The Sun Herald has reported that 16 senators, including Mississippi Republican Trent Lott added their names to the list of lawmakers urging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to increase funding to the Navy in 2008 to pay for more ships.
The lawmakers told Rumsfeld the new ships were needed to counter an emerging threat from the rapidly expanding Chinese navy.
The request comes on the heels of a similar call last week by 69 members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Gene Taylor, a Bay St. Louis Democrat.
The group wants Rumsfeld to up the Navy's budget proposal to $14.1 billion in fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1, 2007. That figure represents the amount that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen says is necessary to meet the Navy's national security requirements.
Lawmakers pointed out that although the Pentagon's budget has increased by more than 50 percent since Sept. 11, 2001, shipbuilding funds have shrunk by nearly 17 percent.
The U.S. naval fleet currently numbers 280 ships, down from 341 in 2001. The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review conducted by the Pentagon endorsed building a larger fleet.
Some defense experts have predicted the Chinese navy will overtake the U.S. fleet in 2015. American shipbuilders have expressed alarm at the dangers posed by the shrinking American fleet.
source: The Sun Herald