Naval Spending Proposal Defies Calls to Buy Extra Ships, Boost Marines’ Budget

President’s first spending request seeks to cut procurement to free funds for operations and maintenance.

The Navy Department is asking for $211.7 billion under the Pentagon’s fiscal 2022 budget request, up from the $207.9 billion it received in the current fiscal year but — if inflation stays at current levels — a real decrease of about 2.2 percent. 

Budget documents released on Friday say that the Navy would receive $163.8 billion, up from $162.9 billion appropriated in 2021. The Marine Corps would receive $47.8 billion, up from this year’s $45 billion.

The essentially flat budget defied calls for a big boost that advocates say is necessary to confront swelling Chinese fleets.

Under the topline, the Navy is proposing to decrease funding for procurement so it can boost its operations and maintenance budget, the documents said. (The following figures are given in then-year dollars, which do not account for inflation).

For operations and maintenance, the Navy wants $71.2 billion, up 3.4 percent from $68.9 billion appropriated in 2021. The Navy is requesting $56.6 billion for personnel, up 3.5 percent from this year’s $54.7 billion. And for procurement, the Navy is asking for $58.2 billion, down 5.7 percent from $61.7 billion. 

The Pentagon’s research development test and evaluation request is for $112 billion, the highest ever. Of that, the Navy would get $22.6 billion, up 12.4 percent from this year’s $20.1 billion.

President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan means the Navy and Air Force need more money and the Army less, according to senior defense officials on Thursday.

Under the proposed budget, the Navy would shrink by some active-duty 1,600 sailors to an end strength of 346,200 next year. The Marine Corps would have 178,500 active-duty Marines, down 2,700. Sailors, Marines, and Navy Department civilians would receive a 2.7 percent pay raise.

For shipbuilding procurement in 2022, the Navy is asking for $22.6 billion, down 3 percent from the $23.3 billion appropriated in 2021. The 2022 budget would bring the total ship count to 296.

The Navy plans to buy eight new ships, including two Virginia-class submarines, one destroyer, one guided missile frigate, one replenishment oiler, one ocean surveillance ship, and two towing, salvage, and rescue ships — in all, two fewer than procured in 2021.

The Navy also wants to spend $16.5 billion to buy 107 aircraft, including 20 F-35C and 17 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, eight MV-22B Ospreys, six Medium Altitude Long Endurance-Tactical unmanned systems, and 36 TH-73A training helicopters.

The Navy also plans to save $1.3 billion by cutting existing ships and aircraft, including retiring two guided missile cruisers, accelerating divestment of the F/A-18 A and D Hornets, and decommissioning four littoral combat ships — two more than planned for the year ahead.

Two of the LCS ships being retired are test ships that would cost too much to upgrade to match the rest of the fleet’s capabilities, according to the budget document, the same reason the Navy gave for their 2021 request that was balked at by Congressional members. Senior defense officials said on Thursday that they still want to retain the LCS capability in the fleet, but they want to drop the ships that no longer meet the future for the Navy.