Union Tribune

February 5, 2002

Defense plan sends Navy into some rough budgetary seas
Funds not enough to sustain current force of warships, aircraft

By OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON Although President Bush is calling for the
biggest defense buildup in two decades, the number of Navy
warships and aircraft actually will drop over the next several
years under his plan.

The proposed five-year defense plan would not buy enough
ships and aircraft each year to sustain the current force through
2007. To compound the problem, the Navy plans to retire a
number of ships and aircraft earlier than expected to cut its
operating costs.

The cut in force could put further strain on the Navy, which has
been forced to deploy several carrier and amphibious task
forces early to meet the demands of the war on terror.

The Navy needs to build eight to 10 ships a year to sustain its
force level, and the shipbuilding plan calls for only five ships in
each of the next two years, seven in the following two years and
11 in 2007.

Next year's budget would buy two Arleigh Burke-class
destroyers, one Virginia-class attack submarine, one San
Antonio-class amphibious ship and one Lewis and Clark-class
supply ship, which are built by NASSCO.

Also, the Navy intends to retire six Spruance-class destroyers,
two amphibious ships, an ammunition ship and the Inchon, a
mine countermeasure command ship, before replacements are
available.

That will drop the combat fleet below the current force of 316
ships. The Navy insists that the fleet will stay above 300, which
is considered the minimum needed to meet global
commitments.

The aviation picture is equally grim. The Navy needs to buy 180
to 210 aircraft annually to maintain the force. Under the
long-range budget, however, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft
procurement drops to 83 next year, then grows slowly to 193 in
2007.

The budget would buy 44 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 15 MH-60
Seahawk helicopters, five E-2C Hawkeyes and eight T-45 training jets for the Navy and 11 of the Marines' V-22 Ospreys.

Meanwhile, the Navy plans to retire 24 F-14 Tomcat fighters and
12 S-3 Viking sea control and tanker aircraft.

The number of naval aircraft will drop by 41 in the next fiscal
year alone.

On the positive side, the budget authorized 3,300 additional
sailors to augment the Navy's force protection and 2,400
additional Marines to fill out the new 4th Marine Expeditionary
Brigade, an anti-terrorist unit.

The budget offers a pay raise of 4.1 percent for all service
members, plus 2 percent for selected midcareer enlisted
personnel and officers. This is the third-straight raise above cost
of living.

It also funds increases in housing allowances and other benefits.