Esper said the determination to increase funding was made after he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist and other officials this week to review the findings of a Defense Department assessment report on the needs of the Navy to retain dominance through 2045.
"We must increase funding for shipbuilding," Esper said. "This means we must get back to the same levels of spending dedicated for shipbuilding in the Navy budget that the sea service committed during the Reagan era - 13 percent, as compared to today’s 11 percent. This is something both, the Secretary of the Navy and I are committed to pursuing."
The Defense Department aims to have more than 355 ships, both manned and unmanned, in service, he said.
Esper explained that the future US fleet must have survivability in a high intensity conflict, ability to project power and demonstrate presence as well as capability to deliver precision effects at very long ranges, among other attributes.
China intends to dominate Asia as a world-class military by 2049, Esper said, adding that the Defense Department sent a report to Congress last week stating that China has the largest navy in the world.