BUDGET 2022: New Biden Budget Would Cut Navy Shipbuilding, Aircraft
General Dynamics Electric Boat rendering
President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request would increase the Navy’s topline budget but decrease the service’s shipbuilding and aircraft procurement funding, according to documents released May 28.
In the request, the Department of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps and Navy, would receive a topline of $211.7 billion which is a 1.8 percent increase from the enacted fiscal year 2021 budget of $207.1 billion.
The Navy’s shipbuilding account would decrease by $700 million with the 2022 fiscal blueprint asking for $22.6 billion. The request would keep the service's overall ship number at 296.
The budget includes funds for eight ships: two Virginia-class fast-attack submarines, one Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one FFG(X) guided-missile frigate, one T-AO fleet replenishment oiler, one TAGOS(X) ocean surveillance ship and two T-ATS towing, salvage and rescue ships.
The Pentagon’s latest shipbuilding plan, released in December in the final weeks of the Trump administration, called for growing the fleet to 316 ships by 2026, 355 by the early 2030s and 400 by the early 2040s.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton said if the service continues the trend of purchasing eight ships a year, it will miss its goal of 355 ships by the early 2030s.
The Navy purchasing “eight ships a year is not going to get to 355,” he said during a press briefing with reporters. “All things being equal, if you have a 300 ship Navy and a 30-year life, you have to recapitalize it 10 per year and so eight is not going to do it — that said we're consistent with last year's request of eight — we're requesting eight this year again.”
The Navy is focus on not having a “hollow force,” he added. We are “making sure we're ready today, modernizing for tomorrow, and then the investment for the future and with this top line allocated, this was the right blend to do that.”
The proposed budget also requests $4.6 billion to provide funding for the Navy’s top priority: the Columbia-class submarine. The money would provide the service with the second of three years of incremental full funding for the ship, according to the documents.
The budget’s request of $2 billion for an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer would supply the service with a Flight III ship equipped with the Advanced Air and Missile Defense Radar.
When asked about the Navy’s decision to only request one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Gumbleton said it came down to affordability.
“The goal of the department was to balance the first priority, which is investment in Columbia recapitalization, [then] the second priority, which is to prioritize readiness, to deliver a combat credible force for today, invest in lethality and modernization, and then grow the warfighting capacity at a rate supported by our budget controls,” he said.
“When you ask the question with respect to the second [Areligh Burke destroyer], this was clearly a hard choice with respect to what we could afford as we build the Navy for the ‘22 budget.”
Bryan Clark, senior fellow and director at the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, said the number of vessels the budget allocates for is not enough.
“The number of ships they are buying is not sufficient and it reduces the number of larger ships like destroyers yet it's not increasing the number of smaller ships like frigates,” he said referring to the Navy’s budget. “It seems like they could at least increase the frigate numbers to try to reflect this rebalancing they are trying to do.”
Aircraft procurement under the proposal would be cut by 15.6 percent from $19.5 billion in fiscal year 2021 to $16.5 billion for fiscal year 2022. According to budget documents, the decrease is attributable to the end of the procurement for a number of aircraft including the F/A-18 E/F Naval Strike Fighter, P-8A Poseidon, and VH-92A Presidential Helicopter.
The department is cutting its 150 legacy F/A-18 aircraft down to 50, “and it intends to walk that down here in future years,” Gumbleton said.
To compensate for that divestment the service plans to leverage its new F-35 buys coupled with increasing investment in readiness of its newer existing aircraft, he said.
According to the request, the service is asking for fewer F-35C strike fighters than in previous years, requesting to add only 20 of aircraft as opposed to the 26 additions in fiscal year 2021.
The budget also requests funding for six medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, which is designed to fly for extended periods of time.
Research and development would grow 12.4 percent under the budget, up $2.5 billion from the fiscal year 2021 budget to $22.6 billion in fiscal year 2022. Funding will go toward science and technology and developing advanced network weapons, unmanned systems, hypersonics and the Columbia-class submarine.
One clear priority for the Navy while building out its budget was an emphasis on readiness, Gumbleton said.
For instance, the budget allocated $71.2 billion for operations and maintenance, a 3.4 percent increase over the last year.
Clark said he believes that the service had to overcome the lack of a substantial amount of additional funding in this year’s budget by reallocating money from procurement toward readiness, and with a slight increase in research and development.
“The emphasis on readiness, I thought was interesting because it doesn't correlate with the idea that you're trying to transform the force for the coming competition or ongoing competition with China,” he said.
The proposal would also drop the Navy’s total end strength of active-duty and reserve sailors from 407,329 to 404,800.