May 31, 2007:
The U.S. Navy is having a hard time
convincing Congress that warship construction should be accelerated. The U.S.
fleet has been shrinking ever since the Cold War ended in 1991. Two decades
ago, the mantra was to create a 600 ship fleet. That changed after the Cold War
ended, and just before September 11, 2001, the fleet was down to 315 ships, and
now it's at 275. At the current rate of warship building, the fleet will bottom
out at 210 ships.
Congress is not alarmed at this because it's no
secret that the U.S. fleet is the most powerful on the planet. If you take into
account American technical and personnel advantages, the United States has over
half the naval combat power on the planet. While the admirals warn of a naval
threat from China, that's in the future, and no one is sure how far in the
future. The navy is also unhappy with
American ship builders, and the shoddy work they have done on so many recent
warships. While the navy would like to have more nuclear subs, it would rather
make the ship builders more efficient and reliable first.
The problem is that the U.S. Navy is a victim of
its own success. Coming out of World War II with the largest, and most
powerful, fleet in all of history, that situation hasn't changed much in the
last sixty years. Despite a challenge from the Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy kept
up, and pulled ahead of all contenders. Thus it's difficult to get more money
out of Congress when your naval power is already larger than all the rest of
the planets navies combined.