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THE U.S. NAVY HAS TOO FEW SHIPS

As the U.S. land wars in the Middle East fade into obscurity, Washington is slowly bracing itself for the naval age that will dominate the twenty-first century. Inherently a maritime nation, the future of America’s role in the world will be determined by its sea power. In light of China’s entrance into the global commons, no other military branch is flexible enough to respond to Beijing’s challenge and maintain the balance-of-power in the Indo-Pacific. But despite its unmatched technological superiority, the Navy has the numbers problem as a result of self-inflicted disarmament of the United States. Due to perceived low-level maritime threats such as piracy and smuggling in the seas, the U.S. Navy was reduced dramatically in the aftermath of the Cold War. There were simply no great power competitors to challenge the American primacy in the seas. The Soviet Union was gone and the Russian navy came close to extinction. Former Secretary of Navy John Lehman’s six-hundred-ship Navy had prevailed over the adversary. As such, by 1998 the Navy had fallen to 350 ships from 592 (1989). Furthermore, the 2012 White House strategy called for decommissioning additional warships including several Ticonderoga-class cruisers. Then Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus justified the reduction citing the growing technological capabilities of American warships. In 2015, the U.S. Navy fell to 271 ships.

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