The Pentagon and Navy are conducting parallel fleet studies in advance of the next national defense strategy


The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) will launch at Ingalls Shipbuilding on June 5, 2021. HII photo

The Navy and Pentagon are working on numbers for two separate studies that will map the size of the service’s future fleet as defense budgets are set to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, officials familiar with the studies told USNI News.

The Navy is conducting its own assessment of the fleet architecture required to address future threats beyond budget year 2024, while the Pentagon‘s cost and program assessment (CAPE) also assesses the fleet design for the FY 2023 budget, which will come out early next year.

“There are two separate efforts. The Navy strives to shape the armed forces. And they call it a strategy and force design effort. And then CAPE launched its own project as part of the program budget review – evaluating the troop structure – as a rather short-term matter to support the [Fiscal Year] 23 budget template. So what the Navy is doing is more of a longer-term look at how the armed forces are shaped, ”Hudson Institute senior fellow Bryan Clark told USNI News. “CAPE is more focused on what’s in the budget for the 23rd [Future Years Defense Program], Basically.”

Efforts come as defense officials continue to predict flat or declining budgets in the coming years that will make it difficult for the Navy to achieve its goal of a larger fleet to maintain a head start on China in the Indo-Pacific.

The approach to the studies is in line with the Navy and Marine Corps argument that evaluating the force structure – which assesses the number and types of naval vessels for the fleet – should be an iterative process that builds on and concurrently with previous analytical work new threats taken into account and problems.

“This is part of this iterative ongoing analysis cycle. The budget for fiscal year 23 has already been transferred to [the Office of the Secretary of Defense]”CAPE is doing its analysis to support the FYDP, which is tied to this budget for FY 23, and then the Navy moves on with its longer-term analysis of the armed forces,” said Clark.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said earlier this month that the Navy must reassess its force structure assessments every 18 to 24 months to ensure that analytical work remains relevant to ongoing threats.

“What is China doing mainly? What is Russia doing? What have we learned from things like large-scale practice? We’ll be doing another global war game this fall. We analyze all the time. There are a number of war games that we make every year. What do we learn from these games or this analysis? What do we learn from these fleet combat problems that we do with every task force and ARG? Summarize all of this and incorporate it into an assessment of the force structure to give us a better understanding, ”Gilday said during one of. organized forum Defense news on September 8th.
“To refine that, let’s say, let’s say every two years, this is important in my opinion – I think this is important because this is a huge contribution to the shipbuilding plan that we are making available to Congress.”

The Biden government‘s budget proposal for FY 2022 contained neither a detailed 30-year shipbuilding plan nor the usual five-year budget outlook. Instead, the 30-year shipbuilding plan included a number of ships that the Navy could purchase for any type of ship.

“I would assume, based on what you said and what you need to do, because you owe a shipbuilding plan – you owe a 30 year shipbuilding plan on the February budget – that is the goal of marrying what you are “Longer term with what comes out of the budget process that CAPE is currently in control of,” said Clark. “So you have to somehow marry those two things off in the end. So I would imagine that the FY 23, maybe the FYDP, is kind of locked up and then the question is, what does the force structure look like after that? And that is exactly what this experiment is supposed to do. “

The Navy is also using its recent Large Scale Exercise, which the service recently used to test its operational concepts, to inform the 30-year shipbuilding plan, ”Gilday said during the Defense News forum.

“My priorities in terms of Columbia, readiness, skills, and capacity, at least during my tenure, haven’t changed,” he said. “So I take the analysis we have on the requirements, I take the priorities that I have stated many times, and then add the reality of the budget that we are receiving or the budget that we expect to have in the fall obtain. And that ultimately affects the 30-year shipbuilding plan. And that in turn is not only needs-based, but also integrates a high level of affordability. “

In addition to assessing the fleet architecture, the Pentagon is also conducting a global troop holdings review and reassessing the National Defense Strategy.

“The Global Posture Review will be part of a bigger puzzle. The defense minister aims to publish an updated national defense strategy in 2022, which should give us additional guidance on how the globe will be set up, how he sees us in the competitive phase and then prepared for a possible crisis against China, ”Gilday said last week the International Seapower Symposium at Naval War College in Rhode Island.

Gilday said he expects the updated NDS to transform the global armed forces position in both domains and regions.

“It should probably also give us more precise guidance on what our investment strategies should look like in the future. I think that’s an example [is] Strike groups of the porters. One of the things that the NDS changed in 2018 was to create a supply-based rather than a demand-based model. In the past, it was really a demand-driven model that was promoted by the commanders of the combatants. Now it’s a top-down approach that is supply-side, ”said Gilday.
“The Defense Minister takes a look at the challenges in the five problem areas – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and violent extremist organizations. And then he decides how the globe will respond to those in these five problem areas and across the spectrum of warfare, from peacetime to conflict, ”he added. “It gives him the ability to say, ‘Well, I need X aircraft carriers deployed every day, and I need Y series of aircraft carrier strike groups ready to go in say 30 days or 60 days.” and that will guide us in how much willing we need to be in the years to come. ‘ What we will see from the NDS, we will see more structure, how the operational readiness of the common force will look in the future. “

The multiple re-evaluations come as the Biden government continues its efforts on a strategy that emphasizes China and seeks to counter Beijing in the Indo-Pacific.

Before former President Donald Trump stepped down, the White House released a long-awaited 30-year shipbuilding plan in December 2020 that called for a significant increase in shipbuilding to counter China.

The Hudson Institute conducted a fleet study last year that was one of three inputs to an Office of Defense-led effort under the Trump administration to create a future fleet design. The Navy and Marine Corps under the Trump administration had also worked on an integrated assessment of the Naval Force Structure, which was one of three contributions to the Pentagon’s effort.

The same analytical work influenced both the Trump administration’s December 2020 shipbuilding plan and the Biden administration‘s Fiscal Year 2022 shipbuilding lines earlier this year, Clark said.

“There was a version of it” [Trump] Shipbuilding plan and force structure based on the analysis that didn’t look exactly like Battle Force 2045, ”said Clark. “So they did all of this analysis and then just made the Biden plan, so the Biden plan looks a lot like what we envisioned before the 2045 Battle Force [Trump] The White House got it under control. “

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