US Navy warns it can't meet 30-year funding needs

by Tony Capaccio
Bloomberg News

The U.S. Navy can’t meet its funding needs for surface warships and a new class of nuclear attack submarines from 2025 to 2034, according to the service’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan.

The congressionally required blueprint, submitted late last week and obtained by Bloomberg News, says the Navy’s plan “requires funding at an unsustainable level” unless spending on shipbuilding is increased.

The document outlines challenges facing the plan to increase the Navy fleet to 306 vessels from the current 289 while building 12 new Ohio-class submarines, part of the nation’s nuclear triad of air, land and sea weapons.

The Navy report provides one service’s challenges beyond the Pentagon’s current five-year funding plan in an era of declining defense spending. After 2019, the Defense Department will confront a confluence of expenses that includes the new submarines, planned full production of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet and a new Long-Range Strike bomber.

The average cost of the Navy plan during the period when the service will be spending the most on the new submarine is $19.7 billion a year, including more than $24 billion at the peak year of fiscal 2032, according to the report.

This budget “cannot be accommodated by the Navy from existing resources — particularly if” the Pentagon remains under congressionally mandated automatic cuts known as sequestration, the report said.

The Navy’s historical shipbuilding budget has averaged about $13 billion a year, in fiscal 2014 dollars.

“Even if the Ohio-replacement program is removed” from the Navy plan, the average shipbuilding funding required beginning in fiscal 2020 is as much as $15 billion annually, the report found.

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