President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to maintain a naval fleet of 350 ships as part of an historic buildup of the U.S. military, but his ambitions come with a stiff price tag.
“Our Navy is the smallest it's been since World War I,” he said during a campaign stop last October in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. “My plan will build the 350 ship Navy we need. This will be the largest effort at rebuilding our military since Ronald Reagan, and it will require a truly national effort.”
The Navy on average has spent $15.9 billion annually on ship building over the past three decades, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In order to meet the Republican president-elect’s goal, the navy shipbuilding account would have to be boosted to $25 billion a year, 60 percent higher than the historical average.
That will mean having to find a way to lift the budget cap on defense spending by about $9 billion a year.
Trump is far from alone in his ambitions for expanding the U.S. fleet to counter Russia, China, Iran and other global adversaries. Last month, the Navy released a new force structure assessment – a blueprint for the future -- which calls for building a fleet of 355 ships. That is in sharp contrast to a previous long-term goal of 308 ships.
As of last November, the U.S. fleet numbered 272 battle force ships, according to CBO. That included aircraft carriers, submarines, surface combatants, amphibious ships, combat logistics ships and some support ships. The proposed buildup would include an additional aircraft carrier, more large warships and more attack submarines.
In outlining his views on the need for a defense buildup, Trump has stressed the economic benefits his policies will have in the private sector.
“I will instruct my Secretary of the Navy to study locations like Philadelphia with a long history of service to our military and proximity to vibrant private industry and find ways to involve them in this national effort,” Trump declared in his campaign speech last fall.
“As our fleet is rebuilt, we'll need to invest in recruiting the skilled American craftsmen we need, like welders and pipe fitters and so much more,” he added. “We will establish centers of excellence in places like Philadelphia and Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Hampton Roads in Virginia to produce the master craftsmen we need to rebuild our Fleet.”