2018 Navy Budget Proposal a Readiness Bridge to 2019, Awaiting New Defense Strategy
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The proposed fiscal 2018 budget for the Department of the Navy (DoN) emphasizes a balanced approach to restoring readiness and sustaining procurement, providing stability until the 2019 budget, which will reflect a new defense strategy scheduled to emerge.
The Trump administration is proposing a 2018 budget for the Defense Department — for the base budget and for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) — of $762 billion, of which $171.5 billion is allocated to the DoN base budget and $8.5 billion for DoN OCO funding. The $171.5 base budget represents a 7 percent increase over the $158.9 billion enacted in 2017.
The DoN’s $54.6 billion in operations and maintenance funding will go a long way toward restoring the readiness of the fleet and Marine Corps that has suffered from under-funding and budget caps over several years. Ship depot-level maintenance is funded at 100 percent of need, at $11.8 billion, compared with $10.3 billion in 2017. Aircraft depot-level maintenance is funded at 89 percent; Marine Corps ground equipment at 79 percent; Navy facilities sustainment at 78 percent and Marine Corps facilities sustainment at 75 percent.
“The readiness need of the DoN were still “five percent more than the funding provided could generate,” Rear Adm. Brian Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, told reporters May 23 at the Pentagon.
With $17.3 million in shipbuilding funds — slightly less than 2017’s enacted $17.4 billion — the 2018 budget funds the construction of eight ships, one less than in 2017. The budget includes one aircraft carrier (CVN 80, the future USS Enterprise); the last two Block IV Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs); two Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDGs); one littoral combat ship (LCS), one salvage tug, and one John Lewis-class fleet replenishment oiler. In addition, three LCAC 100-class ship-to-shore connectors and one LCU-1700 utility landing craft are funded.
While the number of ships is one less than enacted for 2017, the fleet size will grow from 281 in 2017 to 292 ships in 2018 because of 13 ships scheduled for delivery in 2018: two SSNs, two Arleigh Burke- and one Zumwalt-class DDGs, four LCSs, one amphibious transport dock ship, two expeditionary fast transports and one expeditionary sea base. Being decommissioned in 2018 are one Los Angeles-class SSN and the USS Ponce, an interim afloat forward support base ship.
Although the Navy is proposing only one LCS in 2018, the move is not an effort to down-select to a single hull, Luther said. The Navy is providing extra funds to sustain the LCS program to sustain both shipyards building the ships until the new frigate program gels into a defined design.
With research and development funds, the Navy also is fully funding development of the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine at $843 million.
The DoN plans for procurement of 91 aircraft in 2018 for $15.1 billion, compared with 124 aircraft for $16.8 million: 20 F-35B and four F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighters, 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, five E-2D Advanced Hawkeye radar warning aircraft, seven P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, two KC-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, four CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, 22 AH-1Z Viper helicopter gunships, six MV-22B and CMV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, three MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles and four RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial systems. The Osprey procurement will be part of a multiyear buy.
The Marine Corps is proposed to receive three G/ATOR (Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar) systems, 527 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and 26 Amphibious Combat Vehicles.
The Navy’s personnel strength is programmed to grow by 4,000 to 327,900 Sailors, with Reservist numbers scheduled to increase by 1,000 to 59,000. The growth is needed to support Blue and Gold crews for the LCS fleet; to support the initial operational capability for the F-35C, and to provide crew members for the fourth expeditionary staging base.
The Marine Corps is scheduled to hold steady at 185,000 Marines and 38,500 Marine Reservists, levels set in 2017. DoN civilian personnel strength is funded to grow by 3,782 workers to 202,008.