SNA NEWS: Top Navy Official Calls for Higher Budget Topline
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.”