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U.S. News & Politics

How Years Of Decay And Neglect Crippled America’s Navy


For centuries, it has been a critical objective for any global power to maintain a battle-ready navy. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt gave perhaps the best argument for American sea power during his second annual address to Congress. While evoking elements of his “big stick diplomacy,” Roosevelt signified the influence naval powers hold in cultivating peace among nations, stating “A good Navy is not a provocative of war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”

In the decades that followed, the U.S. Navy proved itself instrumental in fulfilling Roosevelt’s sentiments and establishing the U.S. as a leading global power. During World War II, U.S. naval forces were critical in liberating the Pacific from imperial Japan. The Navy also continued its peacekeeping role throughout the Cold War, preventing potentially disastrous conflicts in the Taiwan Strait, assisting U.S. allies during the Korean War, and stymying Soviet aggression, to name just a few.

In the years since, however, America’s fleet has suffered tremendous setbacks. Failure to maintain a sizeable fleet and meet shipbuilding targets have become growing issues that — despite their importance to U.S. national security — have been ignored by large swaths of America’s political class. If left unaddressed, these problems threaten to upend America’s maritime power.

The Fleet and Shipbuilding Today

The size of the U.S. fleet has shrunk considerably following the end of the Cold War, with ship retirements outpacing production of new vessels. In 1991, for instance, the Navy was comprised of 529 ships. By 2001, that number had shrunk to 316 and would continue to drop to a staggering 271 vessels by 2015.

As of Monday, the Navy has a total battle force of approximately 300 ships, still substantially short of the 355 required by federal law.

But it’s not just the size of the Navy that’s decreased. Since World

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