Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Navy Budget Confirms Plans to Cut Purchases of Littoral Combat Ships

It's official: The U.S. Navy plans to reduce its Littoral Combat Ship buy from 52 to 40 vessels over the next five years, according to the service's fiscal 2017 budget request released on Tuesday.
With a base budget request of $155.4 billion, the Navy's spending plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is about $4 billion less than it was for fiscal 2016, though some of that will be offset by a $9.5 billion request in overseas contingency operations funding.
The Navy is also set to lose 4,400 active-duty sailors, nearly all enlisted, as it approaches a long-term steady state that will have 50,000 sailors underway on ships year-round. This end strength reduction, from 327,300 sailors to 322,900 sailors, represents the most significant reduction in forces since fiscal 2012. Current projections show the service maintaining its end strength after this year with small adjustments, with a projected active-duty force of 323,100 by fiscal 2021.
"Over the next five years the Navy will continue to make adjustments to properly size manpower accounts to reflect force structure decisions, reduce manning gaps at sea, and improve fleet readiness," the service budget request states.
In a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. William Lescher said the drawdown would take place through natural attrition, primarily as the service deactivates its 10th Carrier Air Wing in the coming fiscal year.
This deactivation, he said, will also allow the Navy to match its air wings up with its deployable aircraft carriers, and shore up readiness through the reallocation of aircraft to remaining wings.
This strategy has its critics, though. In one of a series of statements Tuesday criticizing the Navy’s budget request, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, called the deactivation of a carrier air wing a "dangerous" move. more