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Budget Cuts Threaten U.S. Navy Shipbuilding

And Navy shipbuilding is the key to the service carrying out its mission.

The Navy’s mission set is likely to continue to grow over the foreseeable future, but the same cannot be said of the fleet. Both surface ships and submarines will need to be replaced or complemented, but budget restrictions severely hinder the Navy’s ability to meet those goals.

Adm. Michelle J. Howard, USN, vice chief of naval operations, provided an assessment of naval resources during the Thursday luncheon panel at West 2015, being held in San Diego, February 10-12. Adm. Howard noted that oceangoing commerce has grown steadily over the past 40 years, especially energy. Many choke points exist on the world’s seas, and the U.S. Navy must be able to help ensure this continued commerce, which affects all nations.

The Navy is committed to building two guided missile destroyers each year, but when that program runs out, the service will look at a balanced approach. The Navy’s strategic deterrence, its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) force, is aging and will have to be replaced soon. Adm. Howard said it probably will cost about $9 billion for each new SSBN, which will consume about half the Navy’s shipbuilding budget.

The admiral allowed that debate often centers around whether the Navy should have a force sized to win the most likely war, or a force sized to meet day-to-day demands. The goal is to meet the first criteria, she stated.