Esper lays out path forward on Navy shipbuilding

By Justin Katz / February 26, 2020 at 1:10 PM

Amid speculation and media reporting about the status of the Navy's shipbuilding plans, Defense Secretary Mark Esper today laid out for lawmakers how he intends to move forward with each document.

"We actually kind of have four plans right now," Esper told the House Armed Services Committee today during a hearing about the Pentagon's fiscal year 2021 budget request.

Those four plans include the FY-21 budget request, the future years defense program, the Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment and the 30-year shipbuilding plan.

"As you know the further you go out, the less credible they become," he added.

Esper said today he has not yet seen the 30-year shipbuilding plan, but he was briefed on the INFSA last Friday. He also said the cost assessment and program evaluation office is working on a shipbuilding plan separate from the Navy.

"There's some great work going on out there by the think tanks and other places about what the future should look like to deal with -- let's say China -- in the year 2030 and beyond," Esper said.

"What I want to do is get all these great ideas together, get some innovative thinking and level set the playing field and to run these competing plans and to see which one really optimizes what we need for the future," he continued.

With all that mind, Esper announced today he has started a "war game and analysis process" to scrutinize the ideas presented to him.

"I've anointed the [Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist] to run this. I want to move quickly in a matter of a few short months," he said.

Esper also floated the possibility of including members of Congress as well as junior Navy officers in the discussions.

"I think we should invite the Navy's future leadership into this process," he said. "This is the Navy they're going to sail [and] they're going to fight."