CNO Gilday defends aggressive Navy shipbuilding plan

Updated: May 11

Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday this week defended the Trump administration’s plan for a fleet of more than 400 manned Navy ships by 2051, and a range of experts outside the Navy put together that plan.

“This wasn’t just Navy self-speak where the Navy did the analysis on its own to come up with a composition of the future fleet,” Gilday told defense reporters on Monday. “From a budget informed or fiscally informed position, this wasn’t just a pie in the sky, this is the Navy we need.”

“I can tell you… that I think the Navy is in a really strong position right now to continue to argue for a bigger, better Navy based on, grounded on the Future Naval Force Structure Assessment done under the previous secretary of defense in 2020,” he added in a comment to USNI News.

Gilday defended Trump’s aggressive plan amid speculation that the Biden administration may revert back to the goal of a 355-ship Navy. That goal was enshrined in federal law in 2017 but remains unmet – the current Navy fleet is just under 300 ships.

And while there has been talk of the Navy getting a bigger piece of the DOD pie, Gilday admitted it’s unclear today what the Navy’s final numbers will look like. “I have no idea what that topline’s going to be right now,” Gilday said.

Under the Trump-era plan, the Navy would grow to 316 ships by 2026 and 405 ships by 2051. It also called for a total fleet of about 650 ships by 2051 if unmanned ships were counted.

Gilday told reporters that an ongoing Global Force Posture Review could end up altering the current deployment of aircraft carriers and other Navy assets around the globe. One question this review could answer is whether a regular carrier presence is needed in the Middle East.

“I think that the global posture review will help give us a better understanding of where we stand right now to answer the secretary’s questions about implementation of the [National Defense Strategy] and whether any changes are required, and I think that ought to drive our use of not only aircraft carriers but the entire joint force,” said Gilday, according to USNI.

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