The new shipbuilding plan calls for a rebalancing that favors smaller and unmanned systems, but critics say the plan is still unaffordable.
The Navy should grow the number of platforms it has in order to sustain the presence it needs to counter Chinese efforts to expand their influence and territory, according to Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, former Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and former Director of the CNO Strategic Actions Group.
As part of this effort, the Navy should also shift to a set of smaller platforms as a larger portion of the force, in order to spread out the force as well as offer more proportional options to combatant commanders, explained Clark.
However, “the plan that the Navy built assumes some pretty heroic assumptions about the availability of funds,” said Clark. “That plan is not affordable under any circumstances. But there are some themes in the shipbuilding plan that I hope don’t get lost in the transition to the Biden administration,” he said.
“The Navy’s trying to keep all their existing high-end platforms while also building these smaller ones. I think they’re going to have to make some trades,” said Clark. He said he thinks the Biden administration will likely be interested in making those trades in the interest of competing with China.
The timeline Clark is looking at for shipbuilding changes is as short as within the next 10 years. “The introduction of these new, unmanned surface vessels … if you put people on board that ship, it could be a lot more viable in a shorter timeframe. Also, the frigate that they’re developing will be fielded within the next decade, and at the same time we’re going to be retiring a fair number of destroyers and cruisers of today’s fleet,” he said.
“Certainly within 20 years you could have a very different looking Navy than you do today,” Clark said.