2020 Vision: Pentagon’s Latest Budget Request Emphasizes Shipbuilding and Emerging Technologies

The Sea Hunter unmanned ocean-going vessel represents a prototype of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over open seas for months at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV). Photo courtesy of the Office of Naval Research

On March 11, 2019, President Donald J. Trump sent Congress a proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget request of $750 billion for national security, $718.3 billion of which is for the Department of Defense (DoD). The FY 2020 Budget maintains momentum from the sustained funding increases enacted in FY 2017, FY 2018, and FY 2019. It would also provide the largest military pay raise in ten years (3.1 percent).

The budget includes the largest ship building request in 20 years and the largest research and development request in 70 years.

The FY 2020 budget request increases and diversifies strike options, including offensive-armed unmanned surface and underwater vessels, and advanced long-range missiles. The proposal requests funding for 2 large unmanned surface vessels in FY 2020, which brings the total number of battle force ships funded in FY 2020 to 14.

Across the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), ship construction includes 55 battle force ships and 10 large unmanned surface vessels. According to the FY 2020 Defense Budget overview, “The USV investment, paired with increased investment in long-range maritime munitions, represents a paradigm shift towards a more balanced, distributed, lethal, survivable, and cost-imposing naval force that will better exploit adversary weaknesses and project power into contested environments.”

Total FY 2020 investment requested for the Maritime Domain is $34.7 billion, including:

  • 2 large unmanned surface vehicles – $447 million
  • 3 Virginia Class Submarines – $10.2 billion
  • COLUMBIA Class Ballistic Missile Submarine – $2.2 billion
  • 1 CVN-78 FORD Class Aircraft Carrier – $2.6 billion
  • 3 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Destroyers – $5.8 billion
  • 1 Frigate (FFG(X)) – $1.3 billion
  • 2 Fleet Replenishment Oilers (T-AO) – $1.1 billion
  • 2 Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ship (T-ATS) – $0.2 billion

Among the budget requests for emerging technologies is $3.7 billion in support of Unmanned / Autonomous projects “to enhance freedom of maneuver and lethality in contested environments.”

Other emerging technology projects listed are Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning ($927 million), Hypersonics weapons ($2.6 billion), and Directed Energy investment, such as lasers ($235 million).

The FY 2020 budget request also funds programs that implement survivability improvements to the U.S. maritime defensive capabilities, which consist of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3 electronic attack capability (pacing the advanced threats) and the Advanced Off-board Electronic Warfare Program, consisting of long duration, off-board decoys to address identified electronic warfare gaps.

The budget also includes funding for military construction for emergencies, to include border security and reconstruction efforts to rebuild facilities damaged by Hurricanes Florence and Michael ($9.2 billion).

The FY2020 budget for Special Operations Forces (SOF) also mentions additional surface and sub-surface maritime craft.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan said, “With the largest research and development request in 70 years, this strategy-driven budget makes necessary investments in next-generation technology, space, missiles, and cyber capabilities. The operations and capabilities supported by this budget will strongly position the US military for great power competition for decades to come.”

The above summary focuses on Naval technology. The entire budget proposal and additional material are available here.

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