Rethinking the 600-Ship Navy in Light of Gramm-Rudman

by Kevin N. Lewis


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This paper discusses a crucial policy question facing the United States — whether the proposed Navy buildup from a fleet of 500 to one of 600 ships makes good sense, or whether budget resources would be better spent in other ways. The most expensive element of the proposed increase will be the addition of three vessels to the aircraft carrier force. The cost to maintain each of these (with its escorts, support vessels, aircraft, and crew) runs at a minimum of $75 billion over its 45-year lifetime. Proponents argue that with the additional carriers, the U.S. Navy could deploy to advanced positions much closer to Soviet Navy concentrations and deal a decisive offensive blow very early in a war. Thoughtful analysis shows, however, that the United States should instead invest in forward air and land theater forces to better defend key allies, trading partners, and vital raw materials. Higher priority should be given to modernization of the entire current U.S. posture — air support, ammunition, weapons, intelligence, new technologies, and reserves.

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