The Heritage Foundation is a wee bit overboard on their Navy Force Structure recommendations

Heritage Foundation has always been “hawkish” to say the least, on defense issues, but I think they have gone beyond the pale with their most recent recommendations, which are linked to above.

Currently Congressional Policy calls for a 355 ship navy in the 2030’s, which is unlikely to be attained. Heritage wants to push it to 400 ships by 2039. Fiscally, I believe that number to be implausible. From an industrial capability standpoint, I likewise believe that number to be implausible.

Heritage states that the shipbuilding fund would have to be increased by $4 Billion to $6 Billion a year for the period from now to 2039. While there are some hawks in Congress who might go for it, most Republicans are not going to accept such a massive sustained expenditure.

Even if the money was obtainable, the United States simply does not have the industrial and shipbuilding capability to build a sufficient number of ships to obtain that goal. 355 would likely be right at the limit of what our shipbuilders could handle, but I believe 400 to be impossible, unless we contracted out to European powers, Japan or South Korea and that is unlikely to happen.

Bottom line, I don’t see this happening, nor should it. I think the Navy will commit, on paper, to 355, but I don’t see it actually happening in the intended time frame and probably not at all.

(Note to Mods: The table quoted below is extracted from the report linked to above. Copyright by Heritage Foundation, but I believe the quote of a single table is brief enough to constitute fair use.)

(Note to Mods: The following quoted material is in the public domain as a work of the United States Government. Attribution is given to the United States Navy.)

Ship Battle Forces - 286

Aircraft Carriers

Class No. of Hulls
CVN 68 10
CVN 78 1

Surface Combatants

Class No. of Hulls
CG 47 22
DDG 51 66
LCS 16


Class No. of Hulls
SSBN 726 14
SSGN 726 4
SSN 21 3
SSN 688 31
SSN 774 17

Amphibious Warfare Ships

Class No. of Hulls
LHA 6 1
LHD 1 8
LPD 17 11
LSD 41 8
LSD 49 4

Mine Warfare Ships

Class No. of Hulls
MCM 1 11

Combat Logistics Ships

Class No. of Hulls
AKE 1 12
AO 187 15
AOE 6 2

Fleet Support

Class No. of Hulls
AGOS 19 4
AGOS 23 1
AKE 1 2
ARS 50 2
AS 39 2
ATF 166 3
EPF 1 9
ESB 3 2
ESD 1 2
LCC 19 2

Auxiliary Support

Class No. of Hulls
HST 1 1

I wonder if fact a lot of funding for the Heritage Foundation comes from defense contracts has anything to do with this report. Naw probably not those countries don’t care about profit the just care about protecting this country.

Actually, a corporation’s primary focus SHOULD be the bottom line. Of course they are going to lobby for policies that bring them more business. It is not their problem to be concerned about national security, it is only their responsibility to fulfill their contracts they enter into with the government under the terms of the contract.

Only the government is responsible for national defense and only the government has a responsibility to prudently conduct national defense.

That being said, I oppose the Heritage Foundation’s proposal as unnecessary and too expensive.

1 Like

Its amazing that they conveniently forget to add the USCG to their ship totals that the Navy “needs”.

I ought to put the Cato recommendations next to the Heritage recommendations. Now Cato represents the libertarian and non-interventionist “right”, while Heritage represents the hawkish right.

Not surprisingly, Cato’s figures are far under Heritage’s figures. :smile:

It reminds me of Reagan’s 600 ship navy.

Hi Safiel. One thing I’ve never understood is why we didn’t put more money into SSGNs. And they’re gonna be gone soon. Something about a sub with 150+ cruise missiles sitting off someone’s coast seems really useful. Don’t need to rush destroyers in to do a strike. Just my opinion.

The 600 ship Navy primarily involved the reactivation of dormant assets, not a great deal of NEW shipbuilding. For example, the 4 WWII era Iowa-class battleships were recommissioned and numerous reserve cruisers and destroyers were reactivated. The buildup was very short lived and after the fall of the Soviet Union, the assets were very quickly decommissioned.

That sort of thing would not be possible or desirable today, as most of what is decommissioned is too obsolete to be worth the expense of updating.

Upcoming variants of the Virginia-class attack submarines will provide the capability of the SSGN’s, prior to the decommissioning of those boats.

Yeah, but I thought upgrades would get Virginias to 40(?) Cruise missiles? Still seems like it would be necessary to rush in a few as opposed to one.

The older Virginia-class subs can carry up to 16 cruise missiles. Starting with Block V and the Virginia Payload Module, each sub will be able to carry 44 cruise missiles.

The Ohio-class submarines can carry 154 cruise missiles, but there are only 4 of those boats. There will be far more Virginia-class submarines, so while each only has a fraction of the capacity of an SSGN, the sheer quantity of Virginia-class submarines will make up the difference.

Fair enough, and I always accept your naval knowledge, but I didn’t think we were making enough Virginias to replace the subs we already need for SSN stuff let alone SSGN options.

I should note that the very existence of the 4 SSGNs was purely a fluke. Originally 18 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines were built. When we ratified the START II Treaty, we had to cut our forward deployed nuclear presence, thus we had to take four SSBNs out of service. It was impracticle to convert them to attack submarines, and we did not want to scrap 4 very expensive fairly new submarine hulls, so it is decided to convert them to SSGN’s by replacing the missile tubes.

But we would likely never have DELIBERATELY built these boats, they were merely a side effect of START II.

So we are merely giving up a capability that we never intended to have in the first place.

I believe we will have sufficient cruise missile capabilities.

USS Ohio (SSGN-726) will decommission in late 2023 or early 2024.
USS Michigan (SSGN-727) will decommission in late 2024 or early 2025.
USS Florida (SSGN-728) will decommission in mid 2025.
USS Georgia (SSGN-729) will decommission in early to mid 2026.

Enough Virginia-class submarines should have entered service at that point to make up the difference.

Great info. But is Virginia construction good enough in your opinion?

I think it is sufficient. We will clearly drop in cruise missile capability from the 2023 time until about 2030 or so. But not to the point of causing serious problems. Unfortunately, once the Columbia-class submarines begin production in 2021, that will kind of cap our ability to build Virginia-class submarines for many years and there is no way to get around that constraint. And we cannot extend the life of the Ohio-class SSGNs, at 42 years, they will already be past their original life spans of 30 years.

So we are pretty much in a bind and must accept that we will be down in cruise missile capability for a few years.

As always, thank you for your view.

Your welcome.

I would suggest the Navy perhaps concentrate on its major short term problem, the major problems presented by the use of immature technology on the Ford-class aircraft carriers.

I have never been in the Navy. I was in the Army. Plenty of Navy people in my wife’s family.

I have no personal interests in this matter, just don’t care for unnecessary expenditures on principle.

1 Like