The moment House Republican defense hawks have been waiting for is finally here: the new House Speaker is one of them. And he wants a bigger Navy.
So argued Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who is entering his first full week in the top job, in an interview Monday with Hugh Hewitt.
"As you know, I'm a defense hawk," Ryan said. "I very much believe we need a bigger navy. Big time."
Ryan singled out the hotbed of contested waters and man-made islands in Southeast Asia as a reason for putting more ships in the water.
"South, East China Seas," Ryan said. "We can go on and on through the threat assessment."
Ryan's comments on the need for a larger Navy may seem odd for a lawmaker from a state hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. But the defense industry is no stranger in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, including the Navy contractors. Oshkosh Defense, a firm headquartered in a city by the same name in the Badger State, was recently awarded the contract to build the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the planned replacement for the Humvee.
Maybe more surprisingly, though, Wisconsin is also the site for the construction of multiple Littoral Combat Ships, which are being built in part by Marinette Marine near the northern border with Michigan. The LCS, designed to operate in shallow waters, also has been touted by defense officials as well suited for the contested waters in the Asia Pacific.
Ryan's comments are some of his strongest to date on national defense. Earlier in the year when the House took up its budget resolution, Ryan straddled the line between GOP budget and defense hawks. He was one of only 105 lawmakers to vote for a failed budget amendment that would have held the spending to sequestration levels with no additional money for defense, but then joined with his colleagues to narrowly adopt an amendment to increase defense spending by adding $38 billion through a separate war fund.
And in his interview Monday, Ryan touted a two-year budget signed by the president on Monday as good for defense.
"Like this budget deal or not, it did give us relief on defense. And what matters more for defense than one or two billion is predictability and certainty over a two-year cycle," Ryan said.
"So they've got some predictability to get us through the Obama days, but we're going to have to rebuild this budget after Obama," he added.
Ryan praised the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Texas Republican Mac Thornberry, as "a fantastic chairman" and "the person who needed to be in this job." Ryan acknowledged, when asked, that he would like to see a specific GOP plan for the size of the military by weapons platforms.
"I think we need to say what a strong military looks like," he said.