Esper says Norquist will lead war games, analysis of Navy's force structure assessment

By Justin Katz / February 26, 2020 at 10:01 AM

Defense Secretary Mark Esper today announced he's started a "war game and analysis process" to scrutinize the results of the Navy's force structure assessment.

Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist will lead the evaluation, according to written testimony Esper submitted to the House Armed Services Committee. The defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley are testifying to lawmakers today about the Pentagon's fiscal year 2021 budget request.

"One of my top priorities is ensuring that the department has a robust, data-driven review of the future integrated naval force," according to the testimony.

Norquist will "evaluate proposals from across the DOD, to possibly include experts from the Naval War College, Naval Postgraduate School, and Marine Corps University," Esper's testimony continued.

The Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment, an overarching assessment of what ships should comprise the future fleet, has been a dominant topic of discussion for Navy leadership appearing in public for the past year.

The 2016 FSA provided the 355-ship figure the service has made a prominent part of its annual pitch to Congress for a larger shipbuilding budget. President Trump also campaigned in 2016 on a promise to build a larger Navy.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly wrote in a December memo he expected the INFSA "to be published no later than January 15, 2020."

In public appearances and media interviews following Jan. 15, Modly said that date was an "internal" deadline for when the service must report the assessment's results to him. He also said the service had always planned to present the FSA to the defense secretary prior to publishing the results.

Modly told Inside Defense in a January interview he hopes to discuss the FSA with lawmakers while testifying about the Navy's FY-21 budget request.

"You know, we've been doing the [FY]-21 [program objective memorandum] for the last year and we just started work on the [integrated naval force structure assessment] this past fall. So like I said, I really want the INFSA to inform [FY]-22 and beyond," he added.