CNO Tells Congress the US Needs 450-Ship Navy

Mar 12, 2014|by Kris Osborn

Chief of  Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told lawmakers Wednesday that the Navy  would need a 450-ship fleet in order to meet the global needs of combatant  commanders.

“For us to  meet what combatant commanders request, we need a Navy of 450 ships,” he told  the House Armed Services Committee.

Officially,  the Navy’s position is to achieve a 306-ship fleet by the end of the decade,  service officials said.  At the moment  there are 289 ships in the Navy, according to service officials who said the  number reflects a new method of counting ships.

The new  counting method, based on what the Navy calls a global force allocation  management plan, adds hospital ships and forward-positioned patrol craft to the  ship-counting methodology.  In addition,  the new counting procedure only counts forward-deployed mine countermeasure  ships and does not count those that are not deployed.

As a result  of the new ship-counting method, the Navy’s current ship total jumps from 284  to 289.

Overall, the Navy requested $148 billion  for fiscal year 2015, a $38 billion decrease over a projected five-year period  when compared with last year’s budget request.


Rep. Howard  “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed  concern at the posture hearing that the fiscal year 2015 budget request will  amount to a dismantling of the Navy.

“These  drastic nonsensical cuts should stir immense debate. Is this the Navy America  wants? The security environment and need for Naval forces have not abated, yet  this is a fundamental, piecemeal dismantling of the world’s greatest Navy,”  McKeon said.

Rep. Randy  Forbes, R-Va., Chairman of the HASC Seapower and Projection Forces  Subcommittee, expressed concern that a decreasing percentage of requests from  commanders were being met.

“In 2007 we met 90-percent of the combatant  commander’s requirements. This year we will only meet 43 percent,” Forbes said.

McKeon said  the budget does not include money to refuel the USS George Washington, an  aircraft carrier slated to go through a four year refueling beginning in 2016.

However,  there has been discussion and debate about potentially retiring the USS George  Washington instead of spending the money to refuel the ship and extending its  life for another 25 years of service.  Retiring  the USS George Washington would drop the Navy’s carrier fleet down from 11 to  10 carriers.

“Last week  Admiral Locklear, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, indicated that the Navy  cannot meet the global demand for aircraft carriers, yet the budget request  contains no funding for refueling and overhaul, forcing the Navy to  decommission the USS George Washington which has over 25 years of hull life,”  McKeon said.

Mabus  indicated that the fate of the USS George Washington remains up in the air.

“We want to  keep the 11th carrier and its associated air wing very much. What  we’ve done with this budget is move that decision to FY 16 so that there is  time to debate it and take a close look at what would be the realities if we  did decommission it,” Mabus said.

Mabus also  spelled out a handful of the impacts which would be associated with dropping  the Navy’s carrier fleet down to 10. Deployments of the remaining carriers  would be longer, the Navy’s global forward presence would be diminished,  carrier maintenance would be much more challenging and the U.S. industrial base  would be adversely affected, he described.

Although  Mabus said there would be serious consequences associated with retiring the  carrier, he stressed that the $7 billion needed to refuel the USS George  Washington would be tough to come by.

“There are  very few places that you can find seven billion dollars in any budget,” he told  the committee.

Addressing  the need for carriers, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told  the committee that Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear needs two full-time  carriers stationed in the Pacific theater. In fact, he said that a third  carrier would be needed for three to four months out of the year.

Greenert  also said dropping to 10 carriers would decrease the ability of the Navy to  fill what he called deterrence gaps and also increase risk.

Forbes said  that $243 million put in the 2015 budget by the House Armed Services Committee  to prepare for refueling the USS George Washington has been taken out of the  budget.

“There’s a  huge disconnect between the rhetoric we’re hearing and the actions that are  being taken,” Forbes said.

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