The editors of the WSJ opine that, the next time the Navy gets in a fight, the decisions made by our president and his secretary of defense seem designed to ensure it is a fair one:
A ship can only be in one place at one time. So numbers do matter if the Navy is asked to chase pirates in Somalia, ferry humanitarian aid to Haiti, protect the Strait of Hormuz and keep a muscular presence in the South China Sea—to name a few of the recent and growing demands on the fleet. To cite another, the Obama Administration has also pivoted from ground- to sea-based missile defenses. This means that Aegis class cruisers must be parked in the Mediterranean to guard against an Iranian attack.
An independent bipartisan panel that went over the Pentagon’s last Quadrennial Defense Review in 2010 said that the U.S. needed a larger Navy. It recommended 346 ships, including 11 aircraft carrier groups and 55 attack submarines (compared to only 48 in current plans), which it justified by invoking—as President Obama implicitly did earlier this month—the rise of China.
“To preserve our interests, the United States will need to retain the ability to transit freely the areas of the Western Pacific for security and economic reason,” the panel wrote. A 313-or-fewer ship Navy doesn’t look imposing from Beijing.
We’ll be lucky to keep 250. At which point, we’d be lucky to win a fair fight.