Gilday Expects New Force Structure Assessment to Call for More than 373 Ships
The U.S. Navy will submit another force structure analysis to Congress by mid-June that is likely to show a requirement for more ships compared to today’s target of 373 and actual inventory of 296, according to CNO Adm. Mike Gilday. During an event at Sea Air Space this week, Gilday said that he believes the ongoing assessment will show the need for a larger fleet based on “what I see on a day-to-day basis with respect to demand, the wargames that I participate in, and what I believe to be the importance of the naval force in a maritime fight.”
As for the changing composition, he said the 2022 National Defense Strategy and classified force size and construct documents will inform the study. “We see those guidelines come alive in defense planning scenarios that are really foundational to the analysis we do,” he said, without addressing what those changes may be.
He added, in response to a question from Senate Appropriations Committee defense panel ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): “I can’t see it getting any smaller than 373 manned ships.”
Collins noted in her question that the upcoming study must be submitted directly from the Navy to Congress, without being filtered through higher-ups at the Pentagon, to “empower the CNO” to convey the true requirement for a naval force.
The size of the fleet has been a major point of contention between the Navy and lawmakers in recent years. The Navy has for years conducted studies showing the need for more than 300 ships, then for 355 ships, and now for 373. The actual size of the fleet, on the other hand, has shrunk during that time. Lawmakers have pushed to buy more ships than the Pentagon-approved budgets have asked for across the last two presidential administrations, and lawmakers have pushed back against Navy plans to decommission ships early that have become too worn down and challenging to repair.
Navy to Finalize Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV) Requirements Later this Year
CNO Mike Gilday told reporters at Sea Air Space that “The [capabilities development document] is being developed right now to deliver in 2023. That actually lays out the specific requirements for LUSV,” he said.
The CDD lays out the key requirements for the LUSV – thought to be about the size of an offshore support vessel for the oil and gas sector – that will go to industry. The Navy will buy its first LUSV in 2025, with a total of nine to go under contract by Fiscal Year 2028, according to the service’s five-year shipbuilding outlook issued with the FY 2024 budget proposal. The Navy has set aside $117.4 million in its budget request to continue developing prototypes to help refine the requirements
As part of the Navy’s emerging Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) framework, “the LUSV will be capable of weeks-long deployments and trans-oceanic transits and operate aggregated with Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs), Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), Surface Action Groups (SAGs), and individual manned combatants,” reads the Navy’s FY 2024 budget documents.