Critics have long claimed that the US Navy’s size has shrunk too low, the victim of short-sighted post-Cold War calculations and a lack of investment. Yesterday, the Chief of Naval Operations finally agreed. Speaking at an event in Washington, Admiral John Richardson told his audience that the rise of Russia and the spread of ISIS will take a larger force than planners envisioned:

The U.S. Navy will likely increase its requirement for a 308-ship fleet given the rapidly changing world security situation, including the U.S. battle against Islamic State, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Thursday.

Richardson said the Navy was reviewing an assessment completed in 2012 and updated in 2014, before Russia’s reemergence as a “global power competitor,” and the start of the U.S.-led campaign to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

“I would bet a paycheck that it’s going to be a number greater than 308 ships, just by virtue of the additive nature of the complexity and the contestants that are confronting us right now,” Richardson told an event hosted by Washington defense consultant Jim McAleese and Credit Suisse.

Remember that this topic came up in more than one Republican debate, although not last night’s event. Hugh Hewitt has repeatedly raised this issue since the start of the presidential campaign, getting the candidates on the record a year ago or more about right-sizing our navy and modernizing the entire nuclear triad. For the most part, GOP candidates have agreed that a 350-ship navy is a minimum requirement, given the current global situation, and that we are far behind the curve.

The explanation for Richardson’s new position (if it is such) seems difficult to swallow, though. Certainly there were many who saw the threat a re-emerging Russia posed by 2012 — in fact, Mitt Romney specifically predicted it during the presidential cycle that year, only to be ridiculed as someone living in the Cold War past. Russia had invaded Georgia in 2008 and had heightened its aggressive stance toward its former Soviet republics, and the only people who seemed ignorant of that were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who offered Sergei Lavrov a ridiculous “reset” button. On top of that, China had long made it clear that it was eyeing the Pacific Rim as its personal backyard, and the Arab Spring revolts began breaking down into chaos almost immediately in 2011.

So now that everyone has waited until these threats went from latent to acute, yes, betting a paycheck on more ships is a pretty safe way to go. The people who waited until those threats became acute to figure it out should be treated as if they bet all their future paychecks on it.

Addendum: Hugh pointed me to Ted Cruz’ speech on the USS Yorktown for the best explanation of right-sizing the Navy. So far I can’t find video of that speech, but Cruz has this plan on his campaign website:

China and Russia continue to develop and deploy increasingly advanced maritime fleets. While their navies are rapidly expanding the ability to project power offshore, we have reduced the number of operational aircraft carriers, the centerpiece of our naval forces, to just 10. America’s ability to effectively deter our adversaries, but rapidly and overwhelmingly project power in multiple theaters when needed, requires a commitment to 12 carrier strike groups. The United States must significantly increase the number of ships to at least 350, with an appropriate mix of large and small, surface and subsurface combatants that ensures we can counter our adversary’s anti-access/area denial strategies.

Once access into our adversary’s littoral region is accomplished we need the ability to project that power ashore; the U.S. Marine Corps must be provided sufficient sea and air lift capacity to conduct large-scale amphibious and air assault operations in a contested environment. The Marines are our first responders, the first to fight, in times of crisis. We need to reverse the cuts to the manpower of the Marines. I will commit to you this – I will not simply bow down to political correctness; I will also review the Marine Corps’ request for exemption from the policy of requiring women to serve in combat positions. …

Today, we face not just one, but many adversaries who would topple our great nation from its pedestal. And we face internal antagonists who seem content to let it happen, who insist that Defense spending be relegated to luxury status – something nice to have if we can afford it after all of their pet programs. Entitlement programs have soared in the past decade and reckless spending has spiked our national debt so high, that interest payments on our debt will surpass what we spend on defense within the next decade.

While we neglect our military modernization, Russia, China and Iran continue to invest heavily in theirs. Russia has announced aggressive plans to continue the modernization of their military; China has an indigenous aircraft carrier program, is aggressively pursuing the ability to project power far from its homeland, and for the first time can place intercontinental ballistic missiles on strategic submarines; and Iran has just been gifted $100 billion from the current Administration to fund their global terrorism. The result of this disparity is predictable: our adversaries cross line after line to see if the President will react. We recently watched in humiliation as our Sailors were held at gunpoint by Iranians. They were taken hostage the same day President Obama spoke ardently about his nuclear agreement with Iran; and yet he said nothing about the plight of ten Americans detained by that same terrorist nation.

Be sure to read Cruz’ Yorktown speech, which is heavy on specifics that fill in that framework.