The Navy has consistently downplayed the importance of the 355-ship fleet-size target it released in December 2016 since Jim Mattis became defense secretary, reports Defense News. The pattern continued Monday when a top Navy official told the audience at the Sea-Air-Space expo to focus less on the 355-ship figure and more on achieving the “right capabilities.” Noted Bryan McGrath, a consultant with the FerryBridge Group: “When people downplay numbers, it is almost always a way to reconcile tight resources. The bottom line is that if 355 were a Secretary Mattis priority, we’d know it. It isn’t, and so it is likely we will continue to see Navy downplay the number.”
Lawmakers have tried to steer the Navy back toward the 355-ship requirement. “The Navy sometimes misses the strategic imperative and national urgency associated with the message our nation needs to send to the world when an inadequate shipbuilding budget is proposed,” Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services’ Seapower subcommittee, said at a hearing last month.
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sabrina Fine