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Lawmakers frustrated by Navy budget, question its unmanned strategy

Two House lawmakers – one Democrat and one Republican – complained this week that the Navy is still failing to explain the resources it needs from Congress, and raised questions about whether its plan for a vast, unmanned Navy can adequately project power overseas.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a former Navy ship commander, has pushed for a larger and better-funded Navy since taking office in 2019. But she told the Surface Navy Association’s annual meeting this week that despite her efforts, the Navy “doesn’t really come to us with a strategy” that lawmakers can support with funding.

"It's not very clear which direction the Navy wants to go, or what they want to either replace or augment…” she said, according to Military Times.

Luria and many others last year argued that after saying the Navy should be shooting for a 355-ship fleet, Navy leaders put forward a budget that would reduce the fleet further from 296 ships. That budget plan also called for building just one new DDG destroyer – Congress rejected that plan and called for three new destroyers.

"We all know in this room that the only ship that is built on time, on budget, on schedule right now are DDGs, so why would we only request to build one?" Luria said.

At the same event, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) asked whether the Navy’s plan to lean on unmanned ships will actually deter enemy forces. The Navy has indicated for months now that unmanned ships are the future, but has also indicated it may be years before this can become a reality.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday spoke to the same crowd this week and said he supports a fleet of 355 ships, as prescribed in federal law. “[F]or me, 355 is a great target right now,” he said, according to Politico.

But Gilday also said the 30-year shipbuilding plan would “show what the art of the possible is based on different funding levels.”

Last year, the Navy dropped the goal of a 355-ship fleet, and opted for a range of 321 to 372 ships. The Navy has had fewer than 300 ships for more than 15 years.

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