Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

By Jon Harper

Navy photo

The Navy needs a bigger slice of the budget pie to grow its fleet. However, changing the traditional formula for resource allocation among the services will be difficult to pull off politically, according to members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Seapower advocates have been banging the drum about the need for more funding for shipbuilding.

“I want a bigger Navy, a larger surface fleet in particular,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., said during a panel at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium. “Sign me up for as many ships as we can build.”

For fiscal year 2022, the Biden administration requested approximately $164 billion for the Navy — including $18.1 billion for construction of new ships — roughly on par with the topline sought for the Army and Air Force. Those figures do not include requested funding for the Marine Corps and Space Force, which are separate branches of the military but fall under the Department of the Navy and Department of the Air Force, respectively. As of press time, Congress had yet to pass a full-year appropriations bill for 2022.

The Army shouldn’t be receiving that large a share of the budget given the current strategic environment, said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.

“Our No. 1 threat is China. If you look at essentially what a scenario in that [Indo-Pacific] theater could look like, … the preponderance of the resources needs to go to the Navy and the Air Force” to prepare for future battles, she said. “We don’t need a standing Army of 485,000 [troops] right now. We really need our resources to go other places.”

However, “it is really hard to break that … one-third, one-third, one-third paradigm amongst the services,” she added, referring to how money is often divvied up among Defense Department components.

Gallagher expressed frustration that the Pentagon wasn’t moving to cut Army end strength and the department’s civilian workforce in line with what some officials have recommended.

“I don’t think we’re making any progress on either of those points, but [doing] that might free up resources that we could use to build up the size of the Navy,” he said. “It’s going to be a very difficult task.”

However, Gallagher and Luria have an idea for how to build more congressional support for increasing the Navy’s share of funding: the Defense Department should give lawmakers more insight and access to wargames.

That would improve their understanding of the capabilities the U.S. military and its adversaries have, and what investments are needed to prepare for a potential showdown, Luria said.

“I think it would help with that sort of racking and stacking of the limited resources that we have. Because ultimately, I think that we need to shift,” she said. “We could allocate that more smartly. And I honestly think you could find broader support in that” by exposing more lawmakers to wargames.

Gallagher said the way Congress is currently being briefed by defense officials on the results of the exercises is “suboptimal,” and the Pentagon should invite members of Congress into the wargaming process so they can better understand the strategic environment in which the Navy is operating.

However, it will require presidential leadership, not just support from Navy leaders and seapower advocates in Congress, to “break the service split” paradigm that exists today when it comes to resource allocation, he added.

As of press time, the Biden administration had yet to release its 2023 budget request and an updated 30-year shipbuilding plan.

Topics: Budget

Comments (6)

Re: Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

The US Navy is the most inept and most unprepared of our military branches. Spending more money on them is a waste of money and time in the short run.

Al Horvath at 6:53 PM
Re: Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

A famous quote goes "Any wisdom that fits in a nutshell, belongs there". There is no relatively simple philosophy towards defense in a complex world. Oh maybe back in 500 BC with Themistocles talking the Athenians into building a Navy ("The Walls of Wood") it worked, but not today. Know for a fact that warfare is always evolving, what is the "Cat's Meow" today is useless later on in the week. It's always something....Lasers, Drones, Hypersonic Missiles...it never ends. Unfortunately America has fallen into a malaise that is growing into physical symptoms that will eventually lead to a fatal incurable disease...morale decline. It is moral decline and not a "weak Navy or Army" that will defeat America. For all of America's technical expertise we were driven out of Afghanistan by a Taliban armed with equipment designed in the 1940's and 50's. We left behind some much modern equipment the Taliban still hasn't figured out where to start sorting the treasure from the trash. No, the debate between prioritizing one service over the other isn't America's biggest defense issue.

Brian Foley at 12:39 PM
Re: Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

"Our No. 1 threat is China" - not so sure about this. I guess the esteemed Congress folks don't realize that large Army's still have to be dealt with and the are found on the land. How about they actually focus on passing a budget, reducing out national debt and working together.

George H at 10:24 AM
Re: Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

What will it matter if the Navy continues to develop and build warships that cant fight as advertised? As well as continuing to retire ships that that can still fight such as Los Angeles class subs and Ticonderoga class cruisers? The right people are making money though including the retired Admiral class and that is important. We are led by corrupt and clueless idiots.

hoss at 10:47 AM
Re: Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

Wow pre WWII all over again. Everyone forgets that the 16 battleships the navy had to have at the expense of the Army for WWII were basically obsolete. So much so that the navy hid new battleships and the remaining and refloated Pearl Harbor battleships from the American people. Having them sail in circles off the west coast for almost a year before they could cycle them through extensive(over two years) rebuilding programs to transform them into very expensive and questionable air defense platforms. The carriers and big amphibs are the battleships of today. Made obsolete at Okinawa. Still obsolete today.., cheap chinese missiles make short range carrier battle groups useless in a war in the western pacific. Next single B2s, B52s and B1s all have the range and combat power of a $30-40 billion dollar carrier battle group at pennies on the dollar. The requirement of a larger better equiped Army then as now is required to defend all of the island bases required for the current navy and airforce to operate in the first and second island chains before the war starts. Note prior to WWII and now the Navy is hides their need for a larger Army inorder to fund current ship building. Keep in mind that the current fleet is a waste we can no longer afford. 11 carrier groups with only half of them available for six months tours at a time and then only half that time available for operations. So basically 2-3 carriers availble consistently but in reality more likely one or none. While soldiers then as now/ were availble for duration plus six months. Can't make this crap up..,

KJAI at 10:30 AM
Re: Lawmakers Want to Shrink Army, Grow Navy

The above comment is obtuse to say the least. The battleships at Pearl Harbor were built between 1914 and 1923 and were held over in service due to treaty obligations that prevented the construction of new ships for 15 years. Their first intended replacement was commissioned in mid-1941. They best ones were not modernized prior to the war because the navy did not want to release them to the yard for a year while the world situation was so dicey. Also they stayed on the West Coast for months because the navy lacked ocean-going tankers--it was send out the carriers or send out the battleships, not both together. Ultimately they were modernized and performed a valued ground support role for Marines fighting their way across the Pacific in 1944-45.

As for the modern situation, yes there are many large armies in the world we may need to deal with, but unless we plan to fight them in Canada or Mexico there is the matter of getting them to where they need to go. In many cases the troops can be flown in, but if that's all we plan to do then their first objective better be a munitions plant, because without heavy sealift the tanks, ammunition, supplies and other heavy equipment can't be replenished quickly enough by airlift. That's where the navy comes in.

No one knows what a modern naval war would look like because sea battles are violent and rare. There were two major surface engagements in WWI, only six carrier battles in WWII (four where the two sides where really balanced), and the only maritime war since involving major combatants was fought in 1982. Are carriers vulnerable? Maybe; but they put every enemy within their range at risk with their firepower. And until freighters can travel underwater there will be a need for a surface fleet.

Lastly a squadron of B-2s costs as much as a CVBG. Stubborn math. . . .

T at 12:37 PM
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