Navy Savings

By John Liang / March 1, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Senior Navy and Marine Corps officials are testifying before the House Armed Services Committee this morning on the services' fiscal year 2012 budget request. While committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) is encouraged by the capabilities the services have gained through the Pentagon's overall efficiencies initiative, "many of the efficiencies identified by your department are cost-avoidance initiatives and not clear-cut savings," he said in his opening statement, warning: "As such, they may not materialize." Specifically:

Furthermore, over the 5-year period that this budget request covers, your Department harvested over $42 billion in so-called 'efficiencies,' yet had to sacrifice approximately $16 billion of that amount, or 38 percent, back to the Treasury.  In order to generate much of this savings, you have been compelled to make significant force structure cuts -- but your requirements haven’t changed.  For example, the amphibious assault mission remains valid, but you cancelled the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

Likewise, the strike fighter inventory requirement to support the current National Defense Strategy is 10 aircraft carrier air wings containing 50 strike fighter aircraft each. We do not currently meet this requirement, but the budget request puts the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter on a two-year probation and you have shuttered an aircraft carrier air-wing.  Similarly, the budget request assumes savings as a result of a decrease in Marine Corps end-strength of 20,000 personnel -- before the Marine Corps could even complete its Force Structure Review.  Now the Marine Corps suggests it cannot live with that number and can only reduce end-strength by 15,000.  Finally, you propose to design the OHIO-class replacement ballistic submarine with fewer missile tubes than envisioned by the New START Treaty or STRATCOM.

Adding to my concern is that the current battle-force inventory is at least 25 ships below your stated 313-ship floor.  Although we have not seen the results of the Force Structure Assessment you indicated was underway last year, one can only imagine that the requirements for ships will grow as missions such as anti-piracy and sea-based missile defense expand.  'Just-in-time' replacements for legacy force structure, such as the Ford-class aircraft carrier program and the Joint Strike Fighter program, are currently behind schedule and over cost, causing even more resources to be required to sustain legacy platforms.

Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) had this to say:

I am encouraged to see what looks like positive efforts by the Department of the Navy to spend money more effectively. However there remain areas concern, such as the future of the Marine Corps F-35B and the decision to reduce the number of Carrier Air Wings from 10 to 9 to support an 11 carrier force. I am curious to hear the Navy leadership's thoughts on the process for how those decisions were made.

As the other services begin to draw down their deployment cycles over the next several years, the Navy will continue to operate at the same deployment cycle or at a potentially increased rate due to continued unrest in the Middles East, piracy and the 1.7 carrier requirement in the CENTCOM AOR. I would be interested to hear how the Navy plans to ensure their Navy families are not adversely affected by current or increased deployment rates, especially as budget resources continue to decline.

I understand that the current continuing resolution and the potential for a yearlong continuing resolution could seriously affect the Department of the Navy’s ability to function. I am hopeful that we will be able to pass an FY11 defense appropriations bill, but would be interested in hearing in greater detail from our witnesses today how a continuing resolution affects the Navy's ability to operate.

While the Navy provides assets and personnel to the current conflicts, the United Sates also depends on the Navy to provide worldwide force projection, rapid crisis response and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan draw down, the burden will increasingly shift to the Navy and Marine Corps to confront growing threats such as the military buildup of the Chinese, ballistic missile defense, and the disruption of maritime commerce by piracy. It is critical that during this time of constrained budgets, the Department of the Navy carefully analyzes how they plan to resource themselves in order to effectively meet their broad range of responsibilities.