Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite recently said the service was able to find $46 billion in savings to shift to shipbuilding for a larger future fleet that will be matched by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

Official portrait of Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Noting that Esper credits him with finding $46 billion in savings, Braithwaite said Esper challenged him “as a good businessman would” that if he could accrue more savings, the larger DoD enterprise would match that with more shipbuilding funds, Braithwaite said during a U.S. Navy Memorial SITREP speaker series event on Oct. 28.

Earlier this month, Esper outlined the new Battle Force 2045 future Navy fleet plan that calls for over 500 combined manned and unmanned ships by 2045 and reaching 355 traditional ships by 2035, with increases to the submarine force, small surface combatant force, and supplementing fewer super aircraft carriers with up to six light carriers (Defense Daily, Oct. 6).

At the time, Esper said achieving the plan will require more funds in the Navy’s shipbuilding account, partially provided from internal reform efforts.

Earlier this year, former Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said he directed a new Stem-to-Stern strategic review aimed at saving $8 billion per year to reach $40 billion in savings over five years (Defense Daily, Feb. 19).

Esper said given that the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations continued committing to serious reform efforts he agreed to provide additional funding from reforms across the DoD enterprise. Combined, he said these efforts will increase the Navy’s shipbuilding account the 12 percent of the Navy’s topline budget.

Braithwaite explained instead of flipping over every proverbial rock to find potential savings they are focusing on the line items with the greatest opportunity for 10 to 15 percent in savings to redirect to shipbuilding.

The secretary underscored a conviction that you can usually take 10 to 15 percent of funding to reduce costs.

“You can always take 15 percent out of pretty much anything you’re operating, I mean that with all my heart. I saw that in healthcare, I ran a performance improvement company. We did that in almost every hospital. You can get that kind of savings,” Braithwaite said.

“I told Gen. Mattis that when I was on the transition team, that in military healthcare we can find 10 or 15 percent. Well, we can find 10 or 15 percent across the entire Navy and the SecDef challenged me on that,” he continued.

Braithwaite said Esper told him if he showed the Navy could cut that level of funding “and I’ll match you two for one or one for one. I mean, literally he put his money on the table to match mine – man I jumped on that like a bee on a pile of honey. That was a good deal.”

He did not describe any specifics in those cuts, but implied it was across various Navy sectors.

The Navy Secretary admitted there are domestic pressures, but argued the government must spend what is necessary to build the fleet needed to defend the country.

“How much is freedom worth to you? How do we not afford it? We’re going to have to make some tough choices.”