The Department of Defense (DoD) submitted the Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan, which covers fiscal years 2017 to 2046, to the Congress in July 2016. The average annual cost of carrying out that plan over the next 30 years—about $21 billion in 2016 dollars, CBO estimates—would be one-third more than the average amount of funding that the Navy has received for shipbuilding in recent decades. The Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan is similar to its 2016 plan with respect to the goal for the total inventory of battle force ships, the number and types of ships that the Navy would purchase, and the funding proposed to implement its plans.
The Navy’s 2017 Plan Aims to Expand the Fleet to 308 Battle Force Ships
In November 2016, the fleet numbered 272 battle force ships—aircraft carriers, submarines, surface combatants, amphibious ships, combat logistics ships, and some support ships. (Other support ships are not included in that number.) The Navy’s goal (in military parlance, its requirement), as stated in its 2017 shipbuilding plan and reflecting its 2014 force structure assessment, was to maintain a fleet of 308 battle force ships. Toward that end, the Navy would buy a total of 254 ships over the 2017–2046 period: 209 combat ships and 45 combat logistics and support ships. If the Navy adhered to its current schedule for retiring ships, it would meet the goal of 308 ships under the 2017 plan by 2021, and it would be able to maintain its inventory at that level or higher through 2028. After that, however, the fleet would fall below 308 ships. By the 2030s, the fleet would number fewer than 300 ships.