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Surface Combatants: Navy Faces Challenges Sustaining Its Current Program (Chapter Report, 05/21/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-57).

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GAO reviewed: (1) the Navy's basis for its current and planned surface
combatant force; (2) the Navy's plans to sustain the current force size
into the next century; and (3) key factors that could affect future
force requirements.

GAO noted that: (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Navy are
pursuing a surface combatant force size and construction program based
largely on budget priorities, industrial base concerns, and operational
requirements; (2) DOD has not clearly explained the link and any
underlying assumptions between the force and the national military
strategy; (3) DOD and Navy studies illustrate that the size of the force
can vary widely depending on the specific assumptions considered; (4) an
explanation of the linkage between force size and key assumptions would
assist Congress in evaluating the appropriateness of the Navy's surface
combatant program; (5) the Navy can sustain at least 125 surface
combatants through 2013 if it: (a) completes its Arleigh Burke-class
destroyer construction program as planned; (b) maintains its current
build rate of three ships a year; and (c) retains existing ships in its
inventory for their expected service lives; (6) however, these
conditions hinge on the Navy's ability to sustain budget levels to
support its ship construction plans, successfully compete with other
Navy and defense programs, and retain its surface combatants longer than
achieved for previous ships; (7) several factors could affect the size,
composition, and overall capability of the surface combatant force
through the middle of the next century; and (8) these factors include:
(a) decisions related to the appropriate size and mix of surface
combatants within the Navy and other DOD priorities; (b) the design and
construction program for the 21st Century Surface Combatant; (c) the
results of DOD's ongoing quadrennial defense review, which could change
the planning parameters for meeting the mandates of the U.S. military
strategy; (d) introduction of new or improved capabilities that could
affect doctrine, operational concepts, and responsibilities for the
force; (e) introduction of the Arsenal Ship, which could lead DOD and
the Navy to reexamine force requirements and employment; and (f) force
efficiency strategies, such as expanded overseas home porting and
alternative deployment schemes, which could help to increase force
availability and use.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  Surface Combatants: Navy Faces Challenges Sustaining Its 
             Current Program
      DATE:  05/21/97
   SUBJECT:  Military vessels
             Naval warfare
             Navy procurement
             Future budget projections
             Defense contingency planning
             Defense capabilities
             Military downsizing
             Construction costs
             Shipbuilding industry
IDENTIFIER:  Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer
             21st Century Surface Combatant
             Arsenal Ship
             DOD Bottom-Up Review
             DOD Future Years Defense Program
             Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate
             Spruance Class Destroyer
             Kidd Class Destroyer
             Aegis Weapon System
             Navy Cooperative Engagement Capability System
             Ticonderoga Class Cruiser
             Navy Vertical Launching System
             Tomahawk Cruise Missile
             BGM-109 Missile
             Standard Surface-to-Air Missile
             AN/SPY-1 Radar
             DDG-61 Destroyer
             DDG-66 Destroyer
             JCS National Defense Strategy
             DOD Quadrennial Defense Review
             Persian Gulf War
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================================================================ COVER

Report to Congressional Committees

May 1997



Navy Surface Combatants


=============================================================== ABBREV

  DOD - Department of Defense
  GAO - General Accounting Office
  MRC - major regional conflict
  NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  OPTEMPO - operating tempo
  PERSTEMPO - personnel tempo
  VLS - vertical launching system

=============================================================== LETTER


May 21, 1997

The Honorable John W.  Warner
The Honorable Edward M.  Kennedy
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Seapower
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate

The Honorable C.  W.  Bill Young
The Honorable John P.  Murtha
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on National Security
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

Surface combatants--cruisers, destroyers, and frigates--represent
over one-third of the Navy's war-fighting fleet and a significant
portion of the Navy's annual funding for new ships.  This report
discusses the Navy's basis for its current and planned surface
combatant force, its plans to sustain the current force size into the
next century, and the key factors that could affect future force
requirements.  We conducted this review under our basic legislative
responsibilities and are addressing this report to you because we
believe it will be useful to your committees in their deliberations
on future naval force size and composition, particularly on decisions
for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, 21st Century Surface
Combatant, and the Arsenal Ship.  This report contains a
recommendation that the Secretary of Defense provide Congress with
specific information on the basis for the surface combatant force and
on the Navy's plan for sustaining the force. 

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Defense
and the Navy and the Director, Office of Management and Budget. 
Copies will also be made available to others on request. 

Please contact me on (202) 512-3504 if you or your staff have any
questions concerning this report.  Major contributors to this report
are listed in appendix IV. 

Richard Davis
Director, National Security

============================================================ Chapter 0

---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:1

The Navy currently spends about $3 billion each year to modernize its
surface combatant force.  The high cost of these ships, especially
the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer at about $870 million per ship,\1
raises questions about whether the Navy will be able to sustain the
fleet size it says is needed to achieve U.S.  national security
objectives.  As a result of these concerns, GAO initiated a review to
determine (1) the basis for the Navy's current and future force size,
(2) the Navy's plans to sustain the current force size into the next
century, and (3) key factors that could affect future force

\1 This figure is based on the procurement of four Arleigh
Burke-class destroyers in fiscal year 1997.  The cost for each
destroyer depends on the number of ships built each year and the
changes made to the ship's design in that year's procurement. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:2

Surface combatants--cruisers, destroyers, and frigates--provide the
Navy with a wide range of capabilities and choices to satisfy U.S. 
national security objectives.  In peacetime, these large, heavily
armed multimission ships carry out a wide range of day-to-day
overseas presence missions and enhance U.S.  crisis response
capabilities.  During a conflict, surface combatants would conduct
combat operations against enemy submarines, surface ships, aircraft,
missiles, and targets ashore either independently or with other
military forces.  Over the last decade, technological advances, such
as the Aegis combat system, the vertical launching system (VLS), and
the capability to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles,\2 have
significantly expanded the range of tasks that the newer, more
capable ships entering the force can undertake. 

With the end of the Cold War, the Navy significantly reduced its
number of surface combatants from about 220 in the late 1980s to
125--115 active cruisers, destroyers, and frigates and 10 reserve
frigates--at the end of fiscal year 1996.  Although the size of the
force has declined, surface combatants represent more than one-third
of the Navy's battle force ships,\3 and the proportion and number of
ships in the force with the Aegis combat system have been increasing,
as shown in table 1.  According to the Navy, Aegis-capable ships are
considered to be effective in numerous war-fighting areas and tasks
and are best able to defend themselves and protect other forces while
providing critical support to ground forces. 

                                     Table 1
                         Number of Aegis-Capable Surface
                            Combatants by Fiscal Year

\2 Aegis is an integrated network of computers and displays linked to
sensors and weapon systems capable of simultaneously detecting,
tracking, and engaging numerous air and surface targets.  VLS is a
computer-controlled launching system that can store, select,
initialize, and rapidly launch different type missiles.  Tomahawk is
an all-weather, subsonic missile capable of striking sea and land
targets located more than 500 miles away.  It is launched from
surface combatants or attack submarines. 

\3 Other battle force ships include active and reserve aircraft
carriers, amphibious ships, strategic and attack submarines, patrol
and mine warfare ships, and logistics ships.  At the end of fiscal
year 1996, the Navy had 359 battle force ships. 

*** Error occurred during conversion.  Document is incomplete.  ***

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