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Trump’s military buildup plan includes big news for Alabama’s Navy shipbuilding operation

Littoral Combat Ship, built for the U.S. Navy in Mobile, Ala. (Photo: Austal)
Littoral Combat Ship, built for the U.S. Navy in Mobile, Ala. (Photo: Austal)

NEW YORK — Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump on Wednesday released specifics on his oft-mentioned plan to buildup the U.S. military, and it includes major news for Alabama’s Navy shipbuilding operation.

Roughly 4,000 Alabamians in Austal USA’s Mobile facility are involved in building the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines.

During a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus testified that the his branch of the armed services still requires 52 littoral combat ships, a number determined by an assessment performed in 2014.

But the Obama administration and Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) have frequently pushed to to scale back the program.

Senator McCain has decried the LCS program as “shameful” on the Senate floor and has constantly fought for the Pentagon to cut it, in spite of Navy leadership insisting they need it. McCain was pleased late last year when the Obama administration’s efforts to shrink the military hit the LCS program.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed the US Navy to slash its previous order of ships by twelve and reduce its annual orders by tho-thirds. The Navy had previously planned to annually purchase three LCS over the next four years, and ultimately purchase 52 ships total, the number that Secretary Mabus testified that the Navy still needs.

The Navy’s stated goal for years has been to build up its capacity to 308 ships. There are currently 272 ships in the fleet, and Navy advocates on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon argue that cutting the LCS procurement would make the Navy’s capacity goal impossible to achieve.

In a campaign announcement released Wednesday, Mr. Trump signaled that the LCS program — and other shipbuilding operations — would be significantly bolstered if he is elected president.

“Mr. Trump will build a Navy approaching 350 surface ships and submarines, as recommended by the bipartisan National Defense Panel,” the campaign said in a statement providing the first specific details on his promise to “rebuild” the U.S. military.

That is big news for Austal, its 4,000 employees, and Alabama’s economy as a whole.

The rest of Mr. Trump’s “military readiness plan” can be found below.

• Immediately after taking office, Mr. Trump will ask the generals to present a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS.

• Mr. Trump will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military as soon as he assumes office.

• Mr. Trump will build an active Army of around 540,000, as the Army’s chief of staff has said he needs.

• Mr. Trump will build a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions, which the Heritage Foundation notes is the minimum needed to deal with major contingencies.

• Mr. Trump will build a Navy approaching 350 surface ships and submarines, as recommended by the bipartisan National Defense Panel.

• Mr. Trump will build an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, which the Heritage Foundation has shown to be needed to execute current missions.

• Mr. Trump will seek to develop a state of the art missile defense system.

• Mr. Trump will modernize our nation’s naval cruisers to provide Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities.

• Mr. Trump will enforce all classification rules, and enforce all laws relating to the handling of classified information.

• One of Mr. Trump’s first commands after taking office will be asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all relevant federal departments, to conduct a thorough review of United States cyber defenses and identify all vulnerabilities – in our power grid, our communications systems, and all vital infrastructure.

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