Along the way to the White House, President Donald Trump made a number of big promises when it came to national defense. Among them were a dramatic increase in defense spending aimed at offsetting the damage done by budget cuts and sequestration, and in a more physical sense, expanding America’s Navy to include a massive 355 ships.
Despite a number of hurdles and delays, the president seems to have made good (or at least, made a start) on the former, but the latter is beginning to look increasingly unlikely, even after passing the largest defense budget in history. Building massive warships and equipping them with state of the art technology is an extremely expensive endeavor, and as America’s trifles with the USS Gerald R. Ford have demonstrated, they tend to run over budget, past deadlines, and once completed… still may not even work.
Under current spending projections, the Navy does expect to see a significant increase in their seaward presence in the very short term. The latest budget proposals circulating Washington show more than 40 new vessels being added to America’s warship roster within the coming five years, which combined with service-life extension programs aimed at keeping older ships in service longer, will swell the overall fleet significantly.
Based on those projections, America’s current Navy of 280 vessels will grow to 326 by the end of 2023 – meaning an overall increase of 46 operational ships in an incredibly short span of time. Of course, that much more hardware will require a significant influx of personnel as well, which accounts for one of the branch’s largest expenditures, but advances in shipboard automation may help to offset some of that cost. Nonetheless, the Navy expects to need to recruit and train some 17,000 additional sailors to meet the staffing needs presented by this expansion.