CNO: Force Structure Assessment Informing 2018 Budget Proposal
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy study identifying a need for a 355-ship battle force has been informing the service’s formation of its 2018 budget proposal and the Future Years Defense Plan, the Navy’s top admiral said.
“[The Force Structure Assessment] will inform the budget and it already has,” Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations (CNO), said Jan. 17 at the Defense One D Brief Live event. “We saw how this was shaping up. To what degree, there is a time element here. The  budget has to go in, enter its process. What we don’t get in ’18, we’ll pick up in ’19 and we’ll start to dovetail it.
“I kind of see the ’18 budget as sort of a bridge type of effort,” Richardson said. “It’s not like we can execute that thing on a dime. There will be a ramp up. We’ll be working closely with industry as we do that in the most judicious way.”
Richardson said “the industrial base is ready to respond,” but its surge capacity “isn’t robust, either,” and that industry would need more investment, including in skilled workers to add capacity.
As for a supplemental to the 2017 budget, Richardson said, “We’ll have to see how that goes. It gets back to execution. The most executable dollars are readiness dollars, in terms of maintenance and people, that’s the first place we’re going to go with that ’17 supplemental.”
Richardson stressed the importance of readiness, noting that an existing ship tied up for lack of maintenance is just as absent as a ship that is yet to be built.
“To be truly relevant, you’ve got to be present with the right capability,” he said.
“We are under stress right now to meet our requirements,” he said, noting that the Navy is able to meet only 50 percent of the demands of regional combatant commanders. “The operational tempo really hasn’t stopped.”
Richardson listed three stressors as the high operational tempo, the fact that the government is in the ninth year of a continuing resolution, and the budget caps of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“Budget relief or not, we’ve got to continue to be creative,” he said.
He said the Navy’s “most urgent challenge is to increase the agility to respond. … We’ve just got to be able to acquire things faster.”
Asked about future ship classes and new technology, Richardson said, “We’ve got to do it in stride. … We have to challenge all of the assumptions in how long it takes to do things.”
Despite the current challenges, Richardson said “There is great optimism in the force.”