Official: Navy to Maintain Maritime Superiority Despite Smaller Budget (UPDATED)
SAN DIEGO — Despite proposed cuts to the Navy’s budget in the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, the service is still well positioned to meet much of its acquisition goals and respond to challenges in the future, said a Navy official Feb. 17.
With this budget request, “we can maintain our maritime superiority in a dynamic security environment,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources. “We can strengthen naval power by focused investments.”
The Navy requested a total budget of $139.9 billion for fiscal year 2017 including $7.9 billion for overseas contingency operations and $18.4 billion for shipbuilding procurement. The $132 billion base budget amount is $4.9 billion less than was appropriated for the service in fiscal year 2016.
The Navy’s OCO funding would increase $200 million in 2017, from $9.3 billion in 2016 to $9.5 billion. Total funding for the department — which includes money for the Marine Corps — would be $8.2 billion less than the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget anticipated for 2017.
Mulloy predicted that Congress would establish two more Bipartisan Budget Acts to help alleviate the so-called sequester, he said. One would be enacted for the fiscal year 2018 and 2019 budgets and another for 2020 and 2021 budgets, he said.
“We’re going to have, I believe, two more BBAs, because I don’t think anything in this country will drive us to lift this budget control law that ends in ’21,” he said during a keynote speech at the annual AFCEA/U.S. Naval Institute WEST 2016 conference in San Diego.
That would give the Navy between 87 to 94 percent of the funding it needs each year, he said. “That’s a good thing — except I really [need] 100 percent of my money.”
In the 2017 budget request, the Navy received about 90 percent of the funding it required, he added.
It has become increasingly difficult for military officials to make due with the funding it has, he said, noting that it has been “exhausting” dealing with budgetary ups and downs.
“Every chief in here, every first class petty officer, … I’m asking you all to toe a line, hang on, look carefully at what you’re spending on,” he said. “It gets hard to keep rubbing nickels.”
Mulloy said the fiscal year 2017 budget request was a mixed bag, but many critical programs were protected. Over the course of the future years defense plan, or FYDP — which covers fiscal years 2017 to 2021 — the Navy included funding for an Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine program and procurement of the lead ship. The program — which is also known as SSBN(X) — will eat up a big portion of the service’s budget, Mulloy said.
“It will be an amazing submarine, but a significantly expensive submarine,” he said. “It will shake up a fair amount of our dollars going ahead.”
The replacement is necessary because both China and Russia have their own advanced ballistic missile subs, he said.
Seven new-build ships were included in the fiscal year 2017 budget request including two Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke class destroyers, two littoral combat ships; and one amphibious warfare assault ship.
Additionally, Navy aviation requested four F-35C joint strike fighters, two F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, six E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and 11 P-8A Poseidons.
“The last three years of my job has been cutting aviation weapons … to be able to balance the Navy through … tough times,” he said. “This time what we said was, ‘We need more.'”
Mulloy also touted the Navy’s new initiative to rework the former unmanned carrier-launched surveillance and strike program. Service leaders announced in February that UCLASS would transition from a strike and surveillance drone to an unmanned refueling tanker. The carrier-based aerial-refueling system, or CBARS, program would keep fighter jets in the air longer and more affordably, he said.
“This is something we need now as fast as we can get it in the fleet and have it integrated on our aircraft carriers to give us surveillance at a distance,” he said.
Last year, the Navy used F/A-18s to track an Iranian vessel that they suspected was delivering weapons to Yemen, Mulloy said. If the Navy had had CBARS at the time that could have freed up five or six fighter jets, he said.
“If we had one of the vehicles we could have 13 hours a day of rotation, continuous eyeballs on it,” he said.
In fiscal year 2017, $3.2 billion was allocated toward weapons procurement, including Tomahawks, Standard Missile-6s and MK 48 torpedoes. Mulloy called the SM-6 an “amazing capability.”
There were also difficult cuts, he said. The Navy took a 4 percent reduction in procurement and research, development, test and evaluation funding. “That’s a difficult choice, … ’17 is a tough year,” he said.
One major reduction in the Navy budget included a cut to its littoral combat ship program, reducing vessels from a planned purchase of 52 to 40 ships.
The military’s budget cuts come at a time of increased threats globally, he said. “The world we live in is the most challenging and turbulent since World War II,” he said. “Everyone is pursuing technology … and that really brings tremendous risk and danger.”
Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are all beefing up their military prowess and pose a threat to the United States, he said.
Correction: The name of the conference has been corrected.