CSBA report sees naval presence problem on the horizon

By Justin Doubleday / November 18, 2015 at 1:30 PM

A new report released today by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments concludes that Navy plans for shipbuilding and maintenance cycles will likely result in reduced U.S. naval presence around the world, even if funding for ship construction is raised to meet the service's targets.

The study, titled "Deploying Beyond Their Means: America's Navy And Marine Corps At A Tipping Point," was written by CSBA analysts Bryan Clark and Jesse Sloman.

"The high OPTEMPO of the last decade has resulted in deferred maintenance, reduced readiness, and demoralized crews," the report states. "The Navy has an ambitious plan to expand the size and capability of the fleet with its shipbuilding plan and return to a sustainable operational pace with [the Optimized Fleet Response Plan]. Unfortunately, these plans may result in reduced presence in the near term and in the long term would require shipbuilding to be funded at a level that may not be supported by the Administration and Congress."

Several House representatives, from both the armed services and appropriations committees, spoke at the rollout of the report on Capitol Hill.

House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes (R-VA) said it's expected that there will continue to be time periods during which a U.S. aircraft carrier is not present in the Middle East and the Pacific theaters, referred to as "carrier gaps."

"Just the presence there is vitally important for keeping a conflict from going from phase 0 to phase 3," he said.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), ranking member on the seapower subcommittee, said shipbuilding was underfunded 10 years ago. Given the long lead time it takes to build ships, Courtney said those resourcing decisions are now being felt by the current fleet, which is seeing a rise in demand around the globe.

"We are paying the price for what was going on 10 years ago in terms of the under-investment in shipbuilding," Courtney said.

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the return of sequestration after fiscal year 2017 could threaten shipbuilding and fleet maintenance plans.

"I think it's good news that we set aside the Budget Control Act for a couple years, but quite frankly, I think we need to permanently do away with sequestration," Kilmer said. "I never heard of sequestration until I ran for Congress. . . . I looked it up in the dictionary. It's a Latin word for 'stupid,' because it's no way to make investments."