The mission of the Sea Power Ambassador program is to educate the American public and elected officials on the need to rebuild the fleet of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard to meet America’s security requirements in the 21st Century.
Fleet Size Crisis
America faces a security crisis. The fleet of the U.S. Navy has dropped from 594 ships in 1987 to 294 ships today. This represents the smallest Navy in our Nation’s history since 1917. For 12 years, the Nation has been ordering just six new ships a year, on average. This is the lowest rate of naval ship production since 1932, and if continued, our Navy will shrink to a fleet of 180 ships. While the Navy’s fleet is on a dive course, the need for a larger and more capable fleet is more imperative now than at any other time in our history.
Your Support Is Our Future
Rebuilding America’s Navy and other sea services will only be achieved through an active, organized, grass roots education campaign led by Sea Power Ambassadors from the ranks of the shipbuilding industry, Navy League, labor unions, Surface Navy Association, Submarine League, Naval Academy Alumni Association, among other stakeholders and concerned citizens. The President, presidential candidates, U.S. Senators, and U.S. Representatives need to hear from multiple constituents through multiple means of communication that rebuilding America’s Sea Power should be a national priority.
Shrinking Fleet, Escalating Operational Tempo
Before September 11, we had allowed our sea power to shrink to a fleet of just 315 ships. Long before 9/11, Navy regional commanders were on record with the U.S. Congress and the Administration that they could not perform the growing number of missions without a larger fleet. They reported that combat missions in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo, humanitarian assistance in Somalia and Rwanda, preventing the Chinese from intimidating voters in Taiwan, peacekeeping in Bosnia, and additional missions in the Caribbean, West Africa, Albania, and Eastern Europe were stretching the fleet too thin.
They reported that their smaller fleet was forcing them to run their ships longer and harder, that they were having to leave strategic areas of the world uncovered to respond to contingencies in other hot spots, that they were having to share ships between theaters, that deployments were having to be extended, and that training and shore side leave for our Sailors and Marines were being cut short.
This operational tempo prior to 9/11 represented a 300 percent increase over the operational tempo of the Cold War. While missions were increasing three fold, the fleet of the Navy had been reduced to almost half its Cold War level of 600 ships.
Attaining Optimal Fleet Size
Since 9/11, Admiral Vern Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations, has testified to Congress that the Nation needs a fleet of no fewer than 375 ships to meet present and emerging threats.
But if the current build rate does not increase then the fleet will drop to 180 ships by 2024 – half the mission fleet size the leader of our Navy states is the minimum required for our security.
To reverse this alarming trend, the Department of Defense will need to invest in 12 new naval ships a year, and at this production rate, it will take 30 years to rebuild our fleet to the 375 ship level the Chief of Naval Operations says we need. The chilling question is: What threats and military challenges will America face during this 30 year period of enormous security risk exposure?
If we do not begin now to invest in our naval fleet, we may never be able to overcome more than a decade of underinvestment. Our surface ships and submarines take three to seven years to build, and that’s assuming that we keep all the thousands of skilled workers on the job and ready to work. And it’s not just the actual shipyard workers either. The yards depend on thousands of specialized suppliers all over the country, and if we don’t keep building ships at a sufficient pace, many of these companies will cease to exist and thousands of highly skilled engineers and craftsmen will be laid off, and their talent lost.
If the country loses our shipyards, marine manufacturers, and our skilled workforce, it would take an enormous investment and years – if it were even possible – to ever reconstitute the industrial base necessary to build America’s sea power fleet. Once lost, it is essentially lost forever.
As a maritime nation, the United States will no longer be a super power, and our freedom and way of life will be at risk if we cease to be a sea power.
That’s why the Sea Power Ambassador program is so vital. As Sea Power Ambassadors spread the word, the American people will become more aware of the danger and they will let their elected officials know that sea power must be a national priority.