U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Tuesday urged Gen. Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, to commit to growing the U.S. Navy fleet to counter emerging threats abroad.

In his questions to Gen. Austin, Wicker pointed to the U.S. Navy’s recently released 30-year shipbuilding plan, which calls for increasing the size of the U.S. Navy significantly. Wicker also voiced his concern that any potential budget cuts would prevent the planned increase in the nation’s future naval presence.

Wicker warned against scaling down the size of the U.S. Navy, especially in light of China’s rapidly growing fleet, by saying, “[China’s] ambitions are not only in the Pacific, but also extend to Africa…The DOD report to Congress on China recently said, ‘It is likely China will aim to develop a military by midcentury that is equal to – or in some cases is superior to – that of the U.S.’”

Austin responded, “I would agree that is [China’s] goal. My job, if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, is to make sure we develop the capabilities, plans, and operation concepts to ensure we maintain a competitive edge.”

Wicker urged Austin to read the 30-year shipbuilding plan, saying, “It is my contention that the new shipbuilding plan calling for 405 manned ships by the year 2051 and an additional 82 new ships in the next five years is part and parcel to answering that challenge.”

Wicker, who served as chairman of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee from 2015 to 2018, is a strong supporter of the United States Navy. He is the author of the SHIPS Act, which made it the policy of the United States to pursue a larger fleet.

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Release from Senator Roger Wicker.