Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said Wednesday he will call a committee hearing on President Trump’s pledge to grow the Navy to 355 ships after being pressed by a conservative radio pundit.
The president’s promise on multiple occasions to greatly increase the fleet has “fallen behind a little bit,” Inhofe told Hugh Hewitt during the radio interview.
Inhofe, who ascended to chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee after John McCain’s death in August, blamed Trump’s delayed campaign pledge on former President Barack Obama and said the Senate has been busy patching up more severe issues in the military such as grounded aircraft.
“Now, I don’t criticize Obama for this because he is an in-the-heart liberal who really, you know where their priorities are, and it’s not in defending America,” Inhofe told Hewitt. “But what we inherited from him, we were in our Army brigade combat units, as an example, we were down to only 33 percent of those could be deployed.”
Trump campaigned on a 350-ship Navy before becoming president. His administration has since made the target 355 and Congress’ armed services committees set the goal into law last year.
“We have now the lowest number of ships we have had since World War I, and very soon, we are going to get to 355 beautiful ships. That is almost a couple of hundred more ships,” Trump said in May during a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The actual increase would be about 72 ships and will take decades to achieve due to the slow pace and expense of building warships.
The current fleet size is about 283 ships and the service would need to significantly increase its shipbuilding effort to reach the new fleet size within 30 years, the Congressional Research Service reported this month. Attaining higher numbers also requires extending the life of existing ships.
“The president’s only promise that he has not at least attempted to fulfill is the 355-ship Navy plan and the oceans haven’t gotten any smaller and they need to be patrolled,” Hewitt said during the radio broadcast.
Inhofe promised Hewitt that when he returns to the Senate after the midterm elections, he would meet and schedule an Armed Services hearing on growing the fleet size with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who is set to remain the subcommittee chairman of the sea power panel.
“He’ll be the chairman of the committee that will be dealing with that. We’ll sit down and Roger and I will put together a hearing specifically on that,” Inhofe said.