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Rep. Randy Forbes is the top contender to serve as Navy secretary in President-elect Trump’s Pentagon, according to a source with knowledge of transition decisions.

Forbes, R-Va., is the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee and has been a long-time ally of the shipbuilding industry, which has a strong presence in his home district. He will not return to Congress in 2017 after losing his primary to Rep.-elect Scott Taylor.

Jerry Hendrix, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, is the leading candidate to serve under Forbes as undersecretary of the Navy, the source said. Hendrix is a retired Navy captain and author of the book, Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy.

Trump has said he wants to build the Navy up to 350 ships, a significant increase from the current 272-ship fleet. It’s a number backed up by Forbes, who also supports about a $20 billion-a-year shipbuilding budget. As chairman of the seapower subcommittee, he added about $2 billion in shipbuilding funding to President Obama’s fiscal 2017 request.



“I hope it is a down payment on the 350-ship Navy. [And] it is important for the rest of the world to look and see I’m not going quietly into the night with the dismantling of the Navy and we’re going to begin turning this around,” he said in an April interview with Defense News.

Forbes and Hendrix are also both supporters of the littoral combat ship, the total buy of which was cut from 52 to 40 ships in this year’s fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Forbes’ mark of the bill added one LCS above what President Obama had requested. In September, Hendrix also called for the Navy to build more basic frigates like the littoral combat ship in a National Review opinion piece.

Lockheed Martin and Austal USA are building their own classes of the ship. Senators grilled witnesses over the program’s cost and delays on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Forbes did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for Hendrix directed questions about the analyst’s potential role in the Trump administration to the transition team.

While Forbes and Hendrix are the leading candidates for the top two spots now, the source noted that final decisions also depend on retired Gen. James Mattis signing off, now that he will be nominated to be defense secretary.

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