Defense News website reported some highlights from the new defense budget that just passed Congress (1). Here’s a few of the noteworthy items.
- Funding was provided to continue the refueling of the carrier Washington. This is the truly baffling item in the budget. The Navy currently only has 9 airwings. If the
is refueled, the carrier force will be 11 when the Ford joins the fleet. One carrier is always in extended overhaul and refueling so that will leave us with 10 carriers and 9 air wings. Given the current budget restrictions why would the Navy want to pay for the operation and maintenance of a carrier that has no air wing? I don’t think they would. I think an early retirement of a carrier is a foregone conclusion with the resultant permanent drop from 11 carriers to 10. Washington
- Ship operations and maintenance (O&M) took a $1.7 billion cut from the Navy’s $39.3 billion request. The fleet is suffering from over a decade of neglect and poor maintenance and yet the O&M is cut? That’s astounding. That’s also poor leadership and management by the Navy. They should have told Congress that O&M was their number one priority over any new purchases. Instead, as they’ve always done, they’ve sacrificed everything to ensure new construction.
- The MQ-4C Triton broad area maritime surveillance program was cut by $41M.
- Three unrequested MQ-8C FireScout unmanned helicopters were added.
- Congress largely shot down the Navy’s request to inactivate 11 cruisers and three amphibious ships. No more than two cruisers per year will be allowed to undergo the Navy’s “modernization” program. As you know, this was the Navy’s attempt to informally retire ships.