 billion to $14 billion annually for shipbuilding. However, the annual funding needed to the 30-year plan would exceed $15 billion. Due to the Navy’s past patterns, Representative J. Randy Forbes (R-VA-04), House Armed Services Committee (HASC) - Seapower Chairman, has repeatedly said that he believes that the Navy has underestimated their shipbuilding cost and that there is not enough evidence to prove that the plan is an achievable goal.
Please continue to contact your Representatives and Senators and voice your concerns by using our Contact Congress feature and help get the word out. This is an ALL HANDS ON DECK effort and your grassroots advocacy will help make the changes that need to happen!
[Read the rest of this article...]