As the Navy looks to expand the fleet to 355 ships, could mothballed ships be brought back into service?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A plan to increase the Navy's fleet size to 355 ships will be costly, but extending the life of some current ships and bringing back inactive ones could help achieve the goal.

The Navy released a new force structure assessment in 2016 calling for the the 355-ship fleet, an increase from the current fleet of 275 ships.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower in late July, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that meeting the 355-ship goal would cost the Navy about $26.6 billion annually.

"Fully funding additional ships in the near term would send a signal to industry and a signal of deterrence to potential adversaries, such as China," said Ronald O'Rourke of the Congressional Research Service.

That's 60% above the average amount Congress has appropriated in the past 30 years and 40% more than the amount budgeted for 2016.

During testimony to the Senate subcommittee, a panel of experts told members that the shipbuilding industry would need to make billions in upgrades to shipyards.

They were also told that the Navy could speed-up the fleet build-up by extending the life of current ships and possibly recommissioning ships that have been taken out of service.

Those ships, known as "mothballed" ships, could be problematic because they would need significant maintenance and combat systems would need to be upgraded.

"If 12 of the 21 ships described were returned to the active fleet within 5 years of initiating reactivation, this would leave a gap of 23 ships to achieve the 355 ship goal," said Jerry Hendrix, with the Center for a New American Security, before the subcommittee.

You can read the entire testimony on the Costs of Building a 355-Ship Navy here.