The US Navyís shipbuilding plan is the key to the fleetís future and is critical for the joint force, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen told an audience at a Leadership Breakfast on April 24. Mullen took the opportunity to reiterate the strength of his shipbuilding plan, which calls for a fleet of about 313 ships. He said that today's current fleet of 281 ships, while very capable, is as low as the Navy can go without damaging its ability to meet warfighting requirements.
The plan requires $13.4 billion in shipbuilding funds each year, and among the biggest challenges: the fiscal discipline required to protect those funds once appropriated. Navy leaders and industry are going to have to work together more closely than ever before to properly allocate resources and control costs.
Mullen stressed the great potential of focusing on a new ship's lifecycle costs rather than on just the immediate costs of putting it to sea. These costs include maintenance, refueling and manning, from keel-laying to decommissioning, and are areas where seemingly expensive high-tech investments made up front are recouped in the long run.