Navy Acquisition Chief Optimistic About Budget Outcome

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Ships assigned to the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group and ships assigned to the Republic of Korea navy underway in formation during Maritime Counter Special Operations Force exercise.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the House debates its version of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Navy’s top acquisition official said May 18 he was confident that Congress will pass legislation that would provide the sea service with a larger and more capable fleet.

“I believe we’re on the same page in terms of requirements. I think we’re on the same page in terms of the need for a stronger, a larger Navy and I think that we’re on that path together,” said Sean Stackley, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition.

While trades will have to be made, he trusted that Congress would make the right choices when looking at which programs to fund, he said during a speech at Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Conference.

Stackley noted that within Congress there are a total of 24 committees. Among those, four deal with defense issues and two with intelligence.

“They have a tough job in terms of defending the defense portion of the budget with all the other demands on the nation’s budget,” he said. Yet, over the last three years Congress has delivered to the Navy about a $10 billion increase in procurement for ships, aircraft and missile systems, he noted.

Stackley stressed the need for a larger and more technologically advanced Navy. The service currently operates 272 ships but has a requirement for 308. Other assessments have put that required number at 350, he added.

“The net effect of the high operational demand … on a fleet of today’s size is causing high stress on our sailors and Marines and their families, wear and tear on the ships, aircraft and weapon systems, increased maintenance requirements, more time needed to depot and a dangerous cycle that threatens the readiness and surge capacity of the force,” he said. “We’ve got to fix this. It’s the priority for the leadership team in place today.”

With 65 ships under contract or being constructed this year, the Navy is on an “irreversible path” to 300 ships by the end of this decade, Stackley noted.

“While our budget may be flat, it is not small,” he said. The service must carefully choose which programs to fund and which to curb back on as it pursues cutting edge naval technology.

“The fact is that these incredibly capable machines required in the decades ahead to maintain our maritime superiority are more costly than the capabilities being replaced, which when overlaid on the current budget environment, jeopardizes our ability to increase both the size and capability of our Navy and Marine Corps,” he said.

Along with speed, power and payload, affordability must now be thought of as a requirement for any new platform, he added.

Advancing the Navy’s fleet size and capability is critical as the United States faces threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State, he said.

“The rate and rise of these threats, whether measured in terms of sheer numbers or capability or geographic dispersion, threatens to eclipse those same measures by which we have long maintained our degree of global maritime superiority,” Stackley said.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Shipbuilding

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