Two Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to make it Navy policy to build and sustain a fleet of 355 ships.
“We have a serious threat situation,” Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker said during a press conference announcing the bill Thursday.
The Navy and other Pentagon officials have testified that “the need is urgent,” and have settled on the 355 figure, Wicker said.
The Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas (SHIPS) Act, sponsored by Wicker in the Senate and Virginia Republican Rep. Rob Wittman in the House, codifies the 355 ship fleet requirement for the Navy.
The SHIPS Act does not appropriate the funds necessary for the massive naval buildup, but instead sets policy going forward, sending a clear message that 355 ships are required for the the U.S. to respond to military and humanitarian crises around the globe.
“We’re serious about doing this, we’re serious about giving the Navy … the support they need to achieve this ambitious step,” Wicker said.
President Donald Trump pledged during the campaign to increase the Navy fleet from 274 ships to 350 ships, and the Navy requested 355 ships in a December budget wish list.
Trump’s first budget proposal this spring included money for only 8 new ships, a number many Navy experts decried as not being supportive enough to the Navy’s needs. (RELATED: Retired Admiral: Trump Budget Fails To Give Navy The 350 Warships It Needs)
Building 80 ships is a monumental task that would likely take decades and could cost $25 billion annually. The cost is 60 percent higher than the Navy’s average annual shipbuilding budget of $13.9 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
It’s critical to start building the fleet now, however, because of growing threats around the world, the two Republicans said.
“We do not have the luxury of time,” Wittman said. “Our adversaries are quickly outpacing us with naval capacity, and it’s not just a single adversary like we had during the Cold War with Russia. Today, it is Russia, it is China, it is North Korea, it is Iran. Add those threats up, and we see a big impact in demand for what the U.S. needs to have available to counter those forces around the world.”
Both Wittman and Wicker represent states with large shipbuilding hubs, and buying more ships would bring jobs to their districts.
“It’s a two-fer,” Wittman said of the potential for job creation. “We’re happy to help the manufacturing base also, but this is about national security first and foremost.”
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