Same ships, different concept.
In 2006, the U.S. Navy announced its intention to build a bigger fleet, boosting its main battle force from 280 ships to at least 313 by the 2020s. “We need to stop getting smaller,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, then Chief of Naval Operations. His emphasis was on “presence” — that is, a large number of ships forward-deployed across the globe as a deterrent against pirates, smugglers, rogue states and potential peer competitors … a constant reminder of America’s naval might. It was a Navy designed for preserving the peace.
Just six years later, that plan is dead. Rising costs and budget cuts prevented the Navy from ever boosting ship numbers. Today the combat fleet is roughly the same size as it was in 2006. Last fall the Navy began backing away from the 313 number. And with the simultaneous release of the Obama Administration’s new Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2013-2017 budget outline, it’s official: the Navy will no longer pursue a bigger fleet, now or in the foreseeable future.
Indeed, CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert has stated the Navy is likely to shrink from its current level by 2025. Over the next five years the Navy wants to decommission early seven cruisers and several amphibious and auxiliary ships — a move that will require Congress’ consent. Planned shipbuilding rates have been cut, too, with several new submarines and auxiliaries bumped beyond 2017. For the next few years the Navy will maintain a force of around 90 major surface warships plus 11 aircraft carriers, nine large-deck assault ships and 50 or so attack submarines. Small combatants, amphibious docks, auxiliaries and ballistic-missile subs will round out the fleet.