Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Congress this week passed a $1.5 trillion spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year that includes billions of dollars in new shipbuilding funding, enough to keep the Navy fleet at its current size instead of shrinking.
Passage of the huge spending bill ends a year of intrigue over the short-term fate of the Navy. In May 2021, the Navy put forward a budget plan that called for decommissioning 15 vessels and building just eight new ships, which would have reduced the number of manned battle-force ships from 296 to 289.
Both Republicans and Democrats said throughout 2021 that this plan wasn’t good enough. They passed a defense policy bill late in the year that called for building as many as three new DDG-51 guided missile destroyers instead of just one, as the Navy suggested.
Lawmakers took that a step further this week by releasing a bill that added another $4.1 billion in shipbuilding funds over President Biden’s request. The House passed the bill on Wednesday and the Senate passed it Thursday, allowing it to be sent to President Biden's desk for his signature into law.
According a congressional summary of the bill, the $26.7 billion in total shipbuilding fund is enough for 13 new Navy ships:
Two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers; two SSN-774 attack submarines; one frigate; two TAO fleet oilers; two towing, salvage and rescue ships; one T-AGOS(X) auxiliary general ocean surveillance ship; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary medical ship; and one expeditionary fast transport.
The legislation also limits the ability of the Navy to decommission vessels in the current year. The Navy had plans to decommission 15, but the bill specifically prevents the Navy from decommissioning three littoral combat ships: the USS Fort Worth, USS Detroit and USS Little Rock.
If the Navy moves ahead with plans to decommission the 12 remaining vessels it wants to retire, the fleet would still expand by one vessel if 13 ships are built.
The legislation includes $130 million for submarine supplier development, $900 million to buy a dozen new Super Hornet jets, and $570 million for six Marine helicopters, according to DefenseNews.
It calls for personnel reductions for both the Navy and the Marine Corps. It supports 346,920 active-duty Sailors, a drop of 880, and 58,600 Navy Reservists, a drop of 200.
It supports 178,500 active-duty Marine Corps personnel, down 2,700 from current levels, and 36,800 Marine Reservists, down 1,700.
The funding bill also backs a 2.7 percent pay raise for all enlisted personnel, something envisioned by lawmakers last year but was hung up in the larger fight over federal spending levels.
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