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US Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress

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  • US Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress

    There is a newly revised report dated January 24, 2020 at the following link.

    Earlier versions (and current) are available at the following link. I expect that future revisions will eventually show there also.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Defense_News

    Destroyers left behind: US Navy cancels plans to extend service lives of its workhorse DDGs

    By: David B. Larter
    08 March 2020

    WASHINGTON — In a move with sweeping consequences for the U.S. Navy’s battle force, the service is canceling plans to add 10 years to the expected service lives of its stalwart destroyer fleet, a cost-savings measure that would almost certainly hamper plans to grow the size of the fleet.

    In written testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Navy’s Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts said performing service life extensions on Burkes designed to bring them up from 35-year hull lives to 45 years was not cost-effective.

    “Service life extensions can be targeted, physical changes to specific hulls to gain a few more years, or a class-wide extension based on engineering analysis,” the testimony read. “The Navy has evaluated the most effective balance between costs and capability to be removing the service life extension on the DDG 51 class.”

    The Navy’s destroyers are the workhorses of the fleet, with sailors spending an average of one in every four days underway, the highest rate in the fleet, according a recent report from Defense News’ sister publication Navy Times.

    The decision to ax the service life extensions for the Arleigh Burke class comes after years of assurances from Navy leaders that the destroyers would be modernized with an eye to growing the fleet over the coming decades. Navy leaders have offered assurances that the fiscal 2021 budget continues to grow the fleet despite its significant cuts to shipbuilding and existing force structure, but it is unclear how the fleet will continue to grow past the next five years if service life extensions on the earliest Burkes don’t go forward right away.

    It would also seem to have significant impact on the current push from acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly to grow the fleet to 355 ships in a decade.

    In its FY20 30-year shipbuilding plan, the Navy said extending the lives of the Arleigh Burkes was an imperative to growing the fleet to a battle force of 355 ships. Instead, the cancellation of the service life extensions means that between 2026 and 2034, the Navy is slated to lose 27 destroyers from its battle force.

    Those losses would compound the impact of cutting 10 ships from the five-year projections in the FY21 budget, including five of the 12 proposed Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers from the FY20 budget and a Virginia-class attack submarine.

    The Defense Department has yet to submit its FY21 30-year shipbuilding plan, which means that it’s impossible to tell how the Navy thinks these cuts would affect its total ship count in the years when it would lose Burkes at a rate of more than three per year. But the Burke retirements would begin in 2026 or 2027, years just after the service completed shedding 13 cruisers from its fleet, leaving just nine of the Navy’s largest combatants in the fleet.

    In a statement, Capt. Danny Hernandez, spokesman for Geurts, said there are a lot of variables in getting the fleet to its goal of 355 ships, but that the Navy’s top priority is keeping the recapitalization of its retiring Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines on track.

    “Like Navy leaders have stated during testimony, the tradeoffs were complex to get the right balance,” Hernandez said.

    Service lives

    According to a Naval Sea Systems Command document obtained by Defense News in 2018, the earliest Arleigh Burke destroyers — 27 so-called Flight I and early Flight II destroyers — have an expected hull life of 35 years. The lead ship, the Arleigh Burke, was commissioned in 1991, meaning its hull life is up in 2026.

    DDG-51 through DDG-78 — the Flight I destroyers — were commissioned between 1991 and 1999. Later models — Flight IIA — have 40-year hull lives.

    In 2018, then-Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems Vice Adm. Bill Merz told USNI News that there were distinct advantages to upgrading the entire class, and that instead of just a combat systems modernization aimed at boosting ballistic missile defense systems, the ships would get the full hull and mechanical upgrades that would extend the ships out to 45-year service lives.

    “This is an HM&E [hull, mechanical and electrical] extension, but every destroyer is already in the modernization pipeline, so every destroyer will be modernized,” Merz said. “The modernization they receive that’s already programmed may carry them through.

    “Obviously the threat’s going to get a vote on that, but one of the beauties is instead of doing an individual ship-by-ship extension and extending the entire class, now we have the visibility to actually plan for that. We can pace it, plan it, fund it efficiently instead of one-and-done, one-and-done, one-and-done. We can be a lot more deliberate about how we handle this class.”

    In testimony that year, Merz said ballistic missile defense was the biggest requirement driving the retention of the DDGs to 45 years. Compounded with cuts to the Flight III destroyers, it seems likely that the Navy by 2034 will have a significantly reduced ballistic missile defense capability with at least 32 fewer ballistic missile defense-capable destroyers in the fleet, if this budget is enacted.

    When asked during its FY21 budget rollout if cutting five Flight III DDGs corresponds to a reduction in demand for ballistic missile defense-capable ships, Navy budget director Rear Adm. Randy Crites told reporters it was a decision based “strictly [on] affordability.”

    The Navy has in recent years declared the Arleigh Burke hull design maxed out, with the Flight III being packed to the gunwales with power and cooling to support the inclusion of Raytheon’s SPY-6 air and missile defense radar. Future combatants will have to accommodate more power generations and storage to support systems such as laser weapons and rail guns.

    The excess electrical power capacity in the Ford-class aircraft carrier, for example, is one of the main reasons the Navy considers the new class valuable even as aircraft carriers become more vulnerable to high-speed, anti-ship missiles.

    Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the cuts were a necessary step. Clark recently authored a study with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments that called for canceling the DDG service life extensions.

    “It’s crazy to throw good money after bad for a bunch of ships you say you don’t need,” Clark said. “I think the Navy is coming to grips with the fiscal realities; the unsustainable nature of their current plan; and the recognition it is going to have a need for fewer large surface combatants in the future and needs to husband its resources to build a larger fleet of smaller surface combatants. Those are going to be the bulk of the distributed force they intend to have.”


    Last edited by JRT; 11 Mar 20,, 14:54.


    • #3
      As more is shut down to reduce transmission of COVID-19, have to wonder if shipyards will also be affected in a few days or weeks. The workers cannot phone in the actual building of those submarines.

      Electric Boat Employee Presumed Positive for COVID-19, Being Tested

      March 17, 2020
      NBC Connecticut

      An Electric Boat employee is quarantined at home while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, company officials said Tuesday.

      Liz Power, the director of communications for Electric Boat, said the New London-based employee started showing symptoms, has spoken to a healthcare provider, and is now staying home while awaiting the test results. Seven other employees who work closely with that person have been asked to self-quarantine as a precaution for the time being.

      So far, 68 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the coronavirus, though health experts believe the actual number of cases is significantly higher. Drive-through testing is being made available for those with a doctor's prescription for a test as the public is encouraged to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.



      • #4
        There is a worsening shortage of SSNs.

        112 Congressmen Call for Second Virginia-Class Sub in 2021

        by Richard R. Burgess, Senior Editor
        Seapower Magazine
        March 18, 2020

        WASHINGTON — The congressional push for reinstatement of a second Virginia-class submarine in the 2021 defense budget has attracted the support of 112 congressmen.

        A letter from three congressmen on the Seapower subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee — sent to the House Appropriations Committee in support of the additional Virginia SSN as well as for the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) — was endorsed by an additional list of 109 congressmen.

        The letter to Defense Appropriations Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and ranking member Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) was drafted by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the Seapower subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), ranking member, and another member, Rep. James R. Langevin (D-R.I.). All three represent districts in states that host submarine builders. The 112 signers include 72 Democrats and 40 Republicans.

        “The 112 members that have joined this request represent 32 states, over 14,000 suppliers and over $10 billion in manufacturing and support activity in the submarine supply chain,” Neil McKiernan, a staffer for Courtney, said in a March 18 release.

        During recent hearings, the three drafters were critical of the Navy’s budget proposal that limited sub construction starting in fiscal 2021 to one Virginia SSN, together with the long-planned Columbia SSBN.

        The objections included the apparent retrogression regarding a 355-ship Navy and attaining a submarine force large enough to support the National Security Strategy, a force level currently set at 66 SSNs. Under current shipbuilding plans and planned retirements, the SSN force level will decline to 42 boats by 2027.

        The Navy has put the second Virginia SSN at the top of its 2021 unfunded priorities list. The service and its two sub builders, General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding, succeeded in recent years in reducing the cost of a Virginia SSN to allow the Navy to afford two per year.

        The letter notes that then-Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson told Congress in 2019 that “with respect to the greatest gap between the warfighting requirement and current inventory, there’s no greater need than the attack submarine fleet. … It’s a wide gap and it’s getting wider. So, every submarine counts against closing that gap.”

        “The proposal to request one attack submarine is contrary to the National Defense Strategy, the needs of our combatant commanders, and a decade of congressional action in support of a steady two-a-year build rate,” the letter said. “Of note, the Navy recently ranked the restoration of the second 2021 Virginia-class submarine as its top unfunded requirement. To that end, we respectfully request your strong support for two Virginia-class submarines in [fiscal] 2021.”


        Last edited by JRT; 19 Mar 20,, 15:18.


        • #5
          The cynic in me thinks that the USN fully expects Congress to give them that second SSN in 2021.


          • #6
            The fire aboard the Bonhomme Richard exacerbates the debate on Navy force structure.


            Senate Ships vs. House Subs: Conference Clash To Come?

            House Democrats want to add $2.5 billion to build a second Virginia-class submarine next year. Senate Republicans would rather spend on destroyers and amphibious ships.
            on July 09, 2020 at 7:01 AM

            WASHINGTON: House defense appropriators voted Wednesday to back the House Armed Services Committee’s bid to restore full funding for a Virginia-class attack submarine that the Trump Office of Management and Budget cut at the last minute.

            Adding over $2.5 billion for the submarine puts the Democrat-controlled House on a collision course with the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee, whose funding tables only added a net $398 million — effectively a down payment, not a complete boat. Conversely, the SASC added $905 million to the request for destroyers and amphibious ships, while the two House committees actually trimmed those two categories. (HASC and House Appropriations have slightly different numbers).

            Yet to be heard from is the fourth and final piece of the annual defense spending jigsaw in Congress, the Senate Appropriations Committee. (The process is arcane, but in essence, spending increases must be approved by both the authorizers – i.e. the armed services committees – and the appropriators in both chambers). If the Senate appropriators side with their Senate Armed Services colleagues, they’ll set the ground for a multi-billion-dollar battle between the two chambers. If Senate appropriators side with the House, it’ll be hard indeed for SASC to stand alone.

            Prudent Or Too Slow?

            Why did Senate authorizers decide to diverge so sharply from the House? It’s surprising, especially since the ranking Democrat on SASC — who’s also a member of Senate Appropriations — is Rhode Island’s Sen. Jack Reed, a longtime booster of submarines, half of which are built in New England.

            But the SASC has concerns about changes the Navy wants to make to future Virginia submarines. The most prominent is the Virginia Payload Module, which lets the boat carry 28 more Tomahawk missiles – a 76 percent increase – at the cost of lengthening the hull by 84 feet – a 22 percent increase in the sub’s size. It’s a major upgrade driving a comparable increase in complexity and cost. All but one of the 10 Virginia submarines on the current multi-year contract, including the one the Trump Administration tried to cut (over the Navy’s objections), are intended to be the VPM variant.

            The VPM and other changes to the would be challenging at any time. But at the same time the shipyards are going to build the bigger-and-better Virginias, they’ll also have to start production on the even larger Columbia-class submarine – whose ballistic missiles will be crucial to the nation’s nuclear deterrent. That’s a tremendous challenge for the industrial base that the Navy, Congress, and outside experts have worried about for years.

            SASC argues there’s still time to get this right. Typically, a new submarine is funded over three years: two fo Advance Procurement, focusing on time-consuming items like the reactor, and a final year of funding to finish the boat. “Our understanding from Navy officials,” a SASC staffer told us, “is that either providing the remainder of the funding in FY21 or providing this funding in the traditional profile, phased over FY21-23, would support the planned construction schedule for the option submarine.”

            Why would lining up all the funding by 2023 still get it done on time? “Construction on this additional submarine would not begin until March 2024,” says SASC’s report language. “[The] typical procurement funding profile [i.e. spreading funding over three years] would also provide additional time to more fully assess previous concerns of Navy officials regarding the ability of the submarine industrial base to build 10 Virginia-class submarines, with 9 having the Virginia Payload Module in this time frame.”

            So the Senate authorizers approve $474 million in 2021 for Advance Procurement, enough to buy the submarine’s reactor core. (They cut $74.4 million from another sub, for a net increase of $389 million to the Virginia program). The rest of the money – over $3 billion more – would have to come in 2022 and 2023.

            But it’s not clear the Navy can come up with this additional funding in the out years, especially given the pressure COVID-19 now appears to be putting on future budgets. What’s more, even if the funding does materialize on time, the HASC staff argued this schedule is too slow. The shipyards are feverishly ramping up to build both the upsized VPM Virginia and the mammoth Columbia, which requires new facilities and new hires – growth that the yards planned based on the steady two-sub-a-year rate that previous Congresses had pledged. Cut the Virginia budget for 2021, HASC staff said, and “last in/first out” labor contracts could force the yards to lay off the young workers they just hired to build Columbia.

            While the House and Senate are billions apart on specific vessels, it’s important to note that the three committees are close on the overall shipbuilding budget. Their total figures for the Shipbuilding & Conversion, Naval (SCN) account come to within $800 million of each other, a difference of less than 4 percent:

            The Trump Administration requested $19.9 billion.
            The House Armed Services Committee voted last week to approve $22.1 billion.
            The House Appropriations subcommittee on defense approved $22.3 billion.
            The Senate Armed Services Committee approved $21.3 billion.
            Precisely because everyone is trying to stay within roughly the same overall shipbuilding budget, however, any additional money for one type of vessel must come at the expense of something else. The three committees are very close on Columbia, aircraft carriers, the Navy’s new frigate, auxiliary ships, and small craft. But to fund the big increase to Virginia, the House committees forgo the Senate authorizers’ increases to destroyers and amphibious warships:

            The Trump administration requested $3.15 billion for destroyers – two Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) ships for the current year, plus some work on other ships – and $1.16 billion for a mid-sized amphibious ship, a San Antonio-class (LPD).
            The House authorizers approved the same $3.15 billion for destroyers but trimmed the amphibious ship to $1.12 billion on grounds of “excessive cost growth.”
            House Appropriations did the opposite, cutting destroyers slightly, to $3.04 billion, while fully funding the amphib, at $1.16 billion.
            The Senate authorizers, by contrast, increased both substantially: SASC voted $3.99 billion for destroyers – mostly additional Advance Procurement for future years — and $1.66 billion for amphibs – enough to start construction on a second, larger amphib, an America-class (LHA).
            All these ships have strong constituencies. To some extent those constituencies even overlap: Destroyers and amphibs, in particular, are often built in the same yards. But constructing nuclear-powered submarines requires a highly specialized industrial base. The big debate between House and Senate is how best to keep that sub-building base healthy.


            • #7
              Article talks of the reasons SECDEF blocked the 355 shipbuilding plan due to a lack of credible funding mechanisms:

              with this one following up on some ways to find funding:

              Nice overview of PLAN vs USN shipbuilding and five proposals for when funding can be obtained.


              • #8
                New shipbuilding plan to be on Esper's desk next week.

                Acknowledges the budgetary issues. China's build up of naval strength. US building and repair capability shortfalls.


                Key paragraph: The overall thrust of what Esper is looking for has been clear for some time: more ships, particularly small, fast ships that can avoid Chinese precision missiles while packing some serious punch, in addition to several new classes of unmanned ships to act as surveillance nodes, and afloat missile launchers.

                Last edited by looking4NSFS; 11 Sep 20,, 15:36.