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 WickerTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case Florida Democrat becomes latest breakthrough COVID-19 case in House MORE (Miss.) and Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanOvernight Defense: House Armed Services starts defense bill markups | Two Navy sailors die of COVID-19 | Pentagon reimposes mask mandate in some places Passport backlog threatens to upend travel plans for millions of Americans Overnight Defense: Intel releases highly anticipated UFO report | Biden meets with Afghan president | Conservatives lash out at Milley 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 ObamaWhite House debates vaccines for air travel Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward 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.