[Defense in Brief] Trump’s 355-ship Navy now policy, but big hurdle remains: Money

In signing the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act this week, President Donald Trump set a 355-ship Navy as national defense policy, something that was cheered by advocates in Congress of building a larger force to handle growing threats against and demands of the existing fleet.

“With his signature, President Trump has confirmed the United States’ resolve to meet the growing needs of our U.S. Navy,” Senate Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker said in a statement. “Building up our nation’s fleet is essential to protecting our national security and projecting American power around the globe.

“We are asking too few ships to do too many things, and today the President took a major step toward rectifying that problem,” he continued.

Retired officers like Bryan McGrath, a former destroyer captain and consultant with The Ferrybridge Group, also cheered the president’s move. “This is a helpful move, if largely symbolic,” he said.

Symbolic, because the one impediment to fulfilling the president’s campaign pledge is money. The Pentagon has been operating under continuing resolutions now for close to a decade, something that flag officers and Defense Department officials have been railing against for years. But even as the current Congress appears close to actually approving a budget for the Pentagon, there is another problem: The Budget Control Act of 2011, which sets spending caps on — the Pentagon. And to build Trump’s 355-ship Navy (as well as fulfill other obligations like modernizing nuclear, air, and ground forces) that law will have to be repealed. And there is no real effort in Congress (yet) to do so. [source(Analyst comment: Congress is essentially killing military readiness — there’s just no other way to put it. And it’s a bipartisan death. As evidenced by the high naval accident rate seen this year, in which dozens of sailors were killed, the U.S. Navy — if it is to continue its current OPTEMPO and still be able to meet and defeat advanced naval adversaries — has to be bigger, there’s just no way around it. But it won’t be, ever, if Congress doesn’t get its act together. Two things need to happen: The Budget Control Act needs to be repealed, and funding increases for the Pentagon in general must be approved.)

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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