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February 8, 2002

Growing concern over Navy shipbuilding budget
Who'd have thought it? The Bush Administration is seeking to reduce Navy shipbuilding rates to even below the low levels of the Clinton years. Now the Navy League of the United States says it is "seriously concerned" about the low levels of Navy shipbuilding construction proposed in the FY 2003 DOD Budget. .

The Navy League said it appreciates that there are tough choices involved in the budget and supports the Navy's decision to recapitalize its force by funding operations and management and other critical areas. However, only half the ships the Navy needs are slated for construction. The Navy League and other national security organizations have been advocating a ship building rate of at least 10 to 12 ships per year.

The funding of five ships is not only inconsistent with what the Navy has said is necessary to maintain a 300 ship fleet but is contrary to the 360 ship fleet the Navy League believes is necessary to meet the national security needs of our Nation and maintain a productive industrial base.

The Navy League is adding its voice to a growing chorus of concern over the FY 2003 Navy shipbuilding budget. The American Shipbuilders Association has already said that it will call on Congress to add more money for Navy shipbuilding to the budget.

"This budget will plunge the fleet to a size never before witnessed in our history," says ASA President Cynthia Brown. "Investment in America's naval fleet has been woefully inadequate for the last decade. But it is unconscionable that the current Administration is shrinking the fleet even below the levels proposed by the previous Administration. Homeland security begins with naval forces."

Will Congress come to the rescue? Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), who serves as Ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, says that at the building rate called for in the FY 2003 proposal "we will eventually end up with a 250-ship Navy, which is totally inadequate for the protection of sea lanes and other American interests. We need to build 7 ships in Fiscal Year 2003 and 9 ships in Fiscal Year 2004 to reverse the downward trend."

"The Constitution makes Congress ultimately responsible for maintaining our armed forces," says Skelton, "so I expect a number of my concerns to be addressed during the budget process."