Miss. Senator Leading Effort to Help Navy Recruit Sailors Needed for 355-Ship Fleet

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today participated in a hearing to examine the posture of the Navy. During the hearing, Senator Wicker asked Navy officials about their plans to recruit and retain sufficient manpower to match the service’s planned buildup to a 355-ship fleet.

“The Navy is reportedly 11,000 sailors short of the required manpower levels in the near-term and 50,000 short of the estimated force needed to crew a 355-ship Navy,” Wicker said.

In their responses, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson indicated the Navy is pursuing more flexibility in their recruitment and retention policies, which will require support from Congress.

Senator Wicker and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., have taken a first step to provide the Navy with additional flexibility by introducing the Surface Warfare Enhancement Act. This legislation would, among other provisions, offer relief to the Navy from some requirements of the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act and the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act.

Senator Wicker thanked the two Navy leaders for their recent commitment to extend the service lives of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which accelerates the schedule to reach 355 ships by 15 years. The Senator noted that this decision also accelerates the need to grow the force.

In December 2017, Wicker’s bicameral, bipartisan “Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas (SHIPS) Act” was signed into law, making it the official policy of the United States to achieve the Navy’s minimum requirement for a 355-ship fleet.

Also at the hearing, General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, agreed with Wicker’s suggestion that LPD Flight II amphibious vehicles carry more firepower. Huntington Ingalls Industries builds amphibious ships for the Marine Corps in Pascagoula, Miss.