New Advocacy Group Calls For Fully Funding the Navy in 2017

By Allyson Versprille

A new coalition of sea service advocates called for Congress to fully fund the Navy in fiscal year 2017 with an additional $15 billion.

The Navy League of the United States, a nonprofit maritime advocacy group, launched March 26 a grassroots campaign, "America's Strength." The coalition comprises businesses, humanitarian groups, retired military officers and lawmakers. Representatives of the group urged Congress and the Defense Department to increase the Navy's fiscal year 2017 budget. 

The Navy's fiscal woes can be addressed by shifting more of the defense budget toward its requirements, eliminating budget caps and raising the budget's overall top line, members of the coalition said at the campaign's unveiling on Capitol Hill. 

"If the defense top line were simply raised or the Budget Control Act caps were eliminated and raised to the level of the president's budget proposal, that would address about half of the Navy's shortfalls," said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. 

Coalition advocates said the Navy is short about $15 billion for its annual operations, which could reduce the service's readiness. About $5 billion of that is needed to build up its fleet to required levels, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers shared by the coalition. That gap will expand to $8.5 billion between 2025 to 2035 when construction is slated to begin on the next generation of nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines. 

Today, the service has 289 ships but requires 306 to meet its needs, according to the coalition. If the Navy falls below 260 ships, it is in danger of being downgraded from a superpower to a regional power, said Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness subcommittee.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of HASC's seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said a simple solution to the problem would be to move more funding to the Navy. "We're not talking about moving planets," he said. "If we could just shift 1 percent of the defense budget, we could do the shipbuilding we need to do."

Additional funding of about $4.5 billion is needed for aircraft procurement, $4 billion for temporary war funding before contingency funds are depleted, $1 billion for weapons procurement and $600 million for construction and maintenance of military facilities, a coalition fact sheet said. 

If the Navy does not receive additional funding, there will be repercussions for several industries, including energy and telecommunications, said several members of the coalition. Eighty percent of the world's trade is conducted by sea and 95 percent of the world's international data traffic occurs in undersea water cables, which the Navy protects, according to a letter the coalition sent to Congress. 
The Navy also plays an important role in medical diplomacy, said Matthew Peterson, deputy to the CEO of Project Hope, an international disaster relief organization. The service's presence during humanitarian efforts after disasters such as the 2005 tsunami in Indonesia can increase goodwill toward the United States, he said. If the Navy lacks resources for these missions, other nations such as China will fill that gap, he added. 

Forbes said a lack of funding has translated into the Navy not being able to carry out all of its required missions. "When you go back to just 2009, we were able to meet 90 percent of the naval asset requirements of our combatant commanders. This year we will meet less than 50 percent of them," said Forbes.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Shipbuilding

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