Blame time and money.
The Trump administration’s goal of fielding a 350-ship navy will take at least three decades, according to a senior U.S. Navy official.
Speaking at the NDIA Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Annapolis in late October, Thomas Dee, acting Under Secretary of the Navy, said “It’s going to take a long time” to build a 350-ship navy. “It’s going to take a lot of money.”
“We can be on the mark by mid-century,” Dee added, according to U.S. Naval Institute News, which first reported his comments.
Dee explained that the main constraint to building a 350-ship navy was money. In particular, he cited the fact that the U.S. Navy and other military services have had to contend with a decade of continuing resolutions instead of budgets, as well as the spending restrictions of the Budget Control Act (BCA). The Congressional Research Service has said that the BCA limits reduce defense “spending for the decade (FY2012–FY2021) by about 14 percent or $ 860 billion compared to continuing the FY2011 enacted level in real terms.”
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While some of the BCA spending cuts were offset by funds allocated under the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, this money has impacted the navy’s ability to plan since it’s not guaranteed year-after-year. Continuity is especially important for an area like ship building, which requires extensive planning given that ships take five to seven years to build and programs stretch across decades. Thus, OCO funds can’t be used to sign long-term contracts with shipbuilders.