New Force Structure Assessment to Be Delivered to Navy Leadership Soon
A new preliminary force structure assessment meant to examine the composition of the Navy’s fleet will be delivered to service leadership in November, said the undersecretary of the Navy Oct. 4.
Leadership will then have time to tweak it until a final report is released next year, Thomas Modly told a group of reporters in Washington, D.C.
“I’m very anxious to see it myself and to start becoming engaged in it,” he said.
The effort — which is being led by the OPNAV staff — is meant to signal how many vessels and the force mix the service will need as it faces increasing threats around the globe. The last report, which called for a 355-ship Navy, was released in 2016.
“There are a lot of things that have changed since 2016 with respect to some of the challenges we’re seeing in the Pacific particularly,” Modly said. “Some of the advancements in the capabilities of our near-peer competitors and our peer competitors are going to inform that study.”
Consideration of unmanned systems will be an important part of the review, he added.
While Republican leadership have been supportive of the Navy’s efforts to grow the fleet to 355 ships by the 2050s — which the Navy has said will cost $20 billion annually in shipbuilding costs — a Democratic-led House may seek to rein that in.
During remarks at an industry conference in early September, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Navy should focus more on capability rather than number of vessels.
“The obsession with how many ships we have … is horribly misplaced,” he said. [We must] focus on capability instead of this continual obsession with we don’t have enough" capacity.
Vice Adm. William Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, recently noted that the Navy was still committed to a 355-ship fleet.
However, “we’re only committed to the point where it’s the right mix of ships,” he said at the industry conference. “If we build 300 of the wrong types of ships then that 355 becomes meaningless."
If the Democrats take control of the House after the November elections, it is presumed that Smith will take over HASC’s chairmanship. Democrats would have “a more realistic outlook over the course of the next 10 years of how much money is going to be available for defense,” Smith said.
Modly said the service plans to stay out of politics and work to make the best case it can for its funding priorities.
“Ultimately the decision to fund that comes from the Congress and the people that send those representatives to Congress,” he said. “In terms of what they’re going to support, our job is to make the best case to the American people through those representatives about what we need and they’ll have to decide what they're willing to fund.”
Modly said he believed the Navy has been making a compelling case about its resourcing needs. “But that’s not always what carries the day,” he added.
- Additional reporting by Jon Harper