Future of Navy Plan Uncertain

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
A new proposal to revive Navy shipbuilding and add more than 30 vessels to today’s fleet of about 280 depends on the service’s ability to control construction costs and keep other expenses – including the war on terror – from eating into shipbuilding budgets, according to a Virginian-Pilot report. Though Navy leaders remained publicly silent on their proposal, the service apparently began briefing key lawmakers on a long-range shipbuilding program conceived by Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who took over in July as chief of naval operations. According to the report, Mullen envisions a fleet of 313 ships by 2020. To get it, he wants the service to spend an average of $13.4 billion annually on ship construction beginning in 2007. The service invested $10.4 billion on new ships during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 but asked for just $8.7 billion in 2006. Two months into the new fiscal year, the 2006 overall defense spending plan remains stalled in Congress. Also contributing to uncertainty about the proposal are steady increases in military pay and benefits, particularly health care costs for service members and retirees. And while senior defense officials apparently have been briefed on the Navy proposal, the Pentagon is two months away from completing a Congressionally ordered “Quadrennial Review” that will include its suggestions for force levels in all the military branches. Source: The Virginian-Pilot

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