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Senators urge larger Navy in letter to defense secretary

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (Petty Officer 2nd Class Susan Damman/U.S. Navy)

Following recent reports indicating the Department of Defense is considering a request to reduce funding for shipbuilding over the next several years, Maine U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King penned a letter expressing strong support for a larger Navy.

Addressed to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the senators honed in on what would be a sharp departure from national policy to increase the size of the Navy’s fleet.

In 2017, President Trump signed into law the national policy of achieving a 355-ship Navy. Per an announcement from the senators Tuesday, contrary to the established policy and identified national security need, media reports suggest the Department of Defense may propose a budget plan that would result in a smaller fleet in 2025 than what is present today.

“We were deeply concerned to read recent reports that the Department of Defense may propose significant reductions to planned shipbuilding procurement in its fiscal year 2021 budget request to be submitted to Congress in the coming weeks,” Collins and King wrote. “We write to express our strong support for a 355-ship Navy and to urge continued support from the department for a robust shipbuilding budget.”

Republican Collins and Independent King have fought to ensure that Iron Works has the resources it needs to continue supporting the military. Last month, Congress appropriated $5.1 billion for three DDG-51s — dubbed the “workhorses of the Navy — and a $390 million increase in advanced procurement for a down payment on an additional ship next fiscal year, as well as funding for infrastructure investments that will allow the shipyard to prepare for future contracts. Trump signed the funding into law on Dec. 20.

The senators urged as the department continues to development and finalize its fiscal year 2021 budget, that it reserve course from cutbacks to shipbuilding plans.

“Ultimately, Congress is responsible for annual Department of Defense and Navy appropriations, and we will continue to support a growing fleet in order to protect our national security and ensure our national prosperity as threats around the world continue to grow,” Collins and King said.


© 2020 the Foster’s Daily Democrat