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Randy Forbes is the Favorite for Trump’s Secretary of the Navy

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus speaks with Randy Forbes in Forbes' office on June 13, 2013. Forbes is the likely pick for a Trump administration Secretary of the Navy. US Navy Photos

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus speaks with Randy Forbes in Forbes’ office on June 13, 2013. Forbes is the likely pick for a Trump administration Secretary of the Navy. US Navy Photos

THE PENTAGON — An advocate for a 350-ship Navy and $20-billion annual shipbuilding budgets and a vocal opponent of Chinese aggression in the Western Pacific will likely be the pick for the next Secretary of the Navy in a Donald Trump Administration, USNI News has learned.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is the person most likely to take the Department of the Navy’s top civilian position to lead the Navy and the Marine Corps, a person familiar with Trump’s national security team told USNI News on Wednesday.

“I don’t think there’s anyone else,” the source said.

While much of Trump’s national security policy is still forming, the specific goals he has given for the Navy echo positions Forbes has expressed.

In a September speech that discussed ballistic missile defense (BMD), Trump highlighted the controversial modernization of the decades-old fleet of Ticonderoga guided-missile cruisers as a priority for his future administration.

“We propose to rebuild the key tools of missile defense, starting with the Navy cruisers that are the foundation of our missile defense capabilities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The Obama-Clinton administration tried repeatedly to remove our cruisers from service, then refused to modernize these aging ships,” Trump said during a Sept. 7 speech in Philadelphia.
“We will start by modernizing our cruisers to provide the ballistic missile defense capability our nation needs; this will cost around $220 million per modernization [in 2010 dollars] as we seek to modernize a significant portion of these 22 ships. As we expand our Navy toward the goal of 350 ships, we will also procure additional modern destroyers that are designed to handle the missile defense mission in the coming years.”

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.). Naval Institute Photo

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.). Naval Institute Photo

The issues highlighted in Trump’s speech have been areas of focus for Forbes during his time as chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee,

Forbes has clashed with the Navy over the service’s cruiser phased modernization program and as the hearings on the rate the Navy was modernizing its Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. He also was supportive of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 350-ship Navy plan that has also been put forth by the Heritage Foundation.

“The 350-ship navy, cruiser modernization – those naval planks [in Donald Trump’s policies] are lifted from Randy Forbes,” the source said.

That sized navy would be the driving force of an ongoing rebalance to the Pacific “with teeth,” the source said.

Forbes “is eminently qualified to be Secretary of the Navy,” Mackenzie Eaglen with the American Enterprise Institute think tank told USNI News on Wednesday. She said Forbes’ and Trump’s goals for the service would be similar to former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman and President Ronald Reagan – to put as many ships under contract as possible to plus up the Navy’s numbers quickly.

That would likely mean a reversal of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s decision to cap the Littoral Combat Ship and frigate buy at 40 ships back to at least 52, speed up production of nuclear carriers and sustain or increase the production rate of two Virginia-class attack submarines a year.

Forbes has also called for an annual $20-billion-a-year shipbuilding budget.

As of Wednesday, the Navy has 272 deployable battle force ships with a goal of reaching 308 ships by the early 2020s, according to a 2014 force structure assessment (FSA) that matched the Navy’s capabilities with its national security responsibilities.

However, the Navy has submitted a new FSA total to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which is only ten percent lower than the 350 Forbes-Trump goal – or about 315, a U.S. defense official told USNI News on Wednesday.

“We need to move to about 346 to 350 ships. That will be a huge direction. Because by increasing that capacity and capability the next president is going to have more options on the table for threats, which means we have a better chance of not just being successful but of protecting American lives,” Forbes said in Oct. 29 interview with Defense News.

Before Trump’s victory, Forbes was serving out his term in the House after losing a Virginia primary battle in June following a redistricting ruling.

  • Ed L

    Very Interesting, I wonder if the 272 deployable ships includes the LCS?

    • Western

      I think the LCS’ are the deplorable ships. Our new Navy will need target vessels…

      • James Meuleveld Sr

        New SecNav should decrease the time it takes to build a carrier by ordering 1or 2 additional shifts at Portsmouth. Taking 4 yrs to construct a carrier is ridiculous; especially with tech. advancing so quickly. Look how fast we built ships in WW2. Plenty of folks looking for work.

      • publius_maximus_III

        A basket of deplorable ships.

  • bc

    Nice, timely article, Sam. Would you consider though that perhaps it’s a stretch to infer that recent, smart decisions by Navy to reprogram and reshape LCS would be over-ridden by someone as intelligent, qualified and capable as Mr. Forbes, solely to plus up numbers quickly, or do you have other information leading you to the comment? kind regards.

    • tpharwell

      I think the answer to this question may easily be found by examining Mr. Forbe’s relations with Senator McCain. I don’t know the answer. But that is where I would look.

  • Curtis Conway

    “That would likely mean a reversal of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s decision to cap the Littoral Combat Ship and frigate buy at 40 ships back to at least 52…” wishful thinking . . . If the LCS is kept in its current configuration, we will know that the LCS Program is ‘corporate welfare’. It has little or no real teeth, and when the NSM is put aboard it will be a fatter target with little real defense, particularly against a determined attack by supersonic ASCMs. I do not see a Secretary Forbes putting up with LCS capabilities in its current, or upgraded form. Send them to 4th Fleet, US Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, SOF support, or turn them all into a combat MCM ship, but get them out of the Battle Group.

    Perhaps a 354 or 356 ship fleet, particularly if the US Navy returns to the Arctic Region with any persistent presence like a command ship, BMD ship, or USN Icebreakers that double as a Command & Control/BMD ship/Icebreaking MARDET platform (American Icebreaking Moskva w/angle deck).

    The priorities are to get everybody fixed (air/land/sea), and training back up where it should be to increase readiness. Send a letter over to the US Army with some input for the new small arms, and turn into a co-user of some technology that transcends service boundaries.

    • Sons of Liberty

      Keeping the LSC would be the worse decision Trump could make. How about we bring back the Perry instead. Better use of money and actual combat effectiveness.

      • Curtis Conway

        The single screw OHPs were the cost cutting compromise of its day. No, we need an all-ocean small surface combatant that is just a little more capable than the NSC, a real frigate.

    • Make that a nuclear powered Icebreaker!

  • ElmCityAle

    It will be interesting to see if Republican fiscal conservatives will make the Hawks in their party find a way to actually pay for such increases in the Navy’s budget – while still supposedly lowering taxes and lowering the Debt. Updating the TICOs is great – how do we pay for it? More ships great – how do we pay for it? If someone can make that math work, I’d like them to work on my personal budget next.

    • Jackie Allen

      That was my sentiment exactly. I love it all but how do we pay for ?

      • Patrick Bechet

        There needs to be an acceptance in conservative ranks of higher deficits and bigger debt in the short-medium term (3-4 years). You cannot get sustained GDP growth without taxes being cut, and there is a lag between the cut and an increase in tax revenue resulting in increased growth. In addition, spending will have to go up, the infrastructure and defence spending will exceed any small cuts to wasteful programs, and increases in growth that leads to more employment and a reduction in welfare spending as a consequence will also take time to get going. My problem with Obama deficits and debt was that the US got nothing for it. Hopefully Trumps deficits/ debt is a down payment on increased GDP growth and more tax revenue down the line, as well as stronger defence.

        • misantropo_za

          Can you cite a case study that shows tax cuts = higher sustained GDP? I see Kansas as an example of supply side economics and it is not pretty.

          • Sons of Liberty

            Yes the increase in GDP during the Reagan years for one. Another is the increase with JFK and his supply side tax cuts.

          • Jay

            And Mississippi — and Louisiana — and Wisconsin. Voodoo economics. Raygun raised taxes 8 times — and still created a disaster. Trump is Raygun on steroids — without competent adults like Baker and Schultz to put lipstick on the pig.

          • Gen. Buck Turgidson

            Stick with the Clintons ,,hope is near

        • phil_am

          The thing is we’ve been promised the “higher deficits and bigger debt” bringing growth and higher tax revenue later, many times. And while there has been some higher revenue the spending is always kept way ahead of tax revenues. I really want to see us increase revenues, one great place to start, make the freeloading European, Asian and Mid-East countries pay for the defense we provide them. At least for now we can provide the blood (manpower), but they need to be providing the treasure (to buy and pay the folks). In a fair world those countries would be providing several hundred billion dollars for the defense we provide them; a few countries may have to be sacrificed to get their attention of the others though.

      • The Plague

        There should also be a choice made between the services. USAF fighter wings should be cut, Army divisions should be cut, Navy fleets should be expanded. Not all services are created equal and the globally mobile self-sustaining Navy is far more important than its land-constrained siblings.

        • Gen. Buck Turgidson

          1930s BS

    • honcho13

      Yeah, maybe IF they can get the money! What Trump wants and what Trump gets are two distinctly different animals! We’re already a bazillion dollars in debt and I doubt if a Republican congress going to be willing to accept more and more spending in the red!

      Trump should listen to that ol’ Rolling Stones song: “You can’t always get
      what you want!” ‘Nuff said!

    • Start by funding only things that the Government is supposed to fund. You’ll find LOTS of money if you just spend monies on things that the Government is Constitutionally responsible for…

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Not paying 200 billion in ransoms,,clear your mind and work on your own stuff

  • Patrick Bechet

    The first item on my wish list is that he rename all the ships Mabus has named after people who don’t deserve it rather than Navy and Marine Corps heroes. Rename Gabby Gifford’s, Harvey Milk, Cesar Chavez and the other TAK-Es named after social justice warriors!

    • MLepay

      Don’t think there is a precedent for doing something like that and besides it would seem to be a waste of time and precious resources in doing so not to mention pretty offensive to the sponsors and related families.

      • Patrick Bechet

        Ships get renamed all the time before commissioning. Not that I care about offending the sponsors and other people associated with those names!

        • MLepay

          Can you provide an example of a name change, I was not able to locate any. Class changes yes, name changes that were not eventually put on another hull no. And you will have to excuse me as I am not yet used to being in this new era ushered in by this last campaign season where offending anyone simply because their beliefs/experiences are different than your own is now considered acceptable.

          • Patrick Bechet

            You’re excused.

            As for your question, off the top of my head I recall that CVN-75 was laid down as USS United States but changed to USS Harry Truman before she was launched. This was a compromise to get CVN-76 named after Ronald Reagan. Last I looked, no other ship has been named USS United States.

          • MLepay

            Thank you, had forgotten about that, but the original was not for a specific person, but yes an entire country for sure.

          • Sons of Liberty

            Again for those who payed for CVN75 being named after ourselves to have that changed is an insult. I need a safe zone maybe we can get a MEU to storm a beach and create a safe zone.

          • KenofSoCal

            Tarawa class LHA’s :LHA-3 Belleau Wood (ex-Philippine Sea); LHA-4 Nassau (ex-Leyte Gulf) & LHA-5 Peleliu (ex-Da Nang, ex-Khe Sanh)

          • MLepay

            Thank you but these were for battles and not a specific person, which I suppose could cause some emotional strain on those that participated in them to see the name change.

          • Sons of Liberty

            These followed the rules of ship naming and for the men’s families that lost their lives in these battles I’m sure they were offended. Milk should stay he actually served the rest need to go and we need to strengthen the naming aystem so it’s not a political game like it’s been under Mabus.

          • entropyk

            Yes indeed. I got my PH at Khe Sanh during the siege in ’68. I was not even aware of the honor of a vessel being named for the somewhat infamous battle. Learning in the same instance that there was, and now is not, did make me somewhat saddened. Oh well…

          • Mike

            During WWII several ships were renamed

    • The Plague

      Amen to that.

    • Mike

      Also bring back rates and NEC’s and shitcan the gender neutered job titles.

    • Mike Smith


  • Western

    Sounds positive. Looking forward to his choices for Joint Chiefs.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Forbes replacing Maybus is a huge upgrade.

    • Jim Raimondo

      Except if you were elected based on blowing up Washington and are trying to get away from insiders who primarily have their own (and their district) interests at heart, then Forbes, as ‘qualified’ as he might be, might not be your guy.

    • Sons of Liberty


    • Steve

      Anyone replacing Maybus is a huge upgrade. Actually, no on replacing Maybus is a huge upgrade.

  • eddie046

    Sound like some good ideas, and virtually anyone other than Mabus is a huge improvement! Let us all hope that many of the PC decisions of the last 8 years can be reversed, starting with the decision to eliminate the rate system.

  • The Plague

    I hope the Donald will put more gas into the Ford class. I know that nowadays subs are all the rage, but I believe the future importance of carrier-aviation is underestimated. If investment into the big-deck CVN is allowed to fall by the wayside, the nation will find itself unpleasantly surprised when land based airfields outside the CONUS (not-so-)suddenly become a commodity that’s hard to come by.

    • Mike

      First they have to get all the bugs worked out of the Ford’s electrical system so it can become operational.

  • Hall

    Amen replacing Mabus. Huge move to begin with. Good riddance!

    • publius_maximus_III

      “No” Secretary of the Navy would have been better than Mabus.

      • publius_maximus_III

        And I meant “No” in the sense of “being without one” — not in the sense that he was the best thing since buttered bread.

  • Gene Hannan

    I totally disagree with his selection. We have a boat load of retired Navy personnel who would be much more qualified to run the Navy, rather than having another career politician who has never walked the walk and knows nothing about sacrificing family and home time preparing for deployments and making deployments which are usually extended. Same goes for SecDef. We don’t need another career politician and bureaucrat to run our defense department. Time for a fresh start.

    • Sons of Liberty

      Problem with that is there some prohibitions on retired officers being appointed for either 7 or 10 years post retirement. Frankly at least Forbes cares about the actual services and has a record supporting funding and mission.

      • Lugnut

        It doesn’t have to be a former CJCS or even a former Admiral. We should have someone who served at least for a little while and knows what it is like to be in our position.

  • John B. Morgen

    We do not know if Randy Forbes will be the new Secretary of the Navy or not. President-elect Trump has not made his lists know to the Public. So wait and see.

    • Sons of Liberty

      I for one would herald the choice. To actually have a SECNAV that cares about the Service. A SECNAV who’s special interest is that actual service he leads would be refreshing.

      • John B. Morgen

        Again we must wait and see who President-elect Trump has in mind because everyone here wants to know. Yes, we want a new secretary who really cares about the Department of the Navy than just some political appointee.

  • Kim Chul Soo

    Ray Maybus is a progressive POS and has no place commanding any of our armed forces. Outs is a war fighting machine not a social experiment.

  • old guy

    The next SECNAV will have much BIGGER problems than ship names. The Navy is in a sad state, both organizationally and functionally. With junk like DD1000, LCS, V-22 (in all its forms), and wrong Anti-swarm plans, it might as well consist of nothing but battleships.