Leadership: Big Bills Sink Ships

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November 10, 2007: Despite being the largest and most powerful navy in the world, the U.S. Navy wants to increase its size by 11 percent, to a force of 313 ships. These would include a force of 66 nuclear subs, consisting of 14 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), 4 cruise missile submarines (SSGNs), and 48 attack submarines (SSNs). New subs cost over $2 billion each. Twelve aircraft carriers would be protected by 88 cruisers and destroyers. New carriers cost over $5 billion each and new destroyers cost over a billion bucks each. A force of 55 Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) would provide muscle along the coast, as well as mine sweeping capability. The LCS was supposed to cheap, but costs have now escalated to over $300 million each. The Marines would have 31 amphibious ships, and a dozen new amphibious and sealift-type ships for pre-positioned equipment. New amphibious ships are costing over a billion dollars each. The biggest obstacle to this expansion is the rapidly escalating cost of new ships. This is not a new problem, but one that became acute a century ago, when the first "modern" warship (the battleship) was developed and built in large quantities. At the time, these ships were, after adjusting for inflation and economic conditions, as expensive as nuclear aircraft carriers are today. Because of the cost issues, and the shift of attention (and money) to the army, the navy may have to shrink, rather than expand.

 


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