Navy looks for more ships, more jets in FY19 budget request

A breakdown of the Navy's FY19 budget request, including shipbuilding, manpower and aircraft.

In a nod to a humming economy and a growing fleet, the Navy’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget calls for more sailors, more pay and higher incentives for those joining the service or staying in.

The proposed budget released Monday calls for 7,500 more sailors to be added to the ranks over last year’s request, setting 2019 end strength at 335,400, while contributing to a long-term goal to grow the ranks to 344,800 by FY23.

The increases aim to fill manning gaps that have come to light in the surface fleet.

“This growth will eliminate gaps at sea as well as grow the force,” Rear Adm. Brian E. Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, said Monday in a briefing.

Troops would also see a 2.6 percent pay raise under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, the highest raise since 2010.

Navy officials have noted in recent months that a low unemployment rate nationwide means the sea service must work harder to make Navy life a more attractive option for young people entering the workforce.

The Navy’s budget for 2019 includes funds to incentivize recruits to sign up or current sailors to stay in.

Funding for reenlistment bonuses would jump from $254 million in FY17 to about $318 million in FY19.

Enlistment bonuses would more than triple under the proposed FY19 budget, from about $23.4 million in FY17 to $92.2 million for FY19.

In the aviation community, flying duty funding would jump from about $108.3 million in FY17 to $141.4 in FY19.

And funding for sea and foreign duty would jump from about $313 million in FY17 to roughly $328 million in FY19.

The Navy’s need to remain a viable and competitive career option was put on display in December, when the Navy rolled out a new recruiting campaign based on the “Forged by the Sea” slogan.

At a Heritage Foundation event earlier this month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said the need to have quality, well-trained sailors in the ranks will be crucial to the Navy’s future success.

Whether these personnel increases and bonus enticements make it into the final budget remains to be seen.

The military is still operating without a concrete budget for FY18, which began Oct. 1. Lawmakers will have to suss out 2018 before they can debate how 2019’s funds will be distributed.

Still, the $686 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2019 will allow the military to get back to “a position of primacy,” as Defense Secretary James Mattis said recently.

The Pentagon’s proposal begins to pivot the services away from the asymmetric warfare that U.S. troops have waged since 2001, and toward a return to preparing for a conventional war with a near-peer adversary like Russia or China.

It also seeks to remedy overall readiness shortfalls that have hit every branch under the relentless operational tempo of the post-9/11 world.

Today, China’s military is increasingly asserting itself beyond its territorial waters, while Russia’s rebuilt military grows more provocative.

Looming above all is the potential for all-out war with North Korea.

Mattis said the funds would be used not to grow the military per se, but to beef up capability.

“It’s not a lot bigger, organizationally,” he said. “It’s built more to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up.”