The man who will likely lead the Navy under Trump means business in the South China Sea

US navyUS Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. BlackA family enjoys Gator Beach as an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is underway off the coast of Southern California.

When President-elect Donald Trump spoke about expanding the Navy to 350 ships in his September national security speech, he’s most likely taking his cues from Randy Forbes, the Republican Congressman from Virginia poised to take over as Secretary of the Navy in a Trump administration.

“The 350-ship navy, cruiser modernisation — those naval planks [in Donald Trump’s policies] are lifted from Randy Forbes,” a source familiar with the matter told USNI News.

The president appoints a Secretary of the Navy to “conduct, all affairs of the Department of the Navy,” which includes the Marine Corps. Trump, during his speech, said he wants to greatly increase the size of both the Navy and the Marines, and to generally “rebuild our military.”

Additionally, Trump mentioned buying newer destroyers to bulk up the Navy’s fleet of 272 ships, most likely with Zumwalt class destroyers, but the Navy has struggled so far to field those.

Forbes, a military adviser to Trump during his campaign, serves as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and makes it plain on his website that he is “one of the nation’s most forceful advocates for a strong national defence.”

In September, Forbes asserted before Congress that “more than rhetoric is required to counterbalance China’s growing military power and assertiveness,” referring to China’s artificial island building and militarization in the South China Sea, as well as China ignoring an international court ruling that said its claims in the region were illegal.

China has declared “no fly” and “no sail” zones in international waters in the Pacific that have gone unchallenged by the US in the last few years. Increasingly Beijing bullies ships from its neighbours, some of whom are US allies.

F 35C Zumwalt navyUS Navy/Andy WolfeAn F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) piloted by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert ‘Champ’ Guyette II, a test pilot from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016.

In September 2015, Forbes wrote a letter urging Obama to increase the Navy’s presence in the region, and has been bullish on the prospect of projecting power in the South China Sea for some time.

Forbes has advocated an increased US presence in the region, as well as modernising and increasing the size of the Navy’s fleet as China makes spectacular progress in updating its own navy.

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