Meet our incredibly shrinking Navy:
Between the Pentagon’s proposed reduction in warships currently in the water and its redefinition of what counts as a “battle force” ship, [Rep. Randy] Forbes said, “they’re now building paper ships to fight real-world enemies” — and essentially lying about it.
Shrinking budgets may be forcing hard choices on the federal government, but Forbes believes the Obama administration is imposing needlessly painful choices on the Pentagon without being honest about it. The outspoken and ambitious Virginia Republican, in the running for chairman of HASC, is particularly incensed about aircraft carriers — icons of American power that are built and overhauled exclusively in his home state — because the 2015 budget request punts the decision about whether to refit or retire the USS George Washington.
Without the Washington, the Navy’s carrier fleet falls to a historic low of just 10 flattops. Administration officials say they may buy back Washington in fiscal 2016 if Congress rolls back the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration (which is itself politically unlikely), but Forbes won’t buy it.
“We say we’re not going to reduce our carriers down from 11 to 10,” Forbes fumed in a HASC hearing with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus earlier today. “In reality, Mr. Secretary….we’ve made the decision to cut back from 11 to 10, we’re just waiting until maybe after November [i.e. the elections] or something to announce it. But you’ve taken all the steps [and] the actions to take it out.”
I warned over a year ago:
Naval traditions are difficult to come by and easy to lose. We operate the best carriers in large part because we’ve been doing it longer than anybody else, and, most importantly, we’ve been doing it continuously. China has been trying for a couple decades now to get a working carrier, and has only just recently made their first (and only) carrier landing. That was on a “practice” ship that will probably never be able to fight. This stuff is really, really hard.
The job the Navy does, even in peacetime, is vital, too. Trading powers that can’t maintain the sealanes don’t stay trading powers for long. Before you object, Japan and the United Kingdom do have immense and powerful and experienced fleets — it’s just that most of the ships sport the American flag.
What I’m saying is, eliminate Army brigades if we must. Make the Air Force do more, with less, and faster. But this landlubber can’t say it enough: Do not shrink the Navy.
At this point the best you can hope for is that the harm this Administration is doing proves not to be irreparable.