Modly Acknowledges 355 Ships Won't Happen in Reasonable Amount of Time
By Justin Katz
Inside Defense
September 16, 2019

The Navy's second most senior civilian today acknowledged the service will not achieve its 355-ship goal in a "reasonable" amount of time and that without a $20 billion to $30 billion increase in annual funding, the Navy could only maintain between 305 and 308 ships.

"We had a goal of a 355-ship Navy," Navy Under Secretary Thomas Modly said in a speech at a Professional Services Council conference. "I will tell you it is going to be very, very difficult for us to get to that number in any reasonable amount of time."

Modly's remarks stand in stark contrast to most other service brass who have embraced the 355-ship goal when speaking publicly and to lawmakers. The 355-ship goal was a campaign promise made by President Trump.

"If you look at our funding in the [Navy] and straight line that on our current budget projections, we can probably get to about 305 to 308 ships and sustain that over time without a significant increase in our budget," Modly continued.

The under secretary said the service would likely need $20 billion to $30 billion more annually to achieve a 355-ship fleet "quickly, and when I say 'quickly' I mean within five to 10 years."
The service's original projections showed it reaching its goal in the 2050s, but Navy brass announced last year the service would reach 355 ships in the 2030s by extending the lives of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

Service leadership recently toned down its use of the 355-ship figure, which was derived from a 2016 force structure assessment, in anticipation of a new assessment that is expected to conclude by the end of the year.

Modly also questioned the wisdom of using a shipbuilding plan that goes out to 30 years, noting a paper that he himself wrote 30 years ago about the world's sea lanes failed to predict the rise of China's navy.

"The world is changing so quickly it's very difficult for us to know what that geo-political context is going to be in 30 years," he said.