Navy officials ask for bigger share of Pentagon budget

Jan. 16 (UPI) — Just over a month before the White House releases its defense spending budget, Navy leaders are both asking for an increase in funds and stressing that surface readiness matters more than growing the fleet.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday was asked Thursday about proposed cuts to Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and said shipbuilding cuts are a trade he’s willing to make to maintain readiness.

“I’m focused on closing capability gaps, closing readiness gaps and increasing lethality,” Gilday said during comments at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium. “And so for me the focus is on sustaining the Navy that we have, [which] comes at a high price. Some of that price is, perhaps, a reduction in growth. Not to say that growth stops, but growth perhaps slows.”

Earlier in the week Gilday bluntly stated his service needs more money than other branches of the military, arguing that an even split isn’t consistent with President Trump’s security strategy.

“We need more money,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told a highly receptive audience here today. “If you believe that we require overmatch in the maritime, if you believe that we’re going to execute distributed maritime operations and operate forward in greater numbers now, that we need more iron, then we need more topline.”

At the Surface Navy Association’s 32nd National Symposium Thursday, Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, also stressed the need for fleet readiness above all.

“We live in a dangerous world, so we may be called to fight and win on little notice,” said Grady, also the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command. “It is incumbent upon us to treat every day as though it were the last day of peace, and so we have to own the fight today. That is imperative.”

In addition to the Arleigh Burke cuts, documents leaked in December show the Navy may buy a dozen fewer ships and substantially cut its shipbuilding budget in 2021.

The fiscal 2021 budget won’t be released until Feb. 10, but the defense spending bill signed in December authorizes $740 billion in defense spending.

That’s a $2 billion increase over $738 billion in the fiscal 2020 budget. While defense spending has risen gradually since 2016 — after dipping during President Barack Obama‘s term — this year’s modest growth suggests there won’t be much room to launch new programs or to stick to the Navy’s target of building 355 new ships by 2030.

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