Navy-USMC revamping selves with technology
February 3, 2004
ARLINGTON, Va. — The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the Navy to revamp the way it does business — changes reflected in the proposed fiscal 2005 budget now before Congress.
While the Navy continues a slow drawdown of end-strength, a move made possible because of improving technology, at the heart of the budget is the “Fleet Response Plan,” which could toss out the Cold War-era six-month deployments every 18 months, said a senior Navy budget official.
The plan would have six carrier strike groups either forward-deployed or ready for deployment within 30 days, two ready to go within 90 days, and four undergoing maintenance.
The overall Navy-Marine Corps proposed fiscal 2005 budget is $119.3 billion, a boost of about $4.2 billion over the current fiscal year.
The overall $401.7 billion DOD budget President Bush has sent to Congress is a 7 percent increase over this fiscal year’s $375.3 billion spending plan.
As technology improves, new vessels allow for smaller crews, and the Navy needs fewer sailors, the official said. The service is slated to lose 1,900 active-duty jobs. An estimated savings from that could amount to $500 million, the official said, but let the Navy “retain the same combat capabilities.”
The Navy estimates 1,700 sailor billets will convert to civilian positions, and the Marine Corps has plans to boost its number of “trigger pullers” by 1,372 as billets transfer to civilian jobs.
The Marine Corps will be studying its plan this spring to ensure the transition does not drastically cut active-duty jobs for women in the Corps, another budget official said.
On the equipment front, the Marine Corps hopes to buy eight MV-22 Osprey aircraft, the tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, the official said.
The program nearly faced termination when grounded in December 2000 after two crashes killed 23 Marines that year. Testing resumed in May 2002.
“The Osprey is approved, it is on track, and we’re real happy where we are with that,” the official said.
The shipbuilding proposal of $11.1 billion is a decrease from the current $12.1 billion, but would boost the number of new vessels from seven to nine. The Navy has an “aggressive” plan of buying 17 new ships in fiscal 2009, an increase from eight in fiscal 2008, the Navy official said.
Six of the 17 would be the new Littoral Combat Ship, much less costly at $400 million apiece and thus affordable, the official said.
For military construction at overseas naval facilities, the Navy, Tricare, and the education system are seeking $126.7 million.
Proposed projects include a dental clinic for $3.8 million on Diego Garcia; a $27 million replacement high school at Agana Naval Air Station, Guam; $33.2 million in improvements to water treatment and the wharf at Mariana Islands, Guam; $22.6 million in operations and access improvement at Sigonella Naval Air Station in Italy; and $32.7 million for command operations consolidation projects at Rota, Spain.