Last year’s 30-year plan projected the Navy would meet or exceed its goal of 308 “battle force” ships in twelve years (2022-231 and 2035-2036), peaking at 321 ships — which Carter called excessive — in 2028. By contrast, and entirely as a result of the LCS cut, this year’s projection is that the Navy will fulfill the 308-ship requirement in only eight years, 2021-2028, peaking at 311 vessels — just three ships above the goal.
What’s more, Navy leaders have more than hinted that 308 is not enough and their ongoing Fleet Structure Assessment — the first full review since 2012 — will raise the requirement to reflect the increased threat from China, Russia, and the Islamic State. If the goal goes up as little as four ships, to 312, the current 30-year plan will never meet it.
Let's make a few assumptions, but start here; this is your high-water mark.
Planning Assumption (PA)-1: There will be no expansion of conflict on the globe beyond existing conflicts.
PA-2: Budget pressure post-election will be negative towards defense.
PA-3: Domestic economy will at best soften, or hit mild-recession NLT 4QCY18.
PA-4: Russian budgets will decline until oil prices get north of $74 bbl again.
PA-5: Chinese budgets will moderate as softening economy will drive a more inward focus.
PA-6: There will be no growing political constituency for greater defense spending.
PA-3 & 5 are the weakest, but the others are solid, subject to radical change beyond out control. The pressure on the budget will remain and will expand - talk to your local economist over drinks, just mind the bar tab.
Those with a numbers focus vice a capabilities focus get the vapors on this graph - I happen to like the tradeoffs. Trading a lot of something you have much of that does nothing, for a lesser number of things you are short of that does a lot is - by any measure - the right call.
Read the whole thing. While you do, look at the outyears and what happens to the ratio of capable large ships to less capable Little Crappy Ships.