President-elect Donald Trump is planning on giving the United States Navy the biggest expansion of its fleet since the Cold War, as Islamic terrorism continues to escalate and China and Russia continue to threaten global security.
“The Navy's 355-ship proposal released last month is even larger than what the Republican Trump had promoted on the campaign trail, providing a potential boost to shipyards that have struggled because [of] budget caps that have limited money funding for ships,” Newsmax reports.
Lippold: Navy needs to grow
Chad Groening (OneNewsNow.com)
"One of the problems that all of the services suffer from is that we've had a budget-driven strategy for years – and it's time to start getting people in the Pentagon who will begin to look at the military force structure. If that means we end up building up to a 325- to 400-ship Navy with another 12 carrier battle groups, then that's what we should be driving [toward]."
"If we choose to do less because we don't have the money because we're $19 trillion in debt, then what we incur is risk – and how much risk should the American people live with? We are losing credibility and capability around the world with a military that's been hollowed out by this president [Barack Obama]."
CDR Kirk Lippold (USN-Ret.)
Former commander of USS Cole
While many shipbuilders are excited by the prospect of getting more work, some employed at Bath Iron Works in Maine are unsure about the proposal and skeptical as to whether billions of dollars can be apportioned to America’s shipyards.
"Whether Congress and the government can actually fund it is a whole other ball game," commented the president of Bath Iron Works’ largest union, Rich Nolan.
Congressional Research Service Naval Analyst Ronald O’Rourke estimates that an extra $5 billion to $5.5 billion in annual spending for the Navy’s 30-year projection would be needed in order to reach the goal of increasing the number of ships built – to 355.
The tall order includes a wide array of seafaring vessels.
“The Navy's revised Force Structure Assessment calls for adding another 47 ships, including an aircraft carrier built in Virginia, 16 large surface warships built in Maine and Mississippi, and 18 attack submarines built in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia,” Newsmax announced. “It also calls for more amphibious assault ships, expeditionary transfer docks and support ships.”
Shipbuilders Council of America President Matthew Paxton maintains that a larger fleet would not only enhance national security, but it would provide a better situation for sailors by giving them shorter deployments. He also says the advantages would extend to the ships themselves, because more ships translates into more downtime for their maintenance.
Paxton – whose organization represents most of the top Navy shipbuilders in America – also pointed out that two potential formidable foes of the U.S. have gained ground over the years, and insists that the U.S. needs to stay in the ballgame.
"Russia and China are going to continue to build up their navies," he indicated. "The complexities aren't going to get any easier. The Navy – more than any of the services – is our forward presence. We're going to need this Navy."
According to a large number of defense analysts, America’s military might has declined in recent years under the Obama administration – particularly in the area of warships, tanks and aircraft.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who also serves as a member of the Armed Services Committee insists that a balance between financial accountability and national security must be met.
“[Building more Navy ships to strengthen the military and the economy must be done] in a fiscally responsible way that does not pass the bill along to our children," King asserted.
If the goal of 355 new ships is met – adding to America’s current Naval fleet of 274 – the 629 total vessels would put the U.S. slightly above former President Ronald Reagan’s ambitious goal of 600 Navy ships.
“Even when Trump takes office, no one envisions a return to the heady days during the Cold War, when workers were wiring, welding, grinding, pounding and plumbing ships at a furious pace to meet President Ronald Reagan's audacious goal of a 600-ship Navy,” a report from Newmax pointed out. “The Navy currently has 274 deployable battle force ships – far short of its old goal of 308 ships.”
Reagan’s former assistant defense secretary, Lawrence J. Korb, who is also a retired naval officer, argues that the only way such an ambitious Navy shipbuilding venture could be successful is if the Trump administration is willing to boost America’s budget “to levels we’ve never seen [before].”
"You never have enough money to buy a perfect defense,” Korb insisted. “You have to make trade-offs."
In spite of the skepticism, many investors are confident that an increase in shipbuilding is in America’s near future.
Huntington Ingalls – owner of large shipyards in Virginia and Mississippi – and General Dynamics, which owns California-based NASSCO, Maine’s Bath Iron Works and Connecticut’s Electric Boat, both note that since Trump won the presidential election in November, their stock prices have steadily risen.
"To the generic military shipbuilder, it's a bull market right now," informed Merrill Lynch Analyst Ronald Epstein, whose division is owned by Bank of America.
Despite the favorable numbers, the 6,000 shipbuilders working in the Pine Tree State for Bath Iron Works are not banking on a naval shipbuilding boom.
"A lot of people are hopeful that it'll happen," Nolan assured. "But they're taking a wait-and-see approach. They've heard it before and then seen it not come to fruition."