President-Elect Trump has made it clear that he would like to see a U.S. navy buildup of 350 ships, up from the current number of 272 and much higher than the 308 approved by Congress.
The Navy, as of now, is below the threshold necessary to have a fleet capable of projecting power at a two major regional conventional contingencies (MRC) level. The Heritage Foundation has released a report that states the Navy has weak capabilities due to the age of the fleet and marginal overall ability to carry out its duties.
Meanwhile, Russia and China, along with Iran, have been labeled by the same report as aggressive in their behavior, with Russia’s capability score as formidable – the highest possible ranking. Russia has invested heavily in modernizing its military, and the recent combat experience in Ukraine, Georgia, and Syria has raised alarms in Washington.
China’s abilities are growing. They are pouring money into their own navy, as well as weaponizing their manmade atolls in the South China Sea, threatening major shipping lanes in that area. Congressman Randy Forbes, the frontrunner for Trump’s Secretary of the Navy, has called for an expansion of the fleet, bringing it up to 350 in order to effectively combat the buildup of power from these countries.
Without a doubt, this is a real problem that has to be addressed, as our interest throughout the world and our allies’ interests must be protected. However, it seems that such a buildup would be incredibly costly. According to the Congressional Research Service, getting to the required 350 ships would add about $4 billion a year in additional shipbuilding funding over the next 30 years.
One has to wonder where this will fall on Trump’s list of things to get done. Congress has already approved the funding for the Navy to grow to 308, which is a significant increase from 272. Will Trump have the ability to get what he wants with the Navy, as well as get his infrastructure plan passed and the wall on the southern border in place? The fiscal hawks on The Hill are already raising alarms over the amount of spending that Mr. Trump wants for his infrastructure plan, which is rumored to be upwards of $1 trillion. And without many details on how he plans to pay for the increase in the Navy, this is one of the policies that may be put on the backburner, at least for a while.