CAPITOL HILL: The new 285-ship fleet the Navy plans in its fiscal 2013 budget plan may change, pending the results of a new service-wide force structure review, the Navy’s top officer said today.
The review, expected to wrap up within weeks, will outline how many hulls the Navy will need to meet the national security requirements outlined in the White House strategy released earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told reporters today.
The Navy cut 16 ships, slowed development on its new attack submarine and capped its amphibious fleet at 30 vessels in the fiscal 2013 budget request. The $13.7 billion set aside for new ships in the service’s fiscal ’13 budget blueprint is more than $1.6 billion smaller than what the sea service spent on shipbuilding in the previous fiscal year. Those near-term cuts will likely remain in place as the service’s spending plan makes its way through Capitol Hill. However, Greenert hinted to reporters that some of the long-term proposals in the budget plan — including the 285-ship number — could change.
When asked about the service’s plan to cap its amphibious fleet at 30 ships, Greenert said that limit was one of the many force structure issues that were currently under review. Greenert admitted the number could be considered a placeholder until the Navy review was complete. Looking at the total fleet, he noted the right level of Navy vessels could land somewhere between 285 and 300 ships. The CNO alluded to the fact that the fleet could theoretically go higher than 285 earlier than 2020. But the admiral was equally clear in stating the 300-ship fleet was also under debate as part of the Navy study.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday the Navy fleet would top out at 285 ships in 2017. By 2020, that number would climb slightly to 300 but would still fall short of the service’s long-stated goal of 313 ships, according to Panetta. He reiterated that plan to members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today.