With President-elect Donald Trump demanding more ships, the Navy is proposing the biggest shipbuilding boom since the end of the Cold War to meet threats from a resurgent Russia and saber-rattling China.
The Navy's 355-ship proposal released last month is even larger than what the Republican Trump had promoted on the campaign trail, providing a potential boost to shipyards that have struggled because budget caps that have limited money funding for ships.
US tanks and hundreds of fighting vehicles were also unloaded in the northern German port of Bremerhaven on Friday. They will be moved into Eastern Europe to help allay concerns from NATO countries about Russia.
Workers at Maine's Bath Iron Works who are worried about the future want to build more ships, but wonder where the billions of dollars will come from.
A boost in shipbuilding to meet the 355-ship goal could require an additional $5 billion to $5.5 billion in annual spending in the Navy's 30-year projection, according to an estimate by naval analyst Ronald O'Rourke at the Congressional Research Service.
'Whether Congress and the government can actually fund it, is a whole other ball game,' said Rich Nolan, president of the shipyard's largest union.
BATH IRON WORKS, Bath MAINE
The Navy's revised Force Structure Assessment calls for adding another 47 ships including an aircraft carrier built in Virginia, 16 large surface warships built in Maine and Mississippi, and 18 attack submarines built in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia.
It also calls for more amphibious assault ships, expeditionary transfer docks and support ships.
A larger fleet would be good for national security, better for both the sailors, who'd enjoy shorter deployments, and for the ships, which would have more down time for maintenance, said Matthew Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, which represents most of the major Navy shipbuilders.
SHIP BUILDERS Walk to Work in BATH, MAINE
'Russia and China are going to continue to build up their navies,' he said.
'The complexities aren't going to get any easier. The Navy, more than any of the services, is our forward presence.
'We're going to need this Navy.'
Many defense analysts agree that military capabilities have been degraded in recent years, especially when it comes to warships, aircraft and tanks.
The key is finding a way to increase Navy shipbuilding to achieve defense and economic gains 'in a fiscally responsible way that does not pass the bill along to our children,' said independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee.
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