Lt. Trevor Kent stands watch on the USS Montgomery during routine operations near Johnson Reef in the South China Sea on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.

Lt. Trevor Kent stands watch on the USS Montgomery during routine operations near Johnson Reef in the South China Sea on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Chris Roys/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — The Navy’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget decreases spending slightly from last year as the service looks to buy fewer ships and direct more funding towards operations and research.

The Navy is requesting $207.1 billion, of which $194.1 billion is for its base operations and $13 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. This is a $2.9 billion decrease from 2020, with an 8.3% reduction in procurement to fund a 3.8% increase in operations and maintenance, a 6.4% increase in military personnel, and a 5.1% increase in research and development, according to the Navy’s budget request document released Monday.

The Navy’s total budget request includes the funding for the Marine Corps. The Navy-specific base operations budget is $161 billion and $11.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding.

Overall, President Donald Trump’s administration is requesting $705.4 billion for the 2021 defense budget, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist told reporters Monday at the Pentagon.

The Navy’s realignment towards meeting the challenges of great-power competition laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy has forced the service to rearrange $80 billion in its budget and find $1.4 billion in savings for 2021, according to their budget request.

Operations and maintenance funding again make up the largest share of the Navy’s budget request with $70.6 billion. Procurement is $57.2 billion, with $19.9 billion for accruing ships, a decrease of $4.1 billion from the 2020 budget. About $55.2 billion will be spent on personnel and $21.5 billion on research, development, test and evaluation. Infrastructure gets $2.6 billion, or 1% of the total request.

The Navy wants to grow its personnel number to close staffing gaps on ships and meet the recruiting needs that come with newer ships in their fleet. For active-duty personnel, the Navy requested 7,300 sailors for an end strength of 347,800, up from 340,500 in 2020. The Pentagon budget request includes a 3% pay raise for personnel.

The Navy’s aim in each year’s budget is to move towards its total battle-force requirement of 355 ships by 2030. However, the 2021 request has a 17% reduction in shipbuilding procurement, from $24 billion to $20 billion. The procurement funding is to be reinvested in areas of operations and maintenance, personnel, and research and development, Rear Adm. Randy B. Crites, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, told reporters Monday at the Pentagon.

The Navy seeks to procure contracts for eight battle-force ships in 2021, including a Columbia class submarine, a Virginia class submarine, two Arleigh Burke class destroyers, and one of the new Navy frigates, the FFG (X).

The funding for the Columbia submarine was the highest priority for the Navy in 2021, Crites said. The budget fully funds the first Columbia submarine in the program and its first deployment is on schedule to be in 2031.

The Navy’s budget proposal allows for 306 deployable ships by the end of 2021, up from 297 ships in 2020. Fifteen ships will be delivered in 2021, including three nuclear attack submarines, five littoral combat ships, and four destroyers. Six ships will be retired in 2021, including four littoral combat ships and a dock landing ship.

The 2021 budget request also restores nuclear reactor core refueling for the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. This issue caused congressional outrage last year as the Navy proposed taking the ship’s refueling money to reinvest in technology and other ship platforms, which cut the lifecycle of the Truman in half. The refueling for the ship will start in fiscal year 2025.

The service is also looking to have two large unmanned surface vessels, though they are not calculated towards the battle-force ship count.

The Navy’s aviation procurement request for 2021, which includes Marine aircraft, is 121 aircrafts for $17.2 billion. For fixed-wing aviation procurement, the Navy is asking for 24 F/A-18 E/F fighters, 11 F-35C fighters, and four E-2D Hawkeye Airborne radar aircraft. For rotary aircraft, the Navy is asking for six CMV-22 Ospreys and 27 TH-73A training helicopters. Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

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