Naval Analyst Ron O’Rourke Releases Updated Shipbuilding Assessment

The Congressional Research Service’s excellent and prolific naval analyst Ron O’Rourke is out with an updated report today looking at the Navy’s shipbuilding plan; the report also looks at a number of the proposed alternatives to the Navy’s plan including the Independent Panel Assessment of the 2010 QDR (which I derided).

As O’Rourke points out, the Navy’s FY2011 budget keeps the goal of a 313 ship battle fleet. Yet, the service’s 30 year shipbuilding plan includes 276 ships and does not reach the 313 ship goal. Additionally, the Navy estimates its 30 year plan requires an average of $16 billion per year; a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan puts the figure closer to $19 billion. CBO says:

“If the Navy receives the same amount of funding for ship construction in the next 30 years as it has over the past three decades—an average of about $15 billion a year in 2010 dollars—it will not be able to afford all of the purchases in the 2011 plan.”

Other question marks stand out. O’Rourke asks whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorses the 313 ship plan as the 2010 QDR doesn’t establish specific force level requirements. Also, the Navy says it is undertaking a force structure assessment that might produce a new battle fleet goal. Additionally, O’Rourke asks whether the demand signal for ballistic missile defense ships in Europe and elsewhere is adequately met by a force of 88 Aegis equipped cruisers and destroyers.

O’Rourke notes that in its recommendations for a larger, 346 ship Navy, the QDR Independent Panel Assessment cited the 1993 Bottom-Up Review (see Table C-1). While O’Rourke doesn’t comment specifically on the panel’s recommendations, he adds Gates’ comments on the panel’s report from an August 11 letter to Congress:

“I completely agree with the Panel that a strong navy is essential; however, I disagree with the Panel’s recommendation that DoD should establish the 1993 Bottom Up Review’s (BUR’s) fleet of 346 ships as the objective target. That number was a simple projection of the then-planned size of [the] Navy in FY 1999, not a reflection of 21st century, steady-state requirements.

The fleet described in the 2010 QDR report, with its overall target of 313 to 323 ships, has roughly the same number of aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered attack submarines, surface combatants, mine warfare vessels, and amphibious ships as the larger BUR fleet. The main difference between the two fleets is in the numbers of combat logistics, mobile logistics, and support ships. Although it is true that the 2010 fleet includes fewer of these ships, they are all now more efficiently manned and operated by the Military Sealift Command and meet all of DoD’s requirements….”

— Greg Grant

  • @Earlydawn

    Are Aegis cruisers now formally anti-ballistic missile? I thought that was still a developing capability, much like sea-based ASAT.

    • Andres

      just 15 burkes plus 3 tico’s and some 3 more burkes over the next years are to carry the SM-3 Anti-ballistic missile missile

  • STemplar

    The USS Erie is a Ticonderoga class cruiser and it’s the one that shot down the US satellite.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    The report that is referenced here calls for a Navy considerably less then 276 ships. More like around 200 combatants and the rest as auxiliary vessels in the USNS which is everything from harbor tugs to unarmed large “research” vessels.

    The CG-47 Cruiser is being retired period with no replacement. The DD haul will be the US’s largest surface combatant. Amphibious Warfare ships to be 20 from the current 31, Carriers to be 6 from the current 11, LCS’s (all types) 54, SSBN’s 12 from the current 14, SSN’s 54, DD51’s 74 etc. the DD-1000’s were not counted.

    This prediction that Greg talks about might be overly optimistic, recently in the financial press an article ran about a bipartisan group of politicians that is calling for a $1 trillion reduction in the pentagon budget over the next ten years. Gates and President Obama are only going for $300 billion.

    This group favors buying the F-35 for no more the $75 million a plane including the F-35B variant , the last LM estimate for the F-35 was at $122 million and scrapping the $150 million F-22. Canceling the tanker bid. Canceling the DD-100’s Carriers no more the $11 billion each, and the LCS’s at no more then $150 million a haul average. Cut the Army from 74 BCT’s to 50 BCT’s, move most of the expensive heavy units into the Army National Guard, Eliminate the strategic nuclear bomber fleet. Retire the B-1B, Reduce the size of the Marines, canceling the EFV and stopping production of the MV-22 and buying the Sikorsky CH-53E.

    It is a sign of the time defense is being looked at closely by not just liberal- progressives but also conservative (“Tea Party” ) Republican-Libertarians. A $700 billion annual defense budget is just not acceptable, with a $1.4 trillion annual budget deficit.

    The PRC’s annual defense budget of somewhere in the area of $25 to $50 billion and is only increasing annually at a rate of $5-$8 billion (USD’s) a year, which means that they are nowhere near catching up with the US in this or the next generation. US defense spending is nearing 60% of the world total.


    Byron Skinner

  • Bob

    This will all be straightened out by Hillary. Knowledgible sources at the seat of power, are hinting that she will be our next Sec of Def., when Gates steps down.

  • John In Jacksonville

    Ship procurement from US yards provides good paying industrial sector jobs, and also maintains US capabilities to build many kinds of vessels. The nature of shipbuilding dictates maintaining steady, predictable procurement rates so we can keep the yards open. But working against this is the steadily diminishing scale of the US economy measured against the rest of the world. Our force levels should match both our ability to maintain them, and the scope of our foreign policy obligations. I think a major issue for the US, when taking the 20,000 foot view, continues to be trimming our “world police” mission as the dead hand of Adam Smith (i.e., money) trims our ability to pay for our ambitions. The great powers that have fallen hardest were the ones who did not age gracefully. In short - maintaining one set number of ships forever, in decades of diminishing resources, is unrealistic and will contribute to our decline.

    • Bob

      The reason we have money problems is because of federal government regulation and interference. We have a federal government and congress that has run amok. Their highest priority seems to be in forming a welfare state.

      • Egad

        Government borrowing, spending and interference ran amok under the Republicans. Chose between that and the Dem model. Overall, for my money, a well-run welfare state would be better than a police state. Neither is great.

        • danf

          The choice we are given is not between anything. We are given one thing a poorly run welfare and police state designed to deliver pensions to public service union members. But surprise, the ever shrinking minority who pay the bills are going on strike. Watch next year…

      • Bob M.

        I would have to agree with you since roughlt 50 per cent of all tax returns filed owed no tax. So half the population is paying for 100 percent of the budget. Further the fastest growing segment of the population is the non payers. We are on the slippery slope sliding down at an ever accelerating rate. And Obama’s foot is still on the accelerator. Hopefully the November elections will correct some of the problem.

  • William C.

    Remember the 600 ship Navy? I think a 350 (a bit less actually) ship Navy is easily realistic. However we should really proceed with the development of a replacement for the CG-47 class.

    • fxreyman

      The navy has cancelled the planned CGX cruisers in favor of a modified and more heavily armed DDG-51, called a Flight III. The new ship will feature an advanced radar system capable of shooting down ballistic missles, and will have an increased load of vertical launch missile cells. There is even talk of placing the advanced gun system being developed for the DDG-1000 class on board the improved Burkes.

  • Dave C.

    @William C: A replacement for the CG-47 class - I always felt the Burkes are the direct replacements for the Ticos. The capabilities of the two ship types are nearly identical.

  • roland

    I think we needed 1000 to 5000 subs right away to counter any future threat worldwide.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    For those of you might be serious on this topic and I doubt that any other then Greg are I will refer you an article in today’s WSJ: “Buyout Firms Eye Defense Purchases” by Gina Chon and Anupreeta Das.

    One of the targets of these corporate liguidator’s is Northrop Grumman’s Naval Division. The market is speaking here.

    Currently on the block is “McKechnie Aerospace”, who subcontract aerospace and satellite work for Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Anybody want to venture a guess who one of the buyers of the assets of this technology companies capital assets will be?

    That the US Navy will return to 250 combatants anytime this century, is only an ideologists dream. The Bush spending parry is over now it time for the hang over.

    Byron Skinner

  • JYR

    The number of ships should be set by our ambitions / goals and that should be driven by our strategy and out ability to pay…..currently we arent saying we’re going to be less of a policeman on the world stage, but our resources are deminishing….we need to decide to rectify this imbalance one way or another….

    1000 to 5000 subs, but how would we pay for all the entilements that all the dem’s love so much….we built this country by having a strong military and a strong economy, not by having the largest pool of people that are dependant upon entitlements.

    • roland

      During the old days, money is not a barrier. We should adopt WWII defense developement strategy. Producing big numbers of equipment/ ships, tanks, planes were made possible because of voluntarism and law (on times of war or emergence) during WWII and WWI. It is a need we have to meet for defense, protect our sovereign nation, and protect other ally nation.

  • Tony C

    The US Navy has been relegated to global crisis response in the recent past, but that
    should not be the driver for battle group development. The US Congress is telling the
    Navy that they need more money to meet the minmum shipbuilding requirements that the
    Pentagon has stated is needed, but they are supplying the required funding? The US Navy is well on the way to being a 200 ship Navy by mid century. The retiring of old ships will force may concessions on deployment schedules. The Royal Navy current crisis will be the US Navy’s next crisis.

  • Mastro

    $16 billion a year- so that will buy 3 LCS’s and about 5 F35’s roughly?

  • getreal

    I love how all of you good american taxpayers are quick to gripe about the poor not being taxed, but what you fail to realize that in totality these vast numbers are a outright testament to the power of the american economy. our government supports these people this way for no other reason besides the fact that they will spend every dime of money they are given to live in this country hence feeding the huge corporations that have the employees that end up being taxed. stop being blind. this downturn should show you all this, when the lower class cant spend, corporations have to cut jobs and production, initiating and downward spiral as more and more consumers are unable to purchase goods. we live in a consumer driven economy. recognize the power in that, and stop bitching because you got the lucky lot in birth by chance, good genes, or family. you will pass on some wealth or the chance for a better start to your children don’t pretend these parasite taxpayers have the same luxury….

  • roland

    Let’s face it we as a nation were tied up on defending our allied nations. If that is the case then I think we need to produce 1000 to 5000 submarines as aoon as we can. Otherwise we will all be speaking chinese soon.

  • Beuford Kidd

    I think that our navy will be able to combat any countries threat. We work for defense not offense.
    I think as an ex navy man the country is in the right position to defend us against anyone. We don’t need to worry about matching every ship production, ship for ship. We already have enough ships to work from now.