SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Defense Secretary Mark Esper is open to increasing Navy budgets to support a new shipbuilding plan and future force design, he said today in a speech at RAND Corporation’s Los Angeles office.
In a speech meant to outline how the Pentagon was continuing to implement the National Defense Strategy to restructure its capabilities and readiness to deter a war against China – but fight and win if necessary, he repeated – Esper said that “China cannot match the United States when it comes to naval power. Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the [People’s Republic of China] years to close the gap when it comes to our capability on the high seas.”
Still, he said, the U.S. Navy would not stand still and wait for China to catch up.
Esper’s office never released the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2021long-range shipbuilding plan or an Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment that were due out early this year, citing simultaneous criticisms that the Navy’s own plan cost too much and did not produce enough ships and naval power. USNI News understands that much of the cost concerns relate to the long-term cost of sustaining, modernizing and manning the 355-ship fleet the Navy had outlined.
Since February, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has been working with the Navy, Marine Corps, Joint Staff, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office and more to come up with a new future vision for the fleet, called the Future Naval Force Study – the results of which Esper was briefed on earlier this week….