Lawmakers unveil bill to set 355-ship Navy

Lawmakers unveil bill to set 355-ship Navy
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Two Republican lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation that would increase the U.S. Navy fleet from 274 ships to 355 ships.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat MORE (Miss.) and Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanNavy official: Budget, readiness issues led to ship collisions Air Force One is Trump’s new boardroom 355-ship Navy not a must under Trump's secretary nominee MORE (Va.) unveiled the bipartisan Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas (SHIPS) Act. It would set a 355-vessel fleet as U.S. policy, subject to Congress appropriating enough money.  

It was also revealed the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal year 2018 defense policy bill will call for more new ships than the nine supported under the White House defense budget.

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“I think that folks will find that we are well north of the now nine ships that the administration proposed,” Wittman told reporters at a joint press conference with Wicker. “I think folks will look at it and see it is a very, very aggressive plan. It takes the necessary first big step down the road of getting to 355.”  

The new SHIPS bill, meanwhile, is a “statement of purpose ... that sends a clear message this is where we need to be as a nation,” Wittman said.

Wicker, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower, said the bill has 16 co-sponsors "and counting" in the upper chamber, including every member of the subcommittee. At least 10 House members have also backed the bill.

The two lawmakers have pushed for a larger fleet in a buildup they say “mirrors the Navy’s recent force-structure assessment that said it needed 355 ships to meet the demands on its forces,” according to a statement introducing the bill.

President Trump frequently pledged on the campaign trail to increase the size of the Navy to more than 350 ships, but the administration’s fiscal 2018 budget does not hold the dollars for that promise.

The White House budget also only proposed eight ships, a request that had already been planned under former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE. Navy officials later said the administration would support an additional ship, bumping the request up to nine.

Following the bill's release, Wittman revealed his subcommittee is recommending five additional ships.

"Specifically, the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee will recommend one additional destroyer, two Littoral Combat Ships, one amphibious dock landing ship and one Expeditionary Support Base," Wittman said during his opening statement at the subcommittee's mark of the defense policy bill.

This report was updated at 12:57 p.m.