Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A lack of funding will prevent the U.S. Navy from maintaining a planned fleet of 355 ships, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke said.
The Navy has 290 ships, with 300 projected by the autumn of 2020, but maintaining the ships, and expected declining budgets in future fiscal years, are a cause for concern, Burke said Friday.
"Will we get to 355 ships?" Burke asked at the Military Reports and Editors conference in Arlington, Va. "I think with today's fiscal situation, where the Navy's top line is right now, we can keep around 305 to 310 ships whole, properly manned, properly maintained, properly equipped, and properly ready."
He added that although the 355-ship target is appropriate, "it's more important that we have the maximum capability to address every challenge that we might face."
Currently, about 30 percent of the Navy's destroyer fleet can leave port on schedule after repairs, and six of 11 aircraft carriers are under repair; one is the USS Harry S. Truman, whose electrical problems forced a cancellation of its deployment to the Middle East in September
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., told a Navy official during a House Armed Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, "If you cannot take care of a 290-ship fleet, so maybe you shouldn't build more."
In September, the Congressional Budget Office noted a growing federal deficit and estimated the Navy would require an additional $200 billion, over its current estimated shipbuilding budget for the next 30 years, to attain a 355-ship fleet.
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are expected to conclude a new structure assessment by the end of the year which will allow the two branches to save funding by integrating some of their operations and spending.