The U.S. Navy’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget strengthens the nation’s carrier force, more than doubling the funding request from fiscal 2013 for the CVN-78 Ford-class program slated to replace the aging Nimitz fleet.

The Navy is requesting about $1.7 billion in funding in fiscal 2014, compared to $781.7 million the previous fiscal year.

Of that fiscal 2014 total, about $1.5 billion is slated for procurement, while the remaining $147.1 million is meant for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E).

That compares to $608.2 million for procurement in fiscal 2013 and $173.5 million for RDT&E that year.

The fiscal 2014 request includes about $945 million that, among other things, will be used to finance detailed design and construction of the second Ford-class carrier CVN-79 John F. Kennedy. The amount also includes a “fact-of-life” cost increase, as well as the government’s share of the ship construction variance to date, which comes to about $588 million, for CVN-78 Ford.

The Navy also proposes to spend about $2 billion for refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) efforts associated with the CVN-72 USS Abraham Lincoln and CVN-73 USS George Washington.

Altogether, the Ford-class and RCOH spending then accounts for about $3.7 billion of the $13.6 billion the Navy is proposing to spend on ships for fiscal 2014.

Carriers have always been a priority for Navy spending. The Navy spent about $15.9 billion for carrier programs — excluding nuclear reactors — between 1999 and 2009, making those costs the fifth-highest expense category during that time, according to an exclusive Aviation Week Intelligence Network analysis of contracting data aggregated by the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting.

Earlier this decade many defense analysts were predicting the carrier force would be reduced in light of changing maritime strategy. Starting with last year’s proposed budget, though, the Obama administration has shored up its support for the fleet.

“The next-generation aircraft carrier, the Ford class, will be the future centerpiece of the carrier strike group and a major contributor to the future expeditionary strike force,” the Navy says in budget documents.

For continuing, through-the-day coverage of the U.S. budget rollout, Aviation Week Intelligence Network subscribers should http://www.aviationweek.com/awin/USBudget2014.aspxclick here to visit our fiscal 2014 budget digest page often, where the Aviation Week editorial team will post expert coverage and analysis.