The U.S. Navy’s original $5.1 billion Unfunded Priorities List (UPL) released in February 2016 has grown into a massive $12 billion wish list.
Curiously, the Navy says the new list is not a formal update of the original UPL. Rather, the service has provided a list of “executable” FY17 unfunded items, adding needs that have emerged since the original list was released. Some of these needs stem from a revised Force Structure Assessment (FSA) that calls for a larger fleet of 355 ships, and from the fact that a final FY17 budget has still not been passed.
“The Navy does not intend to submit a revised FY17 UPL until we engage with the new Administration on potential changes in the defense strategy and priorities,” the service said in an information paper accompanying its executables list. This statement leaves open the possibility for yet another version of the FY17 UPL to be released down the road, but there is no guarantee that will happen.
The original UPL released last year contained a total of 35 items, ordered by priority. The new list has expanded to 59 items, with items now grouped together by category. Topping the list is $2 billion for the afloat readiness category, followed by aircraft, weapons, and ships. The Navy says that its ” greatest challenges continue to be recovering readiness and restoring aviation and weapons capacity,” and that any shipbuilding increases that “build towards an objective force of 355 ships, would reduce operational risk.”
New items in the afloat readiness category include $355 million for information warfare and other support; $68 million for waterfront equipment, service craft, and boat procurement; $53 million for service craft maintenance and overhaul; and $32 million for sealift support readiness.
The list adds $1.2 billion for six P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which would increase FY17 procurement from 11 to 17 aircraft. Critically, the document supports the original program of record of 117 P-8As, up from the current target of 109 aircraft. The Navy had reduced the program from 117 aircraft to 109 in its FY15 request due to budget cuts. It was anticipated that the service would eventually attempt to reinsert the aircraft into a future budget plan. The list also includes $2.3 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, an increase of 10 aircraft over the original UPL.
New items in the weapons category include $154 million for 96 Tomahawk missiles, a move that lawmakers have already supported in their FY17 markups; $75 million for SM-6 Block IA production; $24 million for an additional 30 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block IIs; and $20 million for 224 Laser Maverick missiles.
Within the shipbuilding account, the Navy now wants $1.8 billion for a 13th LPD 17 class amphibious transport dock (LPD 29). Lawmakers have been pushing for the Navy to either procure a 13th LPD, or to accelerate construction of the first LX(R) amphibious warship, which will be based on the LPD 17 hull. The twelfth ship in the class, LPD 28, already serves as a bridge to the LX(R) program, so LPD 29 would be the second bridge ship.
The Navy is seeking $547 million to eliminate a procurement gap for the T-AO 205 John Lewis class oiler. The first oiler was procured in FY16, but procurement of the second ship was not scheduled until FY18. Another $256 million is included for an additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (formerly known as the Joint High Speed Vessel), which would bring the EPF fleet to 13 vessels.
The Navy also seeks $68 million for advance procurement of an additional Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB). The service has already funded its three planned ESBs, but the latest FSA calls for a total of six ESBs. The revamped list also sets the stage for a larger submarine force, given that the FSA increases the attack submarine requirement from 48 to 66 subs.
While the wish list doesn’t include funding for additional subs, it does ask for $255 million for General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility to support construction of three Virginia class submarines per year. The current build-rate is two subs per year.