CNO Gilday Calls for Budget Increase to Reach 355 Ship Fleet; New Battle Force Count Won’t Include Unmanned Ships

 In China, GDI, Russia, Land, Defense, Sea, Air

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday deliv­ers remarks at the Surface Navy Association’s sym­po­sium on Jan. 14, 2019. US Navy Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. – If the nation wants a 355-ship fleet in the next decade, the Navy will have to see an increase in its ship­build­ing budget, the head of the ser­vice said on Tuesday.

“355 in 10? Sure, if we get the dough,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told the audi­ence at the Surface Navy Association 2020 sym­po­sium.

In the midst of his first budget cycle as CNO, Gilday and Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly are making a rare public case for more ship­build­ing fund­ing as the ser­vice pre­pares to shoul­der the loom­ing cost of the Columbia-class nuclear bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­ma­rine and a man­date from the White House to increase the Navy’s ship count to 355.

While the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is keen on meet­ing a 2016 cam­paign promise for a Navy of 355 ships, signs point to a request for a flat Navy budget topline from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

In a leaked memo to the Office of Management and Budget, the Navy float­ed major cuts to its force struc­ture to free up money to plug readi­ness and main­te­nance holes to just main­tain a force of about 300 ships. In response, OMB asked the ser­vice to con­sid­er adding unmanned ves­sels to the battle force total to achieve the 355 total and submit a “resource informed” plan to meet White House ship­build­ing tar­gets by 2030.

Navy lead­ers now say if the nation wants more ships beyond its cur­rent force of 293, it needs more money.

“Here’s the deal. We need more money. We need more top line. If you believe that we need over­match in the mar­itime, if you believe… that we need to oper­ate for­ward in great num­bers, that we need more iron? Then yes, we need more top line,” Gilday said.
“One per­cent of the DOD budget would be $7 bil­lion a year in the ship­build­ing accounts.”

The Navy’s ship­build­ing account has been large­ly static for the last decade, rang­ing from about $19 to $22 bil­lion.

Gilday point­ed to the new National Defense Strategy that put mar­itime mis­sions high on the pri­or­i­ty list for the Pentagon to counter China and Russia, citing the NDS as an argu­ment to put more money toward the Navy over the Army and the Air Force.

“A one-third, one-third, one-third cut does not reflect the strat­e­gy,” he said.

Gilday said there were his­tor­i­cal exam­ples of when the Navy got more because of a spe­cif­ic mis­sion.

During the 1980s’ con­struc­tion of the Ohio-class of nuclear bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines, the pro­gram ate up about 20 per­cent of the ship­build­ing budget and the DoD budget reflect­ed the impor­tance of the pro­gram. At the time, the Navy had about a 38-per­cent share of the total Pentagon budget to make up for the hit to the ship­build­ing budget. Now, the new Columbia class will take up to a 30-per­cent bite out of money for new ships, and the Department of the Navy will have a 34-per­cent share of the DoD budget.

Modly has echoed the same sen­ti­ments in other venues.

“If you are grow­ing the force by 25 to 30 per­cent, that includes people that have to man them. It requires main­te­nance. It requires oper­a­tional costs. And you can’t do that if your top line is basi­cal­ly flat,” Modly told Defense News.

The con­ver­sa­tion on the pend­ing budget sub­mis­sion comes as the Navy is putting the fin­ish­ing touch­es on its latest force struc­ture assess­ment, the doc­u­ment the ser­vice uses to map out the force it thinks it will need to main­tain its mis­sions around the world. The last FSA in 2016 called for 355 ships.

Gilday said that totals would go beyond 355 manned ships. Rather than using unmanned ves­sels to help reach the 355 mark, as some have sug­gest­ed, Gilday said unmanned plat­forms would sup­ple­ment the battle force total and not count towards that 355 figure.

“There are a lot of assump­tions that go along with unmanned because they’re pretty much con­cep­tu­al. And so the final num­bers that’ll come out in a couple of weeks, when we release the assess­ment, those final num­bers will not include unmanned. [Navy] Secretary Modly has said pub­licly that it’s 355-plus, plus unmanned,” he said.
”It’s not some­thing that we want to leave on the shelf for three years. We’re doing a hell of a lot more analy­sis, a hell of a lot more exper­i­men­ta­tion.”

The budget is set to be deliv­ered to Congress on Feb. 10.

Source: USNI

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