GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney pressed a valid point in challenging President Barack Obama about the shrunken size of the Navy during Monday’s debate, despite Obama’s derisive response, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial
Romney noted that ship numbers for the Navy are at their lowest level since 1917. Obama responded that "we have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."
Journal editors weren’t impressed. “Yes, Mr. President, and we have fewer of all of those things, too,” they write.
The navy’s ship inventory when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 was 529, including 15 aircraft carriers and 121 nuclear submarines. As of last year, those numbers had slipped to 285 ships, including 11 carriers and 71 subs.
“The president is right that the ships the U.S. puts to sea today are, for the most part, much more capable than they were 20 or 30 years ago,” the editorial states. “But that's true only up to a point.”
In addition, the smaller fleet has put more stress on the Navy and makes the loss of a single ship more problematic. “Concerns about ship numbers may seem passé,” Journal editors write. But, “if we've again become cavalier about maintaining the freedom of the seas, it's because a powerful U.S. Navy has accustomed us to indifference. Weaken the Navy further, and that's a luxury we'll lose.”
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