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Navy sailing toward a 300-ship fleet

As early as next week, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert will present to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus a plan recommending a new goal of about 300 ships, down from the current target of a 313-fleet force, according to a Reuters news article.

The number is down from the current goal of 313 ships, a reflection of the budget pressures Pentagon officials are now navigating through.

The current target stems from a 2006 review that set the goal at 313 ships. According to Reuters, the 300-target would still allow the Navy to proceed with a program to buy 55 Littoral Combat Ships largely because of contract modifications with Lockheed Martin and Austal.

The smaller, faster ships are designed to conduct surface warfare operations in addition to combatting underwater mines, submarines, and other unconventional threats. They are to be equipped with interchangeable mission packages and be able to navigate shallower waters than some of the Navy’s larger vessels.

In January, the Navy "temporarily reassigned" the program manager over allegations of "inappropriate personal behavior," according to a Navy news release. But personal behavior aside, the program has been hampered by delays, cost overruns and structural deficiencies.

On Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee public hearing , Mabus addressed several issues, including a proporsed review of the plan to relocate thousands of Marines from Japan to Guam.

At the session, Reuters reported that Mabus said the Navy planned to reach a fleet size of about 300 by 2019. The Navy currently has 285 ships, but that number now only includes a few of the new class of coastal warships. Some of the fleet's older and larger ships, such as the USS Enterprise, which left Norfolk, Va., this past week on its final deployment, will be slowly phased out.

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