U.S. military to expand ship fleet

The U.S. Navy intends to expand its fleet of ships by more than 10 percent in order to be better prepared for emerging adversaries, according to the New York Times.

Top military officials have been meeting to discuss the Pentagon’s budget in preparation for President Bush’s 2007 budget plan, which is to be issued in February. They also are part of a study of defense programs conducted every four years.

The Times said the Navy’s plan was to increase its 281-ship fleet by 32 vessels, citing senior Defense Department officials. It said the project that would cost more than $13 billion a year, $3 billion more than the current shipbuilding budget.

“We are at a crisis in shipbuilding,” a senior Navy official told the newspaper. “If we don’t start building this up next year and the next year and the next year, we won’t have the force we need.”

Ship building is dominated by Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. in the United States.

The idea of increasing the Navy’s fleet size is popular with influential members of Congress.

The Wall Street Journal, citing service officials, said the Air Force was considering eliminating over 30,000 uniformed and civilian positions between fiscal 2007 and 2011.

The Journal said that the Army was not looking at personnel cuts, but was considering a modest slowdown in troop growth. The paper said curtailments would be due to the Army’s recruiting problems as well as its desire to save money.

The Journal stressed that any proposed cuts were tentative, and that their size could change.

Bush’s budget plan is sent to Congress, which usually makes substantial changes, often adding money for weapons programs the military has sought to curtail, Reuters reports.


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