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Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the Navy is continuing its years-old plan to add 20 new Aegis-equipped missile-defense ships to its current fleet of 21 anti-missile destroyers and cruisers by 2016.

However, he insisted the increase was not meant to counter the new Chinese DF-21D missile, a weapon Pacific Command chief Adm. Robert F. Willard and other leaders said recently is ready for use and threatens U.S. ships in the Western Pacific.

Adm. Roughead, instead, said the threat of such missiles is “global” even though no other nation has a conventionally armed ballistic missile that can maneuver at ultra-high speed and hit a moving target the size of a ship at sea.

“We have made significant investments in ballistic-missile defense, increasing the number of ships in our inventory, up to 41 by the end of this defense plan,” Adm. Roughead said, referring to the five-year plan that ends in 2016.

The comments came in response to questions posed during a hearing on the Navy budget by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican.

Mr. Bartlett asked what the Navy was doing to counter China’s sophisticated anti-ship missile, noting that “we’re struggling to develop defenses against that.” He also asked about China’s new stealth jet, the J-20, which appears designed to “release wave-skimming, supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.”

“What do you make of [this] confluence of events? And what contingency plans are you pursuing?” he asked.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ducked the question and instead commented on the lawmaker’s question about the strategic problem of China’s purchases of oil reserves by noting that the Navy is shifting to the use of non-fossil fuels to reduce oil dependency.

Adm. Roughead also avoided focusing on countering Chinese weapons, claiming sophisticated weapons proliferation is a global problem and “not just about China.”

To increase anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be used against China’s rapidly growing submarine force, the Navy is buying two Virginia-class submarines a year. “There is no better anti-submarine warfare weapon than the Virginia-class submarine,” Adm. Roughead said.

A defense official who is critical of the current policy of not responding to China’s military buildup with more weapons and faster deployments said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is behind the effort to prevent the military services, specifically the Air Force and Navy, from taking steps needed to counter Chinese advanced-weapons deployments.