Surface Combatants:

Navy Faces Challenges Sustaining Its Current Program

NSIAD-97-57: Published: May 21, 1997. Publicly Released: May 21, 1997.

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GAO reviewed: (1) the Navy's basis for its current and planned surface combatant force; (2) the Navy's plans to sustain the current force size into the next century; and (3) key factors that could affect future force requirements.

GAO noted that: (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Navy are pursuing a surface combatant force size and construction program based largely on budget priorities, industrial base concerns, and operational requirements; (2) DOD has not clearly explained the link and any underlying assumptions between the force and the national military strategy; (3) DOD and Navy studies illustrate that the size of the force can vary widely depending on the specific assumptions considered; (4) an explanation of the linkage between force size and key assumptions would assist Congress in evaluating the appropriateness of the Navy's surface combatant program; (5) the Navy can sustain at least 125 surface combatants through 2013 if it: (a) completes its Arleigh Burke-class destroyer construction program as planned; (b) maintains its current build rate of three ships a year; and (c) retains existing ships in its inventory for their expected service lives; (6) however, these conditions hinge on the Navy's ability to sustain budget levels to support its ship construction plans, successfully compete with other Navy and defense programs, and retain its surface combatants longer than achieved for previous ships; (7) several factors could affect the size, composition, and overall capability of the surface combatant force through the middle of the next century; and (8) these factors include: (a) decisions related to the appropriate size and mix of surface combatants within the Navy and other DOD priorities; (b) the design and construction program for the 21st Century Surface Combatant; (c) the results of DOD's ongoing quadrennial defense review, which could change the planning parameters for meeting the mandates of the U.S. military strategy; (d) introduction of new or improved capabilities that could affect doctrine, operational concepts, and responsibilities for the force; (e) introduction of the Arsenal Ship, which could lead DOD and the Navy to reexamine force requirements and employment; and (f) force efficiency strategies, such as expanded overseas home porting and alternative deployment schemes, which could help to increase force availability and use.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the Congress with specific information regarding the surface combatant force. Such information should include the impact of the Arsenal Ship on the surface combatant force structure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes that the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review satisfy the purpose of the recommendation. The action taken partially satisfies the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the Congress with specific information regarding the surface combatant force. Such information should include the expected impact of new technologies and capabilities on the size and composition of the future force.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes that the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review satisfy the purpose of the recommendation. The action taken partially satisfies the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the Congress with specific information regarding the surface combatant force. Such information should include the key assumptions that support the force level and mix, such as expected allied contributions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes that the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review satisfy the purpose of the recommendation. The action taken partially satisfies the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the Congress with specific information regarding the surface combatant force. Such information should include the number of ships that are needed to meet peacetime forward presence objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes that the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review met the purpose of the recommendation. The action partially satisfies the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the Congress with specific information regarding the surface combatant force. Such information should include the number and types of surface combatants that are needed to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes that the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review satisfies the intent of the recommendation. The action partially satisfies the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should also provide information on the Navy's plan to sustain the surface combatant force level, including key assumptions regarding expected service lives, pace of the shipbuilding program, types of ships, required funding, and any other factor that might alter the requirement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes that the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review satisfy the purpose of the recommendation. The action taken partially satisfies the recommendation.

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