US Senators Susan Collins and Angus King have objected to proposed navy shipbuilding reductions and urged Defense Secretary Mark Esper to support President Donald Trump’s commitment to a larger fleet.
The latest move comes in response to the US Navy’s proposal to significantly reduce shipbuilding programme by retiring unwanted vessels and ordering less new tonnage.
Collins and King made their objections public in a letter addressed to Esper and expressed their strong support for a larger navy.
According to recent reports, the department is considering requesting reduced funding for shipbuilding over the next few years. This would be a sharp departure from the national policy to increase the size of the fleet to 355 ships.
Collins and King wrote: “We were deeply concerned to read recent reports that the Department of Defense may propose significant reductions to planned shipbuilding procurement in its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request to be submitted to Congress in the coming weeks.”
Last month, Congress appropriated $5.1bn for three DDG-51s and a $390m hike in advanced procurement for a down payment on an additional ship next year.
This also included funding for infrastructure investments that will allow the shipyard to prepare for future contracts. On 20 December, the President signed this funding into law.
President Trump signed into law the national policy of achieving a 355-ship navy in 2017, approximating his campaign pledge and adopting the fleet size called for in the navy’s own December 2016 Force Structure Assessment (FSA).
Media reports suggest that the department may propose a budget plan that is expected to result in a smaller fleet in 2025.
One of the proposed budget cuts would reportedly reduce the number of Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers planned for construction over the next five years, by five.
Collins and King further wrote: “As you continue to develop and finalise the department’s FY 2021 budget request, we urge you to reverse course from cutbacks to shipbuilding plans that may be under deliberation and to support a 355-ship navy.”
According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, procurement of new aircraft to maintain the aviation fleet of the navy and Marine Corps at its current size would cost about $380bn from 2020 to 2050.