Top Navy leadership Thursday told the House Armed Services Committee the 30-year shipbuilding plan is being delayed past the budget release so it can be integrated with the new integrated Force Structure Assessment (FSA) at the Secretary of Defense level.

On Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) members grilled Secretary of Defense Mark Esper over the shipbuilding decrease and why the annual 30-year shipbuilding plan was not set for release for months (Defense Daily, Feb. 26).

Thomas B. Modly, Acting Secretary of the Navy. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

At that hearing, HASC Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) argued “Congress needs headlights to see where you’re going because of the fact that shipbuilding is such a long game.”

Esper said he was awaiting its presentation to him and “once I have had a chance to review it and digest it … at the appropriate point in time, I will share with you what I believe our future force structure should look like.”

On Thursday, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told the committee at a separate hearing the Department of the Navy developed the new integrated FSA with the Navy and Marine Corps “and we presented it to the Secretary of Defense, he wanted some time and some space to look at that, analyze it and understand how that would impact the 30-year shipbuilding plan.”

“So unfortunately, it was a confluence of events this year that we did not – we submitted our budget, the force structure assessment was delivered and we didn’t really have time to really iterate that, talk to him about it, test it, before we submitted the 30-year shipbuilding plan,” he continued.

Modly said the department will hopefully be able to submit the plan “in a couple of months.”

Responding to pushback at Wednesday’s hearing that Congress requires the Secretary of Defense to submit the 30-year plan with the budget, Modly said, “we agree with you, we understand…it’s a requirement for the Secretary of Defense to deliver. He wants a little bit more time to understand it and we’re going to help him with that and it’s not going to be a long delay.”

“As you think about this ‘21 budget, you’ll have plenty of information and enough time to be able to do that,” Modly added.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday on Thursday further explained why the FSA should inform the 30-year plan.

“If we didn’t use it to inform this plan, you’d go back to the 2016 assessment, and, as you said yesterday, that 30-year shipbuilding plan is the headlights that we provide so that you know where we need to go,” Gilday said.

“I think if we can have those discussions with the Secretary of Defense and once he’s comfortable with that” the 30-year plan and FSA will be ready to come up to Congress, he added.