Aboard carrier, Trump touts plans for big Navy fleet
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday he spoke with the Navy and shipbuilding industry about a major expansion of the U.S. fleet as he pushes ahead with a proposed boost to defense spending.
Trump said the Navy will soon have the largest fleet since World War I during a speech aboard the soon-to-be commissioned Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier in Newport News, Virginia. The president has called for a 350-ship fleet that would significantly grow the current 274-ship force but would fall short of the more than 800 surface warships active at the end of World War II.
The call for a bigger fleet came after the president unveiled a proposed $603-billion defense budget earlier this week – about a 3-percent increase over spending projections by President Barack Obama’s administration – and sparked a debate with congressional Republicans who believe it is not enough money to rebuild depleted military forces.
“Our Navy is now the smallest it’s been believe it or not since World War I,” Trump said. “Don’t worry, it’s soon going to be the largest it’s been. Don’t worry.”
The Navy had 204 surface warships out of its total 774 active ships in 1918 when that war ended, though ship technology has changed over the past century and a direct comparison to today’s high-tech warships is not exact, according the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Trump, who was wearing a Ford carrier baseball hat and jacket, said he has urged Congress to repeal the budget caps that have held down military spending since 2013 and provide the Pentagon with sustained and stable funding for a buildup.
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