Home » Aviation » U.S. Aircraft Carrier Deployments at 25 Year Low as Navy Struggles to Reset Force

U.S. Aircraft Carrier Deployments at 25 Year Low as Navy Struggles to Reset Force

USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transits the Pacific Ocean while underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations on Aug. 4, 2018. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated to include an addtional statement from the Navy as well as an explanation of how USNI News tabulated its data.

THE PENTAGON – Aircraft carriers – the most visible tools of U.S. military power – are spending more time in maintenance and at home even as the Pentagon has declared it’s entered a new era of competition with China and Russia.

According to a USNI News analysis of more than 50 years of carrier air wing deployments over the last 15 months, the Navy has seen the lowest number of carrier strike groups underway since 1992, the year following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

*Year to date USNI News Graphic

The Navy has deployed about 22 to 25 percent of its carriers since 2013. That total — which excludes training missions and exercises — is down from a 28-percent average for the rest of the era of the global war on terror. In 2018, to date, that number has been down to an average of about 15 percent of the Navy’s carriers committed to operational deployments.

For 22 days this summer, the Navy did not have a full carrier strike group deployed anywhere in the world available for national tasking, the service confirmed to USNI News. That’s the longest gap in the years USNI News studied.

In a late Thursday statement, after publication, the Navy said it was prepared to deploy forces at any time.

“The Navy is the nation’s global maneuver force and has the capability and capacity to respond to worldwide requirements at any time,” Navy spokesperson Capt. Greg Hicks told USNI News.

How We Counted:

In analyzing the deployment numbers of U.S. carrier strike groups, USNI News used a specific methodology that measured operational combat power.

The totals used in this story do not count training exercises, certification cruises or other qualification underways, but rather only include operational carrier deployments focused on national tasking.

For example: For 22 days this summer — under those counting rules — the U.S. did not have a fully certified carrier strike group underway available for national tasking.

During that period USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway certifying its airwing and not available for tasking. Also in that period, USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was participating in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise and not in direct control of its escorts. Neither of those underway periods was counted in the USNI News counting of full carrier strike groups capable of national tasking.

According to service leaders, the drop in presence comes as the Navy is struggling to pay off the maintenance tab for the carrier force that the Pentagon ran up during the 17 years of the global war on terror.

*Year to date USNI News Graphic

“After 9/11 – and all those evolutions for the ground team, our focus was supporting the ground fight, which meant we were operating that force a lot, and when you operate the force a lot it eats up a lot of your cash, it eats up a lot of your service life,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told USNI News in an interview last week. “The Navy got smaller to help offset the cost of a lot of those things. So, modernization wasn’t coming along at the same pace as it might have, with forces that were faced with the adversary every single day. Our job was to support [ground forces], and we have done it really well. But it’s against a team that’s maybe a minor league team, when it comes to maritime forces, not the major league team that we want to be ready for.”

The Chinese and Russian navies are those major league teams, and both have been expanding their maritime forces while the U.S. Navy largely marked time in a supporting role.

U.S. carrier strike group operational deployments from June 2017 to September 2018. The underways depicted do not note training exercises such as this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise. USNI News Graphic

“This has all been building up over the last 17 years through overuse of the carrier force and naval aviation and a desire to have more forces ready,” former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work told USNI News in a recent interview.
“When we kept two carriers in the Persian Gulf for a period of time, we kept telling the senior leadership that this was going to have a downstream effect, and it would really put a crimp maintenance-wise, and there would be gaps both in the Pacific as well as the Middle East. That is coming home to roost.”

Now, the service is breaking with almost 20 years of practice in where and for how long it sends its carrier strike groups. For example, the Navy hasn’t operated a carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf for six months and instead used the recent East Coast deployment of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to operate in the North Atlantic.

Officials say the moves are a signal to adversaries that the Navy is focused on high-end conflict, but at the same time, the new posture marks a significant break with decades of U.S. naval strategy that stressed the importance of almost constant presence in the world’s hot spots.

Dynamic Force Employment

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson delivers remarks during the CNOs’ 23rd International Seapower Symposium (ISS) at the U.S. Naval War College on Sept. 19, 2018. US Navy Photo

In May, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters the Navy was starting to use a new deployment scheme based on Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ new National Defense Strategy mandate of operational unpredictability, called dynamic force employment.

When the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group got underway in April, it didn’t head for the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. has had a consistent carrier presence for decades.
Instead, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and its escorts paid a quick visit to the Eastern Mediterranean to strike Islamic State forces in Syria, and then spent the rest of its short deployment operating with its British and French counterparts in the North Atlantic before returning to port unexpectedly after just three months deployed. Truman spent two months in port and returned to sea on Aug. 28.

“Secretary Mattis is deadly serious about this,” Work said. “He wants to be more operationally unpredictable, and the Truman deployment was supposed to be the poster boy for this.”

The Navy highlighted the unpredictable nature of the Truman deployment, but there is evidence the Navy is not making satisfactory progress catching up on deferred maintenance. On the East Coast, maintenance on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) has already exceeded its expected six-month period and will extend into early next year, USNI News reported Monday. The delay, without other changes to schedules, pushes back the repair period of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) for an indeterminate period.

Delays in carrier maintenance writ large has forced the Navy now to make choices in where it sends its forces, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told USNI News in an interview last week.

Repair delays “created the need to reduce presence somewhere for the need to reset the force in the short term,” he said. “Dynamic force employment allowed them to reduce presence in the Persian Gulf and argued that it was to create more uncertainty for adversaries, and then they did these deployments to the Atlantic instead.”

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87), attached to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), attached to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28; and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60) transit the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 30, 2018. US Navy Photo

As part of the new dynamic force employment scheme, Mattis has also done more to temper the appetite of combatant commanders for constant naval presence and instead forced those commanders to think more strategically, Clark said.

Combatant commanders “get used to having a standard presence every day, and then they focus on security cooperation and training as opposed to thinking ‘I have to think strategically on how to counter Chinese and Russian gray zone activities’,” Clark said. “Maybe my dynamic force employment is a way to help uncertainty so China and Russia day-to-day don’t know what we might do.”

VCNO Moran said the COCOMs are learning to work inside the new boundaries of the strategy.

“Ultimately the Secretary of Defense is employing that force differently under this construct, and so this coordination has to occur,” he said. “What we’re seeing is there’s a blurring of the lines across COCOMs, which is healthy. They’re talking to each other, they understand that forces may be able to cross boundaries, so they have to work together with forces on either side of those boundaries–so boundaries are really kind of evaporating when it comes to how you operate the total force.”

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran speaks to sailors and guests during an all hands call at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on July 23, 2018. US Navy Photo

The new scheme has benefits for the Navy in the short term. Throttling back on the presence in the Middle East and Truman’s non-traditional deployment will buy time for the East Coast carriers to catch up in maintenance, Clark said.

However, while the trajectory of Navy readiness is improving, there are acute problems that will make improving the health of the aircraft carriers a challenge that will take decades to fix.

Navy Readiness Taxed

Lt. j.g. Morgan Dankanich, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) work on repairs on Sept. 21, 2018. US Navy Photo

During the support operations of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy spent itself into a readiness deficit by using high-end weapon systems designed to take on peer adversaries against less sophisticated forces.

“I didn’t have a full appreciation for the size of the readiness hole, how deep it was, and how wide it was. It’s pretty amazing,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer told reporters last month.
“You have a thoroughbred horse in the stable that you’re running in a race every single day. You cannot do that. Something’s going to happen eventually.”

When Mattis took the reigns of the Defense Department, he instituted a department-wide readiness drive with key investment in resetting forces, including almost $2 billon in supplemental readiness money in Fiscal Year 2017 to tackle almost 20 years of deferred maintenance on ships and aircraft.

Despite a boost in defense spending by the Trump administration, the backlog of ships now in line to be repaired after years of neglect are stressing the capacity of both the Navy’s public yards and the private yards who have been contracted to help clear the backlog of maintenance. Only 35 percent of ships in the private yards are coming out on time, and only about 45 to 50 percent are coming out on time from the public yards, Naval Sea Systems Command commander Vice Adm. Tom Moore said last week at the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium.

“It’s important to keep in mind that I have 55 ships coming into maintenance availabilities in the private sector in 2019, and 2018 only 35 percent ships I have in availabilities are expected to move on time,” Moore said.
“Right now, we’re not delivering on everything we need delivered, and going forth we really need to deliver, and the pace of change is only going to get faster.”


USS Nimitz (CVN-68) transits the Persian Gulf, Oct 17, 2017. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s standard for strike group deployment has been the so-called two-plus-three model: two carrier strike groups deployed and three ready to surge with about a month’s notice.

That standard was developed in the early 2000s as part of the Fleet Response Plan championed by then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark and mandated by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

The underpinnings of FRP and the subsequent Optimized FRP – championed by former U.S. Fleet Forces Command heads Adm. Bill Gortney and Adm. Phil Davidson – are based on the ability for the Navy to keep surge forces maintained and ready for a period of time after the deployment.

“The whole purpose of the Fleet Response Plan was to allow better surge readiness. In the late 1990s we were very, very stuck on the six-month deployment – and if you remember during Kosovo, during Operation Allied Freedom, there was a carrier in the Mediterranean, it did its six-month time hack, it’s time for them to come home. Everybody was going, ‘we’re in the middle of a war, how can you do this?’” Work said.
“So when Vern Clark came in, he said, ‘I want to be able to have more capability in surge. I want to have more carriers available.’”

However, the Navy burned through readiness and the potential ability to surge carriers was taxed by combatant commanders who expected a heavy carrier presence – especially in the Middle East. For example, then-Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Jim Mattis insisted on having two carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf while he oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to the use of the force, maintenance lapses in public yards exposed the fragility of the FRP scheme and left the service struggling to make the plan work without the necessary maintenance, CSBA’s Clark said.

“The problem was that readiness was expensive. The war with Iraq and Afghanistan created pressure on the budget, followed by sequestration, and it made it impossible to keep the readiness up during the non-deployed times. As a result, we ended up with FRP in name only,” Clark said. “Even in OFRP, we weren’t paying off the readiness.”

Carriers and the Public Yards

The service has been helped by the influx of readiness money to help fix the backlog of ships.

“The Navy’s increased readiness by funding ship operations, depot maintenance, aviation depot maintenance, spares, flying hours to 100 percent of the requirement, or whatever industry can take as an absorption level,” Navy Secretary Spencer said last month.

However, the service is facing problems money can’t solve – or at least solve quickly.

The single largest bottleneck to carrier deployments is the performance Navy’s four public shipyards – the only yards that are qualified to repair the service’s fleet of nuclear-powered carriers.

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) prepares to pull into Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. in 2017. US Navy Photo

Shortfalls in the public yards have been responsible for 1,300 lost operational days for aircraft carriers from 2000 to 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report on the shipyards. That is the equivalent of seven six-month carrier strike group deployments. Just measuring from Fiscal Year 2015, the Navy lost the equivalent of a year of carrier availability due to maintenance overruns.

“The current capacity and capability of the shipyards’ drydocks will not support future operational needs,” reported the GAO in 2017.
“The Navy projects that the shipyards will be unable to support 73 – or about one-third – of 218 maintenance periods planned for the shipyards over the next 23 years, including five aircraft carrier and 50 submarine maintenance periods.”

The shipyards, some that predate the founding of the country, are plagued with antiquated infrastructure; a younger workforce that is just beginning to stabilize after years of layoffs, hiring freezes and retirements; and a lack of capacity to handle the number of ships the Navy needs to repair.

Capt. Kyle P. Higgins, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), addresses the crew during an Aug. 18, 2018, all-hands call on the flight deck. Dwight D. Eisenhower is undergoing a planned incremental availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard during the maintenance phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. US Navy photo.

On Saturday, the commander of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) announced to his crew and their families that the carrier would not leave the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., from a planned maintenance period until early next year. The decision will triple the length of the availability that was supposed to have ended in February. The delay will have a cascading effect on USS George H.W. Bush’s (CVN-77) repair period and could force the Navy to rethink its upcoming deployment schedules.

For a carrier strike group of 5,000 sailors, a minimum of five ships and up to 70 aircraft, the maintenance and training cycles are a complex matrix of individual and unit certifications that suffer when a maintenance period goes long.

“All of these things are a concert, and if you have any one part of that orchestra that’s not working, it’s not going to play that music well,” Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, told USNI News in an interview. “If you have a deployment that has to happen, it’s all of these ships that have to come together, it’s these squadrons, it’s the whole element of what happens with the carrier strike group. If you miss that, you miss days of availability for deployment, and that continues to reverberate and it pushes itself down the line and you have to make that up – and that’s where the Navy finds itself today.”

For its part, the service is optimistic of the ability of the public yards moving forward.

Earlier this month, the Navy announced a 20-year, $21-billion plan to get the public yards back on track, but it will be difficult for the public to track the progress: this year the Pentagon classified the number of operational days the carrier force lost due to lapses maintenance, citing operational security concerns.

How Much Does Presence Matter?

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 flies over the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Persian Gulf. US Navy Photo

A key tenet of Navy operations after the Korean War was constant U.S. naval presence in the world’s hot spots as a deterrent to aggression, with the carrier strike group as the most visible tool.

“There is no replacement for a carrier strike group in any phase of any kind of conflict. There are multiple examples of when a carrier strike group was put in place to deter,” then-Director of Air Warfare Rear Adm. Mike Manazir said during a House Armed Service readiness subcommittee hearing in 2015.
“Cuba in 1961. 1996, through the Taiwan Strait, two carrier strikers were sailed through there. The deterrence factor to the United States is significant. The carrier strike group, and no, sir, because of the resources the nation puts into the carrier strike group, which is not only the carrier but the five destroyers, cruisers that go with it and all the people that go into that, it is worth that deterrence factor.”

The reduction in deployment does come as the air war against the Islamic State has reached a nadir and the requirement for air power in the Middle East is far lower than at the height of conflicts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Naval aviation was key to U.S. airpower needs in the Middle East, with carrier-based strike fighters responsible for up to a third of air missions. That commitment put not only a strain on carriers but also the strike aircraft in the air wing.

The Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet mission capable rates have been steadily declining since 2012, largely due to heavy use in support of Middle East operations. Less than half of the Super Hornet fleet is currently mission capable, according to Navy data obtained by USNI News.

“It’s not the just availability of the ship, it’s the availability of the squadrons. These aircraft have to go into maintenance, many time depot level maintenance. You can’t keep flying these aircraft at that rate,” Wittman said.
“We have to add more F/A-18 aircraft to the carrier fleet while at the same time we’re trying to ramp up and bring in F-35C into the inventory.”

USNI News Graphic

In the meantime, there has been a quiet shift in Middle East naval presence. There hasn’t been a carrier in the Persian Gulf since USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) left in March.

In September, almost a hundred Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats exercised in a rehearsal to block merchant traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. Instead of a carrier strike group being nearby, there was a single guided-missile destroyer and a handful of coastal patrol craft operating in the Gulf. And while the Russians conducted a massive naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month, the closest carrier strike group was on the other side of the Atlantic operating off the coast of Canada.

Navy leaders acknowledged that getting the force healthy would require choices for changes in how the Navy conducts its presence operations.

“When you’re resetting, there’s going to be tension, so the balance between those two things. How do you get a force ready to fight at the high end, and how do you reassure partners and allies on the other side? I think you can do both at the same time, but there’s going to be some working through this as we go,” VCNO Moran told USNI News.
“There are people who are perhaps a little concerned that there’s not a carrier in the Gulf right now, but there are other people in the [North Atlantic] that are delighted to see us back there because there’s other issues there as well, so I think we are trying to strike that balance.”

Clark told USNI News a key to the new reality of carrier presence was to clearly communicate with allies that things would be different.

German navy frigate FGS HESSEN (F 221) trails the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) while transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on June 29, 2018. US Navy Phto

“There’s an advocacy component to this, where you have to explain to your allies that your presence and the posture you see day-to-day is going to change,” he said. “That’s not a reflection of us retreating. It’s not a reflection of our lack of credibility, but it’s part of our overall strategy. You have to explain the strategy and make it clear to them and they will also need to see the benefit that sometimes they get more presence than they would have in the past.”

For Wittman, the Navy and the Pentagon need to take care to signal to adversaries the U.S. strategic intention.

“I do think it’s a big deal because it’s key for us to have presence, especially these days. We watch the behavior of our adversaries get increasingly aggressive, and without presence there it could encourage our adversaries to be even more aggressive,” he said.
“Just a delay in a carrier deployment or presence in and of itself – if this were a first-time occurrence, I would say that it’s not that big a deal, but I think you have to look at it in the broader perspective. What’s led up to this?”

Eric Sayers, who previously served as a special assistant to the commander at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and as a Senate Armed Services Committee staffer, said the troubles in carrier readiness should force the Navy to consider more presence missions that aren’t centered on a carrier strike group.

“I see an opportunity here for the Navy to have a conversation about how they bring significant combat capability to bear beyond the aircraft carrier,” he told USNI News this week. “Even when we don’t have a carrier sailing in the Gulf or the Pacific, we have other highly-capable destroyers, cruisers, attack submarines, and cruise-missile submarines forward-deployed globally performing a conventional deterrence mission for the nation. This often gets overlooked, as we are too quick to tally the days without a carrier deployed in a specific theater.”

YOKOSUKA, Japan (May 22, 2018) The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile-destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) arrives at U.S. Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka, Japan on May 22, 2018. US Navy Photo

For Work, having a more lethal fighting force is worth small gaps in U.S. carrier presence.

“When people say ‘when you reduce your presence, something will happen,’ this is such a large dynamic world and this is such a small minor input, I just can’t imagine any country saying ‘I’m going to risk a war with the United States simply because they don’t have a carrier out right now,’” he told USNI News, referring to the 22-day gap in U.S. carrier presence this summer.
“If they’re going to risk a war with the United States, it’s going to be, ‘hey, we think we can win.’ And they may pick a time when it’s advantageous, but the lack of a carrier isn’t going to be the trigger in my view. There are a lot of people who say absence does send a signal; I just don’t buy it.”

  • NavySubNuke

    When it comes to maintenance you can pay now or you can pay later —- but it always cost more later. More time, more money, and more work. Our ships, most of them anyway, are very resilient can be safely operated with minimal maintenance for far longer then they should ever be operated — but eventually the bill comes due. We are seeing the impacts of that now all across the fleet.
    Thanks for leaving us with a spent force desperate for relief Pres Obama and SecNav Mabus – maybe in a few years we will be able to dig out from the hole you left us in.

    • Horn

      I’d be more ready to blame all of Congress over the past 10 years than just one president. The President doesn’t make the budget; Congress does. Remember, more Republicans than Democrats voted for the BCA. Plenty of blame to be thrown on ALL of Washington and the private sector.

      • Duane

        Don’t confuse this guy with facts.

        Indeed, presidents never determine law (as in NDAA laws) or appropriations. Presidential budgets are always DOA at Congress. That’s how our Constitution works, both in theory and in practice.

        The GOP was in control of appropriations for the last 6 years of Obama’s two terms in office. Including enactment of the infamous Budget Control Act, or “sequester”.

        • Chiron


      • tim

        Yes … but potus sets the agenda!

      • NavySubNuke

        The budget isn’t actually at fault here – the fault is over use.
        As Bob Work states in this very article: “When we kept two carriers in the Persian Gulf for a period of time, we kept telling the senior leadership that this was going to have a downstream effect, and it would really put a crimp maintenance-wise, and there would be gaps both in the Pacific as well as the Middle East. That is coming home to roost.”
        Every time the administration chose to keep extra ships deployed when they should have been in maintenance they made this decision. This is firmly in the POTUS’s court as commander-in-chief. The budget situation certainly didn’t help but it would have happened regardless.

        • aloxxley

          The years in question here were 2012 to 2013. Three carriers–Eisenhower, Lincoln and Stennis–deployed to the Persian Gulf, returned to CONUS for rather short periods of time then headed back to the Persian Gulf for a second deployment. Bob Work says “we kept telling senior leadership that this was going to have a downstream effect”. Hey Bob!–you were the Under Secretary of the Navy. Does that count as ‘senior leadership’? The mark of a leader is not that you passed the problem ‘upstairs’ but what you did about the problem when it was yours to deal with.

          • NavySubNuke

            Again, POTUS is the CIC — if he tells the Navy to have those ships there no matter the cost then the Navy is going to get those ships there if it is in anyway possible.

        • bob

          I agree mostly.

          However, at some point the senior leadership should definitively tell the political leadership that “hey, you want us to do this, but this is how it’s going to impact our operations” . All too often, it appears that there’s a snappy salute, and an “aye-aye sir!” only to scream at everyone downstream to try and get the mission done. The Coast Guard was notorious for accepting missions without a commensurate increase in budget, manpower or hulls, and all three suffered. “Can-Do” only goes so far.

          Throw in Congresses and POTUS’ looking to cash in on a post-Cold War “Peace Dividend”, playing political games with budgets, or worse down-sizing in favor of the latest whiz-bang, and you have the situation we have now.

          I do not remember which senior commander from which branch who declared that the future of warfare would be limited, low-intensity conflicts, left to the realm of special warfare, that set-piece battles would no longer happen. Clearly, the only true way to project American power and protect American interests require more than just a few special operators, drones, or small ships.

          It took us a while to get into this mess, it’s going to take a while to dig out.

          • NavySubNuke

            July 7, 2014 the CNO and NR sent a joint letter to congress warning them that further cuts to the Navy’s nuclear budget would imperil the backbone of the fleet and that what congress was doing was no longer sustainable. They essentially threw their stars on the table and said this far and no farther.
            As far as I am aware that is the only such example of the last 20 years.
            Now, as far as disagreeing with POTUS and the NSC on how to allocate forces, those fights unfortunately aren’t going to happen in the public space and will only occur in classified meetings. We don’t actually know what the Navy said the impact would be, we don’t know if the Navy’s full objections were even brought up or if SECNAV Mabus squashed them along the way.
            But I agree – “Can Do” only takes you so far and then you break the force. That is what we have seen over the last year and will continue to see for the next few years as we fix this mess.

          • bob

            Hopefully the Congress finds the will to put aside the partisan bull, and get it done. Love him or hate him, but Reagan’s 660 ship Navy sent a message wherever it went. NFG

    • PolicyWonk

      Right – so somehow you’re still blaming Obama for inheriting a military that was already ruined, according to the Spring 2009 JCS Report on Force Readiness to the POTUS. Add to that, the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, while virtually every piece of hardware had been raided and worn out by the Iraqi and Afghan campaigns, all of which now required either replacement or overhaul (that included all of the service branches).

      At the same time, Obama’s efforts were stymied by the so-called GOP “leadership”, who constantly whined about being fiscal conservatives, deficit hawks, and their concern about the national debt (instantly forgotten the day Trump was elected).

      Yet somehow it was all Obama fault. I’d love to hear what you would’ve done otherwise, given the above: GOP incompetence destroyed the US military before Obama even took office – that is the official record.

      Obama was far from perfect – but under the circumstances he did pretty well, and left this nation in vastly better shape than it was in when he inherited it. That is also the official record, according to both the OMB and CBO – despite the GOP’s BRAVO SIERRA claims to the contrary.

      • NavySubNuke

        I’m guessing this 2009 report you mention is yet another document you have in your personal archives and can’t share so that no one can question or refute it right?
        No worries. Certainly the ground forces were broken by that point though as BoB Gates makes clear in “Duty” they were on the upswing already. Unlike the Army and Marines the Navy was actually in decent shape still in 2009. The real damage to Navy readiness and the deferred maintenance didn’t occur until Obama’s time in office.

        • PolicyWonk

          In decent shape up until 2009? Really? The administration of GWB channeled defense funding into ground forces to support both of the wars they were incompetently managing, while keeping the USN overextended and wearing out their aircraft.

          After they got done causing a massive defeat to Al Qaida in the GWOT, and the Great Recession due to economic mismanagement, it was painfully obvious to anyone that there were going to be substantial cutbacks. The USN blew it, by gambling sequestration wasn’t gong to happen, and opting to retain force numbers and cutting maintenance instead of reducing force structure. Then they lost the bet.

          The results are easy for anyone to see based on a simple cause and effect analysis, and the numerous information sources available today, that you’ve opted to ignore.

          But I am happy to share the 2008 US NIE, if we can figure out how to get the file to you.


          • NavySubNuke

            No worries, you have made your party affiliations and allegiance quite clear across multiple conversations I don’t expect you to change them now or to even consider the role democrats have played in the problems you highlight. Have a great day!

          • PolicyWonk

            Heh – yep – after being a dyed-in-the-wool Republican for many years, once they crossed into the realm of believing their own BRAVO SIERRA, dropping every platform that made it a political powerhouse, and divorced themselves from anything resembling fiscal responsibility, I had to quit and go independent.

            As a fact-based kinda guy, I’m unwilling to buy the BRAVO SIERRA they shoveled wholesale at Obama (though I’ve scorched him as well when I thought he was wrong). After all, if a democrat had so grossly mismanaged this nations affairs like Bush did, and a GOP POTUS pulled off a recovery like Obama did, they’d be screaming it from the rooftops.

            Have a very awesome day, also!

        • Rocco


  • Ed L

    Time for a SAG’s like the USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Momsen (DDG 92), USS Decatur (DDG 73) did in 2016 in the South China Sea. Yes SAG’s a cruiser, two or three DDG’s a couple of Frigates Plus an LCS or two with signal enhancement to attract the inbound vampires. Oh forgot the SSN need one of those too

  • Duane

    Carrier deployment is an interesting metric, but not determinative. We have other ship types that do presence ops.

    However, the real problem is the fact of our aging carrier fleet. As it gets older the availabilities will become longer and more uncertain, it’s unavoidable. Speeding up carrier construction from one every 5 years to one every 3 or 4 years would help quite a bit.

    Also, it’s not just the carriers, it’s the air wings too. The very low operational availabilities of our carrier aircraft, specifically the Super Hornets, is simply unacceptable at around 50%, and as recently as a year ago just 33%. We need to have that number up at least in the 80+ percent range.

    And finally, hopefully we will never again have to relearn how stupid it was to invade Iraq and open up Pandora’s Box in the middle east. We simply cannot afford to waste our military assets, people and equipment, in such loser wars. What we are doing now in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria is OK, we will always need to be involved in stability ops and taking out bad guys who do not respect national boundaries like ISIS or AQ. But invading sovereign nations like Iraq to impose our will, and thereby invoking the “Pottery Barn Rule” (you break it, you buy it), is just plain dumb and wasteful. We are still paying the bills today for a decision made 15 years ago.

    • tim

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing is it not? With that skill set one should play the lottery!

      • Rocco

        You got hindsight right! As in Behind!!

      • Duane

        Hindsight is far better than no sight, or self-delusion.

        Actually, the first Bush got it exactly right in Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. He built and led a coalition to defeat Saddam Hussein, drove him out of Kuwait, destroyed most of Saddam’s military, but left Saddam to stew in his own juices.

        The neo-cons, however, could not stand the fact that Bush 41 “didn’t finish the job”, as they kept saying over and over and over again over the next decade. They convinced Bush 43 that it was his legacy and obligation to finish the job that his dad didn’t.

        Bush 41 was smart, Bush 43 was stupid.

        Learn from history. Pick the better model, and follow it.

        • Bush completely messed up in Desert Storm. For the sake of political convenience he left Saddam more than enough military power to continue threatening his neighbors and killing his political opponents, necessitating two decades of US no fly zones and military operations, culminating in the invasion of Iraq.

          If Bush had finished the job in 1991, it would have been vastly easier as we would have had unquestioned international support, been facing a single enemy at a time, and would not have been fighting a well developed international network of Islamic terrorists. Instead, he and Clinton both kicked the can down the road and let the problem grow.

    • Rocco

      You have no idea what your talking about liberal

      • Duane

        You have no idea what you’re talking about, period. And the war in Iraq was not a liberal vs. conservative thing. A GOP president convinced nearly all Democrats to vote to authorize his stupid war. We all know the results – we live them every day.

        • bob

          Rocco, I’m as much of a hawk as the next guy when it comes to military action to defend Americans or American interests. Problem is, we went into Iraq with the purpose of regime change, and had no plan for what to do afterwards. We were ignorant of the conditions on the ground, the nature of Iraqi society, the tribal and familial nature of the power structures, the Sunni vs. Shia conflict. All things that we needed to know. And we capped it off with trying to introduce democracy to a people with no tradition of it. This thing was doomed from the beginning. Now, we can’t leave the region without worrying if some other group is going to seize power and become the next Taliban.

          I missed the collapse of the second tower by four minutes, lost 18 friends that morning, and have to wonder what else is going to show up at a doctors visit for the rest of my life. Personally, I would have gladly seen Afghanistan turned into a glass parking lot to end Al Qaeda. Would have been OK with smashing flat any country Usama Bin Laden chose to shelter in. I’d still like to send a couple of cases of white canes to Abbottabad for all the blind people there who couldn’t see the 6’2″ Saudi walking around. But, I have no idea why we needed to go into Iraq.

          We could have designated Iraq as an Air Force bombing range without putting so many of our kids in harms way for no good reason.. Eventually, the Iraqi people would have grown tired of it, and pulled Saddam down, just like every other despot. But we did not need to go there.

          Just my opinion.

          • Rocco

            Bob you answered me by Duane by accident I believe lol. I to lost friends on 911! One in the Airplane in PA. A friend’s daughter. I was a cross the Hudson. If you’re a NY er come visit me on the Gray Ship!

          • bob

            I’m in NY; still working, now at HQ, which brings all the “fun” you can imagine. Where is the Gray Ship?

          • Rocco

            Hell’s Kitchen! Keep it discreet!

          • Secundius

            Pier 88 I suspect, or the Tour Boat at Pier 81…

          • Rocco

            Now why did you have to but in??

          • Secundius

            Well! A Devilish Streak…

          • Rocco

            I did say discreet

          • Secundius

            For me it was a “Wild Guess” of “One or the Other”! But frankly I don’t think many, if any are even following the meaning…

          • Rocco


          • Secundius

            In one comment you mentioned the “Grey Ship”! The only Grey Ship reference I could find was a “Local Speak” of a “Tour Boat” called by Locals as the Grey Ship. But that sounded rather implausible, as to the source of the description. Then then comment about “A Piece of the WTC” was mentioned. I know that the only US Navy Naval Vessels that were built by Steel Fragments of the WTC were the “San Antonio” class. From there I just referenced to which San Antonio was berthed in NYC. And came up with the USS New York. I just find it interesting that both Vessels are berthed, relatively close to one another. So I deducted it was either an obscured word phrase by you about either the Tour Boat or USS New York. It was either one, “or”, and/or both. A Guess…

        • Rocco

          I never said it was!! It’s just your blah blah blah blah about your views you post & posted make that your don’t know what your talking about!

  • Leatherstocking

    Sad information here. We have an accumulation of deferred maintenance and there have been many articles in the last few years on this topic. Strike fighter availability reminds me that we deploy with fewer, “more capable” aircraft so that low availability has even a greater impact on the hollowed-out air wings.

    • Rocco

      Bingo!! We have to do more with less! When it should be do more with more!

  • Secundius

    It takes ~380,000 Sailors to supernumerary ~100 Naval Ship’s each year. The US Congressional Mandate requirement is for ~322,700 Sailors, currently the Strength Level is “Hovering” just above ~317,000 Sailors. Even by Bumping Enlistment Periods for E-1 and E-2 Sailors from 4 year enlistments to 5 year enlistments “Isn’t” enough to Stem the Flow of Reenlistments…

    • tim

      Another reason I think Trump should have concentrated on upgrading and maintenance – bring our force to 100% AAA status. That in itself would have been great. Move on with what was in the pipeline, from ice breakers to subs. I would rather have all what I have at peak performance than add more and be stressed financially, hiring and training wise.

    • Rocco

      Agreed. Back in my day they had insensitive programs & renlistment bonuses for retention!

  • muzzleloader

    Think of what a force reliever the USS Gerald Ford would be in the fleet right now. As it is, there is a $13 Billion hull sitting at Newport News doing absolutely nothing. Awful.

    • tim

      Nothing? As far as I know they work real hard on certifications… we just needed another one.

    • Rocco

      Because it can’t do nothing as it just had a breakdown!

  • Mare Nostrum

    Now we see the result of all the Obama administration ‘s obfuscations and prevarications. We may not be a paper fleet, but we are deep in a hole and I doubt that the majority in congress gives a damn about it!! A POX on Washington!!!!!

    • Duane

      The GOP was in control of all budgeting and appropriations and national defense authorizations for the last six of Obama’s eight years in office. Presidents don’t control such things – Congress does.

    • PolicyWonk

      Wrong. Obama inherited a nation suffering from gross incompetence on the part of the GOP-led administration of G W Bush, who not only left behind 2 incompetently managed wars, but a military at its lowest state of readiness since Vietnam, and the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

      The most serious lies, prevarications, and obfuscations are on the part of the GOP, who can’t get themselves to admit they ran this nation into the ground by virtue of their own incompetence. But hang onto your hat, because now they’re doing it all over again, by repeating the same mistakes they made during the Bush years.

      This is what happens when you have incompetent leadership in the HoR’s, and a patsy in the White House who’s too lazy to do his homework.

      • tim

        There is plenty of blame to go around! If someone thinks it is only one party smokes too much! History shows that “empires” typically do well if they have a strong military, economy (presuming little debt) and civil unity. The trick is to keep in the center of this triangle (relative to your “competition”. I specifically say competition and not enemy.
        Let us not forget that the banking catastrophe that started the downturn/ recession largely had to do with the policy pressures to male housing affordable to everyone, no matter whether they could safely afford it. But that is not saying Republicans made no mistakes. The point is that our military needs very long term planning and funding that needs bi-partisan support. With that in mind, I strongly advocate not to grow our forces but to “just” bring what we have up to snuff and keep developments at reasonable development rates that can actually be supported long term. … but that means we have to drain the swamp that constantly tries to distribute “pork”. Not everything Trump says or does is golden, but his strategic plan is right on!

  • b2

    Nice piece Mr. Legrone- connect the dots. I like it.

    Wrong Mr. Work. Rotational deployments and forward presence have made this world safer since WW2. The facts prove it..I remember when Vinson left a gap in the NAS and Saddam attacked Kuwait in 1990.. there are others.

    Yes it is superpower expensive, it is but it works…The anecdote of ny President asking, “where are the carriers?”, would be meaningless if they weren’t already there….. Simple fact is it takes a week to get across the Atlantic and 3 to transit the Pacific with a CSG/BG. Sure we can fine tune deployment regions and schemes all day but another US Navy (minus) move like we have done since mid-1990’s should not be tolerated today. We need to recover. Look to that Navy we had in the late 1980’s to model what we need and how much we need..then buy the right kind of stuff…thats another issue…

    Quit selling the American people a hybrid small car when they want a pickup truck for defense. And don’t tell me that an F-35B equipped amphib carrier- minus, is anywhere near a CVN battlegroup.. Quit BS-ing about that similarity, there ain’t none… Same for Mr. Mattis’s ideas to do more with less by jerking around the ships…

    I recommend you “Do more”, “with more”. Make the American people undersatnd that if you want real defense against peer adeversaries like Russia or China they will have to pay…

    Not reset and doublespeak…

    • Rocco

      Kudos for once

  • Elihu

    The Global War on Terror has really hurt both the Air Force and Navy.

  • golds1

    Now paying the price of the eight years of obama’s hatred of the military – and the USA for that matter.

    • John Dapper

      We had the same problem with Dismal Jimmy, too.

    • Centaurus

      No’Bama didn’t hate the military. We just were supposed to be winding down on a couple of Wars that were still kinda peskey and inconvenient truths (Iraq & Afganistan, JSOC deploy to Chad, Syria, Malawi) and we were suposed to be going up-up- and away to Mars…!
      “Can’t we all just get along ?”

  • Rocco

    Too much to read here this has to be the longest finger pointing post USNI has put out.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    The problem isn’t money. it is how it is spent. The ‘Sequester’ was ;played’ by both sides, and the military, for political impact, period. The most recent government shutdown proved yet again that there are something like a million government workers who are NOT needed. Wasteful spending is endemic of ALL of government. Until a ‘BRAC’ like process is applied to ALL of the government and its myriad of programs and agencies we will never get such spending under control. Both parties talk fiscal responsibility when they are out of power, when they are in power they prove what frauds they are on that subject. The money is there.

    • Secundius

      Unfortunately the Sequester isn’t over. It officially doesn’t end until June 2020…

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Regardless, the Sequester being blamed as the source of any problems is a colossal joke. The Defense budget, with that Sequester still in effect, will $717 BILLION in 2019. Pork continues to rule ALL phases of government spending. Remember that Obama said that we had to pass the Obamacare legislation as the ONLY way to address all the fraudulent spending and other nefarious activities in Medicaid and Medicare. How has that worked out? A pox on all of them in DC!

        • Secundius

          Who controls the US Congress AGAIN? The Republicans have 248 of the 435 Seats (57.01%) of the Seats in the US. Hse.of Rep. And can “Barely” muster up enough votes of a “Simple Majority” (218 votes) without Democratic help…

          • Chesapeakeguy

            What part of this being a bi-partisan screw up do you not get? Where have I defended the Republicans? If you want to go there the Sequester was passed when the Dems had the majority in the Senate. So what? The increases that have been made to the Defense budget over the past few years blows any assertions that it is holding down Defense spending out of the water. For those Republicans to get ‘help’ from the Dems means that deals have to be made that benefit those Dems states and/or districts. Yes, that is how politics works unfortunately. And it is literally killing this country. The money is there. So is the pork..

          • Secundius

            The original 2011 Sequester was suppose to last 5-years! When John Boehner left, Paul Ryan changed the 5-year Sequester to a 10-year Sequester. Which “Officially” doesn’t end until June 2020…

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Paul Ryan did no such thing on is own. You’re getting selective with your ‘facts’ again. Ryan wasn’t even Speaker then. He CO_SPONSORED legislation with Dem Senator Patty Murray that amended some aspects of the original bill. And those provisions extend beyond 2020.

          • Secundius

            No where in my Statement did I say that Paul Ryan was Speaker of the House in 2011. I said after “John Boehner” left…

  • Marauder 2048

    “This has all been building up over the last 17 years through overuse of the carrier force and naval aviation ”

    And we’ve had land bases in all of those theaters for at least the last 15 years. There’s no iron law that says the airwing *must* operate from the carrier.

  • Arthur Vallejo

    USS Kennedy and Enterprise are in construction. USS Columbia in advanced development and a new cruiser is in design phase. Many new weapon systems are coming online in early 2020s. 24 block 3 Super Hornets, 20 F-35C and 25 F-35B to be delivered in FY 2019. I get impatient too when I see the rate of Chinese military expansion. Both political parties need to stop ideological bickering, and every American needs to help unite this nation for the coming challenges ahead.

    • Rocco


  • johnbull

    For the last six years we’ve been operating with only ten carriers instead of eleven. If we could speed delivery of CVN 80 to get to twelve that would be very helpful.

  • Adrian Ah

    Problem is easily solved with the powerful fleet of LCS’s.

    Readily available for multiple missions, with a wide range of long range weapons, cutting edge futuristic looks, and advanced unmanned sensors, sonar arrays, anti mine and anti submarine equipment. All at a moment”s notice.

    And if the feature doesn’t exist now, it will by the time the ship is built

    And if the LCS doesn’t do the job, we can call up the newest, most advanced carrier for the 21st century, bristling with new tech. Again, if the tech doesn’t exist now, it will be the time the carrier is built

    Wow, now I can understand how the people late 1990’s deluded themselves into doing concurrency. The words sound so good.

  • RobM1981

    This is the problem with teaching statistics to sailors…

    To the author of this article, which I read just to be sure, allow me to say: So What?

    The goal should be to deploy our naval assets, including carriers, as little as possible. Let me repeat the critical part: As Little As Possible.

    These are not toys or pleasure craft, built so that “youze guys” can tool around the world. They are military assets, with a very specific role in our defense.

    Exercise them, of course. Maintain a sharp edge, absolutely. Deploy them, even to show the flag, as needed.

    Repeat: As Needed.

    Not “As wanted.”

    Carriers don’t break down due to ozone rot; they break down from use. Even with maintenance, as we all know, refits are needed. Use wears things down. If you are seeing things break down more often than expected, there are only a few root causes that can apply. One of them is over-use.

    You hold up WWII as part of your analysis. Seriously? I was pretty good with the idea of this until I saw that. WWII and the Cold War were specific times, with specific requirements. We are not, you might have noticed, currently in a shooting or near-shooting war with anyone.

    Remind China, Russia, Iran, etc. that we have these assets. Keep them sharp, of course. Kill two birds with one stone by periodically deploying them so that they can be seen, even as the crew is sharpened.

    But don’t target a number. The only number that matters is the one that is tied directly to the job – and right now the job should be “keep the tools sharp and let the neighbors know we have them.”

    There is always a threat, but there isn’t an imminent one. Stand down, for Pete’s sake.

    “We don’t have as many assets deployed as we did in 1963!!!”

    C’mon. Lighten up. Save us a few bucks, let a few sailors have time with their families, etc.

    • Duane

      Non deployed does not mean non-used. Deployment is merely using the ships “over there” rather than “here”.

      That is the problem with the perception of too many commenters here at USNI who obviously never spend time on real operating navy ships. The only times the ships aren’t being “used” is when they are either in between cruises, whether deployed or not, or in maintenance.

      Training cruises, qualifications cruises, shakedowns, integration of new gear, shooting exercises, etc.

      The one difference in deployment is that maintenance availabilities takes place “over there” rather than “here”, so there may be some differences, but not necessarily so, in yard capabilities “over there” rather than “here”.

    • b2

      You can’t have true naval power like we had back in 1990 by what you propose. Yours are feel good status quo sentiments… The facts are:
      – Combat readiness only comes from steaming time and flight time… with routine upkeep
      – “Tools sharp in port” is B.S. feel good nonsensical talk
      – “Sailors with their families” aint the sea service that we deserve.
      – And your save a few bucks is what got us into this bad place and has since the mid-90’s!

      Go back to 1981 Rob, and study what RReagan did to create the most powerful navy the world has ever seen. It’s all about the numbers and we simply don’t have enough “stuff”. You will have us go back to the 1930s and a Sand Pebbles navy…

      Respectfully, the CNO and VCNO, Boomer and P-3 pilot, are viewing this as a clean sheet experiement when in reality the facts about what to do lie in the not so recent past about what we need and how to operate. Perhaps they arent the best warfare backgrounds to lead us. What pre 1990 experience with the Reagan Navy did they have?

      Lastly, I do know that Marine (ret or AD) officers advising me how the US Navy should operate, deploy and fight, irritates me more…

      • RobM1981

        Of course you can.

        I’m not saying “leave them rusting at the pier” (see “Building 597”). I’m saying “if you are measuring to a number, without tying that number to a goal, then you are doing it wrong.”

        The author intentionally and knowingly shows a deployment histogram that includes WWII, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and all kinds of other situations where maximum deployment was justified and necessary. He then says, effectively, “see, we are way too under-deployed.”

        That’s not only wrong, it’s misleading. Not intentionally, mind you. I’m quite sure that the author, like so many other metrics driven people (see “McNamara, Robert”) is absolutely convinced that we are under-deployed because the numbers say that we are under-deployed. I know a lot of business people who operate like that. Mathematics are a large part of how I make my own living, without getting too personal.

        I know numbers, which is why I know that you have to be careful with how you use them.

        If the *objective* is to keep our units sharp, with no other variables, then how often should they deploy?

        If you want to add a vector to this, around Power Projection, then do that. Bring the two results together and *then* you can come up with a number. Ultimately “the number of times that a unit deploys per unit of time” is a number, so clearly math is involved.

        I’m just saying, this isn’t a case for autoregression.

  • Jack D Ripper

    what would we do without leftist insight

    • Secundius

      Probably what we do with Republican Insight, Correct the Problem to the Mess that they made…

    • Rocco

      He’s actually right FYI!

  • Eyes open

    Sad that so many here are still believing everything their politicians say rather than take the time to find out the truth. With two great fact finding sites, it is easier than ever.

    But in regards to the article, we have to stop thinking that a ships has only so many years of life in it. There was a great article in this months Proceedings about how to achieve a 300 ship Navy and it relies heavily on keeping ships in the fleet for more than 25 years. I feel that carriers should be used for 75 -80 years and smaller combatants 40-50. And forget about advancing technology making ships obsolete. If we lived by that credo, we would be scrapping ships as soon as they came off the builder’s sways. We have the capability and some builders are building ships with the fact that their electronics will need to be upgraded during the life of the vessel. There will be those that say the steel gets brittle after so many years. And to that I say, show me ship that sunk or broke from that malady.

    • By those numbers, we would still be operating USS Enterprise (CV-6) – do you want to try flying Super Hornets off of her? Technology moves on whether you accept it or not.

      • Eyes open

        You took me way too literal. 75 years would encompass the JFK and Kitty Hawk. And had we not sunk/scrapped them, the Forestal class would also be readily available. And we can fly Hornets off of them. I accept technological advances, but we cannot afford to scrap perfectly good ships because some politician says we need to get rid of them. Read the article I refer to. It is enlightening and eye opening.

        • While extending ship life indefinitely sounds great in theory, it doesn’t actually work in practice. Even if a ship remains technically relevant, it starts falling apart and requiring exponentially more money and time to remain in working order.

          Look at Enterprise (CVN-65). She underwent a 2 year / $662m overhaul from 2008-2010 just to get another 2 years of service out of her and that is for a 54 year old ship. Project that out to 75 year old ships and it would quickly eat up the entire budget – and this is before you consider that we already are having trouble maintaining our current 20-30 year old fleet.

          • Eyes open

            No one is saying “indefinitely, just adding 25 years to current expected life span. And has anyone questioned why it costs 662 to do a SLEP? Could it be that the yard that did the extension is also the yard that builds new ships? Could the price be inflated to encourage building a new ship? I agree with the writer of the article in Proceedings that we need to get private yards involved in these SLEPs. Competition is always good. And god forbid we get into a shooting war with China or Russia and lose a carrier or two. Unlike in WW II when we had shipyards around the country that could kick out new ship at a very high rate, we are yard poor and it takes too long to build the super carriers we are building today.

          • “Just adding 25 years” – for a Nimitz-class that is a 50% increase and for the older carriers (which were designed to last 35 years), a 75 year service life is more than a 100% increase. That is not a minor consideration.

            The Enterprise SLEP was originally projected to cost around $400m and take 1 year – it then steadily increased in time and expense as the Navy discovered more and more that needed to be repaired. There is plenty written about it if you are interested in looking for it.

            The massive expansion during WWII is also greatly misunderstood. All of the 8 battleships and 12 of the 17 fleet carriers completed during the war were authorized before Pearl Harbor. Without the foresight of Senator Vinson and President Roosevelt and their naval expansion beginning in 1934, the story of the WWII Navy would have been very different

            If you look at actual build times of WWII ships, you will find that they weren’t all that much shorter. USS Enterprise (CV-6) for instance, the last carrier built in peacetime, took 46 months from her keel being laid to commissioning. USS Bush (CVN-77) took 64 months – not that great a difference considering Bush is 3 times larger. Construction went quicker during wartime of course, but that is hardly a fair comparison for reasons which should be obvious.

  • Mare Nostrum

    Dear Policy Wonk: to some degree I agree and accept your argument- the political decisions by which the military has been weakened is indeed the responsibility of both parties and multiple presidencies. Basically we are seeing the effects of political theory and national arrogance ie” how could any other nation even begin to think that it can match us?”,” we won the Cold War and no longer need a robust offense and defensive capability”. I used Obama because I thought he was the most egregious, but Policy Wonk is correct in as much as THE BLAME involves both Dems and Repubs!!!!! Oddly enough, during the height of the British Empire no British politician regardless of party made international decisions that knowingly WEAKENED the empire. In this day and age we can choose to speak peacefully but we better have a credible military ready to roll, rather than one that has to scrounge parts from the junkyard. If we are lucky our opponent’s militaries are also paper tigers and suffer from the same issues that we have to face ,making it a stand-off! We really do not know what truly goes on in China, but they certainly are building beautiful looking ships; but can they take a punch?? Can we predictably deliver the punch is the real question? I would like to think that the shortcomings we read about in the Press are simply planted to cause us to be woefully under-estimated!!

  • James Bowen

    I wonder if the Navy now regrets getting rid of the Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Charleston, Mare Island, Hunter’s Point, and Long Beach Naval Shipyards.

    The sad truth is that the Navy has been sorely neglected, probably the most neglected of all the services, since 1993. The platforms we have available are less capable than previous ones were, the industrial base that made U.S. Naval power possible has been hollowed out, important R&D has been neglected, and the assets we do have have been grossly overcommitted and overworked in operations and conflicts which, for the most part, had no bearing on our vital national interests whatsoever.

  • peterjohn936

    It seems to me that the bottleneck is the number of shipyards and the amount of qualified labor. Increasing the number of ships would just make this worst. Maybe the navy need to triage their maintenance and also do some minor maintenance while at sea.

    Maintenance of jet planes is based on flight hours. If you want more planes available you must either have more planes, you use them less or you have more maintenance labor.

  • John Locke

    Regarding the carrier strike group……”The deterrence factor to the United States is significant.” – RADM Manazir

    Stateless bad guys don’t care. For that matter, in light of state sponsored aggression and outright conflict there are numerous examples where presence doesn’t/didn’t matter.

    A carrier strike group can serve a military purpose but the majority benefit is to the military industrial complex.

    Manazir is now VP of Navy Systems for Boeing

  • jetcal1

    I must say, the fault finding, acrimony and recriminations here are a sad indicator that perhaps the USNI has declined with our Navy.
    Folks, this all started in late ’89 early ’90 with Bush 41. (Think VT commands going contractor,squadrons going bye, bye etc.) The ships started a few years later.

    Equally troubling is nobody seemed to wonder why a JG is getting down and dirty on the deck-plates and has a tool in her hands. She is supposed to be a warrior learning how to be an OOD or other underway watch standing qualification. Does not seem like the best possible use of a ship-handler’s time. Have our night time navagational errors been forgotten so quickly?

    So, how about some constructive thought here?

    • Secundius

      Try earlier, like right after Ronald Reagan left office in January 1989 with a Navy Size of ~593-Ship. By the Time George H. W. Bush, left office, the US Navy only had 454-Ships. Bush started reducing the US Navy the day he entered office…

      • jetcal1

        Okay, what’s a few months after 29 years?

      • John Locke

        During that time however, the Adams class, Knox class and other dated classes were put to pasture as the Burke’s were ramping up. The numbers argument loses traction when technology improves capability and firepower.

        • jetcal1

          Upvote, but yes and no. It don’t do you no good if you ain’t gotta hull where the fight’s gonna be.

        • Secundius

          That’s why H.W. Bush retired the “Iowa’s” permanently, too the point where the it would be nearly impossible to reactivate an “Iowa” with building a New one from the Keel Up…

          • jetcal1

            In ’96 the navy reinstated to the Naval Register two of the Iowa-class battleships that were struck in 95; the ships were to be retained in reserve.
            They weren’t actually struck until 03/06. And, at least the Wisconsin is supposed to be maintained in a condition that will allow her to be resurrected as part of the museum agreement.
            They’re not quite “dead” just in really exceptionally deep coma. (It’d probably be easier to resurrect the Constitution.)

          • Secundius

            It take’s ~380,000 Sailors to Man 100 Ships for a Single Season Deployment. The US Navy barely has ~317,000 Sailors in Uniform. Without a Draft, and Enlistment at an All Time Low of ~0.01% of the Population. Where are you going to get the ~1,800 Sailors required just operate just One IOWA. Reemploy the Old Fashion “Press Gang”?/! Kidnap people of the Streets for a 10-year Forced Enlistment…

          • jetcal1

            Please note my comment in regards to the Constitution.

          • Secundius

            When did you Post It? Or is it under USNI News Moderators review! If so, it’s probably been Redacted…

          • jetcal1

            “They’re not quite “dead” just in really exceptionally deep coma. (It’d probably be easier to resurrect the Constitution.)”

          • Secundius

            From past experiences with USNI News, it’s probably going to be Redacted. USNI News rarely allow Political Comments to be posted, especially against someone that they like…

          • jetcal1

            No, it was there. Last sentence in comment about Naval Register.

          • Secundius

            Both “Iowa” and “Wisconsin” were struck in 17 March 2006, “New Jersey” in 8 February 1991 and “Missouri” in 7 January 2010.

            Frankly I thought you were talking about something else about the US Constitution (i.e. the Document) not the Sailing Frigate…

          • jetcal1

            Remember, they all stuck in ’96. Congress made the Navy put them back on the register.

            Unless something has changed, two of them are still supposed to be able to be recalled. (I’d guess the Wisconsin and the Missouri.)

          • Secundius

            Frankly I don’t see it happening because of the Manpower Shortage. It’s hard enough to crew Aircraft Carriers, and to complicate matters by trying to crew Two WWII era Battleships. I’d be surprised if there were any 16-inch Artillery Shells left in storage anywhere. Not to mention Replacement Barrels for the Mk.7 16-inch Gun…

          • jetcal1

            Congress also mandated barrels be reserved, Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
            (Apologies to Yul Brynner.)
            The Constitution will sail before they do.

          • Secundius

            Barrel Life for a Mk.7 16-inch Gun Barrel is ~390-rounds and weighs ~239,156-pounds each without the Breech. Can’t be that many still in circulation at storage depots…

          • jetcal1

            The Constitution will sail before they do.

          • Rocco

            You mentioned both!

      • Reagan leaves office 1989: 592 ships
        Bush leaves office 1993: 454 ships (15% reduction)
        Clinton ends first term 1997: 359 ships
        Clinton leaves office 2001: 316 ships (21% reduction)
        Bush II ends first term 2005: 282 ships
        Bush II leaves office 2009: 285 ships (10% reduction)
        Obama ends first term 2012: 287 ships
        Obama leaves office 2016: 275 ships (3% reduction)

        Bush deserves some blame, but he also inherited a bunch of aging ships that Reagan had kept in service longer than planned to build numbers (including USS Midway, 33 Farragut and Adams class destroyers, and 46 Knox class frigates).

        The really devastating cuts came under Clinton and probably would have happened no matter what Bush did (see the California and Virginia class cruisers that Bush paid to upgrade only for Clinton to scrap them).

        Bush II tried rebuilding the Navy, but that fell apart because funds were needed for the War on Terror and the bungling of the Zumwalt and LCS programs, which Obama then did basically nothing to fix.

        • Secundius

          According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the US Navy in 31 December 1946. Was comprised of ~71,009-Ships of Various Classes, more than Twice the size of any other Navies of the world combined. By the Korean War the Number had dropped to around 634-Ships. So 30 June 1950 is your starting point of a Declining Modern U.S. Navy…

  • John Dapper

    There aren’t enough carriers. In the 60s and early 70s, there were several Essex class that could operate jets if necessary and other that could be updated. What happens if a couple current carriers get damaged or sunk? The mothballed ones have been stripped of at least their electronics. They would be many months away from being serviceable. And there are no replacement escorts for them. The navy reserve doesn’t exist anymore. Recent fleet ships use to go to the reserve. Now they’re just targets or scrap.

  • Matthew Schilling

    The Virginia Class has been touted as a bright spot in the Navy, and they are technological wonders. Yet, it takes over half a decade to build one! Even then, the builders have struggled to deliver on time – it’s been a quite a while since one was delivered on time.
    We won WWII through quantity – massive, overwhelming quantity. We provided our military with very good equipment, but we didn’t need the very best – just lots and lots of very good. We have set ourselves up for failure in a real fight – or for going nuclear when we shouldn’t have needed to.

    • John Locke

      Really? Failure? And who is on par with the U.S.?

      • Matthew Schilling

        What does that matter? We’ve gifted Communist China a huge industrial base, to go along with 3x our population – with tens of millions of “spare” young men, since they aborted away a generation of baby girls. They are also brazen, relentless thieves. They have also consistently relied on sneak attacks. So, we will have to be ready to take losses and hang in there for the long haul. Taking half a decade to build a boat is a prescription for defeat.

  • Nicholas Kaoudis

    Hypersonics are a cheap way to defeat large targets, so building smaller ones quickly makes sense. Which costs more? A $5B carrier or $500M in (a hundred) hypersonic missiles? Even with layered defenses, there is a saturation point.

    Maintenance: I believe the USN needs to ramp up its “internal” (NOT CONTRACTOR) ability to repair/refit, if it intends to get involved in a high intensity conflict. Four commercial yards will not get the job done. They barely do in peacetime, my guess.

    • Secundius

      One “Wee Little Problem”! In February the Pentagon issued a New Directive to the Armed Services. “Deploy or Get Out”! Guess what those that Don’t Want to Deploy are doing! And guess where most of those that don’t want to deploy Duty Assignments “ARE”? The Maintenance Services at Naval Shipyards…