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The decline of the Navy's fleet size

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  • Phelps Hobart
    The informative website SeaPower - SeaPower Ambassador, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SeaPower, received a NLUS 1st Place Mackie Award in 2008 (presented at
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 2010
    The informative website SeaPower - SeaPower Ambassador, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SeaPower, received a NLUS 1st Place Mackie Award in 2008 (presented at the NLUS 2009 Convention). It was initiated in early 2004 and has over 770 posts and over 40 links, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SeaPower/links, many with links of their own. For information on the United States' military might at sea and adversaries/potential adversaries there are few others as comprehensive. It is specifically designed for public speakers and researchers on the subject.
    It is not a Navy League website.
    Web Yeoman
    Pacific Central Region, NLUS
    ----- Original Message -----
    Sent: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:33 AM
    Subject: January 11 Navy Times Article

    In my January SeaPower President’s Message, I returned to one of the Navy League’s most significant Maritime Policy concerns, the decline of the Navy’s fleet size.  This issue is of course a key emphasis in both of our Grass Roots presentations to Members of Congress.   As you know, the title of the January message was “A Dangerous Course Change?”, and it raised the question as to whether the administration was no longer supporting the concept of a 300+ ship fleet that had been the standard for the past almost one hundred years. We last did a similar President’s Message in September 2008 entitled “A National Security Failure,” and the January President’s Message picked up on that earlier message and renewed it.


    When the Navy League's legislative affairs team assisted me in the preparation of the January message, we knew that some media might pick it up, and there was always a risk they would take it out of context.  This occurred today when the Navy Times paraphrased much of the January message, but did a little editorial interpretations of their own in their attached article.  Their title “Navy League: Obama on path to 240-ship fleet,” although true in one sense, is not what was said in the January message.  The only point the January message had was if the administration continues with the insufficient shipbuilding funding of their FY10 budget, then we will eventually have a fleet of just 240 ships.  The Navy Times comment indicating the Navy League stated that the administration “has quietly ditched the Navy’s goal of building of at least 300 ships” was never stated in the January SeaPower message.  For comparison purposes, I have also attached another copy of the January message. 


    The declining fleet size concern remains a serious one for all members of the Navy League, and increasing publicity of the issue is generally helpful, even with a couple of questionable interpretations.   The Navy League will continue to work with both the administration and the Congress to promote the key issues in our Maritime Policy such as the 313 ship fleet.  Let me take this opportunity to thank each of you who are actively involved in our Maritime Policy work, or our Grass Roots legislative affairs activities in support of the sea services.




    Dan Branch

    National President

    Navy League of the United States

    Dangerous Course Change?

    By Daniel B. Branch, Jr.

    National President

    SeaPower Almanac 2010 (Jan 2010)


    It appears the Obama administration may have abandoned the concept that a 300-plus ship Navy is critical to the security of the United States.  If true, this will be the first administration in almost 100 years not to support the concept.


    Early signs of this lack of support emerged during the 2008 presidential campaign, when the Navy League asked both candidates — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — whether they supported the need to return the fleet to 313 ships, the minimum number the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say is needed to meet our national security requirements.  The Obama team responded that the “current force structure is adequate to support the Navy’s missions,” referring to a fleet that at the time consisted of 283 ships.


    Further evidence continued to mount last spring, when the administration submitted a shipbuilding budget that would only support the construction of eight ships.  In just a few short years, this level of funding will produce a 240-ship fleet, given that a typical Navy warship has an expected life of 30 years.


    Every president since before World War I has made it clear that a Navy of more than 300 ships is essential to keep the peace, defend our shores and safeguard America’s global interests.  Clarification is needed from the current administration regarding its support for this important issue.


    Keeping the world’s sea lanes open has never been more important, especially given our reliance on imported oil and the globalization of trade.  Potential threats are increasing, and other countries are significantly upgrading their naval fleets.


    China is building a modern, 200-plus ship Navy with a focus on submarines.  Russia has resumed naval deployments and recently announced plans to build five new aircraft carriers.  India recently announced that it will build 100 new warships over the next 10 years.


    We have been a global leader for more than a century because we have been a strong maritime nation, but recent inadequate shipbuilding budgets are jeopardizing our global viability and security.


    Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, pointed to the current concerns regarding fleet size when he told the American Shipbuilding Association on March 3: “We forgot that lesson of history that only the nations with powerful navies are able to exert power and influence, and when a navy disappears so does that nation’s power.”


    To maintain a Navy of at least 300 ships, the United States must fund and build at least 11-12 ships per year.  Recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service indicate it will take from $25 billion to $27 billion per year for the shipbuilding budget to reach and maintain a 313-ship Navy, a minimum number the Navy may even raise.  However, the administration submitted a budget of only $14.7 billion for ship construction in fiscal 2010.


    For this administration, there is a question as to budget priorities. Certainly, increased funding for infrastructure and environmental improvements has merit.  However, when compared to maintaining a strong Navy able to carry out its worldwide mission, meet critical challenges in today’s complex world and protect our national security, our budget priorities should be carefully reviewed.  The United States needs to have a Navy large enough to meet our critical challenges around the world and safeguard America’s interests.


    It is imperative that our government leaders carefully examine the amount to be spent on shipbuilding, beginning with the fiscal 2011 budget.  Through our Grass Roots program, Navy League members are encouraged to contact their elected leaders in Congress and ask them to return our Navy to the 313 ships that our military leaders believe is the minimum essential for national security.





    Navy League: Obama on path to 240-ship Fleet

    By Philip Ewing - Staff writer, Navy Times

    (Posted : Monday Jan 11, 2010 5:22:37 EST)


    The Obama administration has quietly ditched the Navy’s former goal of building a fleet of at least 300 ships and is now on course to field a fleet of only 240, the head of the Navy League has charged.

    In a January message to members, Navy League president Daniel Branch said that during the 2008 campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s team responded to the Navy League’s questions about fleet size by saying “the current force structure is adequate to support the Navy’s missions,” referring to the fleet at the time of about 283 ships.

    “Every president since World War I has made it clear that a Navy of more than 300 ships is essential to keep the peace, defend our shores and safeguard America’s global interests,” Branch wrote. “Clarification is needed from the current administration regarding its support for this important issue.”

    The Navy League is urging its members to press their representatives in Congress to support a larger fleet, he wrote — just in time for the Navy Department to submit its budget amid a flurry of other updates and reports, including the Quadrennial Defense Review, due in February. The precedent set last year won’t cut it, he wrote.

    “To maintain a Navy of at least 300 ships, the U.S. must fund and build at least 11 or 12 ships per year,” requiring as much as $27 billion per year, Branch wrote. “However, the administration submitted a budget of only $14.7 billion for ship construction in fiscal 2010. For this administration, there is a question as to budget priorities.”

    His voice added to the chattering around Washington in advance of this year’s budget, which some observers fear will include deep cuts that could not only reduce today’s fleet, but also kneecap the Navy’s shipbuilding and aircraft-buying plans.

    “In reality, everybody knows a 313[-ship] fleet is a pipe dream based on defense investment — the numbers indicate the president of the Navy League is right,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Top officials in the Pentagon and Congress spent so much time working on a formal fleet goal, they never built deep enough support for it, she said.

    Still, Navy officials said the official goal is still at least 313.

    That target was the product of then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen, who unveiled it early in 2006 — after what he said was extensive analysis — and told Congress later that same year he expected the Navy to hit it by fiscal 2012. Mullen’s successor, Adm. Gary Roughead, said he wanted 313 as a “floor,” with the final number being even higher.

    But in early 2009, when the Navy unveiled its budget request for the new fiscal year, Rear Adm. T.J. Blake said everything, including the 313-ship goal, was “subject to change” in the QDR and other Pentagon studies. And although the Navy was required by law to submit 30-year shipbuilding and aviation plans with its budget, it didn’t.

    Since then, Roughead has reaffirmed his goal of 313 or more ships. As of Jan. 7, the Navy’s official count of its fleet was 287 ships.


    Front Page: SeaPower - SeaPower Ambassador, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SeaPower
    MISSION: The Sea Power Ambassador program was an initiative of the American Shipbuilding Association and the Navy League of the United States to educate the American public and our nation's elected officials on the need to rebuild the fleet of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard to meet America's security requirements in the 21st Century. On 19 October 2004, the Navy League severed its ties with this program (see post 268).

    CRISIS: America faces a national security crisis. The U.S. Navy fleet has dropped from 594 ships in 1987 to 280 ships today. This number represents the smallest Navy in our Nation's history since 1917. For 12 years, the nation has been ordering on average six new warships a year. This is the lowest rate of naval ship production since 1932, and if continued, our Navy will shrink to a fleet of 180 ships. While the Navy's fleet is on a dive course, the need for a larger and more capable fleet is more imperative now than at any other time in our history.

    RESOURCES: This site provides information about the maritime fleet, the shipbuilding industry, contractors, potential adversaries, and other items pertaining to the subject.

    INVITATION: Please join and use SeaPower as an aid to covey our message to our nation's citizens and government officials.

    Phelps Hobart
    President, Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    Vice President, Pacific Central Region
    National Director
    Navy League of the United States
    PMMC at cwo dot com | (916) 739.6949

    Note opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the position of the American Shipbuilding Association or the Navy League.

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