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Surface Navy 2021: CNO stresses readiness in setting service priorities in new strategy release

Admiral Michael Gilday, the US chief of naval operations (CNO), released his template on 11 January for the service’s strategic course over the coming decade, entitled ‘CNO Navigation Plan 2021’, which stressed the need to focus on platform readiness.

“That continues to be my number one priority,” Adm Gilday told reporters on 8 January during a media briefing on the plan, which was released during the virtual Surface Navy Association 2021 National Symposium, which started on 11 January.

Adm Gilday noted achieving that readiness, as well as funding the acquisitions and other programmes identified in recent US Navy (USN) shipbuilding and naval strategy plans, will be difficult in the tighter US budgetary climate.

“I do not think anybody thinks we’re going to get a significant plus-up in the defence budget,” he said. “Prioritisation is going to be important for us.”

That prioritisation, he pointed out, will be based on the Future Naval Force Study (FNFS), which was ‘signed off’ by then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper in late 2020. “That has become our ground truth in terms of composition of the fleet and in guiding what we need to do,” Adm Gilday said.

The shipbuilding plan calls for 403 traditional battleforce ships, compared to 296 now, and 546 total platforms, including unmanned, by fiscal year 2045.

Gilday noted the FNFS was based on the assumption that the USN would get an additional topline increase now of 4.1%: 2.1% for inflation and another 2% in “real growth, money that would come from inside the navy or come from other organisations across [the] Department of Defense to plus-up [the] shipbuilding account”.

He added, “That was I think a reasonable assumption to make if you want to get growth.”

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