Congress must step in to correct the abysmal funding levels for the Navy found in the Biden administration’s funding proposal. It must also impose measures aimed at keeping contractors and the Navy on target and under budget. Cost overruns along with shoddy results have plagued the Navy for the past twenty years.
This year’s budget proposal will leave the Navy way short of the 355-ship goal mandated by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton said. The average ship serves thirty-five years, and the Navy builds eight ships annually. Under the latest proposal, the Navy plans to retire fifteen ships and will be left with a fleet of 280 ships, with only 140 combat vessels by the 2030s. Forty-eight ships will leave the fleet by 2026.
Budgetary goals have taken priority over delivering a winning fleet strategy. There’s also been a lack of competent and clear leadership at the top that has frustrated Congress, Defense News reported in December.
The Navy lacks adequate financial resources from Congress to “simultaneously develop the next generation of air, surface, and subsurface platforms and must prioritize these programs balancing the cost of developing next-generation capabilities against maintaining current capabilities,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker stated in a June 4 memo. Not only that, it can’t “afford to own, operate, and maintain its current infrastructure and must prioritize demolition to achieve long-term sustainment.” Consequently, Biden’s Navy must choose between developing a destroyer, a submarine, or a replacement for the F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters.
At the same time, the Biden administration wants to spend trillions on miscellaneous non-defense projects.
The Biden administration has chosen a path of decline and pre-emptive surrender amid China’s naval ascendance. This is hardly a recipe for confidence in the U.S. Navy, nor an assurance that the Navy would prevail in a war with China’s growing fleet of over 350 ships and thousands of missiles. It likely will have 420 ships and have increased power-projection capabilities, especially with the deployment of its Type-003 aircraft carrier. This vessel reportedly will be equal in capability to the U.S. Ford-class carriers.
Every single major Navy procurement item for the fleet has been beset with cost overruns and engineering failures for the past two decades. The Zumwalt class destroyer was meant to have beena class of thirty-two ships that were to have replaced the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and Spruance-class destroyers, and also filled in for the loss of naval gunfire support left behind by the retirement of the last of the Iowa-class battleships in 1992. Cost overruns resulted in the class of thirty-two ships being pared down to just three.
The project initially was projected to have cost $1.34 billion per ship in 1999, but that quadrupledto $4.4 billion once the USS Michael Monsoor, the most recently launched ship, hit the water almost twenty years later. Cost overruns with the projectile that was supposed to have been fired from its two railguns resulted in its cancellation and left the wonder weapons useless. The USS Zumwalt was plagued with mechanical difficulties from the start.