Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John M. Richardson, in the 2016 document A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, describes the U.S. Navy’s mission as follows:

The United States Navy will be ready to conduct prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea. Our Navy will protect America from attack and preserve America’s strategic influence in key regions of the world. U.S. naval forces and operations—from the sea floor to space, from deep water to the littorals, and in the information domain—will deter aggression and enable peaceful resolution of crises on terms acceptable to the United States and our allies and partners. If deterrence fails, the Navy will conduct decisive combat operations to defeat any enemy.1

As the military’s primary maritime arm, the Navy enables the United States to project military power in the maritime and air domains, a critical capability in war, crisis response, and peacetime engagement missions. Unlike land forces (or even, to a large extent, air forces), which are tethered to a set of fixed, larger-scale support bases, the Navy is able to shift its presence wherever needed so long as the world’s oceans and seas permit. In addition to the ability to project combat power rapidly anywhere in the world, the Navy’s peacetime forward presence supports missions that include securing sea lines of communication (SLOC) for the free flow of goods and services, assuring U.S. allies and friends, deterring adversaries, and providing a timely response to crises short of war.

A few key documents inform the Navy as to the level of its day-to-day fleet requirements: the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG);2 the Global Force Management Allocation Plan (GFMAP);3 the 2015 update to “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”4; and the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority. The 2012 DSG issued by the Secretary of Defense describes 10 primary missions for the Navy and the other branches of the U.S. military. In addition, the U.S. Navy must meet forward presence requirements laid out in the fiscal year (FY) 2016 GFMAP, which states the force presence needed around the world as determined by the combatant commanders (COCOMs) and the Secretary of Defense.5

While Admiral Richardson acknowledged in his March 2016 posture statement that the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act provided some relief from funding shortfalls, he argued that recent years’ cuts and unstable budgets have caused the Navy to “modify our behaviors with a host of inefficient practices” and that “budget constraints are forcing choices that limit our naval capability in the face of growing and rising threats.”6


For the Navy, capacity is measured by the number of ships rather than the number of sailors, and not all ships are counted equally. The Navy focuses mainly on the size of its “battle force,” which is composed of ships considered to be directly related to its combat missions.7

In 2015, the Navy increased its battle force requirement to 308 ships, two more than the previous year. The additional two ships in the fleet requirement are an LPD-17 amphibious ship and a Mobile Landing Platform vessel.8 Congress added funding for the amphibious ship in FY 2013 and FY 2015; it had not been requested by the Navy. While this may seem excessive since the Navy did not officially request a 12th LPD-17 ship, the Navy’s amphibious fleet is currently well below the Navy and Marine Corps program of record requirement (34 hulls) as well as this Index’s assessment (50); therefore, the addition of an unrequested LPD-17 contributes to the Navy’s broader amphibious vessel and overall fleet needs.9


In both FY 2016 and FY 2017 budget materials, the Navy maintained its force structure goal of 308 ships.10 A new Force Structure Assessment (FSA) released by the Navy on July 12, 2016, also “supports a battle force requirement of 308 ships, but notes the force structure assessment under way for the fiscal 2018 budget submission will determine a new force level that will affect the shipbuilding plan.11

The Navy currently sails 274 vessels as part of its battle force fleet, up from 271 the previous year but still well below both the Navy’s fleet goal as well as a level sufficient to uphold a two-MRC (major regional contingency) construct. The Navy requested seven ships to be procured in FY 2017.12 This figure is below the number that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds is necessary, on average annually, for the Navy to reach its fleet goal of 308 ships.13

The largest proportional shortfall in the Navy fleet assessed in the 2017 Index is the same as in the past two editions: small surface combatants.14 This includes Littoral Combat Ships and Mine Countermeasure Ships and previously included Frigates. All Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates were decommissioned by the end of 2015.15 There are currently 11 mine countermeasure (MCM) vessels and six LCS vessels for a total of 17 small surface combatants in the fleet, far below the objective requirements established by the Navy (52).

The aircraft carrier fleet currently suffers a capacity shortfall of three hulls: 10 are currently in the fleet, while the two-MRC construct requires 13. This also falls below a legal minimum of 11 carriers in the fleet, which is currently waived.16 The carrier gap resulted from the delayed delivery of the first-of-its-kind Ford-class carrier, which was supposed to enter the fleet as the USS Enterprise was decommissioned in 2012. The Congressional Research Service reported in May 2016 that “The Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the lead ship in the CVN-78 class, is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in late August or early September 2016” and “will likely be commissioned some months after that, returning the Navy’s carrier force to a total of 11 ships.”17 These and other shortfalls are partly due to underinvestment in the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) budget to procure new hulls quickly enough to increase the size of the Navy.18

In October 2015, the CBO calculated that the Navy’s 308-ship fleet goal would cost $20.2 billion in shipbuilding funds annually, well above the historical average of $15.7 billion per year.19 The Navy’s SCN request for FY 2017 totaled over $18 billion, much closer to the figure the CBO has assessed is necessary to reach fleet goals.20 However, as noted, this only includes funding for seven battle force ships to be procured in this fiscal year, which will make it difficult to increase the fleet size. The mismatch between higher funding but not more hulls is due in part to the fact that a large portion of this funding is dedicated to advanced procurement of the next-generation ballistic missile submarine program (SSBN(X) Columbia-class) as well as non-battle force requirements such as a training ship.21

Without significant funding increases in procuring more vessels across ship types each year, it appears unlikely that the Navy will reach its own capacity goals for the foreseeable future.22 Due to expected funding shortfalls relative to fleet goals:

[T]he Navy projects that the fleet would experience a shortfall in large surface combatants (i.e., cruisers and destroyers) from FY2034 through FY2037, and from FY2041 through at least FY2046; a shortfall in small surface combatants (i.e., LCSs and frigates) for the entire 30-year period; a shortfall in attack submarines from FY2025 through FY2036; and a shortfall in amphibious ships from FY2017 through FY2021, in FY2040, and from FY2042 through at least FY2046.23

By the publication of the 2016 Index, small surface combatants were projected to experience a shortfall solely between FY 2016 and FY 2027; but according to the 2016 Force Structure Assessment for FY 2017, the Secretary of Defense’s 2015 decision to reduce the LCS/Frigate program from 52 ships to 40 ships has upped the small surface combatant shortfall projection to a 30-year duration.24

As important as the total fleet size is, the Navy must also consider the number of ships that are forward deployed to meet operational demands. Not all ships in the battle force are at sea at the same time. The majority of ships are based in the continental U.S. (CONUS) to undergo routine maintenance and training, as well as to limit deployment time for sailors. However, given the COCOMs’ requirements for naval power presence in each of their regions, there is an impetus to have as many ships forward deployed as possible. Striking a balance between deploying ships to meet operational demands and keeping them in port to perform needed maintenance and provide relief to sailors is a constant challenge.

Today, the Navy has 94 ships deployed globally—35 percent of the total available fleet and roughly on par with the 2016 level of 95 ships.25 While the Navy remains committed to deploying roughly a third of its fleet at all times, it should be noted that this is nevertheless an insufficient global presence because the total fleet falls well below necessary levels both for the Navy’s stated presence needs and for a fleet capable of projecting power at the two-MRC level. The Navy has tried to increase forward presence by emphasizing non-rotational deployments: having a ship “home-ported” overseas or keeping the ship forward stationed:26

  • Home-ported: The ships, crew, and their families are stationed at the port or based abroad.
  • Forward Stationed: Only the ships will be based abroad while crews are rotated out to the ship.27

Both of these non-rotational deployment options require cooperation from friends and allies to permit the Navy’s use of their facilities as well as investment in additional facilities abroad. However, these options allow one ship to provide a greater level of presence than four ships based in CONUS and in rotational deployment since they offset the time necessary to deploy ships to distant theaters.28 A key example of the use of this practice is the Navy’s constant home porting of an aircraft carrier at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan. In May 2015, the USS George Washington (CVN-73) departed this base with the USS Ronald Reagan sailing there to replace it.29 The George Washington, stationed at Yokosuka since 2008, left to undergo its midlife refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH).

The Navy maintains that it currently will be able to meet GFMAP requirements and the 10 missions outlined in the DSG. However, as noted, Admiral Richardson has indicated that the fleet will continue to be stretched to meet demand.


Scoring the U.S. Navy’s overall ability to protect U.S. interests globally is not just a matter of counting the fleet. The quality of the battle force is also important in determining the strength of the Navy.

A comprehensive measure of platform capability would involve a comparison of each ship and its weapons systems relative to the military capabilities of other nations. For example, a complete measure of naval capabilities would have to assess not only how U.S. platforms would match up against an enemy’s weapons, but also whether operational concepts like the often discussed Air-Sea Battle would be effective in a conflict. This assessment would then have to be replicated for each potential conflict. While this is a necessary exercise and one in which the military currently engages, it is beyond the scope of this Index because such details and analysis are routinely classified.

Capability can be usefully assessed based on the age of ships, the modernity of the platform, and whether or not modernization programs will maintain the fighting edge of the fleet. The Navy has several classes of ships that are nearing the end of their lifespan, and this will precipitate a consolidation of ship classes in the battle force.

As noted, the Navy retired its entire fleet of Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates by the end of 2015. The Perry-class is being replaced by the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), but some naval analysts have suggested that the LCS lacks the firepower of the frigate.30 In 2015, the Navy modified its LCS program to add more firepower to future hulls, and it will be referring to these upgunned LCSs as frigates beginning in FY 2019.31 This modification resulted from a restructuring of the LCS program initiated in 2014 by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The upgrades that the Navy says will give this future block of LCS/frigates capabilities closer to those of the Perry-class frigates include “[o]ver-the-horizon surface to surface missile and additional weapon systems and combat system upgrades” and “increased survivability [through] incorporating additional self-defense capabilities and increased hardening of vital systems and vital spaces.”32

The FY 2017 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) includes funding for the construction of seven Littoral Combat Ships through FY 2021. Currently, the Navy projects that 10 LCSs will be in the deployable force by the end of FY 2016—double the five commissioned in FY 2015—and 14 by the end of FY 2017 if the funding requested for the construction of four additional LCSs is approved this summer.33 However, this is still well below the fleet size of small surface combatants necessary to fulfill the Navy’s global responsibilities (52) even when combined with the remaining mine countermeasure vessels in the fleet (11). Noting the age of these legacy vessels and LCS delays, the U.S. Congress mandated in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that the Department of Defense (DOD) produce a “Mine countermeasures master plan and report” that would assess the “capabilities, capacities, and readiness levels of the defensive capabilities of the Navy for MCM” and “ensur[e] the operational effectiveness of the MCM vessels, including the decommissioned MCM-1 and MCM-2 ships and the potential of such ships for reserve operational status.”34 This report is due in winter 2016.

The Navy is attempting to put the remaining Ticonderoga-class cruiser fleet into temporary layup status in order to extend this class’s fleet service time into the 2030s, even though these ships are younger than their expected service lives. The Navy’s FY 2017 budget request renewed its cruiser phased modernization plan as an alternative to a continuation of the 2-4-6 directive passed by Congress in 2015.35 This meant that “two cruisers would enter in a modernization cycle each year, [and] no cruisers will remain in layup for more than four years with no more than six cruisers out of service at one time,” according to Rear Admiral William Lescher, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget.36 Driven by budget shortfalls, this plan (like the previous year’s) is an attempt to keep 11 of the 22 commissioned cruisers in service at all times through 2034.37

In early 2016, Rear Admiral Lescher advocated for an alternative to the current 2-4-6, which has already put the USS Cowpens (CG-63) and the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) into modernization periods in FY 2015 with two to follow in the summer of 2016. The alternative phased modernization plan in the FY 2017 budget request asks Congress to allow the Navy to put the remaining seven unmodernized cruisers into maintenance in FY 2017, arguing that it saves $3 billion in operating costs over the FYDP. There is currently no program to replace the Ticonderoga-class cruisers; a program initiated in FY 2001, called CG(X), was to yield a replacement cruiser vessel, but it was canceled in FY 2011 after it was deemed too expensive.38

The Navy’s two current dock landing ships (LSD), the Whidbey Island-class and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious vessels, are reaching the end of their service lives in the 2025 time frame and are to be replaced by the next-generation LX(R) program. The Navy requested $6.4 million for this program, dedicated to research and development, in FY 2017 following FY 2016 funding of $325.5 million (of which $250 million was advanced procurement funding) added by Congress. LX(R) was initially to begin procurement in FY 2017 but has since been delayed until FY 2020.39

Many of the other ships that the Navy sails are also legacy platforms. Of the 18 classes of ships in the Navy, only seven are currently in production. For example, 72 percent of the Navy’s attack submarines are Los Angeles-class submarines, an older platform that is being replaced with a more modern and capable Virginia-class.40 This will shift as the Navy continues to purchase more ships.

The procurement of ships is critical to meeting Navy capacity requirements, maintaining ship capabilities, and maintaining the industrial capacity to build any warships. The Navy plans to procure 38 ships between FY 2017 and FY 2021, including seven battle force ships in FY 2017 alone.41 Compared to the FY 2016 plan to procure 48 new ships between FY 2016 and FY 2020, the FY 2017–FY 2021 plan projects a 10-ship reduction to 38 ships to account for the reduced annual procurement rate for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate program (52 ships to 40 ships) initiated by the Secretary of Defense in December 2015. This plan also directs the Navy to reduce planned annual procurement quantities of LCSs during the FY 2017–FY 2021 shipbuilding plan and downselect to one variant of the ship class.42

Modernization programs supplement procurement plans and are intended to replace current platforms as they reach the end of their planned service lives, build up forces to meet capacity requirements, and introduce new technologies to the operating forces. Ship modernization programs as they currently stand are problematic because they do not “keep pace to deal with high-end adversary weapons systems by 2020.”43 The CBO has reported both in 2014 and most recently in October 2015 that to reach its procurement goals for the FY 2016 NDAA, the Navy would need to increase spending on shipbuilding by one-third over what it has spent per year during the past 30 years.44 It is worth noting that this assessment was for the Navy’s goal of a 308-ship Navy, maintaining the FY 2015 aim of 308 through FY 2016 and now in FY 2017 but still well below this Index’s prescribed fleet size of 346 ships.

Because ships take such a long time to build and only a few shipyards are capable of building them, and because shipbuilding programs require carefully orchestrated, long-lead-time planning to account for sequencing in the shipyards, supply chain and workforce management, and multi-year funding, the Navy publishes a 30-year plan as its top-level document that captures objectives by class and sequencing of replacements as older ships reach the end of their service lives.45 According to the current 30-year plan, the Navy will reach its 308-ship requirement by FY 2021.46

However, the 30-year shipbuilding plan is not limited to programs of record and assumes procurement programs that have yet to materialize. For that reason, it is often considered overly optimistic. For example, the goal of 308 ships stated in the Navy’s most recent 30-year plan includes an objective for 12 SSBN(X) Columbia-class submarines to replace the legacy Ohio-class, which will require a significant portion of the SCN account when it goes into production if the overall budget is not increased. The Navy’s FY 2013 budget deferred the procurement of the lead boat from FY 2019 to FY 2021, projecting a shortfall of 11 or 10 SSBN boats for the period FY 2029 to FY 2041.47 This is something that the Navy will continue to have difficulty maintaining as it struggles to sustain, overhaul, modernize, and eventually retire the remainder of its legacy SSBN fleet. The Navy allocated over $773 million in its FY 2017 request, or 4 percent of its total shipbuilding budget, to advanced procurement funding for the Columbia-class.48

The service is planning to acquire the first Columbia-class SSBN(X) in FY 2021.49 In March 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that total program acquisition costs will be about $97 billion, including $12 billion for research and development and $85.1 billion for procurement.50 According to the Congressional Research Service, “The Navy in January 2015 estimated the average procurement cost of boats 2 through 12 in the Ohio replacement program at about $5.2 billion each in FY2010 dollars.”51 Based on the historical average, the Navy will have to spend more than a third of its shipbuilding budget on one Columbia hull each year that it procures one.52 This Index therefore relies on budget and programmatic data from programs of record to determine the state of Navy modernization.

The most glaring problem with the Navy’s current modernization program has to do with how many ships it plans to purchase. While the Navy has stated its intent to purchase additional attack submarines, the current Virginia-class program of record is slated to produce a total of 30 submarines. Under the Navy’s FY 2017 30-year plan, the SSN force would reach a minimum of 41 boats in FY 2029 and stay below 48 boats through FY 2036. The Navy has stated that it will attempt to lengthen deployments and possibly perform service life extensions on some of the existing attack submarines to account for this shortfall.53 Similarly, the Navy plans to replace the 14 aging Ohio-class SSBNs with 12 Columbia-class hulls.54

All remaining Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates were retired in 2015, so the Littoral Combat Ship will increasingly assume the entire small surface combatant fleet requirement. As noted, the LCS and its follow-on, which will be called a frigate, are intended to make up this shortfall with a procurement of 52 total projected LCS/frigates. Timing for the small surface combatants will be another issue. While the LCS/frigate procurement has been scheduled, ship delivery will not be rapid enough to fill all small surface combatant requirements. The 2015 plan and the 2016 plan therefore do not expect to reach a count of 52 small surface combatants until the year 2028—again, a rosier projection than that determined by the CBO’s shipbuilding budget analysis.55

Of the seven classes of ships the Navy is building, some have been relatively successful, whereas others are more problematic. Both the Virginia-class submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have a steady production rate and are being considered for upgrades to improve their respective capabilities. The newer Arleigh Burke-class Flight III design will be able to support a new and larger Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR). The Navy also intends to build some Virginia-class hulls with extended lengths through the Virginia Payload Module starting in FY 2019 to provide space for additional missiles or torpedoes and has requested continued research and development funding in FY 2017 for this program.56 The San Antonio-class LPD-17 program procured its 12th ship in FY 2016 but is not likely to continue procurement beyond this.57 As noted, the LX(R) is to replace these vessels, but its initial procurement year has been delayed a number of times.58 On the other hand, the Ford-class aircraft carrier, America-class amphibious ship, Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) destroyer, and LCS have experienced varying degrees of difficulty in cost overruns and reductions in intended fleet size. The Zumwalt class was essentially relegated to an experimental order, having been reduced from a projected fleet of 32 hulls to just three. Despite obstacles in experimentation and funding, however, the lead Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyer DDG-1000, the USS Zumwalt, was commissioned on May 20, 2016, and will enable the Navy to test new and developing capabilities such as smaller crewing, an electric-drive propulsion system,59 and even possibly rail gun weapon technology.60

The delivery of CVN-78, the first of the new Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers, was significantly delayed, causing a shortfall in the number of aircraft carriers (down to 10) in the U.S. fleet. The Navy is currently confident that it will commission the USS Ford in Fall 2016 as 97 percent of the ship is completed.61 Both the America-class amphibious ship and the LCS also face delays and adjustments of requirements. The America class will produce only two ships of the current design, and the survivability and strike requirements for the LCS continue to be questioned. All four programs have experienced cost growth, with the Zumwalt-class, Ford-class, and America-class ships incurring cost breaches under the Nunn–McCurdy Act.62 In December 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter directed the Navy to reduce the number of LCS hulls that it will procure from 52 to 40.63 However, the Navy has somewhat defiantly maintained its program of record for a requirement of 52 small surface combatants (though not necessarily all of them LCSs).64 Despite these difficulties, the Navy regards its fleet as capable of handling today’s threats, albeit with increased risk.

The Navy’s long-range strike capability derives from its ability to launch various missiles and combat aircraft. Of the two, naval aircraft are much more expensive and difficult to modernize as a class. Not long ago, the Navy operated several models of strike aircraft that included the F-14 Tomcat, A-6 Intruder, A-4 Skyhawk, and F/A-18 Hornet.65 Over the past 20 years, this variety has been winnowed to a single model: the F/A-18. While the F/A-18 A–D variants were first introduced in 1983 and already have undergone service life extensions, the Navy flies a significant number of F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets that are not only newer, but also considered to be extremely capable. The Navy is implementing efforts to extend the life of some of the older variants but plans to have a mix of the F-35C and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets.

The F-35C is the Navy’s largest aviation modernization program. It is a fifth-generation fighter (all F/A-18 variants are considered fourth-generation) that will have greater stealth capabilities and state-of-the-art electronic systems, allowing it to communicate with multiple other platforms. The Navy plans to purchase 260 F-35Cs (along with 80 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps, discussed in the section on that service)66 to replace a current inventory of 457 F/A-18 A–Ds and EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.67 The F-35 is supposed to be a more capable aircraft relative to the F/A-18, but at 260 aircraft, it will not be enough to make up for the Hornets that the Navy will need to replace.

In addition, like the other F-35 variants, the F-35C has faced development problems. The system has been grounded because of engine problems, and software development issues have threatened further delay. The aircraft also has grown more expensive through the development process. The Navy’s FY 2017 budget request indicates that it plans to buy four additional F-35Cs in 2017 and 64 between FY 2017 and FY 2021.68

The F-35C is expected to reach initial operating capability (IOC) by August 2018. This is later than the previous expectation of IOC by FY 2015. Moreover, Deputy CNO for Warfare Systems Rear Admiral Michael C. Manazir conceded during congressional questioning that “there is some risk to that date.”69 Former CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert stated in 2015 that this delay, combined with unforeseen higher operational tempo (OPTEMPO) on the existing fighter fleet caused by strikes against ISIS, is leading to a possible fighter shortfall of 36 aircraft.70 At least six years behind schedule as of 2016, the Navy is looking at a possible shortfall of as many as 138 aircraft by the 2020s.71 This shortfall and delayed development have led the Navy to extend the service lives of its legacy F/A-18 C/D Hornet aircraft. The Navy requested two additional F/A-18E/Fs in FY 2017 through OCO funding and intends to procure an additional 14 in FY 2018.72

The Navy’s other aircraft programs, EA-18G Growler and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, have been relatively successful. The EA-18G program, which had completed its previously planned procurement of 135 aircraft in FY 2014, added 15 aircraft in FY 2015 and 10 aircraft in FY 2016 that it had sought through that fiscal year’s “unfunded priorities” list.73 The Navy included 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets in its FY 2016 list of unfunded priorities that the service explained could be “built…to be converted to EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft if necessary.”74 DOD has also established an Electronic Warfare (EW) Executive Committee that is currently assessing, among other issues, the potential necessity of additional Growlers in the future.75 However, the FY 2017 Navy budget request did not seek additional Growlers.76 The E-2D program is on a steady procurement schedule, with the Navy having successfully procured its requested level of five aircraft each in FY 2015 and FY 2016. The Navy requested an additional six in FY 2017 and intends to procure 23 over the FY 2017 FYDP.77

In FY 2017, the Navy requested the authority to eliminate a carrier air wing,78 which would bring the total to nine.79 This decision was driven partly by the fact that the Navy has consistently fielded only 10 aircraft carriers for a number of years, with the service’s practice being one carrier air wing less than the number of carriers in the fleet based on the assumption that one carrier at any time will be effectively out of commission for its RCOH. This deactivation of one air wing is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2016.

This Index rejects this assumption and assumes that there should be an equal number of air wings and aircraft carriers. The number of air wings is also well below the capacity required to field a two-MRC force by either count, as such a force requires 13 carriers. Therefore, if the Navy were to continue its one-less-air wing assumption, 12 would actually be necessary today. This Index assesses that 13 are actually necessary to provide enough aviation assets for every carrier at any given time.

It should be noted that this divestment of one carrier air wing (the aircraft and associated assets are being diverted to other wings) was driven largely by a mismatch between demand for naval aviation assets and the supply of ready air wings. As the Navy has experienced a higher-than-expected OPTEMPO in recent years, each air wing has been strained for available aircraft while performing necessary maintenance work, so the decision to draw down one wing was made to supplant the demand of those that were active in U.S. engagements.80


Although the Navy states that it can still deploy forces in accordance with GFMAP requirements, various factors indicate a continued decline in readiness over the past year. Admiral Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, has reported that:

We have not yet recovered from the readiness impacts resulting from a decade of combat operations. The cumulative effect of budget reductions, complicated by four consecutive years of continuing resolutions, continues to impact maintenance, afloat and ashore. The secondary effects of these challenges impact material readiness of the force, and the quality of life of our Sailors and their families.81

As a result of the inconsistent and insufficient funding experienced by the Navy in recent years:

Full recovery of the material readiness of the Fleet is likely to extend beyond 2020. Stable funding, improvement in on-time execution of ship and aviation depot maintenance, and steady state operations are required to meet our Fleet readiness goals. To mitigate impacts ashore, Navy has made difficult decisions and focused on shore items directly tied to our primary missions.82

Like the other services, the Navy has had to dedicate readiness funding to its immediate needs of various engagements around the globe, which means that maintenance and training for those ships and sailors not deployed has not been prioritized.

The Navy’s undersized fleet has contributed greatly to the readiness challenges it faces. For example, carrier strike groups (CSGs) have experienced the following problems in recent years, according to the GAO:

  • [C]arrier strike group deployment lengths have increased from an average of 6.4 months between 2008–2011 and 8.2 months between 2012–2014, to 9 months for three carrier strike groups in 2015.
  • Increased deployment lengths have resulted in declining ship conditions and materiel readiness, and in a maintenance backlog that has not been fully identified or resourced, according to Navy officials.
  • The declining condition of ships has increased the duration of time that ships spend undergoing maintenance in the shipyards, which in turn compresses the time available in the schedule for training and operations.83

According to Congressman J. Randy Forbes, chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces of the House Committee on Armed Services:

[W]e have received data showing that [at current funding levels], next year, around the world, we will only be able to fulfill:

  • 56% of our commanders’ requests for carriers,
  • 54% of the requests for amphibious groups,
  • 42% of the requests for submarines, and
  • 39% of the requests for cruisers and destroyers.84

To support fleet readiness, the Navy has synchronized maintenance and modernization with the fleet training required to achieve GFMAP objectives utilizing the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (O-FRP).85 This plan was implemented only because of years of a shrinking fleet and deferred maintenance. According to the Navy, O-FRP’s “aim is to produce a more comprehensively manned and completely trained Naval force that is ready to deploy on a more predictable schedule” given suboptimal capacity or readiness funding.86

A GAO analysis of O-FRP’s performance since its implementation in 2014 compared to naval readiness of the recent past yielded mixed results. The GAO found that in the period from 2011 to the implementation of O-FRP, the Navy’s deployment and maintenance schedules were in poor condition. However, the three aircraft carriers that have implemented O-FRP “have not completed maintenance tasks on time, a benchmark that is crucial to meeting the Navy’s employability goals. Further, of the 83 cruisers and destroyers, only 15 have completed a maintenance availability under OFRP.”87 The GAO found that these rates were better than before O-FRP was implemented, but only slightly.

Admiral Philip S. Davidson, Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, testified on behalf of a group of commanding officers of ships and aircraft squadrons in May 2016, detailing a number of ways that budget shortfalls would strain naval readiness, The impacts of these shortfalls included restricting flying hours for a carrier air wing and deferring ship maintenance across the fleet.88Admiral Davidson further testified that “the $848 [million] shortfall will have no impact to our forces currently deployed, but deferring depot and continuous maintenance availabilities would likely delay a number of deployments,” echoing the readiness challenges of the other services experiencing higher-than-expected UPTEMPO.89

The Navy’s aviation readiness is also suffering as a result of years of deferred maintenance work and cuts in training budgets. Admiral Manazir testified in July 2016 that:

Navy aviation readiness is in a precarious position today as we continue to meet deployed readiness requirements, albeit at the expense of non-deployed force training…. [W]e continue to face challenges associated with increased costs and effort in sustaining legacy aircraft [that are] being demanded more than anticipated and retained longer than planned, while some of their intended replacements have not yet arrived. Furthermore, fiscal constraints force difficult trades in capacity and readiness for capability improvements. Simply, the Navy is challenged to modernize our fleet while also sustaining an aging force.90

While Admiral Manazir’s assessment of Navy aviation readiness was more positive over the past year than the assessments of his counterparts in the other services, he warned that the continued high OPTEMPO could strain his service’s readiness if not paired with additional funding to maintain aircraft and train pilots that are not deployed. Commenting on the extension of the USS Harry Truman’s deployment by a month, Admiral Manazir said, “The particular impact is more readiness dollars to keep the carrier strike group out there for an additional month…that caused some impacts to training—the forces in training down the road.”91

According to Admiral Manazir, the delays in IOC for the F-35C also have caused a number of readiness challenges, as the Navy has had to retain older F/A-18A–D aircraft longer than expected:

[W]e didn’t plan to do that maintenance and when we opened those airplanes up they had significant corrosion that we did not plan for…. [T]he second effect it had was we were over flying our F-18s, Super Hornets, Es and Fs. We didn’t plan to fly them this much nor this early in their life. So it’s accelerating the life used on the F-18 Es and Fs.92

Admiral Manazir added that the CNO’s primary priority that was not covered by the President’s FY 2017 budget request is the funding to bridge the gap between the older F/A-18s and the F-35C.93

The Navy also has stated its readiness challenges in terms of maintenance work being performed. According to Admiral Howard:

Resetting our surface ships and aircraft carriers after more than a decade of war led to significant growth in public and private shipyard workload. The Navy baseline [FY 2017] request funds 70% of the ship maintenance requirements across the force…. OCO funding provides the remaining 30%…. The Aviation Depot Maintenance program is funded to 76% in baseline and 85% with OCO for new work to be inducted in FY17.94

Admiral Howard, however, rated facilities sustainment poorly as in the past few years, stating that:

[O]ur FY17 facilities sustainment account is resourced at 70%…which falls short of DOD’s goal of 90% for the sixth year in a row. Navy’s FY17 request for restoration and modernization funding is roughly half of FY16 levels. This is only enough to address the most critical deficiencies for the naval shipyards…. By deferring less-critical repairs, we are increasing risk of greater requirements in the outyears and acknowledge that our overall facilities maintenance backlog will increase.95

It is worth noting again that the Navy’s own readiness assessments are based on the ability to execute a strategy that assumes a force sizing construct that is smaller than the one prescribed by this Index.

Scoring the U.S. Navy

Capacity Score: Marginal

The Navy is unusual relative to the other services in that its capacity requirements must meet two separate objectives. First, during peacetime, the Navy must maintain a global forward presence. This ongoing peacetime requirement to be present around the world is the driving force behind ship count requirements: a set total number to ensure that the required number of ships is actually available to provide the necessary global presence.

On the other hand, the Navy also must be able to fight and win wars. In this case, the expectation is to be able to fight and win two simultaneous or nearly simultaneous MRCs. When thinking about naval combat power in this way, the defining metric is not necessarily a total ship count, but rather the carrier strike groups, amphibious ships, and submarines deemed necessary to win both the naval component of a war and the larger war effort by means of strike missions inland or cutting off the enemy’s maritime access to sources of supply.

An accurate assessment of Navy capacity takes into account both sets of requirements and scores to the larger requirement.

It should be noted that the scoring in this Index includes the Navy’s fleet of ballistic-missile and fast attack submarines to the extent that they contribute to the overall size of the battle fleet and with general comment on the status of their respective modernization programs. Because of their unique characteristics and the missions they perform, their detailed readiness rates and actual use in peacetime and planned use in war are classified. Nevertheless, the various references consulted are fairly consistent, both with respect to the numbers recommended for the overall fleet and with respect to the Navy’s shipbuilding plan.

The role of SSBNs (fleet ballistic missile submarines) as one leg of America’s nuclear triad capability is well known; perhaps less well known are the day-to-day tasks undertaken by the SSN force, which can include collection, surveillance, and support to the special operations community and whose operations often take place apart from the operations of the surface Navy.

Two-MRC Requirement. The primary elements of naval combat power during a major regional contingency operation derive from carrier strike groups (which include squadrons of strike aircraft and support ships) and amphibious assault capacity. Since the Navy is constantly deployed around the globe during peacetime, many of its fleet requirements are beyond the scope of the two-MRC construct. However, it is important to observe the historical context of naval deployments during a major theater war.

13 Deployable Carrier Strike Groups. The average number of aircraft carriers deployed in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and Operation Iraqi Freedom was between five and six. This correlates with the figures recommended in the 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR) and subsequent government force-sizing documents, each of which recommended at least 11 aircraft carriers.96 Assuming that 11 aircraft carriers are needed to engage simultaneously in two MRCs, and assuming that the Navy ideally should have a 20 percent strategic reserve in order to avoid having to commit 100 percent of its carrier groups and account for scheduled maintenance, the Navy should have 13 CSGs.

The aircraft carrier is the centerpiece of a CSG, composed of one guided missile cruiser, two guided missile destroyers, one attack submarine, and a supply ship in addition to the carrier itself.97 Therefore, based on the requirement for 13 aircraft carriers, the following numbers of ships are necessary for 13 deployable CSGs:

  • 13 aircraft carriers,
  • 13 cruisers,
  • 26 destroyers, and
  • 13 attack submarines.

13 Carrier Air Wings. Each carrier deployed for combat operations was equipped with a carrier air wing, meaning that five to six air wings were necessary for each of those four major contingencies listed. The strategic documents differ slightly in this regard because each document suggests one less carrier air wing than the number of aircraft carriers.

A carrier air wing usually includes four strike fighter squadrons.98 Twelve aircraft typically comprise one Navy strike fighter squadron, so at least 48 strike fighter craft are required for each carrier air wing. To support 13 carrier air wings, the Navy therefore needs a minimum of 624 strike fighter aircraft.99

50 Amphibious Ships. The 1993 BUR recommended a fleet of 45 large amphibious vessels to support the operations of 2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs). Since then, the Marine Corps has expressed a need to be able to perform two MEB-level operations simultaneously, with a resulting fleet of 38 amphibious vessels required. The 1996 and 2001 QDRs each recommended 12 “amphibious ready groups” (ARGs). One ARG typically includes one amphibious assault ship (LHA/LHD); one amphibious transport dock ship (LPD); and one dock landing ship (LSD).100 Therefore, the 12-ARG recommendation equates to 36 amphibious vessels.

The number of amphibious vessels required in combat operations has declined since the Korean War, in which 34 amphibious vessels were used; 26 were deployed in Vietnam, 21 in the Persian Gulf War, and only seven in Operation Iraqi Freedom (which did not require as large a sea-based expeditionary force).101 The Persian Gulf War is the most pertinent example for today because similar vessels were used, and modern requirements for an MEB most closely resemble this engagement.102

While the Marine Corps has consistently advocated a fleet of 38 amphibious vessels to execute its two-MEB strategy, it is more prudent to field a fleet of at least 42 such vessels based on the Persian Gulf engagement.103 Similarly, if the USMC is to have a strategic reserve of 20 percent, the ideal number of amphibious ships would be 50.


Total Ship Requirement. The bulk of the Navy’s battle force ships are not directly tied to a carrier strike group. Some surface vessels and attack submarines are deployed independently, which is often why their requirements exceed those of a CSG. The same can be said of the ballistic missile submarine (nuclear missiles) and guided missile submarine (conventional cruise missiles), which operate independently of an aircraft carrier.

This Index uses the benchmark set by previous government reports, mainly the 1993 BUR, which was one of the most comprehensive reviews of military requirements. Similar Navy fleet size requirements have been echoed in follow-on reports.

The numerical values used in the score column refer to the five-grade scale explained earlier in this section, where 1 is “very weak” and 5 is “very strong.” Taking the full Navy requirement of 346 ships as the benchmark, the Navy’s current battle forces fleet capacity of 274 ships retains a score of “marginal,” as was the case in the 2016 Index. Given the CBO’s assessment that the Navy will continue to underfund its shipbuilding programs, and in view of the impending need for a ballistic missile submarine replacement that could cost nearly half of the current shipbuilding budget per hull, the Navy’s capacity score could fall to “weak” in the near future.

Capability Score: Weak

The overall capability score for the Navy is “weak.” This was consistent across all four components of the capability score: “Age of Equipment,” “Capability of Equipment,” “Size of Modernization Program,” and “Health of Modernization Programs.” Given the number of programs, ship classes, and types of aircraft involved, the details that informed the capability assessment are more easily presented in a tabular format as shown in the Appendix.

This Index does not include an assessment of future programs such as the Columbia-Class SSBN(X); unmanned carrier-launched aircraft; and LX(R) because these are not yet categorized by the government as MDAPs.

Readiness Score: Strong

The Navy’s readiness score has returned to the original edition’s assessment of “strong,” up from the 2016 Index’s score of “marginal.” This assessment combines two major elements of naval readiness: the ability to consistently provide the required levels of presence around the globe and surge capacity. As elaborated below, the Navy’s ability to maintain required presence in key regions is “strong,” but its ability to surge to meet combat requirements ranges from “weak” to “very weak” depending on how one defines the requirement. In both cases—presence and surge—the Navy is sacrificing long-term readiness to meet current demand.

The Navy has reported that it continues to meet GFMAP goals but at the cost of future readiness. The GAO reported in May 2016 that “[t]o meet heavy operational demands over the past decade, the Navy has increased ship deployment lengths and has reduced or deferred ship maintenance” 104 The GAO has further found that as the Navy seeks to provide the same amount of forward presence with an undersized fleet, this “resulted in declining ship conditions across the fleet” and has “increased the amount of time that ships require to complete maintenance in the shipyards.”105

Though the Navy has been able to maintain a third of its fleet globally deployed, and although the O-FRP has preserved readiness for individual hulls by restricting deployment increases, demand still exceeds the supply of ready ships to meet requirements sustainably. As Admiral Howard testified in March 2016:

We generate forces that are fully prepared to do the full spectrum of operations. And so for us, it’s as if we have this team of assets, but like every good team, we have a bench. And that bench are the assets that are the next ready to go or the assets we have if we ever have to get into a war fight. We refer to that bench as our surge capability. So we invest to make sure that as people are required to do their daily operations, they’re ready. Where we’ve made choices, our ability to surge, that bench has become smaller. We have lowered the readiness of those assets and, in some cases, the readiness was lowered because we consumed that readiness.106

The Navy’s readiness as it pertains to providing global presence is rated as “strong.” The level of COCOM demand for naval presence and the fleet’s ability to meet that demand is similar to that of 2015. The Navy maintains its ability to forward deploy a third of its fleet and has been able to stave off immediate readiness challenges through the O-FRP. However, without further recapitalization and without more hulls entering the fleet, this level of readiness will likely not be sustainable.

Another element of naval readiness is the ability to surge forces to respond to a major contingency. The Navy’s goal is the ability to surge three CSGs and three ARGs for a contingency operation, but at current ship-count levels, it falls short of meeting this goal. Responding to questions about this issue, Admiral Manazir stated that the Navy is “currently…resourced to deploy two amphibious readiness groups and two carrier strike groups. It will take us to about the end of this future year defense plan, 2020 to 2022, to be able to resource a third deployed amphibious readiness group.”107 It should be noted that this was reported only during questioning in a congressional hearing, a departure from previous years when this information was provided in prepared testimony by naval officials. This is consistent with this Index’s analysis of the other armed services, where elements of readiness typically reported each year were either omitted or altered in prepared statements.

Nevertheless, Navy readiness in 2016 is an improvement over the past few years, where the Navy could only generate a surge capacity of one ARG and one CSG. This yields a surge capacity score of “marginal,” up from “weak” in the 2016 Index.

Since the Index of U.S. Military Strength uses the two-MRC construct as its benchmark level of necessary military force, the Navy would actually need to be able to surge forces to a level higher than three CSGs and three ARGs. However, doubling the Navy’s surge capacity requirement to account for this is an oversimplification, as not enough public information exists to assess how much surge capacity the Navy would require to engage in a second contingency. Therefore, this Index notes that the Navy must be able to surge remaining forces if the U.S. finds itself responding to a second MRC but does not attempt to determine or count this additional level in its scoring.

Overall U.S. Navy Score: Marginal

The Navy’s overall score for the 2017 Index is “marginal,” the same as for the previous year. This was derived by aggregating the scores for capacity (“marginal”); capability (“weak”); and readiness (“strong”). However, given the continued upward trends in OPTEMPO that have not been matched by similar increases in capacity or readiness funding, the Navy’s overall score could degrade in the near future if the service does not more robustly recapitalize and maintain the health of its fleet.


  1. Admiral John M. Richardson, A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 1.0, January 2016, (accessed July 22, 2016). 

  2. U.S. Department of Defense, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, January 2012, (accessed June 17, 2015). 

  3. U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency, “Instruction: Global Force Management (GFM),” effective February 5, 2014, p. 9, (accessed August 25, 2014). 

  4. United States Navy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” 2015, 
(accessed July 10, 2015). 

  5. U.S. Department of Defense, “Instruction: Global Force Management (GFM),” p. 9. 

  6. Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, “Fiscal Year 2017 Navy Budget,” statement before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, March 15, 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  7. U.S. Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary, “SECNAV Instruction 5030.8B: General Guidance for the Classification of Naval Vessels and Battle Force Ship Counting Procedures,” March 7, 2014, pp. 1–2, 
(accessed June 17, 2015). 

  8. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, May 27, 2016, p. 1, (accessed August 10, 2016). 

  9. Ibid. 

  10. U.S. Department of the Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Financial Manager and Comptroller, Highlights of the Department of the Navy FY 2016 Budget, 2015, p. 3-3, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  11. Richard R. Burgess, “Navy Ship Requirement Stays at 308 Until New Force Structure Assessment for 2018 Budget,” Seapower, July 12, 2016, (accessed August 30, 2016). For the full text of the FSA, see U.S. Navy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Integration of Capabilities and Resources) (N8), Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for the Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2017, July 2016, (accessed August 30, 2016). 

  12. U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission: Justification Book Volume 1 of 1, Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy, February 2016, 
(accessed August 10, 2016). 

  13. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 Shipbuilding Plan, October 2015, 
(accessed July 25, 2016). 

  14. “An Assessment of U.S. Military Power: U.S. Navy,” in 2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength, ed. Dakota L. Wood (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2015), p. 247. 

  15. U.S. Navy, “SUBJ/FY15 Projected Ship Inactivation Schedule and Update Remaining FY14 Ship Inactivation Schedule,” 
July 14, 2014, 
(accessed August 10, 2016). 

  16. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, May 27, 2016, p. 1, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  17. Ibid. 

  18. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 Shipbuilding Plan. 

  19. Ibid. 

  20. U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission: Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy. 

  21. Ibid. 

  22. Eleven cruisers will also be placed in “Reduced Operating Status” but will be included in the ship count as they are not being retired. 

  23. O’Rourke, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans,” Summary. 

  24. Ibid., p. 12. 

  25. U.S. Department of the Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Financial Manager and Comptroller, Highlights of the Department of the Navy FY 2017 Budget, 2016, p. 1-2, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  26. Rotational deployments involve a ship sailing to a location for a set amount of time and returning to the United States. 

  27. Admiral Jonathan Greenert, U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, “FY 2016 Department of the Navy Posture,” statement before the Subcommittee on Defense, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, March 4, 2015, p. 10, (accessed August 10, 2016). 

  28. On average, rotational deployments require four ships for one ship being forward deployed. This is because one ship is sailing out to location, one is at location, one is sailing back to the CONUS, and one is in the CONUS for maintenance. 

  29. Sam LaGrone, “Carrier George Washington Leaves Japan for the Last Time as Forward Deployed CVN,” USNI News, May 19, 2015, 
(accessed July 10, 2015). 

  30. Ellen Mitchell, “Leaked Navy Memo Says $440 Million LCS Lack Firepower, Need Review,”, March 28, 2013, (accessed July 21, 2015). 

  31. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, June 12, 2015, pp. 1–2, 
(accessed August 10, 2016). 

  32. Ibid., p. 16. 

  33. U.S. Department of the Navy, Highlights of the Department of the Navy FY 2017 Budget, p. 9. 

  34. O’Rourke, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program,” pp. 37–38. 

  35. Megan Eckstein, “FY 2017 Budget: Navy Wants to Modernize Last 7 Cruisers Instead of Following 2/4/6 Directive from Congress,” USNI News, February 9, 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  36. Sam LaGrone, “Navy Pitches Cruiser Layup Plan, Again,” USNI News, February 2, 2015, (accessed July 21, 2015). 

  37. Ibid. 

  38. Association of the United States Navy, “2015 Fact Sheet: Ticonderoga Class Cruisers (CG),” (accessed July 20, 2015). 

  39. O’Rourke, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans,” pp. 4–5. 

  40. This is based on a calculation of the total number of attack submarines (which includes three different classes), which was 54 as of publication, and the number of Los Angeles-class submarines, which was 39 as of publication. 

  41. O’Rourke, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans,” p. 1. 

  42. O’Rourke, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program.” 

  43. Ibid. 

  44. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 Shipbuilding Plan, p. 3. 

  45. There are four shipbuilders and seven shipyard locations that build major naval vessels. The four shipbuilders are General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls, Austal USA, and Marinette Marine Corporation. General Dynamics has three shipyards, Huntington Ingalls has two, and the remaining two shipbuilders have one each. 

  46. O’Rourke, “Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans”; Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Integration of Capabilities and Resources) (N8), Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2016, March 2015, p. 5, 
(accessed July 20, 2015). 

  47. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, October 3, 2016, (accessed October 17, 2016). 

  48. U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission: Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy, p. 
Volume 1-12. 

  49. O’Rourke, “Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program.” 

  50. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapons Programs, GAO-15-342SP, March 2015, p. 148, (accessed August 4, 2015). 

  51. O’Rourke, “Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program,” Summary. 

  52. This is based on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of historical shipbuilding funding, which the CBO calculates as $13.9 billion annually. See Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 Shipbuilding Plan, p. 3. 

  53. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, July 31, 2014, (accessed July 31, 2015). 

  54. Ibid., p. 14. 

  55. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 Shipbuilding Plan, p. 11. 

  56. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, May 27, 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016).

  57. Carlo Muñoz, “Dunford Backs Building 12th San Antonio-Class Warship,” USNI News, updated July 22, 2014, (accessed August 27, 2014). 

  58. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, May 27, 2016, 
(accessed July 25, 2016). 

  59. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, May 20, 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  60. Shawn Snow, “U.S. May Field Railgun on Zumwalt Destroyer, The Diplomat, March 1, 2016, July 25, 2016). 

  61. Brad Lendon, “Supercarrier Ford to Join Navy Fleet in September,” CNN, April 8, 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  62. Moshe Schwartz and Charles V. O’Connor, “The Nunn–McCurdy Act: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, May 12, 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016).

  63. Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., “Navy Fights for 52 LCS After SecDef Cuts to 40: Presence vs. Warfighting,” Breaking Defense, December 17, 2015, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  64. Ibid. 

  65. Staff writer, “Navy Aircraft,” Military Factory, last updated March 5, 2014, (accessed August 26, 2014). The last of each of these aircraft were retired in 1997 (A-6); 2003 (A-4); and 2006 (F-14). 

  66. Jeremiah Gertler, “F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program,” Congressional Research Service Report for Members and Committees of Congress, April 29, 2014, (accessed July 20, 2015). 

  67. International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2015: The Annual Assessment of Global Military Capabilities and Defence Economics (London: Routledge, 2015), pp. 45, 47. 

  68. U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission: Justification Book Volume 1 of 4, Aircraft Procurement, Navy, Budget Activity 01−04, p. Volume 1-21, (accessed July 25, 2016)., 

  69. Congressional Quarterly, “House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Aviation Readiness,” CQ Congressional Transcripts, July 6, 2016, (accessed August 17, 2016). 

  70. Megan Eckstein, “CNO Greenert Warns Congress of Fighter Shortfall, Boeing Super Hornet Line to Close in 2017 Absent New Orders,” USNI News, March 12, 2015, (accessed July 20, 2015). 

  71. Kyle Mizokami, “F-35 Shortfall Forces the Navy to Buy More F-18s,” Popular Mechanics, February 10, 2016, (accessed July 26, 2016). 

  72. U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission, Aircraft Procurement, Navy, p. Volume 1-11. 

  73. “Unfunded priorities” refers to the armed forces’ desired programs that were not included in the President’s budget request. See Bill Carey, “Navy’s ‘Unfunded’ Order Would Extend EA-18G Growler Line,” AINonline, April 10, 2014, (accessed August 3, 2015). For procurement quantities, see U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission, Aircraft Procurement, Navy, p. Volume 1-43. 

  74. Christopher P. Cavas, “Aircraft, Modernization Top DoD’s Unfunded List,” Defense News, March 31, 2015, requirements-list-air-force-navy-marines-armynational-guard-southern-command-southcom-strike-fighters-jsf- super-hornet/70707166/ (accessed July 24, 2015). 

  75. Megan Eckstein, “Electronic Warfare Executive Committee to Focus on Strategy, Acquisition,” USNI News, March 18, 2015, acquisition (accessed July 21, 2015). 

  76. U.S. Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 President’s Budget Submission, Aircraft Procurement, Navy, p. Volume 1-1. 

  77. Ibid. 

  78. “A carrier air wing consists of one fully staffed headquarters, four strike fighter squadrons (VFA or VMFA; 44 F/A-18A/C/E/F aircraft), one airborne early warning squadron (VAW; four E-2C or five E-2D aircraft), one electronic warfare squadron (VAQ; five or six EA-18G aircraft), one helicopter sea combat squadron (HSC; eight MH-60S aircraft), one helicopter maritime strike squadron (HSM; 11 MH-60R aircraft), one carrier onboard delivery detachment (VRC; two C-2A aircraft).” O’Rourke, “Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program,” p. 13. 

  79. Meghann Myers, “Navy to Disband a Carrier Air Wing in Fiscal 2017,” Navy Times, February 9. 2016, (accessed July 25, 2016).

  80. Ibid. 

  81. Admiral Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Vice Admiral Philip H. Cullom, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics; Vice Admiral John C. Aquilino, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy, joint statement in hearing, The Department of the Navy 2017 Operations and Maintenance Budget Request and Readiness Posture, Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, March 17, 2016, 
p. 1, 
(accessed August 10, 2016). 

  82. Ibid., p. 2. 

  83. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Military Readiness: Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan, GAO-16-466R, May 2, 2016, p. 7, (accessed July 25, 2016). 

  84. “Opening Remarks of Chairman [Randy] Forbes” in hearing, Navy Force Structure and Readiness: Perspectives from the Fleet, Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces and Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, 114th Cong., 2nd Sess., May 26, 2016, (accessed August 10, 2016). 

  85. U.S. Navy, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, “What Is the Optimized Fleet Response Plan and What Will It Accomplish?,” Navy Live, January 15, 2014, (accessed August 10, 2016). 

  86. Ibid. 

  87. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Military Readiness: Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan, p. 2. 

  88. Admiral Philip S. Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, “On Navy Readiness,” statement before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces and Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, May 26, 2016, p. 4, (accessed August 2, 2016). 

  89. Ibid., p. 5. 

  90. Rear Admiral Michael C. Manazir, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems (N9), “Aviation Readiness,” statement before the Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, July 6, 2016, 
(accessed August 29, 2016). 

  91. Congressional Quarterly transcript of House Armed Services Committee hearing, July 6, 2016. 

  92. Ibid. 

  93. Ibid. 

  94. Statement of Howard, Cullom, and Aquilino, pp. 5–6. 

  95. Ibid., p. 7. 

  96. This requirement is derived from the BUR’s requirement for four–five carrier strike groups per MRC; however, this Index finds that number low by historical accounts and recommends one additional carrier per MRC

  97. U.S. Navy, “The Carrier Strike Group,” (accessed June 20, 2016). 

  98. U.S. Navy, “The Carrier Air Wing,” (accessed June 20, 2016). 

  99. The full array of aircraft actually embarked on a carrier is more than just the strike aircraft counted here and includes E-2 Hawkeye early warning, C-2 Greyhound cargo, and various helicopter aircraft, among others, that are fielded in a ratio that is roughly proportional to the number of aircraft carriers in the fleet. 

  100. U.S. Navy, “The Amphibious Ready Group,” last updated May 26, 2009, (accessed September 17, 2014). 

  101. The size and capability of amphibious ships also have grown over time, with smaller amphibs like the old LST replaced by the much larger LSD and LPD classes. Consequently, fewer ships are needed to lift the same or an even larger amphibious force. 

  102., “Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB),” last modified May 7, 2011, (accessed September 17, 2014). 

  103. Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the Navy’s Amphibious Warfare Ships for Deploying Marines Overseas, November 2011, (accessed September 17, 2014). 

  104. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Military Readiness: Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan, p. 1. 

  105. Ibid., p. 8. 

  106. Congressional Quarterly, “House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness Holds Hearing on President Obama’s Fiscal 2017 Budget for the Navy Posture,” CQ Congressional Transcripts, March 17, 2016, (accessed August 17, 2016). 

  107. Congressional Quarterly transcript of House Armed Services Committee hearing, July 6, 2016.