SNA NEWS: Top Navy Official Calls for Higher Budget Topline

By Connie Lee
Artist's rendering of the Columbia class submarine

Defense Department

The Navy needs more than a third of the Defense Department budget to pursue its shipbuilding goals, the Chief of Naval Operations said Jan. 14.

“We need more money,” Adm. Michael Gilday said at the Surface Navy Association’s annual meeting in Arlington, Virginia. “We need more topline.”

The Pentagon generally divvies out its annual budget request by appropriating a third to each of its military branches, the Air Force, Army and Navy. However, the Navy will need more than that to carry out its distributed maritime operations strategy and counter China’s increasing investment into its own ships, Gilday said.

“This discussion has to be going somewhere, and a one-third, one-third, one-third cut does not reflect the strategy,” he said. “It just isn't necessarily aligned with where we need to go against the pacing threat that we face.”

Gilday said his highest priority is building the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, part of the nuclear triad. The Ohio class submarines it is replacing are aging quickly and the new submarines' development comprises about 20 to 25 percent of the shipbuilding budget. This number is expected to rise to about 32 percent in fiscal years 2026 to 2030, he noted.

“I think historically I have a case to make,” he said. “It’s what you value, and I'm trying to make a case here and so I don't think … I'm speaking into a wind tunnel here. I talk about the value of the Navy.”

In the 1980’s, the Navy had 38 percent of the Defense Department’s budget, he said. Today the service has 34 percent. Even obtaining one percent more of the topline would equate to about $7 billion towards shipbuilding, he noted.

“If you believe that we require overmatch in the maritime [domain], if you believe that in order to execute, distribute maritime operations and to operate forward in great numbers, that we need more iron, then yes, we need more topline,” he said.

However, the service also needs to ensure that it is sustaining its current fleet of ships, he noted. The Navy must use its portion of the budget to close capability and readiness gaps, and also focus on maintenance.

“Sustaining the Navy that we have comes at a high price and part of that price is perhaps reduction in growth,” he said. “Not to say that growth stops, but growth perhaps slows a bit.”

Topics: Budget, Shipbuilding, Navy News

Comments (1)

Re: Top Navy Official Calls for Higher Budget Topline

More public commentators are promoting the need for a small missile corvette such as the Sa'ar 6 (the best choice), the Swiftships 75m, or the VT Halter Marine Ambassador III. That would really increase the ship count without breaking the bank or taking too long to construct. Obviously, the FFGX isn't even ready to build yet.

A call to up-arm the USCG's NSC and OPC cutters makes sense as those are generally new hulls. Adding ATGMs, APKWS, OTH SSMs like Harpoon, NSM, or LRASM, and perhaps ESSMs would produce a viable light frigate. The Juliet Marine "Ghost" trimaran is a viable missile corvette candidate if the Naval politics could be settled.

Fixing the Readiness issues such as giving the Zumwalts' 155mm AGSs shells and the Maritime Transportation Fleet would increase active performing ship count. If the Ready Reserve Fleet cannot sail, then those are hulls just sitting dockside waiting for parts or rusting away.

The Navy needs to (re)build the secondary fleet of support ships such as the Hospital ships, Submarine Tenders, Destroyer Tenders, Berthing Barges, RO/ROs, Bulk Carriers, and ESBs to give those non-combatant shipyards more work. The USN really needs to stop feeding the active-shooters and start abiding by Distributed Lethality mentality to increase the firepower of support ships, especially arming the ESBs. Having new Submarine and Destroyer Tenders, although very expensive, would definitely increase Readiness if these new and better-armed Tenders could sail away from port and service in the open ocean with some shotgun warship escort(s).

The Navy really needs to revamp the Zumwalt hull into a more useful purpose. Remove the 155mm AGSs and use that space as VLS cells or a drone launch pad. Change the superstructure for better usage besides stealth. Make future Zumwalts Air Warfare Commander friendly. The American taxpayers are tired of the Branches asking for more money to be spent on ships with dubious "teething" performance such as the Ford-class Carriers and LCSs. I would not place much faith in the Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSVs) just yet until their purpose, capabilities, specifications, and armaments are not yet determined. LUSVs could be heavy icebreakers or minesweepers instead...lightly armed and able to break ice or sweep mines unaided compared to the complex issues and situations of Distributed Maritime Operations combat.

Finally, isn't this all moot if the peer nation builds long-range stealthy bombers as Aircraft Arsenal Ships with cruise missiles and Hypersonics? Shouldn't the USN build Stratoplanes and 777s bristling with Anti-ship and Anti-A2AD weapons? What makes the USN believe that more new ships will rule the seas compared to long-range airplanes and supersonic aircraft? Is the goal for more VLS cells or more hulls?

Trisaw at 12:52 PM
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