October 25, 2012
Credit: Credit: U.S. Navy
The U.S. Navy’s long-term shipbuilding plans — normally of little interest outside the Pentagon and beltway — have taken national center stage.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney put the Navy’s fleet plans front and center this week in the final presidential debate by saying the nation would drop to a 285-vessel force.
The assertion has forced Navy public affairs officials to address the service shipbuilding plan publicly in a way they never had before.
Perhaps the most reliable source of Navy ship numbers is the politically neutral Congressional Research Service, which on Oct. 18 released its updated shipbuilding and force report.
The report shows that, as with many things in such a debate, the subject may not be as black and white as presented.
The fleet numbers cited in the report range from a high of as many as 307 ships for fiscal years in the late 2030s and early 2040s to a low of 276 ships in fiscal 2015. There are 285 ships projected for a handful of fiscal years, including 2013. For most of the other years, the number hovers just below or above 300 ships.
“In February 2006, the Navy presented to Congress a goal of achieving and maintaining a fleet of 313 ships, consisting of certain types and quantities of ships,” CRS notes.
“On March 28, 2012, the Department of Defense (DOD) submitted to Congress an FY2013 30-year (FY2013-FY2042) shipbuilding plan that includes a new goal for a fleet of about 310-316 ships.”