The U.S. Navy probably won’t shrink in the coming decade. Neither will it get any bigger as the Pentagon absorbs at least $450 billion in cuts compared to earlier projections. A Navy that holds steady at 285 combat vessels plus roughly 110 support ships would represent a small reduction compared to plans forged roughly five years ago that anticipated an increase in the combat fleet to 313 vessels.
The possible flattening of the Navy’s force structure is not yet official policy. The sailing branch “will have to re-look” the 313-ship plan, Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said at a recent conference in Virginia. A formal plan for a steady-state fleet could take another three years to hammer out, Ferguson said.
The looming change in long-range planning comes on the heels of the Barack Obama administration’s recently unveiled new Defense Strategic Guidance. The military “will have a global presence emphasizing the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, while still ensuring our ability to meet our defense commitments to Europe, and strengthening alliances and partnerships across all regions,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta wrote in the 16-page document.