The shipbuilding industry has always been critically important to those of us living on and around the Gulf Coast. Our area has a proud tradition of building warships and supporting the military.
For example, we build the Littoral Combat Ship and Expeditionary Fast Transport at Austal in Mobile. Important military vessels are also built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula and Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City.
Given the importance of shipbuilding to our area, it should not come as a surprise that I am a huge advocate of the United States Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. But, my support is about much more than just supporting the local economy.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with two important nationwide organizations: the Surface Navy Association and the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition. In my talks with these organizations, I spent much time outlining why it is in the best interest of the United States to build up our fleet.
The Constitution gives Congress the express authority to “raise” an Army, but it says Congress is to “provide and maintain” a Navy. This is an important distinction that makes clear our Founding Fathers’ intention for our country to consistently have a fully capable Navy fleet.
One of the top reasons for having a strong Navy relates directly to our economy. 90% of world trade goes by sea and at least four million jobs in the United States are connected to sea trade. Who helps keep these sea lanes open and free for commerce? The United States Navy.
Over 80% of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of the sea. That is a pretty remarkable statistic that demonstrates just how important it is for the United States to have the ability to freely navigate the sea and respond to issues.
For example, when a disaster like the tsunamis in Japan or the earthquake in Haiti occurs, the world needs the United States and our Navy to respond and provide assistance quickly.
A lesser known issue relates to the world’s communication systems. 95% of all voice and data are transferred under the ocean by cable. It would not take much for our adversaries to disrupt these cables and bring a lot of our daily lives to an abrupt stop.
In Congress, I am honored to serve on the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. This position allows me to be involved in all discussions about the future of our nation’s fleet and the need to project strength around the globe.
We currently have only 274 ships, and a recent Navy Force Structure Analysis found the need for 355 ships in order to meet the most critical demands. That is why I am so pleased President Trump has made clear his support for a 350 ship fleet.
Now, I am proud to be a staunch proponent for less federal spending, but I believe we can make the investments needed to build up our military while also making cuts in other, less critical areas. In other words, we can be fiscally responsible at the same time we are building up our Navy.
In fact, President Thomas Jefferson was one of our country’s greatest advocates for a smaller government and less spending, but even he understood the importance of maintaining a strong Navy. During his presidency, he grew the Navy to protect the flow of commerce around the globe.
So, I think we can, and we must, make real progress in building up our Navy. The safety and security of the American people and the success of the economy depends on nothing less.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.