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Five areas where the fleet could be in trouble:
■China: A rising adversary
■Budget cuts: Beltway battles do damage
■Fleet size: Running the numbers
■Industry: Can the yards do the job?
■Risk aversion: Are leaders encouraged to play it too safe?
Have your say: We’ve asked the experts, now have your say — is the fleet getting weaker? Send your thoughts to
and they could appear in an upcoming issue.
The budget debacle
Why it’s hurting the Navy: The fleet has gone through the first of what could be 10 years of budget cuts, which could top $100 billion. This may force admirals to scrap up to three aircraft carriers, dozens of warships and tens of thousands of sailors. Navy officials and defense experts argue these across-the-board cuts are senseless and will force the service to make decisions driven more by cost than strategy.
Key example: Navy fliers have become adept at close-air support missions, soaring above Iraq and Afghanistan on bombing and support missions. But their skills at dogfighting, which they would need against a sophisticated adversary with a modern air force, have languished during that time. Budget cuts are now imperiling that, one former top fleet readiness official warns. “Instead of taking air wings and improving their air-to-air skills, ... we’re bringing them down to the [tactical] hard deck, which is just barely enough to fly safety because we don’t have the money,” said Vice Adm. Peter Daly, the former No. 2 at Fleet Forces Command. “That is the insidious nature of this situation.”
Counterpoint: Some experts believe a smaller, more agile military can maintain its effectiveness — and is necessary after a decade of booming defense budgets and mounting national debt. A smaller Navy would be able to meet a mission set adjusted for this strategy.
Key stat: Sequestration cuts may wreck current budgets, but the end result will leave defense spending near 2007 levels — still north of $500 billion a year. Some observers say the Navy’s portion of that amount is more than adequate to maintain a global force.