One of Trump’s most significant platforms in the 2016 presidential election was revitalizing the nation’s poorly maintained defense apparatus and returning it a state of strategic and tactical readiness needed to face near-peer, nation level opposition from the likes of China and Russia. Among the promises he made to that effect were increasing defense spending (which he followed through on) and growing the U.S. Navy to a massive 355-ship force, up from the current deployable force of 293.
Since Trump’s election, numerous defense officials have weighed in on whether or not it’s even possible to grow the force by so much, so quickly; and while the directive to reach 355 ships has been signed into law and made formal policy, it is still hard to get a straight answer as to whether this mandated rapid growth is being taken seriously. According to most, it is possible, but it would require a significant uptick in resources and funding devoted to America’s ship-building enterprise; and may even require keeping some older ships well past their retirement dates.
“[Three hundred and fifty-five ships] is stated as national policy,” U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told the USNI Defense Forum on Dec. 5. “It was also the president’s goal during the election. We have a goal of 355, we don’t have a plan for 355. We need to have a plan, and if it’s not 355, what’s it going to be and what’s it going to look like?”
Modly seemed to agree with the assessment that the Navy can’t reach its goal under the current financial model, but seemed none-the-less eager to make the President’s policy a reality.