The U.S. Navy is looking at an average annual cost of nearly $21 billion to reach its goal of 308 battle force ships, about one-third more than amount of annual funding the Navy has received in recent decades. Building President-elect Trump’s 350-ship navy will cost even more -about $25 billion per year.
These new estimates were provided by the Congressional Budget Office in its analysis of the Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan released Wednesday.
The Navy’s 2017 plan, submitted to Congress in July, aims to expand the fleet to 308 battle force ships over the next three decades. As of November 2016 the Navy had up fleet of 272 battle force ships, i.e. aircraft carriers, submarines, surface combatants, amphibious ships, combat logistics ships, and some support ships.
The CBO estimates that spending for new ships in the Navy’s plan would average $18.9 million per year over 30 years, costing a total of $566 million. The CBO’s estimate 36 percent more than the historical average funding of $13.9 billion. The CBO also estimates about $1.8 billion in additional costs, for a total of $20.7 billion in funding needed per year.
“If the Navy received the same average annual amount of funding (in constant dollars) for ship construction in each of the next 30 years that it received over the past three decades, the service would not be able to afford its 2017 plan,” the CBO summary read.
The CBO said that a fleet of 350 ships, as some policymakers including President-elect Donald Trump have called for, could cost $25 billion per year, or 60 percent above the historical average. Same would be the case for the even bigger 355-ship fleet, which the Navy called for in its new 2016 force structure assessment released in mid-December.
The CBO’s estimate is the first indication from the government as to the actual cost of building the 350-ship Navy that President-elect Trump called for during the election.
“Our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I. My plan will build the 350 ship Navy we need. This will be the largest effort at rebuilding our military since Ronald Reagan, and it will require a truly national effort,” Trump said in a speech in October.
The CBO summary also said implementing the Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan, or any more costly plan, might be difficult under current law. The CBO says currently policymakers face a choice between implementing the Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan and cutting costs elsewhere in the Navy’s budget (or in DoD’s budget more broadly), scaling back the 2017 plan, or taking some combination of those actions.
“Facing similar constraints, in setting the appropriations for each year from 2013 through 2016, the Congress added $1 billion to $2 billion to the Administration’s request for shipbuilding,” the CBO noted.
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.