President Obama took office with a Navy reduced from a Reagan-era peak of 594 active ships in 1987 to 285 in 2009 — a US fleet smaller than before World War I.
Most naval experts agree we need a minimum of 320 to 350 ships — barely one for every 400,000 square miles of ocean — to police the sea lanes on which international trade depends and to protect our strategic interests. But Obama wants to retire another 11 ships.
Worse, if budget sequestration starts to kick in this January — and the president and Democrat-controlled Senate are doing nothing to stop it — the Navy may have to shrink by another 60 ships and subs, with two full carrier battle groups going into retirement. Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert has testified the cuts would inflict “irreversible damage” on the once-proud US Navy.
Pacifists might cheer that news. But the purpose of a strong fleet isn’t to fight wars but to prevent them by defusing potential crises, policing global hot spots and deterring would-be aggressors with a forceful US presence at sea and (thanks to our carriers) in the air.