Department of the Navy Presents Their Budget to a Lukewarm Congress


By Heberto Limas-Viller - NDIA Junior Fellow


On May 12th, the Department of the Navy provided testimony to review the President's 2023 defense budget request. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, alongside Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger provided updates on the budget requests, particularly on the Marine Corps’ request for 31 amphibious ships and the Navy’s goal to meet the mandated requirement of a 355-fleet size. Secretary Del Toro noted that the budget request more than doubles the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) investments of the previous budget while focusing on new platforms that can meet the requirements for the next war, such as the Columbia submarine class. Admiral Gilday clarified that the decommissioning of ships from the Navy, notably the Littoral Combat Ships where the oldest example is seven years old, is necessary to continue investing in new platforms and ships than spending time on maintaining unnecessary platforms. Finally, General Berger spoke of the Marine Corps modernization efforts and in maintaining smaller and mobile units that can meet the demands of tomorrow’s battlefield.

The questioning mainly centered on the Naval size, budgetary requests, and the modernization efforts of the Marine Corps. With regards to the modernization efforts of the Marine Corps, specific focus was given to the 31-ship number and what would happen if they did not receive the funding. General Berger responded that the 31-ship number for the amphibious assault ship is the minimum for the Marine Corps to remain responsive to global conflicts. The line of questioning also investigated what were the lessons learned so far from Russia’s failed invasion of Ukraine. The Commandant noted that mobility remains key and that having small units flexible enough to move is essential instead of bulky, large units.

As for the Navy, special focus was given to improving the branch’s readiness, particularly on eliminating the “zero defect” mentality and on maintenance requests. Admiral Gilday noted that the zero-defect mentality is a culture shift that will take time to develop but is progressing well. As for maintenance requests, the Secretary Del Toro noted the concern and stated they are working through SIOP to ensure the public shipyards can effectively manage growing maintenance requests for the fleet.

Admiral Gilday stated that it would be a challenge for the US to handle two conflicts simultaneously as the current fleet size is enough to handle one conflict and manage another, placing the US at risk if conflict broke out over Taiwan. Senator Hawley was concerned that of the three shipbuilding plans that were developed by the Navy, only one could meet the 355-fleet size mandated by previous NDAAs. Admiral Gilday stated that the size could be met with their third option though it would be a significant push. However, Senator Sullivan (R-AK) noted that even though there is a budgetary increase for the Department of the Navy, it would result in a 4% budget cut when adjusted for rising inflation. Such concern has been noted within the House of Representatives and other publications.

Overall, the committee was largely responsive to the Department of the Navy’s needs though there was some concern among Republicans that not enough was being spent on the Navy. Some senators noted concern over maintenance delays with the submarine and destroyer fleet, while others focused on the role that private shipyards can play to ensure new platforms can be developed and constructed as needed. Despite these concerns, the Committee shows significant support for improving the US Navy.

Topics: Navy News, Navy, Shipbuilding

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