Roger Wicker

Roger Wicker

As the world’s premier fighting force, our military depends on a strong Navy to project power abroad, preserve freedom of navigation across the world’s oceans, and deter America’s adversaries. For the past half-century, our Navy’s dominance has been unrivaled. A change in that role could have significant effects on U.S. security, freedom, and prosperity.

That is why in 2017 I introduced and the President signed into law the Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas (SHIPS) Act, which made it the policy of the United States to acquire a 355-ship fleet as soon as practicable. It is a significant leap from today’s 293-ship Navy.

The original SHIPS Act was an important first step in showing the world the U.S. is serious about rebuilding our Navy, but Congress can still do more.

This week I introduced the SHIPS Implementation Act, which provides a strategic plan to help the Navy reach its 355-ship goal. The legislation also defines concrete steps to improve the Navy’s ship acquisition process and provide stability for our nation’s shipbuilders.

We Need a Bigger Fleet

The Navy’s 355-ship goal is not an arbitrary number. The figure is the direct result of a Navy-wide “force structure assessment” from 2016, which solicited input from all regional commands about their current and projected needs. Navy planners translated these requests into the ideal mix of ships and other equipment the Navy would need in the future.

This force structure assessment was revealing. It recognized what has been obvious to defense officials and members of Congress for some time. While America was cutting defense spending under previous administrations, adversaries like China, Russia, and even Iran have been quietly building their own military capabilities. For example, the Navy estimates the size of China’s Navy will reach 400 ships by 2025.

The goal of these nations is to upset the U.S.-led balance of power. If our nation wants to maintain the ability to counter or deter aggression by these foreign forces, then we will have to get serious about supporting a larger and more capable fleet, in spite of flat budgets, increasing costs, and competing priorities.

How We Get to 355

Even with a reinvigorated effort by the Trump administration over the last three years, the shipbuilding budget still falls between $4 and $5 billion short per year. My SHIPS Implementation Act is designed to empower our Navy to reach its 355-ship fleet goal by authorizing specific vessels and by authorizing the use of multiple cost-saving measures.

These steps would reassure our shipbuilders that the U.S. is committed to rebuilding the Navy. Our shipyards in Mississippi, as well as those in New England, Wisconsin, and California, rely on a stable rate of production to hire, train, and invest in their employees. This legislation would provide them the certainty they need.

The bill would also ensure that the Navy is devoting adequate time and resources to develop the cutting-edge technologies that our newest vessels will need at sea. All of these measures together would help to lower costs and free up more resources for shipbuilding within an already tight Navy budget.

These new ships will help the U.S. achieve its commitment to reaching 355 ships, while also supporting the workforce that will be necessary to build our future fleet. I am committed to ensuring our Navy remains the envy of the world.

ROGER WICKER is a U.S. Senator from Mississippi. Readers can contact him at 330 W. Jefferson St., Tupelo, MS 38803 or call (662) 844-5010.

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