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Trump's Massive Navy May Take 30 Years to Build

Others are more optimistic about reaching a 350-ship navy. In an article in Politico magazine in April of this year, Jerry Hendrix and Robert C. O’Brien argued: “We believe Trump can reach his goal of a highly capable 350-ship fleet by the end of his second term if bold action is taken now.” Among their recommendations was extending the life of ships currently scheduled to be decommissioned, reviving vessels currently in the U.S. Navy’s reserve fleet, as well as building additional carriers, submarines and even frigates based on European designs, among other steps.

Two admirals from Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) endorsed a similar plan in August, arguing that the navy could reach 355 ships by 2030 through a combination of extending the service lives of vessels currently slated for decommission and accelerating the construction of new ships. On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the navy could not reach a 355-ship level before 2035, but that was based on the premise that the navy would only rely on new ships without extending the service lives of existing vessels. Notably, the CBO estimate said seventy-three to seventy-seven more ships would need to be built compared with the navy’s FY 2018 thirty-year shipbuilding plan to reach a 355-ship navy and maintain it for forty years.

Thus, Dee’s assessment is far more pessimistic than the general consensus, although it was unclear if he was accounting for extending the service life of current ships. Still, that does not mean he’s wrong, especially given the massive delays huge defense acquisition often face.

Zachary Keck (@ZacharyKeck) is a former managing editor of The National Interest.

Image: U.S. Navy.

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