DANIEL VAUGHAN: America Is Falling Behind In Global Naval Arms Race

 April 8, 2024

For the better part of a century, our Navy has been the critical difference between America's military power and the rest of the world. The U.S. Immediate Response Force can deploy soldiers anywhere in 18 hours or less. Our ability to do that and control the seas has enabled the unrivaled economic prosperity enjoyed in America and powers much of the world. That edge is losing ground to China and the U.S. bureaucracy.

In a blistering report of U.S. shipbuilding abilities, multiple classes of Navy vessels are delayed from being built. "In total, the Navy forecasts a cumulative delay of more than 11 years, at a time when lawmakers and Pentagon planners agree that the Navy needs to be modernizing and growing for a potential conflict in the Pacific."

Shipbuilding delays are impacting both ships and submarines. Even more disturbing is that delays are impacting the design stage of shipbuilding. Some ship designs aren't even at 80% completion, pushing off any possibility of building indefinitely. 

To cushion these delays, the Navy is extending the life of other vessels. "The Navy has developed a plan to extend the service lives of up to five Ohio boats to provide the service with some cushion. The short extensions would give each boat three more years of service life. Last year, Navy officials said they had several years and budget cycles before they need to make a final decision about whether or not to perform the service live extensions."

According to Politico, the report was such a disaster for the Navy that it stopped delivering briefings on the ship delays and answering questions. During the lone press conference after releasing the report, the Navy's senior acquisition executive said, "We don't have detailed plans of action, milestones, initiatives — we are identifying and deeply looking into where we are now in a 'get real, get better' approach ... We found that we have issues that need to be resolved,...But we don't have all those things completely nailed down yet."

These are not confidence-boosting words from the world's leading naval superpower. Politico added, "The delays in so many programs critical to how the U.S. projects power across the globe is virtually unprecedented, and is the result of decades of underinvestment in shipyards and relying on a shrinking number of shipbuilders to build the nation's fleet."

The Navy does have challenges. No one doubts that. Supply chain issues from COVID-19, a trade war with China, worker shortages typical of the rest of the economy, and more contribute to problems across the board. However, the long list of reasons offered rings hollow when the risks from China are real.

Recent analysis finds, "The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) recently assessed that the China's shipbuilding industry fields 232 times the shipbuilding capacity of the United States, representing almost 50% of total global shipbuilding capacity." China is using that building capacity to create a larger quantity of ships, the quality of which is less known.

Current estimates say that China could have 440 ships by 2030, making it the largest naval force in the world. Whether or not China will possess an effective naval force capable of exerting force globally remains to be seen, but the raw numbers can't be ignored. They build while our bureaucrats offer excuses.

China is sending out increased patrols in the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, pushing back against U.S. and other allied forces. Their intentions are clear, and it increases tensions in the region and on the sea.

Combine all this, and you have a slowing American ability to build new ships and upgrade old ones to contend with a rising threat in the Pacific. In World War II, Germany was considered to have better quality tanks and equipment than the United States. However, the United States was able to overwhelm the Germans with sheer manufacturing force, something that the Nazis couldn't touch.

The United States Navy may have superior naval forces to anything the Chinese can muster. We've also never seen China use its naval forces in any meaningful theater of war. The Chinese could be good, or they could crumble like we've witnessed from the Russians in Ukraine.

Whatever the case, you must control what is under your direct governance. The United States can't control the quality or capabilities of the Chinese when it comes to ships, submarines, or anything else. We can only manage our ability to manufacture and upgrade our naval forces.

What is under the United States' control is failing very concerningly. Fixing that needs to become a top priority as the United States faces wars in Ukraine and Israel in one direction and with China in the opposite direction. The Navy should also be forced to answer questions about what is happening. Clamming up and shutting off oversight suggests there's a worse story to tell behind the already lousy reports.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
© 2015 - 2024 Conservative Institute. All Rights Reserved.