Congress, Marine Corps Want to Give Biden’s US Navy Ship-Building Plan the Heave-Ho

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There appears to be growing bipartisan Congressional consensus, and acknowledgment from with the Biden administration, that its shipbuilding plan for the U.S. Navy is headed for an overhaul.

The Biden administration’s $886 billion Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) defense budget request includes $842 billion for the Pentagon, which has earmarked $202.5 billion for the Navy, a 4.5 percent increase; and $53.2 billion for the Marine Corps, about a 3-percent hike from the existing budget.

“Unfortunately with today’s record-level of inflation, these increases don’t go very far,” House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said. “We are seeing that very clearly in the request for ship-building.”

In June 2021, in its first annual update for the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, the Biden administration scaled down the size of the fleet planned during the Trump administration from 400 ships by 2050 to between 321 and 372, with 355 ships being the target.

In its FY23 budget, the administration requested funding for nine new combat ships while decommissioning 16. Congress agreed to build the nine ships but only consented to mothballing four of the 16 headed for the scrapyard.

In its FY24 budget request, the administration is proposing nine new ships while divesting 11, including three cruisers, three amphibious dock landing ships, and two littoral combat ships.

During an April 28 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Rogers and others questioned how mothballing more ships than those being built will help the 296-ship Navy achieve the 355-ship 2050 goal.

“Forget about the 500-ship navy many say we need to counter China; at no point over the next 18 years does the size of the fleet even reach the statutory goal of 355,” he said.

In fact, under the June 2021 shipbuilding plan update, the Navy’s battle force ship count declines to 280 ships in FY 2027.

“While this administration dithers, the CCP is rapidly modernizing its navy,” Rogers said. “It already controls the largest navy in the world.  Our fleet of 296 ships was eclipsed years ago by the Chinese fleet of over 350. In two short years, the [U.S. Department of Defense] predicts the CCP will control 400 battle-force ships.”

By John Haughey

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