I came across this little tidbit from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) at DefenceTalk. The money quote, as it were, is this:
Perhaps the most troubling part of the new shipbuilding plan and the 2013 budget is that they simply build fewer ships. As little as five months ago, the administration said the Navy needed to construct 276 ships. Today: 268. While the difference seems slight, what it means is that with fewer new ships, the Navy will be forced to put increased stress and strain upon the rest of the fleet as older ships are kept in service past their intended retirement dates. Ships are already sitting out missions because of decreasing readiness, and with an increased emphasis on the Pacific combined with an older fleet, still more ships will be unable to meet their responsibilities at sea.
I cannot fault the AEIs logic. I can, however, fault the Pentagon.
The Navy’s problem is not that it has less money, but that it has forgotten how to buy ships. A cursory review of the procurement process around the Zumwalt-class destroyers and the new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) reveals a institutional breakdown. The Navy continues to buy vessels it cannot afford that lack the core capabilities that it needs.
I’m an advocate of a strong Navy, a member of the U.S. Naval Institute, and a past (and future) member of the Navy League. But I want a strong Navy that operates within financial disciplines, capable of procuring and fielding the force with equal eyes to effectiveness and efficiency.
We don’t need to write blank checks to sustain the most powerful armed force in the world. Indeed, I would argue that the opposite is true. Next to the U.S. Air Force, the Navy needs to learn that lesson most.