UPDATED: Navy’s 2012 Budget Funds More Ships, But Long-Term Outlook Still Unclear
The Navy has added five more ships to its five-year procurement plans beginning in 2012, service officials announced Feb. 14.
This is “an impressive change for our shipbuilding plan,” Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the budget, said at a Pentagon briefing.
That brings the total number of new construction ships planned for the 2012 to 2016 time frame to 55, up from 50 in last year’s proposed budget.
The additions include a DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyer, one littoral combat ship and three fleet replenishment oilers.
For 2012, the Navy will buy 10 ships instead of the previously planned eight. These two new ships — an LCS and a mobile landing platform — were previously scheduled to be built later in the decade, but have now been moved up to the coming fiscal year.
The 10 new ships in the 2012 budget proposal now includes: two Virginia-class submarines, one Arleigh Burke destroyer, four littoral combat ships, one San Antonio-class amphibious ship, one joint high speed vessel and one mobile landing platform — a ship based on a commercial oiler to pre-position troops and cargo at sea.
The Navy is able to make these changes because of savings from the dual block buy of LCS, said Mulloy. Buying the first 20 LCSs from two manufacturers instead of one, and awarding contracts for more ships up front, will save $2.9 billion, he said. In late December, the Navy awarded contracts to each shipyard for 10 ships apiece.
Planned cutbacks to operations and personnel accounts will allow the Navy in 2014 to buy the new DDG-51 destroyer, Mulloy said. The Navy is accelerating the procurement of the mobile landing platform to help balance workloads in the shipyard, Mulloy said. General Dynamics NASSCO is designing and building the MLP. There will be three ships in the class. Originally, the Navy planned to procure a ship every other year beginning in 2011. In the new plan, the Navy is moving the third MLP up to 2012 from 2015 so that the vessel is bought in consecutive years.
The service is also accelerating the purchase of an ocean surveillance ship (T-AGOS) for anti-submarine warfare in support of U.S. Pacific Command, said Mulloy. It will buy one of these ships in 2013.
To replace its aging oiler fleet, the Navy is pursuing the fleet replenishment oiler replacement T-AO(X). The plan is to procure one of these new oilers each in 2014, 2015 and 2016. A new maritime law requires the petroleum-hauling ships to have double hulls to prevent spills. These vessels will help the service comply with the double-bottomed construction requirement, Mulloy said.
There is a casualty in the new plan. One of two joint high speed vessels planned for 2016 has been dropped.
It is not clear whether the Navy will be able to afford its new shipbuilding plan despite internal efforts to cut programs and streamline operations. Officials are budgeting $15.5 billion to buy the 10 ships in 2012. They expect a relatively flat budget in the coming years. The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly said that the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan is unaffordable. Reaching a fleet of 313 ships will require an annual $19 billion budget, CBO officials reported.
In recent years, Congress has appropriated the money that the Navy says it needs to build ships.
“When you take a look at the last three years, the Department of the Navy has been able to argue forcefully for the capabilities” that it needs, undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work said last month at an industry conference in San Diego.
The larger problem that Work and other officials are most concerned about is how to keep the Navy running under the continuing resolution. The delay in passing the Defense Department’s 2011 budget is negatively impacting naval operations. On the procurement end, officials were not able to award the second Virginia-class submarine contract as planned last month because of legislative limitations. There could be further delays on shipbuilding programs, they warned.
If the continuing resolution is not lifted, the Navy could lose nearly $6 billion from its 2011 budget, officials said yesterday.
Update: Navy spokesperson Lt. Courtney Hillson said that the JHSV procurement in 2016 was reduced due to competing requirements within available funding levels. “This will not impact the Navy’s existing JHSV contract with Austal USA,” she said. The Mobile, Ala.-based shipyard is the sole builder of the JHSV.
Read more in theMarch edition of National Defense.