The U.S. Navy has finally and officially given up on long-standing plans to expand the fleet from today’s 285 major warships to 313 sometime in the next couple decades. Instead, the expansion will halt at 306 large ships, according to the latest Navy planning document, obtained by Defense News.
Officially, the lower goal is a result of careful analysis of U.S. strategy, the needs of regional commanders, ship service-life and the capabilities of the shipbuilding industry. (Navy officials anticipated the shrinkage last year.) “A 306-ship combatant force [is] the current requirement to enable [the] Navy to deter and respond to crises and war,” the sailing branch asserted. As the Navy sees it, it can do that by buying fewer surface warfare ships and more logistics vessels, as well as by pre-positioning warships in allied ports.
Unofficially, there is another huge factor: money. For all the talk inside the Pentagon about strategy driving budgets and not the other way around, the Navy is anticipating shrinkage right as it also anticipates playing a larger role in U.S. national security.