WASHINGTON, DC (WLOX) - Increasing the U.S. Navy fleet to a minimum of 355 ships is now the official policy of the United States. And that's great news for the companies that can make it happen, like Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula.
Senator Roger Wicker has been working for months to convince his fellow lawmakers of the importance of boosting the size of our Naval fleet. He introduced the "Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas (SHIPS) Act back in June. Tuesday, President Trump signed it into law as part of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
American currently has 279 ships in its battle fleet.
The bill includes a nearly $5 billion increase for shipbuilding above President Trump's budget request.
"In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with my colleagues to put together a budget that fully supports our American military personnel and keeps us focused on our goal to achieve a full 355-ship fleet," Wicker said. "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."
According to Wicker, the Mississippi Gulf Coast could especially benefit from the following provisions added to the bill:
- Authorizing multiyear procurement contract authority to allow the Navy to buy up to 15 DDG-51 Flight III Destroyers.
- Authorizing $1.75 billion funding for an additional Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer (DDG-51) plus $250 million to buy long-lead items.
- Authorizing $1.5 billion in funding for an additional Marine Corps amphibious transport ship (LPD-30).
- Encouraging the Navy to accelerate procurement of 9th Amphibious Assault Ship (LHA-9).
- Requiring the Navy to evaluate expanding its test and training range locations for unmanned maritime systems.
A few highlights from the NDAA that will affect all service members:
- The defense bill authorizes nearly $700 billion in funding for America’s service members, military installations, and industrial base, and gives active-duty military personnel a 2.4 percent pay raise.
- The bill makes permanent the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance payments to surviving military spouses. The more than 60,000 Americans whose spouses died either on active duty or during retirement will continue to receive $310 per month plus cost-of-living-adjustment indefinitely.
Senator Wicker also added a provision to the defense bill to help military officials identify the cause of recent physiological episodes (PE) experienced by Navy and Marine Corps pilots at NAS Meridian and other training facilities. The plan would authorize the Secretary of Defense to offer a $10 million prize – similar to the XPrize – to incentivize the brightest minds in academia and industry to help find the root cause or causes of PE.