In support of the idea that FY13 doesn’t yet embody hard decisions, we noted the Air Force’s choice to cut its long-unloved A-10s. But the Air Force isn’t the only service focusing on its unloved capabilities.
Under the new budget, the Navy will slip several programs within its shipbuilding plans. But it is retiring only two types of ships to save money. First, it’s retiring 7 cruisers—one-third of its current fleet. The Navy already had plans to replace those cruisers with Flight III DDG-51s, although even under last year’s plan the new ships weren’t to arrive until FY16.
Second, the Navy plans on retiring two LSD-41s, Dock Landing Ships, which are part of its force—the Gator Navy—that supports the Marines’ amphibious operations mission. And there’s the key: the Marines’ mission. The Navy’s shipbuilding plan already didn’t achieve the force the Marines felt necessary to conduct their mission and now the Navy is retiring two existing ships 12 years early. This tension between the Navy and Marines on how to allocate shipbuilding resources is not new. Twenty-five years ago, a Brookings report noted the Navy first looked to those ships that support the Marines for cuts:
Under later fixed budget concepts, competition between the various Navy programs and missions has become more intense and highly visible. Not surprisingly, the Navy has focused on amphibious shipping as a prime candidate for cuts.
Martin Binkin and Jeffrey Record, "Where Does the Marine Corps Go from Here?" (Brookings Institution: 1976), p. 33
Although a real change to retire these ships early, the Navy's choice to retire amphibs suggests the Navy too is taking what it sees as easy pickings.