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Building Ships for the Navy: Making A Better Navy


avy shipbuilding is a market that is dominated by General Dynamics (GD) and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). There are seven large shipyards that build the majority of today’s Naval Fleet, including the companies building the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). These Navy shipbuilders construct aircraft carriers, submarines, complex surface combatants and the large auxiliary ships. HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding and GD’s Electric Boat build the nuclear class vessels. HII’s Ingalls Shipyard and GD’s Bath Iron Works build the destroyer class ships and HII’s Ingalls shipyard builds the amphibious warships that transport the Marine Corps. Fincantieri Marinette and Austal USA build the LCS. Finally, GD’s National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) on the west coast, specializes in complex auxiliary and support and large commercial vessels.
The federal portion of the U.S. shipyard industry includes four government-owned and operated shipyards located at Portsmouth, Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound and Norfolk. These yards are used only for repair, maintenance and modernization of naval vessels and all have the ability to support nuclear power.
The Coast Guard vessels, various auxiliary Navy ships and Army transport vessels, as well as commercial vessels are built by mid-sized shipyards.
Appropriations Budget

New ship construction is funded within the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) appropriation. Invested SCN funds finance the construction and conversion of ships, including service life extensions and nuclear refueling and complex overhauls (RCOH). The hull, mechanical and electrical equipment (HME), electronics, guns, torpedo and missile launching systems as well as communications systems are all included in SCN appropriations. SCN also includes plant equipment, ship outfitting and post-delivery projects, machines and tools.
Appropriation is a multi-year process and is applicable for five fiscal years or the obligation work limiting date (OWLD) of the ship under construction. The OWLD is established 11 months after outfitting out the ship. The OWLD date of the last hull in a class of ships determines the expiration date of the appropriation. Amphibious ships that transport Marines are funded within the U.S. Navy’s SCN appropriation.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEASYSCOM) submits annual budget requests based upon estimates provided by the program managers. The Program Executive Offices (PEOs) oversee the shipbuilding program, new construction and the budget. PEO is considered one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations.
The budget process calls for sequential submissions up the chain of command. It begins in the summer with the Navy Budget, followed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Budget usually submitted in the fall, then the President’s Budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in December. The budget request becomes part of the President’s budget submission to Congress in February of each year. The Trump administration has released its proposed budget for FY2018, which includes $639 billion in defense spending. The Navy would receive $171.5 billion of this amount, $6.5 billion more than in 2017.
What is On the Horizon

Recently the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Seapower accepted statements from key Naval personnel regarding the needs of today’s Navy. There are several security challenges by major global powers that are intensifying, at a rapid pace. In the Middle East, the carrier strike groups and strike fighter aircraft continue operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In Afghanistan, the Marine Corps deployed to Helmand Province to train, advise and assist the Afghan Army and police. This past April, two destroyers operating in the Mediterranean enabled the Navy to take swift action with Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against chemical attacks in Syria.

In 2016 there were more than 210 Marine operations, 20 amphibious operations, 160 Theater Security Cooperation events and 75 exercises with units deployed to every Geographical Combat Command. In addition to these, requests for disaster relief such as hurricane Mathew that made landfall in October of 2016, must be supported. The objective is to continue to improve readiness and operational capacity. The Navy needs ships with advanced capabilities and technologies, while modernizing the current fleet for seapower and projection forces.
The President’s FY2018 budget supports procurement of nine ships, including two SSN 774 Virginia class attack submarines; two DDG 51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers; two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); one Ford class aircraft carrier (CVN); one John Lewis class fleet oiler (T-AO); and one Towing, Salvage and Rescue ship (T-ATS). The acquisition will “advance key warfighting capabilities and operational effectiveness,” says Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mo.), chairman of the subcommittee. The Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment (FSA) detailed a long-term requirement for 355-ship Navy.
Aircraft Carriers

The USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) is the first new aircraft carrier design in 40 years and delivered this past May. This returns force structure to 11 aircraft carriers and provides an unprecedented Navy capability for the next half century.
By capitalizing on lessons learned from the lead ship, CVN 79 and 80 have achieved significant cost reductions. The USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CVN 79) is 28 percent complete with her launch planned in 2020 and delivery followed by training and maneuvers to deploy as soon as the fall of 2024. The USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 80) has begun planning with construction scheduled to begin in spring of 2018.

Ballistic Missile Submarines, coupled with the TRIDENT II D-5 Strategic Weapon System, represent the most lasting strategic arsenal and provide nuclear-response capability. The current SSBN and SSGNs’ life cycles cannot be extended, so the Columbia Class Program is on track to start construction in FY2021. Their delivery is set to coincide with the retirement of our current ballistic missile submarines and deploy for first patrol in FY2031.
The Virginia class submarine program ensures the delivery of submarines ready to deploy within budget. The Block IV contract for 10 ships continues the co-production of the Virginia class submarines through FY2018. The Navy intends to take advantage of these savings and capitalize on increased efficiency with decreased costs to build 10 boats, planned through 2021.
Large Surface Combatants

The Arleigh Burke class (DDG 51) remains one of the Navy’s most robust and successful shipbuilding programs, providing 64 ships to the Fleet. There are 10 more builds planned through FY2021, and will incorporate Integrated Air and Missile Defense and provide additional Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capacity known as Flight III.
The DDG 1000 Zumwalt class guided missile destroyer is an optimally crewed, multi-mission ship designed to provide long-range, precision, surface fire support to Marines conducting littoral maneuvers and ashore operations. The DDG 1000 program accomplished several milestones in 2016 including the first phase of delivery, commissioning, and sailaway of USS ZUMWALT to her homeport of San Diego.
Small Surface Combatants

Nine Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) have been built and 17 others are in various stages of construction. Both LCS shipyards have upgraded their facilities and have the ability for production, below the congressionally mandated cost cap. There are several other modules of the LCS, such as surface warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and torpedo defense, just to name a few. Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) will play a larger role in hunting mines as the Navy modernizes.

The Navy continues to refine the requirements and acquisition strategy for the frigate. This procurement has been pushed to FY2020 with the LCS program continuing in FY2018 and FY2019 to bridge the frigate targeted start date. The Navy plans to transition in FY2020 and maximize competition in the shipbuilding industry.
Amphibious Ships

Amphibious ships operate forward to support allies, rapidly respond to crises, deter offensive attacks and provide the best means of projecting sustainable power ashore. Additionally, it provides humanitarian aid and disaster relief. The current plan projects 12 Amphibious Assault Ships (LHD/LHA) and a mixture of 26 Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD), Dock Landing Ship (LSD), and Amphibious Ship Replacement LX(R) Ships. The amphibious force is projected to grow to a total of 34 ships in FY2021.
These ships will replace the LHA 1 Tarawa class and the LHD 1 Wasp class ships. USS AMERICA (LHA 6) began her first operational deployment in July 2017. USS TRIPOLI (LHA 7) construction is 70 percent complete and on schedule to deliver in 2018. LHA 8 will have a well deck to increase operational flexibility and an island with a reduced footprint, which increases flight deck space and improves aviation capability. Delivery is scheduled for FY2024.
There are currently two ships are under construction, PORTLAND (LPD 27) and FORT LAUDERDALE (LPD 28). They are planned for delivery in October 2017 and August 2021, respectively. Congress added a 13th ship (LPD 29) in FY2017, which will lessen negative impacts to shipbuilding caused by the gap in construction between the start of the LPD 28 build and the start of construction for LX(R).
Smooth Sailing

The Department of the Navy will continue to push for affordability, stability and shipbuilding capacity. Shipbuilding will continue to be a viable and vital industry. It will require continuous congressional support and must meet the objectives of providing warfighting and humanitarian capabilities. The FY2019, as presented by President Trump, will help the Navy achieve their goals of increasing range, speed and ability.
U.S. Navy Ship Inventory
The U.S. Navy’s Total Ship Battle Force, the official count of the number of vessels in the Navy’s active fleet, stands at 277 ships. This number includes the amphibious ships that transport the U.S. Marine Corps. The total number of battle force ships in the Navy reached a late-Cold War peak of 568 at the end of FY1987 and began declining thereafter. The Navy fell below 300 battle force ships in August 2003.

Commissioned Navy ships are prefixed with the letters “USS,” designating United States Ship. Non-commissioned, civilian-manned vessels of the Navy have names that begin with “USNS,” standing for United States Naval Ship. Every ship has a letter-based hull classification symbol (CVN or DDG) that indicates the vessel’s type and number. A “T” in front of a ship type represents a U.S. Naval Service Ship operated by the Military Sealift Command. All ships in the Navy inventory are placed in the Naval Vessel Register. The Register tracks data such as the current status of a ship, the date of its commissioning and the date of its decommissioning.
The current Navy inventory as of September 8, 2017 is:
Ships and Submarines

Deployable Battle Force Ships: 277

• Deployed Battle Force Across the Fleet Including Forward Deployed Submarines: 99

• Deployed Ships Underway: 50 (18%)

• Ships Underway for Local Ops / Training: 43 (16%)

• Aircraft Carriers Underway:

USS Nimitz (CVN 68) - 5th Fleet

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) - Pacific

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) - Atlantic

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - 7th Fleet

• Amphibious Assault Ships Underway:

USS America (LHA 6) - 5th Fleet

USS Wasp (LHD 1) - 4th Fleet

USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) - Atlantic

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) - 7th Fleet

♦ • Aircraft (operational): 3700+

1. United States Navy,

2. Congressional testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower by: Allison F. Stiller, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition; Vice Admiral William K. Lescher, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources and Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration

3. Shipbuilders Council of America,

4. Huntington Ingalls Industries,

Bill Stevenson is FRA’s Director of Communications and serves as the Managing Editor of FRA Today. Please contact him at
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