CRS: 355-Ship Navy Would Require 57 to 67 New Ships
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy’s recent Force Structure Assessment (FSA), which calls for a 355-ship battle force, would require adding 57 to 67 new ships to the service’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
In the new report, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress,” Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in naval affairs with the CRS, analyzed the FSA and the issues that would govern achievement of a 355-ship fleet, an increase over the 308 ships identified as a requirement in the previous goal announced in March 2015. The battle force today numbers 274 ships.
O’Rourke notes in the executive summary that the 355-ship fleet, while close to the 350-ship fleet advocated by President Donald J. Trump’s campaign, “reflects the national security strategy and national military strategy that were in place in 2016 (i.e., the Obama Administration’s national security strategy and national military strategy).”
He also notes that a new national defense strategy will be forthcoming from the Trump administration, which will determine force structure requirements.
If executed, the FSA would result in 47 more ships in the fleet, but “CRS notionally estimates that achieving and maintaining the 355-ship fleet could require adding 57 to 67 ships, including 19 attack submarines and 23 large surface combatants, to the Navy’s [fiscal] 2017 30-year shipbuilding plan, unless the Navy extends the service lives of existing ships beyond currently planned figures and/or reactivates recently retired ships.”
CRS estimates that adding the 57 to 67 ships — “a total that equates an average of about 1.9 to 2.2 additional ships per year over the 30-year period — could cost an average of roughly $4.6 billion to $5.1 billion per year in additional shipbuilding funds over the 30-year period, using today’s shipbuilding costs. These additional shipbuilding funds are only a fraction of the total additional cost that would be needed to achieve and maintain a 355-ship fleet instead of 308-ship fleet.”
O’Rourke notes that the time required to achieve the fleet size for some of the ship types would be lengthy and require construction rates much greater that current rates, and that the Navy has said the industrial base could handle the additional load. For example, achieving a level of sustained level of 12 aircraft carriers by 2030 would require building one every three years rather than the current rate of one every five years.
He also said that if the defense spending caps of the Budget Control Act of 2011 remain, as amended, “achieving and maintaining a 355-ship fleet could require reducing funding levels for other [Defense Department] programs.”