Proposal for a stronger navy bolsters Trump’s national security strategy

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2018

By Roger Wicker

During his first year in office, President Trump has focused on strengthening the economy and America’s standing in the world.  At home, that has meant working with Congress on pro-growth policies, including tax reform and the rollback of harmful regulations.  Globally, the President has continually reinforced U.S. interests, speaking frankly at the United Nations about the threat of a nuclear North Korea and supporting free and fair trade deals during his five-country tour of Asia.  In a speech on December 18, in which he outlined his national security strategy for the coming years, he firmly stated, “America is coming back, and America is coming back strong.” This message came just days after the President signed the “National Defense Authorization Act” into law – one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress passes each year to ensure our troops are prepared for their missions.  I worked directly on this bill as a member of the Armed Services Committee and as chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee, sponsoring a major proposal for the United States to achieve a 355-ship Navy.  The Navy has set a minimum force requirement of 355 ships but currently operates a fleet with only 279 ships.  The defense bill makes it the national policy of the United States to meet this minimum requirement.

Naval power goes hand in hand with the President’s bold national security vision.  In his speech, President Trump focused on four key areas: protecting the homeland, promoting economic security, supporting ‘peace through strength,’ and expanding America’s international influence.  Our Navy helps fulfill all of these objectives by deterring aggressive behavior by rogue nations, projecting force, and maintaining an open flow of commerce and trade. Declines in naval capability can have far-reaching consequences.  It is alarming that our naval commanders around the world are already experiencing coverage gaps, and adversaries like China and Russia are actively building up their fleets in an effort to exploit our vulnerabilities.

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The challenges of military preparedness are not isolated to the Navy.  Our national security interests are best served when all branches of the armed services – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard – are ready and capable. Efforts to deter Russian aggression reach beyond the sea.  As a longtime critic of Russia’s siege of Crimea and its clear disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty, I am encouraged by the Trump Administration’s recent decision to authorize commercial sales of lethal arms to Ukraine.  The Ukrainian people should be able to defend themselves from Russia’s illegal invasion.  This arms sale reaffirms that the United States will not tolerate Russia’s flouting of international law. I am also encouraged by the Trump Administration’s relentless pursuit of jihadist terrorists. 

Our military has taken resolute steps to defeat the Islamic State, with U.S. special operations forces part of the coalition that liberated the terrorist group’s stronghold of Raqqa in October.  Our troops also helped Iraqi forces achieve victory over Islamic State forces in early December.   These strategic steps are encouraging.  So is the support by Congress and the Administration for a stronger military, reaffirming that America’s standing in the world will again be on solid ground.