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Mark Esper: US Must Expand Fleet by 2045 to Retain Naval Dominance

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Mark Esper, secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) and a 2020 Wash100 Award recipient, has said the U.S. Navy must launch fleet expansion efforts to ensure American military dominance against China.

Esper told attendees at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event that the U.S. needs to expand its fleet to over 355 ships by the mid-2030s and 500 ships by 2045, Defense News reported Tuesday.

He noted that the Navy needs to prioritize deploying 70 to 80 attack submarines and modify its aircraft carrier programs to cover repurposing efforts for amphibious assault ships.

Esper envisions up to 240 unmanned and optionally manned subsurface and surface vehicles as well as additional units of small surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships and combat logistics force ships.

According to the defense secretary, the proposed fleet represents a “more balanced naval force” capable of executing fires across the land, air and sea domains.

“I agreed to provide additional funding from across the [DoD] enterprise, funding that was harvested from ongoing reform efforts such as combatant command reviews, ‘fourth estate’ reforms and other initiatives,” said Esper. “Together, these additional funding streams will increase the shipbuilding account to 13 percent.”

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