The US Navy wants a $4 billion cut to shipbuilding, but lawmakers say the plan is 'dead on arrival'

USS Harry Truman

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) transit the Atlantic Ocean while conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on February 16, 2018.

  • The Navy wants to significantly reduce its shipbuilding budget, by $4 billion, the service revealed in an overview of its fiscal year 2021 budget plan.
  • The request includes only eight ships, just six of which are warships.
  • Lawmakers criticized the budget plan, arguing that it is inconsistent with the Trump administration's plans for a 355-ship fleet.
  • "The President's shipbuilding budget is not a 355-ship Navy budget," Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement. "As Chair of the Seapower Subcommittee, I can say with complete certainty that, like so much of the rest of the President's budget, it is dead on arrival."
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The US Navy revealed Monday that it intends to reduce its shipbuilding budget by $4 billion, but lawmakers are already pushing back.

The service's planned shipbuilding budget is $20 billion, significantly lower than fiscal year 2020's $24 billion, a review of the budget plan released Monday revealed. The Navy has reduced its overall budget request, part of the larger Department of Defense's $705.4 billion budget request, by $3 billion to $207.1 billion.

The cuts come even as the Navy admits that China's battle fleet has grow from 262 to 335 surface ships over the past decade.

The Navy's FY 2021 budget request includes one Columbia-class and one Virginia-class submarine, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one frigate, one amphibious transport dock, and two towing, salvage and rescue ships.

"The Department appreciates the strong support by Congress for naval shipbuilding in FY 2020," the Navy wrote in its budget plan. "We currently have 80 ships under contract with 50 ships in construction." The service has plans to award eight more ships in this fiscal year.

Lawmakers were quick to criticize the Navy's current plan, arguing that it is inconsistent with plans to build a 355-ship combat fleet.

"The President's shipbuilding budget is not a 355-ship Navy budget," Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, the state where submarine-builder General Dynamics Electric Boat is based, said in a statement. "As Chair of the Seapower Subcommittee, I can say with complete certainty that, like so much of the rest of the President's budget, it is dead on arrival."

"This weak, pathetic request for eight ships - of which two are tugboats - is not only fewer ships than 2020, but fewer ships than the Navy told us last year it planned for 2021," he added, explaining that a request for just six warfighting vessels is the smallest request in a decade.

The Navy argues that it remains committed to building a larger force, but the current budget is aimed at achieving a different goal: the building of a more ready, more lethal force.

"Key lethality and modernization investments include high-end extended range munitions and kill chains, unmanned systems, hypersonic and advanced strike missiles, directed energy, containerized weapons, information warfare, and fully networked command, control and communications," the service explained.

In addition to cutting the number of ships requested in FY 2020 by four, to include a reduced request for Virginia-class submarines, the Navy is also retiring four Littoral Combat Ships and one dock landing ship. The service has tried twice to retire the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, but it was shut down both times.

Courtney said the reduced request for Virginia-class submarines is "at odds with our national security priorities."

"Year after year, Congress has heard from Navy leaders, combatant commanders and experts about the growing demand for submarine capabilities as countries like China and Russia step up their undersea activity," he said. "They have urgently warned us that we need more submarine construction, not less."

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