The Navy is undertaking a series of reviews, one, the force structure assessment, is currently underway at the Pentagon under the auspices of the service’s leadership. Three other Congressionally mandated studies look further out into the future—one internal to the Navy, another conducted by a federally-funded research center and another by a think-tank—are nearly complete and are currently in the process of being approved before being submitted to lawmakers.
All four reviews are likely to call for a larger fleet and will likely be shared with the Congress before the new President submits his or her budget proposal.
Generally speaking, the Navy will operate in a much more dispersed manner to maintain its presence around the globe while still maintaining its striking power.
One of the keys to the Navy’s future force structure architecture will be the submarine fleet.
The Navy does not have enough submarines to meet the demand for undersea assets with the 52 boats currently in the fleet, which is more than the stated requirement for 48 attack subs (SSN). However, even if the Navy increases the requirement for the number of submarines, the service is physically incapable of increasing the number of boats in the fleet significantly by the late 2020s. However, the service is trying to mitigate the gap by extending the lives of older Los Angeles-class SSNs so that they can deploy one more time. The Navy also hopes to buy a second Virginia-class SSN in fiscal year 2021 and continue buying two attack submarines per year indefinitely. That is the only way for the Navy to recover from the current submarine deficit.
However, given the insatiable demand for ships and submarines around the globe, the Navy recognizes it will never have enough assets to meet every combatant commander request. Thus, the service is turning toward unmanned technology.
Meanwhile, recapitalizing the all-important sea-based strategic deterrent—which will comprise 70 percent of America’s nuclear arsenal—remains the Navy’s top priority.
America's Future Navy: Dispersed, Unmanned and Underwater