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President Trump Planning Biggest Fleet Expansion Since Cold War

The USS Zumwalt at Bath Iron Works.

By Debbie Gregory.

With the new president’s blessing, the Navy is proposing the biggest shipbuilding boom since the end of the Cold War to meet threats from a resurgent Russia and saber-rattling China.

The Navy’s 355-ship proposal surpasses the number that President Trump had promoted on the campaign trail, providing a potential boost to shipyards that have struggled because budget caps that have limited money funding for ships.

The Navy currently has 274 deployable battle force ships

The Navy’s revised Force Structure Assessment calls for adding another 47 ships including an aircraft carrier built in Virginia, 16 large surface warships built in Maine and Mississippi, and 18 attack submarines built in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia. It also calls for more amphibious assault ships, expeditionary transfer docks and support ships.

A larger fleet would be better for both the sailors, who’d enjoy shorter deployments, and for the ships, which would have more down time for maintenance.

Many defense analysts agree that military capabilities have been degraded in recent years, especially when it comes to warships, aircraft and tanks.

The key is finding a way to increase Navy shipbuilding to achieve defense and economic gains “in a fiscally responsible way that does not pass the bill along to our children,” said Sen. Angus King of Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

“You never have enough money to buy a perfect defense,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a retired naval officer and former assistant defense secretary under President Ronald Reagan “You have to make trade-offs.”

Stock prices for General Dynamics, which owns Bath Iron Works, Electric Boat and NASSCO, and Huntington Ingalls, which owns major shipyards in Virginia and in Mississippi, have seen stock prices slowly trend upward.

“To the generic military shipbuilder, it’s a bull market right now,” said Ronald Epstein, an analyst at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch division.

In Bath, the 6,000 shipbuilders aren’t going to count their eggs before they hatch.

“A lot of people are hopeful that it’ll happen,” said Rich Nolan, president of the shipyard’s largest union. “But they’re taking a wait-and-see approach. They’ve heard it before and then seen it not come to fruition.”

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