WASHINGTON — The US Navy's 2016 budget request is just slightly higher than planned for a year ago, in line with overall Pentagon plans to ask for funding at levels above Budget Control Act restrictions.
In Monday's request to Congress, the Navy Department is asking for baseline funding of $161 billion, up from last year's projected $159.5 billion. Another $7 billion requested under supplemental funding brings the total 2016 Navy and Marine Corps budget request to $168 billion.
Future years' funding projections for 2017-2019 also have been raised about $1.5 billion per year.
Totals for most individual Navy accounts are higher than last year. Procurement funding shows an overall jump of $6 billion, up to $44.4 billion from last year's requested $38.4 billion.
Overall, procurement is 28 percent of the budget request, a jump from 25 percent last year.
Operations and maintenance funding rises $3.6 billion to $50.4 billion, comprising 31 percent of the request versus 32 percent in 2015.
Military personnel spending rises $1 billion to $46 billion, 29 percent of the request. Last year's personnel spending took up 31 percent of overall Navy spending. Navy personnel strength shows a jump of 4,900 people, largely due to restoration of the carrier and its associated air wing, plus crews for several cruisers the Navy is keeping in service. Small increases come from the planned introduction of two new helicopter maritime strike squadrons — HSM-79 in 2016 and HSM-76 in 2017 — for the additional MH-60R helos.
The number of civilians directly employed by the Navy shows a significant reduction, dropping more than 14,000 people to 200,959 employees from last year's total of 215,014.
Research and development funding jumps $1.6 billion to $17.9 billion, largely due to $1.3 billion in cyber spending.
The Navy is asking for nine new ships in 2016 — all eight ships projected a year ago plus the balance of funding for a 12th San Antonio-class ship, LPD 28, that Congress added and partially funded in 2015. The shipbuilding request is filled out with two Virginia-class submarines, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, three littoral combat ships, and the first T-AO(X) fleet oiler. A new LHA(R) assault ship continues to be programmed for 2017.
Aircraft buys reflect the additional MH-60R helicopters and the restoration of MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopters for littoral combat ships, soon to be called frigates. A year ago, the Navy decided to end Fire Scout procurement in 2015, but two aircraft per year have been added to this year's request. Procurement of RQ-21A Black Jack unmanned aerial vehicles has also been increased, with seven vehicles in 2016 — compared with none a year ago — although last year's plan to buy four MQ-4C Triton large maritime reconnaissance UAVs is reduced to three aircraft.
As usual, the Navy tweaks its buys of the F-35 joint strike fighter. Buys of the F-35B short-takeoff vertical landing version for the Marine Corps continue as planned, with nine aircraft in 2016, while requests for the F-35C carrier variant rise to four aircraft in 2016 — up from two a year ago — but are reduced by two aircraft per year in 2017 and 2018.
In line with last year's budget-driven reductions in weapons buys, the Navy again is slashing some munitions procurement. Buys of Standard SM-6 surface-to-air missiles drop from 125 to 113; Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles drop from 89 to 30; and upgrades for Mark 54 lightweight torpedoes are cut from 216 to 140.
On the plus side, 100 Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles have been added to 2016, up from zero last year, and 24 new, yet-to-be-identified surface-to-surface missile for littoral combat ships now appear in 2017. Buys of air-to-air weapons show increases — AIM-9X Sidewinders jump from 215 to 273, and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles rise from 138 to 167, but buys of the Joint Standoff Weapon-C were zeroed out from last year's planned 200 units.
Most significant research and development accounts also show increases, including the F-35 (up $120 million), CH-53K helicopter (up $59 million) and the new presidential helicopter program (up $119 million). Spending for the new air missile defense radar is up $97 million; the SSBN(X) Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarine is up $1.21 billion; Virginia-class submarines rise $78 million; CVN 78 aircraft carrier up $61 million; and another $110 million is added for LCS research and development.
Unmanned aviation fares poorly in R&D as spending on the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program drops $265 million to $138 million, and MQ-4C drops $271 million to $229 million. R&D for a new amphibious combat vehicle for the Marine Corps jumps $115 million to $219 million.
Spending on military construction accounts, reduced severely last year as the Navy sought budget cuts, shows major gains in 2016 with $987 million requested for the Navy, up $321 million from a year ago, and $719 million for the Marine Corps — a jump of nearly $405 million from 2015.
Christopher P. Cavas was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.