In the Washington beltway world of defense spending and expansion, there’s always room to “spend more” no matter which administration or DoD leadership is at the helm. This trend is on display following last week’s Trump firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and his replacement with Christopher C. Miller.
An ambitious plan to greatly expand the number of ships in America’s naval arsenal put in place by Esper will not be impacted by the latest dramatic turnover in top Pentagon leadership, as Military.com reports:
Plans to build a 500-ship Navy are still intact as the Trump administration ushered in a host of new leaders at the Pentagon this week – though the top admiral overseeing shipbuilding says challenges remain.
Battle Force 2045, Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s ambitious plan to nearly double the size of the Navy fleet, is still underway. Esper was fired by President Donald Trump’s this week, and several new civilian leaders were installed to replace him and other top policy staffers.
While China for example has many more total naval ships than the United States, the US Navy is still unrivaled in the total size and technological advantage of its force, given it has nearly a dozen large nuclear-powered fleet carriers and a handful of others that can be deemed carriers, compared to China’s two.
Esper’s plan calls for an active 500-ship fleet by 2045.
Vice Adm. William Galinis, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command, recently told reporters that nothing will change in terms of Esper’s plan for naval expansion:
“I don’t see any change to that right now,” Galinis said. “We’ll have to see how things play out over the next several weeks here, but I don’t see any change.”
“The underlying analytics and the requirements [of Battle Force 2045], I think, remain sound,” Galinis said at a Thursday defense conference. “How we meet those requirements, that’s a topic for further discussion.”
Esper’s ambitious plan also calls for the construction of three Virginia-class submarines per year, including 140 and 240 unmanned ships, which in prior statements he said was necessary to counter growing Chinese and Russian maritime expansion of their fleets.
Adm. Galinis said there may be “capacity challenges” in terms of such rapid ship-building:
“In terms of the industrial base’s ability to build those ships, I think there are some capacity challenges out there,” he said. “… Especially when we start talking about maybe going to three Virginias a year, and what it takes to transition from to two to three per year.
“There’s some capacity issues not just within the shipyard, but the supply base as well.”
In September the now former Defense Secretary Esper touted that the US maintains complete naval superiority over China and that the latter will never close the gap.
He said at the time time, “I want to make clear that China cannot match the United States when it comes to naval power.”