The new secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, says that the Navy needs more ships and that 355 ships is the right number to target.
A week after getting confirmed by Congress, Spencer is in the middle of his first trip to the fleet, where he’s spent time onboard the fast attack submarine John Warner as well as aboard the aircraft carrier Ford watching “steamless” flight operations at sea yesterday.
Tomorrow, he’ll visit Marines at Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island in South Carolina.
“We need to build more ships,” Spencer told reporters in Norfolk Thursday after returning from the Ford. “Three hundred and fifty five, I think, is a very good goal for us to focus on.”
Spencer said the Navy needs to look at every option available to them.
“Everything’s on the table, from refurbishing old ships, to looking at internationally designed ships that will be built here in the United States,” he said.
When asked if the recently decommissioned Perry Class Frigates could be brought back into the fleet, he didn’t hesitate.
“The OHP is a heck of a simple boat that has a beautiful mission and that’s a possibility and we should take a look at taking those out of mothballs,” he said.
When asked about President Trump’s call for prohibiting transgender service members in the military, he said that he’s awaiting orders from above on the issue.
“We will process and take direction of a policy that is developed by the [defense] secretary, taking direction from the president and march out smartly,” he said.
“Fundamentally, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements, should be able to serve in our military,” he said.
When asked about his time on Ford, and President Trump’s criticism of the ship’s electromagnetic technology for launching aircraft, he said sees no reason to return to a steam-powered launch-and-recovery system.
“The title for the picture yesterday was ‘no steam required.’” he said. “They had a great series of traps and a great series of launches. Everything seems to be going as planned — it seems to be working now.”
As for the Navy’s efforts to prepare for any North Korean strike in the Pacific, he said he couldn’t comment on any specifics.
“We just hope North Korea stops acting the way it does. We’re going to defend ourselves. We’re going to defend our allies. They should know that and we hope we can have conversations and de-escalate.”
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.