DoD Buzz website has an article reporting on comments by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee regarding Navy funding and shipbuilding issues (1).
Forbes addresses the demand for Navy services as it relates to fleet size,
“'In 2007 we were able to meet about 90-percent of their validated requests. This year we will meet something in the 42-perecentile range. That is a frightening difference. If you then look back at how many ships you would need to be able to meet the validated requests – the testimony we’ve had is you would need something close to 400 ships,' Forbes said."
On the face of it, that’s an amazing change in responsiveness from 90% to 42% in just a several year period! Of course, there’s always the issue of the degree of validity and worth associated even with the “validated requests”. We know that the fleet size has shrunk appreciably over that same period and that the size reduction has been exacerbated by informal idling of many Navy ships, reduction in task group sizes, and reduced availability due to maintenance problems. What we don’t know is whether the drop in serviced requests is due strictly to the drop in naval availability or whether there has been an increase in demand and, if so, whether the demands are truly worthwhile. Still, growing inability to meet demand is troubling.
Forbes then addressed fleet size,
"While pointing out that reaching 400 ships for the Navy may not be realistic, he did refer to previous congressional assessments of the issue which called for 346 Navy ships."
I don’t know what basis or analysis he used to reach that figure but it’s interesting to note that it’s significantly more than the official Navy goal. Given Forbes position as Chair of the Seapower committee, I’d like to believe that his opinion is reasonably valid. By comparison, the Navy sees a much different fleet size,
"Citing mission needs, budget constraints and a 2012 force structure assessment, Navy officials say a goal of 306 ships is appropriate, realistic and achievable."
Quite a difference!
Beyond the simple difference in numbers, I’d like to know what fleet structure Forbes envisions. We know the Navy is drastically lowering its combat power with a third of the fleet slated to be made up of the LCS and LCS II. So, not only does the Navy advocate a smaller fleet, it advocates a much less capable fleet.
Lastly, Forbes addresses the funding of the Ohio SSBN replacement.
"Forbes told Military.com he would like to see a special defense budget line item created for the Ohio Replacement Program so that the strategically vital effort was not formally part of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget."
This is a topic worthy a post of its own. I offer no further comment other than noting his opinion on the subject.
It’s always interesting to hear the thoughts of high ranking naval leadership whether uniformed or civilian.
(1) DoD Buzz, "Forbes: Congress Must Fund
Replacement Program, Increase Fleet Size", Kris Osborn, Ohio 4-Dec-14