FEBRUARY 2, 2015 — Though much of the Obama Administration's $4 trillion FY 2016 budget request to Congress may be dead on arrival, that's not necessarily the case with the Navy shipbuilding budget. The inside-the-Beltway types at Politico.com have assigned segments of the budget ratings from DOA to a "Alive and Kicking." It rates requests for more spending on military hardware as "in surgery" saying that with Congress likely to go along much of it happily
The Department of the Navy submission includes requests for funding for 9 new ships ($11.6 billion); George Washington (CVN) overhaul ($678 million), Ohio replacement strategic submarine development ($1.4 billion) and Littoral Combat Ship capabilities improvements ($55 million).
The Pentagon didn't request funding for the Washington refueling last year, but Congress added it during the appropriations process, so members will likely approve it again this year.
Of interest, too, is that there is no attempt to fund the Ohio development out of the regular shipbuilding budget and that we now have a price tag for making the LCS into "something more like a frigate."
The nine new construction ships are:
- 2 Virginia Class Submarines ($5.4 billion)
- 2 DDG – 51 Destroyers ($3.2 billion)
- 3 Littoral Combat Ships ($1.6 billion)
- 1 LPD Amphibious Transport Dock Ship ($0.7 billion)
- 1 T-AO Fleet Replenishment Order ($0.7 billion)
At $534 billion, the total defense request accounts for 14.3 percent of federal spending, the lowest percentage in more than 60 years and just 3.1 percent of GDP. Still, it exceeds the cap imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by about $36 billion — risking the automatic triggering of sequestration.
For the last two fiscal years, Congress and the executive branch agreed to a number above the sequestration cap. But "this year we have no such agreement,"Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer Mike McCord said at a briefing.
"The Budget Control Act still has sequester lined up … and we're submitting a budget above that level," he said. "That's a major concern to [DoD leaders]. This is not something we are going to be able to answer for our service members. It will take a good bit of the year to sort out."
DoD must make the case to Congress that the president's budget is the level that is needed, Mr. McCord noted.
"I know there are some members that will say the law requires otherwise," he said. "The president has continually taken the position … that we should come up with an alternative, and many members on the defense committees feel the same way."
The Pentagon says that it is the view of defense leaders that the military cannot fulfill the national security strategy if sequestration triggers.