With President-elect Donald Trump requiring more ships, the Navy is suggesting the largest shipbuilding boom since the end of the Cold War to tackle threats from a reborn and renewed Russia and saber-rattling China. The Navy’s 355-ship suggestion released last month is much larger than what President Trump had advocated for during his campaign, providing a potential increase to shipyards that have had troubles because budget caps that have limited money funding for ships.
At Maine’s Bath Iron Works, the personnel concerned about the future want to construct more ships but inquire where the billions of dollars will come from. “Whether Congress and the government can actually fund it, is a whole other ball game,” stated Rich Nolan, head of the shipyard’s largest union.
Bolstering shipbuilding to meet the Navy’s 355-ship goal may demand an additional $5 billion to $5.5 billion in yearly spending in the Navy’s 30-year projection, according to a calculation by naval expert Ronald O’Rourke at the Congressional Research Service.
The Navy’s reassessed Force Structure Assessment calls for including a further 47 ships including an aircraft carrier built in Virginia, 16 large surface warships built in Maine and Mississippi, and 18 assault submarines built in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia. It also requires for more amphibious assault ships, expeditionary transfer docks and support vessels.
In addition to being organized for national security, a larger fleet would be more convenient for both the sailors, who’d enjoy shorter deployments, and for the ships, which would have more down time for maintenance, stated Matthew Paxton, head of the Shipbuilders Council of America, which represents most of the major Navy shipbuilders.
“Russia and China are going to continue to build up their navies,” he explained. “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.”
A lot of defense experts agree that military capabilities have diminished in the past years, particularly when it comes to warships, aircraft and tanks. The most important thing is discovering a way to increase Navy shipbuilding to have both defense and economic benefits “in a fiscally responsible way that does not pass the bill along to our children,” commented independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Even when Trump took charge, no one predicted a return to the heady days during the Cold War when workers were wiring, welding, grinding, pounding and plumbing ships in a frenzy to meet President Ronald Reagan’s bold aim of a 600ship Navy. The Navy at present has 274 active battle force ships, shorter of its previous goal of 308 ships.
Lawrence J. Korb, a former naval officer and retired assistant defense secretary under former president Ronald Reagan, stated the Navy’s goal isn’t realistic unless the Trump government is capable of increasing the budget “to levels we’ve never seen.”
“You never have enough money to buy a perfect defense. You have to make trade-offs,” stated Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. However, investors clearly are betting on more ships. General Dynamics, the owner of Bath Iron Works, Connecticut-based Electric Boat and California-based NASSCO, and Huntington Ingalls, which possesses major shipyards in Virginia and in Mississippi, have both seen stock prices increase since the election.
“To the generic military shipbuilder, it’s a bull market right now,” stated Ronald Epstein, an expert at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch division.
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