Potential Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress [December 22, 2004]   [open pdf - 192KB]

"Navy and Department of Defense (DOD) officials reportedly are considering reducing at least some parts of Navy force structure from current levels. In addition, the Navy in the summer of 2004 reportedly submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense a draft FY2006-FY2011 budget plan that would delay or reduce a number of planned Navy shipbuilding programs. These developments have caused concern among Members of Congress and others about potential DOD plans for the Navy and the effect these plans might have on the shipbuilding industrial base. The current absence of an officially approved, consensus plan for the size and structure of the Navy may make it difficult, if not impossible, for Congress to conduct effective oversight by reconciling desired Navy capabilities with planned Navy force structure, and planned Navy force structure with supporting Navy programs and budgets. It may also cause business-planning uncertainty for industry. Statements from Navy officials suggest that the next Navy force structure plan may call for a fleet of roughly 250 to 330 ships. Historical figures for the total number of ships in the Navy are not necessarily a reliable yardstick for assessing the adequacy of today's Navy or a future planned Navy that includes a certain number of ships. Similarly, trends over time in the total number of ships in the Navy are not necessarily a reliable indicator of the direction of change over time in the fleet's ability to perform its stated missions. Current force-planning issues that Congress may consider in assessing how large a Navy the United States needs include sea-based missile defense; the sea basing concept for conducting expeditionary operations ashore; naval requirements for the global war on terrorism and irregular conflicts; the possible emergence over the next 10 to 25 years of significantly more capable Chinese maritime military forces; new technologies that may affect U.S. Navy ship capabilities; Navy ship homeporting arrangements and deployment methods; DOD's increased emphasis on achieving full jointness in U.S. military operations; and potential tradeoffs between funding Navy requirements and funding competing defense requirements."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32665
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