HAMPTON, Va. - As talks continue on expanding the Navy to 355 ships, Sen. Tim Kaine says the region needs to already be preparing.
Kaine hosted a summit with military and local leaders on Friday morning at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. He says the goal was to talk about things the area should be doing.
The defense budget passed in May lays the groundwork for the Navy to increase its fleet to 355 from about 280.
Kaine says a lot of the preparation has to do with training a workforce with the skillset necessary to build and maintain the ships.
"The challenge is between now and the 2030s we've got to have the workforce for ship repair and ship building," Kaine said. "The good news is we're making the commitment. We have the dollars, but we can't just assume the workforce will be there."
In order to get the workforce, local leaders say they need to make ship building careers more appealing to kids and erase any negative stigmas that could be around the profession.
"It's an issue that we have got to figure out," said Craig Quigley, the executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance. "You can throw all the money at ship building and ship repair requirements, but if you don't have the people that make it happen, you're dead in the water."