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US Navy budget proposal cuts ship-spending plans through to 2025

18 February 2020
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Description: Columbia-class submarine procurement costs are forcing the US Navy to cut other programmes. Source: US Navy

The proposed US Navy (USN) Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget includes reductions in shipbuilding plans through to the middle of the decade despite congressional mandates and Trump administration promises of a long-term 355-ship fleet.

In the FY 2021 proposal, by the end of the Future Years Defence Plan (FYDP) - which covers the five-year period ending in 2025 - the USN would still have a long way to go to reach a 355-ship fleet.

"Again, 355 is the law of the land," Rear Admiral Randy Crites, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget, said on 10 February during a media briefing following the release of the FY 2021 budget proposal. "But given the flat topline in our projections, 305 is what we're going to end up [at the end of the FYDP]."

Paying for programmes such as the Columbia-class nuclear-powered ballistic submarines (SSBNs) , Ford-class aircraft carriers, and other general shipbuilding plans is proving to be an extremely difficult balancing act for a service that also has to pay for maintenance on an ageing fleet, wants to introduce a new class of large unmanned surface vessel (LUSV), and has to satisfy other presidential needs.

However, defence analysts and others familiar with the USN budget process have noted that the proposal is only an opening volley in a long-term game between government agencies and the US Congress on what the military services want, what they can afford, what President Trump wants, and what Congress is willing - or desirous - to fund. The general feeling is that there will likely be another continuing resolution (CR) that will extend beyond the 2020 election in November.

The FY 2021 request, analysts say, appears to include 'gold watches' - programmes the USN offers to cut to pay for other programmes knowing Congress will likely replace them in the spending plan along with necessary additional funds.

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