Forbes Presses Navy On Shipbuilding Plan


The automatic budget cuts under sequestration have focused attention on many important details of military budgeting. How long are the furloughs? What will happen to on-base services like child care?

Others are looking at longer-term questions apart from sequestration, and here’s a good one: How many ships should the Navy have?

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, is pushing the Navy on its long-term plan for building aircraft carriers, surface ships, submarines and other craft. He’s worried about a possible long-term erosion of American seapower, a linchpin in the U.S. security strategy.

“It is painfully obvious that our future readiness is being leveraged to pay for our current requirements,” he said Wednesday at a hearing of the House Armed Services seapower panel he chairs.

The administration’s 30-year shipbuilding plan would retire 31 ships over the next two years, he said, and “we are headed toward a fleet size of 270 battle force ships by fiscal year 2015,” he said.

Sean Stackley, an assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, countered that the Navy’s long-term plan delivers a fleet of some 300 ships by 2019 “with increased capability and flexibility compared to the fleet of today.”

By comparison, the Navy at one time planned for a fleet of 313 ships.

(Politico, in its Morning Defense blog on Wednesday, further explained that projections call for the fleet to fall from 283 ships today to the 270 in FY15 that Forbes mentioned, and not rise above current strength until 2018.)

Lots of material for further discussion. Expect this issue to play out as Forbes and other defense-minded lawmakers dissect the administration’s 2014 budget request and examine these larger questions.

Climate change town hall

The impact of climate change on national security will be the topic of a town hall meeting Monday hosted by Operation Free.

It will focus on how climate change threatens national security, how it might affect the local economy and will showcase stories of veterans who have found careers in the clean-energy field.

Speakers include retired Rear Adm. Larry Baucom, retired Navy Capt. Joe Bouchard and Ben McFarlane of the Hampton Roads Planning Commission.

It will take place Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Nauticus Living Sea Theater, One Waterside Drive, Norfolk.

China will build a second, larger aircraft carrier capable of carrying more fighter jets, according to the official Xinhua news service, and reported by Reuters.

“China will have more than one aircraft carrier … The next aircraft carrier we need will be larger and carry more fighters,” Xinhua quoted Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Navy, as saying at a recent news.

Why does Hampton Roads care? This kind of news is closely watched by U.S. defense officials who cite the need to shift resources to the Pacific (and away from the East Coast) and by members of Congress – Forbes, for one – who have called attention to China’s military buildup.

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