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New Steel Tariffs Not Derailing Plans for 355-Ship Navy Yet: Admiral

The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) transits the Mediterranean Sea, April 25, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Raymond Maddocks)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) transits the Mediterranean Sea, April 25, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Raymond Maddocks)

The Navy has seen minor cost jumps following the president's move to place steep tariffs on steel imports, but leaders aren't immediately concerned they'll derail plans to build toward a 355-ship fleet.

"It's something we need to be mindful of, but it's not something [that's] a big driver in current negotiations," Rear Adm. William Galinis, the head of the Navy’s Program Executive Office Ships, said at a Navy League event outside Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Some industry partners have expressed concerns about the tariffs affecting shipbuilding prices, Galinis said, but the change hasn't led to massive cost spikes.

"I think we're seeing some price increases, but ... we're not seeing a big change, at least at this point," he said.

Prices have spiked, according to The Washington Post, since President Donald Trump imposed 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

The Navy works to structure contracts in a way that allots for swings in commodities, Galinis said. That's not just true of steel costs but other materials too, such as copper for cables.

Two Democratic Virginia lawmakers warned earlier this year that increased steel prices would affect American shipyards.

Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters in March that "folks at the Pentagon are concerned" about the effects the tariffs would have.

And Rep. Bobby Scott warned that, if the costs of Navy ships rise, "taxpayers will have to pay more."

The Navy plans to increase its current fleet of 280 ships to 355 over the next three decades. It might be able to accomplish the goal sooner by keeping ships it currently has in service longer.

Plans include two new Virginia-class submarines, two new frigates and at least a couple of new cruisers or destroyers, according to a report submitted to Congress.

The Navy currently has 35 ships in construction or on contract, Galinis said. Five ships -- including a new destroyer and an expeditionary staging base -- have already been delivered this year, he added.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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