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Navy Force Structure: A Bigger Fleet Background and Issues for Congress

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Technical Report

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Congressional Research Service Washington United States

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Current Navy plans call for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 308 ships of certain types and numbers. Some observers have advocated increasing the Navys force-level goal to about 350 ships. The Navy is currently conducting a force structure assessment FSA, and some observers anticipate that this FSA will lead to a new Navy force-level goal of more than 308 ships, although not necessarily 350 ships. The Navys actual size in recent years has generally been in the range of 270 to 290 ships. Those who advocate increasing the planned size of the Navy to something more than 308 ships generally point to Chinas naval modernization effort, resurgent Russian naval activity, and challenges that the Navy has sometimes faced in meeting requests from the various regional U.S. military commanders for day-to-day, in-region presence of forward-deployed Navy ships. The figure of 350 ships is by no means the only possibility for a Navy of more than 308 ships fleets of more than 350 ships, or of fewer than 350 ships but still more than 308, are also possible. There have also been proposals in recent years from other observers for fleets of less than 308 ships. For purposes of illustration, this CRS report presents a notional force structure for a Navy of about 350 ships. It happens to total 349 ships. This notional 349-ship fleet may be of value as one possible point of departure for discussing Navy force structure plans for fleets of more than 308 ships, and for understanding how proposals for future fleets of about 350 ships might depart from a proportional scaling up of the current 308-ship force-structure goal. Many combinations of about 350 ships other than the notional 349-ship force structure are possible. Achieving and maintaining the notional 349-ship force structure might require adding a total of 45 to 58 ships to the Navys FY2017 30-year shipbuilding plan, or an average of about 1.5 to 1.9 additional ships per year over the 30-year period.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science

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