The Navy’s proposed FY2015 budget requests funding for the procurement of seven new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the Navy’s goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of306 ships). The seven ships include two Virginia-class attack submarines, two DDG-51 class Aegis destroyers, and three Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs). The Navy’s proposed FY2015-FY2019 five-year shipbuilding plan includes a total of 44 ships, compared to a total of 41 ships in the FY2014-FY2018 five-year shipbuilding plan.
The planned size of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been matters of concern for the congressional defense committees for the past several years. The Navy’s FY2015 30-year (FY2014-FY2044)shipbuilding plan, like many previous Navy 30-year shipbuilding plans, does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s 306-ship goal over the entire 30-year period. In particular, the Navy projects that the fleet would experience a shortfall in amphibious ships fromFY2015 through FY2017, a shortfall in small surface combatants from FY2015 through FY2027,and a shortfall in attack submarines from FY2025 through FY2034.
The Navy delivered its narrative report on the FY2015 30-year shipbuilding plan to CRS (Congressional Research Service)on July3, 2014. The Navy estimates in the report that the plan would cost an average of about $16.7billion per year in constant FY2014 dollars to implement. The Congressional Budget Office(CBO) is now preparing its own estimate of the cost to implement the plan; this estimate will be made available later this year. CBO’s estimates of the cost to implement past annual versions of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan have been higher than the Navy’s estimates. Some of the difference between CBO’s estimate and the Navy’s estimate, particularly in the latter years of the plan, has been due to a difference between CBO and the Navy in how to treat inflation in Navy ship building.
Potential issues for Congress in reviewing the Navy’s pro-posed FY2015 shipbuilding budget, its proposed FY2015-FY2019 five-year shipbuilding plan, and its FY2015 30-year (FY2015-FY2044) shipbuilding plan include the following:
- the Navy’s proposal to defer until FY2016 a decision on whether to proceed with the mid-life nuclear refueling overhaul of the aircraft carrier George Washington(CVN-73);
- the Navy’s proposal to put 11 of its 22 Aegis cruisers into some form of reduced operating status starting in FY2015, and then return them to service years from now;
- the Navy’s proposal to retire all 10 of its remaining Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)class frigates in FY2015;
- the Navy’s proposal to modify the rules for what ships to include in the count of the number of battle force ships in the Navy;
- the potential impact on the size of the Navy of limiting DOD spending inFY2013-FY2021 to the levels set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, as amended;
- the appropriate future size and structure of the Navy in light of budgetary and strategic considerations; and
- the affordability of the 30-year shipbuilding plan.
Funding levels and legislative activity on individual Navy shipbuilding programs are tracked in detail in other CRS reports.
Navy’s Ship Force Structure Goal
January 2013 Goal for Fleet of 306 Ships
On January 31, 2013, in response to Section 1015 of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310/P.L. 112-239 of January 2, 2013), the Navy submitted to Congress a report presenting a goal for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 306 ships, consisting of certain types and quantities of ships.The goal for a 306-ship fleet is the result of a force structure assessment(FSA) that the Navy completed in 2012.
306-Ship Goal Reflects 2012 Strategic Guidance and Project-ed DOD Spending Shown in FY2013 and FY2014 Budget Submissions.
The 2012 FSA and the resulting 306-ship plan reflect the defense strategic guidance document that the Administration presented in January 2012and the associated projected levels of Department of Defense (DOD) spending shown in the FY2013 and FY2014 budget submissions.
DOD officials have stated that if planned levels of DOD spending are reduced below what is shown in these budget submissions, the defense strategy set forth in the January 2012 strategic guidance document might need to be changed. Such a change, Navy officials have indicated,could lead to the replacement of the 306-ship plan of January 2013 with a new plan.
Goal for Fleet of 306 Ships Compared to Earlier Goals
Table 1: compares the 306-ship goal to earlier Navy ship force structure plans.
Navy’s Five-Year and 30-Year Shipbuilding Plans
Five-Year (FY2015-FY2019) Shipbuilding Plan
the Navy’s FY2015 five-year (FY2015-FY2019) shipbuilding plan.
Source: FY2015 Navy budget submission.
Notes: The MLP/AFSB is a variant of the MLP with additional features permitting it to serve in the role of an AFSB. The Navy proposes to fund the TATFs and TAO(X)s through the National Defense Sealift Fund (NDSF) and the other ships through the Navy’s shipbuilding account, known formally as the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) appropriation account.
Observations that can be made about the Navy’s proposedFY2015 five-year (FY2015-FY2019)shipbuilding plan include the following:
- Total of 44 ships. The plan includes a total of 44 ships, compared to a total of 41ships in the FY2014-FY2018 five-year shipbuilding plan.
- Average of 8.8 ships per year. The plan includes an average of 8.8 battle force ships per year. The steady-state replacement rate for a fleet of 306 ships with an average service life of 35 years is about 8.7 ships per year. In light of how the average shipbuilding rate since FY1993 has been substantially below 8.7 shipsper year (see Appendix D), shipbuilding supporters for some time have wanted to increase the shipbuilding rate to a steady rate of 10 or more battle force shipsper year.
- DDG-51 destroyers and Virginia-class submarines being procured under MYP arrangements. The 10 DDG-51 destroyers to be procured in FY2013-FY2017 and the 10 Virginia-class attack submarines to be procured in FY2014-FY2018 are being procured under multiyear procurement (MYP) contracts.
- Navy is requesting three rather than four LCSs for FY2015. LCSs are being procured under a pair of block buy contracts covering the years FY2010-FY2015.These two contracts call for a total of four LCSs in FY2015. The Navy, however,is requesting funding for the procurement of three LCSs in FY2015. If three LCSs are funded in FY2015, one of the two LCS block buy contracts would not be fully implemented in its final year.
- Start of LX(R) amphibious ship procurement deferred to FY2020. TheFY2015-FY2019 five-year shipbuilding plan defers the procurement of the firstLX(R) amphibious ship to FY2020, compared to FY2019 in the FY2014-FY2018plan, FY2018 in the FY2013-FY2017 plan, and FY2017 in the FY2012-FY2016plan. In each of these five-year plans, the lead LX(R) ship was scheduled one year beyond the end of the five-year period.
- MLP/AFSB ship added to FY2017. The FY2015-FY2019 five-year shipbuilding plan adds an MLP/AFSB (Mobile Landing Platform/Afloat Forward Staging Base) ship in FY2017. This ship, not previously planned, would likely bebuilt by General Dynamics/National Steel and Shipbuilding Company(GD/NASSCO), the builder of prior MLP/AFSB ships. In addition to providing a platform that would help the Navy meet certain operational needs, adding this ship to the shipbuilding plan might help the Navy ensure strong competition for two other Navy ship programs—the TAO(X) oiler program, the first ship ofwhich is to be procured in FY2016, and the LX(R) amphibious ship program, the first ship of which is to be procured in FY2020.
30-Year (FY2015-FY2044) Shipbuilding Plan
Table 3 shows the Navy’s FY2015 30-year (FY2015-FY2044) shipbuilding plan.
Key: FY= Fiscal Year; CVN= aircraft carriers; LSC= surface combatants (i.e., cruisers and destroyers); SSC= small surface combatants (i.e., Littoral Combat Ships [LCSs]); SSN= attack submarines; SSGN= cruise missile submarines; SSBN= ballistic missile submarines; AWS= amphibious warfare ships; CLF= combat logistics force (i.e., resupply) ships; Supt = support ships.
In devising a 30-year shipbuilding plan to move the Navy toward its ship force-structure goal, key assumptions and planning factors include but are not limited to the following:
- ship service lives;
- estimated ship procurement costs;
- projected shipbuilding funding levels; and
- industrial-base considerations.
Navy’s Projected Force Levels Under 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan
Table 4 shows the Navy’s projection of ship force levels for FY2015-FY2044 that would result from implementing the FY2015 30-year (FY2015-FY2044) shipbuilding plan shown in Table 3.
As part of its FY2015 budget submission, the Navy is proposing to modify the rules for what ships to include in the count of the number of battle force ships in the Navy. In its FY2015 budget submission, the Navy has presented figures for projected Navy ship force levels using both the existing rules and the proposed modified rules. Table 4 and Table 6 show figures using both the existing rules and the proposed modified rules.
Table 4. Projected Force Levels Resulting from FY2015 30-Year (FY2015-FY2044)Shipbuilding Plan
Where two figures are shown, the first is the figure using existing rules for counting battle force ships,and the second is the figure using the Navy’s proposed modified rules for counting battle force ships.
Note: Figures for support ships include five JHSVs transferred from the Army to the Navy and operated by the Navy primarily for the performance of Army missions.
Key: FY= Fiscal Year; CVN= aircraft carriers; LSC= surface combatants (i.e., cruisers and destroyers); SSC= small surface combatants (i.e., frigates, Littoral Combat Ships [LCSs], and mine warfare ships); SSN= attack submarines; SSGN= cruise missile submarines; SSBN= ballistic missile submarines; AWS= amphibious warfare ships; CLF= combat logistics force (i.e., resupply) ships; Supt= support ships.
Observations that can be made about the Navy’s FY2015 30-year (FY2015-FY2044) shipbuilding plan and resulting projected force levels included the following:
- Total of 264 ships; average of about 8.8 per year. The plan includes a total of264 ships to be procured, two less than the number in the FY2014 30-year(FY2014-FY2043) shipbuilding plan. The total of 264 ships equates to an average of about 8.8 ships per year, which is slightly higher than the approximate average procurement rate (sometimes called the steady-state replacement rate) of about 8.7 ships per year that would be needed over the long run to achieve and maintain a fleet of 306 ships, assuming an average life of 35 years for Navy ships.
- Proposed modified counting rules affect small surface combatants and support ships. As can be seen in Table 4, the Navy’s proposed modified rules for what ships to include in the count of the number of battle force ships (see“Proposal to Modify What Ships Are Included in the Count of Battle Force Ships” in “Oversight Issues for Congress for FY2015”) would affect the reported figures for small surface combatants during the period FY2015-FY2024 and there ported figures for support ships during the period FY2015-FY2035.
- Eleven cruisers proposed for some form of reduced operating status included in count As part of its FY2015 budget submission, the Navy is proposing to put 11 of its 22 Aegis cruisers into some form of reduced operating status starting in FY2015, and then return them to service years from now. The 11cruisers proposed for some form of reduced operating status are included in the count of battle force ships shown in Table 4 and Table 6 during the years that they are in reduced operating status.
- Projected shortfalls in amphibious ships, small surface combatants, and attack submarines. The FY2015 30-year shipbuilding plan,like many previous Navy 30-year shipbuilding plans, does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s 306-ship goal over the entire 30-year period. In particular, the Navy projects that the fleet would experience a shortfall in amphibious ships from FY2015 through FY2017, a shortfall in small surface combatants from FY2015 through FY2027, and a shortfall in attack submarines from FY2025 through FY2034.
- Ballistic missile submarine force to be reduced temporarily to 10 boats.As a result of a decision in the FY2013 budget to defer the scheduled procurement of the first Ohio replacement (SSBN[X]) ballistic missile submarine by two years,from FY2019 to FY2021, the ballistic missile submarine force is projected to drop to a total of 10or 11 boats—one or two boats below the 12-boat SSBNforce-level goal—during the period FY2029-FY2041. The Navy says this reduction is acceptable for meeting current strategic nuclear deterrence mission requirements, because none of the 10 or 11 boats during these years will been cumbered by long-term maintenance.
Appropriate Future Size and Structure of Navy in Light of Strategic and Budgetary Changes
Another potential oversight issue for Congress concerns the appropriate future size and structure of the Navy. Changes in strategic and budgetary circumstances have led to a broad debate over the future size and structure of the military, including the Navy. Changes in strategic circumstances include, among other things, the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, the winding down of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, China’s military (including naval) modernization effort, maritime territorial disputes involving China,and Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea.
On January 5, 2012, the Administration announced that, in light of the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, the winding down of such operations in Afghanistan, and developments in the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. defense strategy in coming years will include a stronger focus on the Asia-Pacific region.Since the Asia-Pacific region is primarily a maritime and aerospace theater for the DOD, this shift in strategic focus is expected by many observers to result in a shift in the allocation of DOD resources toward the Navy and Air Force. DOD official shave indicated that if planned levels of DOD spending in future years are reduced as a result of the BCA or other legislative action, they will seek to protect efforts supporting a stronger focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
The Navy’s current goal for a fleet of 306 ships reflects a number of judgments and planning factors (some of which the Navy receives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense), including but not limited to the following:
- U.S. interests and the U.S. role in the world, and the U.S. military strategy for supporting those interests and that role;
- current and projected Navy missions in support of U.S. military strategy, including both wartime operations and day-to-day forward-deployed operations;
- current and projected capabilities of potential adversaries, including their anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities;
- regional combatant commander (COCOM) requests for forward-deployed Navy forces;
- the individual and networked capabilities of current and future Navy ships and aircraft;
- basing arrangements for Navy ships, including numbers and locations of ships home ported in foreign countries;
- maintenance and deployment cycles for Navy ships; and
- fiscal constraints
With regard to the fourth point above, Navy officials testified in March 2014 that a Navy of 450 ships would be required to fully meet COCOM requests for forward-deployed Navy forces.The difference between a fleet of 450 ships and the current goal for a fleet of 306 ships can be viewed as one measure of the operational risk associated with the goal of a fleet of 306 ships. A goal for a fleet of 450 ships might be viewed as a fiscally unconstrained goal.
Actions by China starting in November 2013 that appear aimed at achieving a greater degree of control over China’s near-seas region,followed by Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea in March 2014, have led to a discussion among observers about whether we are currently shifting from the familiar post-Cold War era of the last 20 to 25 years to a new and different strategic era characterized by, among other things, renewed great power competition and challenges to key aspects of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.Some observers in this discussion have used the term “post-Crimea era” or “post-Crimea world.”
A shift in strategic eras can lead to a reassessment of assumptions and frameworks of analysis relating to defense funding levels, strategy, missions, plans, and programs. The shift from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era led to such a reassessment in the early 1990s. This reassessment led to numerous substantial changes in U.S. defense plans and programs.Numerous other defense programs were changed to lesser degrees or were not changed.
A shift from the post-Cold War era to a new strategic era could lead to a new reassessment of assumptions and frameworks of analysis relating to defense funding levels, strategy, missions, plans, and programs. There are some indications that elements of such a reassessment may have begun. For example, some observers, including General Philip Breed love, the Commander of U.S. European Command, have raised the issue of whether the United States should consider halting the U.S. military down in Europe, so as to respond to a more assertive Russia.
For additional discussion of the relationship between U.S. strategy and the size and structure of U.S. naval forces that can form part of the context for assessing the 30-year shipbuilding plan, see Appendix C.
Some study groups have made their own proposals for Navy ship force structure that reflect their own perspectives on the points listed above (particularly the first three and the final one) shows some of these proposals. For purposes of comparison, Table 5 also shows the Navy’s 306-ship goal of January 2013.
A potential key question for Congress concerns whether the U.S. Navy in coming years will be large enough to adequately counter improved Chinese maritime A2/AD forces while also adequately performing other missions of interest to U.S. policy makers around the world. Some observers are concerned that a combination of growing Chinese naval capabilities and budget-driven reductions in the size of the U.S. Navy could encourage Chinese military overconfidence and demoralize U.S. allies and partners in the Pacific, and thereby make it harder for the United States to defend its interests in the region. Potential oversight questions for Congress include the following:
- Under the Administration’s plans, will the Navy in coming years be large enough to adequately counter improved Chinese maritime A2/AD forces while also adequately performing other missions of interest to U.S. policy makers around the world?
- What might be the political and security implications in the Asia-Pacific region of a combination of growing Chinese naval capabilities and budget-driven reductions in the size of the U.S. Navy?
- If the Navy is reduced in size and priority is given to maintaining Navy forces in the Pacific, what will be the impact on Navy force levels in other parts of the world, such as the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean region or the Mediterranean Sea, and consequently on the Navy’s ability to adequately perform its missions in those parts of the world?
- To what extent could the operational impacts of a reduction in Navy ship numbers be mitigated through increased use of forward home porting, multiple crewing, and long-duration deployments with crew rotation (i.e., “Sea Swap”)? How feasible are these options, and what would be their potential costs and benefits?
- Particularly in a situation of constrained DOD resources, if enough funding is allocated to the Navy to permit the Navy in coming years to maintain a fleet of 306ships in-cluding 11 aircraft carriers, how much would other DOD programs need to be reduced, and what would be the op-erational implications of those program reductions in terms of DOD’s overall ability to counter improved Chi-nese military forces and perform other missions?
Affordability of 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan
Another potential oversight issue for Congress concerns the prospective affordability of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan. In assessing the prospective affordability of the 30-year plan, key factors that Congress may consider include estimated ship procurement costs and future shipbuilding funding levels. Each of these is discussed below.
Estimated Ship Procurement Costs
If one or more Navy ship designs turn out to be more expen-sive to build than the Navy estimates, then the projected funding levels shown in the 30-year shipbuilding plan will not be sufficient to procure all the ships shown in the plan. Ship designs that can be viewed as posing a risk of being more expensive to build thanthe Navy estimates include Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carriers, Ohio-replacement (SSBNX) class ballistic missile submarines, the Flight III version of the DDG-51 destroyer, the TAO(X) oiler, and the LX(R) amphibious ship.
In recent years, theCongressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that certain Navy ships would be more expensive to procure than the Navy estimates, and consequently that the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan would cost more to implement than the Navy has estimated. In itsOctober 2013 report on the cost of the FY2014 30-year shipbuilding plan, the CBO estimated that the plan would cost an average of $19.3 billion per year in constant FY2013 dollars to implement, or about 15% more than the Navy estimated. CBO’s estimate is about 6% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the first 10 years of the plan, about 14% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the second 10 years of the plan, and about 26% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the final 10 years of the plan.Some of the difference between CBO’s estimate and the Navy’s estimate, particularly in the latter years of the plan, is due to a difference between CBO and the Navy in how to treat inflation in Navy shipbuilding.
The Navy delivered its narrative report on the FY2015 30-year shipbuilding plan to CRS on July 3, 2014. The Navy estimates in the report that the plan would cost an average of about $16.7 billion per year in constant FY2014 dollars to implement. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is now preparing its own estimate of the cost to implement the plan; this estimate will be made available later this year. CBO’s estimates of the cost to implement past annual versions of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuild-ing plan have been higher than the Navy’s estimates. Table 6summarizes the Navy and CBO estimates of the FY2014 and FY2015 30-year shipbuilding plans.
Future Shipbuilding Funding Levels
It has been known for some time that implementing the 30-year shipbuilding plan would require shipbuilding budgets in coming years that are considerably greater than those of recent years, and that funding requirements for the Ohio-replacement (SSBN[X]) ballistic missile submarine program will put particular pressure on the shipbuilding budget during the middle years of the 30-year plan. The Navy’s report on the FY2015 30-year plan states:
Beginning in FY2020 and running through the end of the 30-year plan horizon, the plan requires an average annual investment of about $17.2B [billion] (FY14$) [i.e., in constant FY2014 dollars] to finance, which is ~$4B/year more than our historical average annual investment of ~$13B/yr. In particular, for the period while we are procuring the OHIO Replacement (OR) SSBN (essentially FY25-FY34), the Navy will have to provide an average of $19.7B annually with the peak year in FY32 at slightly more than $24B. Even if the OHIO Replacement Program (ORP) is removed from the [required] resource total [by funding the program through a different part of the defense budget], the average funding required beginning in FY2020 is ~$14-15B/yr to build the FSA [Force Structure Assessment] force [i.e., the planned 306-ship fleet]….
While the force structure presented [in this report] de-scribes a battle force that meets the requirements of the National Security Strategy and the 2014 QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review]; it requires funding at an unsustainable level, particularly between FY25 and FY34… The average cost of this plan during the period in which the DON [Department of the Navy] is procuring OR SSBN[s] (~$19.7B/year [during] FY2025-[FY]2034) cannot be accommodated by the Navy from existing resources—particularly if DOD is required to be funded at the BCA [Budget Control Act] levels….
The DON can only afford the SSBN procurement costs with significant increases inour [budget] top-line or by having the SSBN funded from sources that do not result in any reductions to the DON’s current resourcing level….
If the DON is unable to sustain the average annual shipbuild-ing budgets of $19.7 billion over the course of themid-term planning period, which is unlikely to be the case,the battle force will fall far short of meeting the QDR requirements.
In assessing the Navy’s ability to reach the higher annual shipbuilding funding levels described above, one perspective is tonote that doing so would require the shipbuilding budget to be increased by 30% to 50% from levels in recent years. In a context of constraints on defense spending and competing demands for defense dollars, this perspective can make the goal of increasingthe shipbuilding budget to these levels appear daunting.
Another perspective is to note that the additional annual funding needed (roughly $4 billion to $6.7 billion) equates to roughly 0.8% to 1.3% of a defense budget of $521 billion per year (the Budget Control Act figure for defense spending FY2015). Some observers, noting the U.S. strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, have advocated shifting a greater share of the DOD budget to the Navy and Air Force, on the grounds that the Asia-Pacific region is primarily a maritime and aerospace theater for DOD. In discussing the idea of shifting a greater share of the DOD budget to the Navy and Air Force, some of these observers refer to breaking the so-called “one-third, one-third, one-third” division of resources among the three military departments—a shorthand term sometimes used to refer to the more-or-less stable division of resources between the three military departments that existed for the three decades between the end of U.S. participation in the Vietnam War in 1973 and the start of the Iraq War in 2003.In a context of breaking the “one-third, one-third, one-third” allocation with an aim of better aligning defense spending with the strategic rebalancing, shifting 0.8% to 1.3% of the defensebudget into the Navy’s shipbuilding account would appear to be quite feasible.
More broadly, if defense spending were to remain constrained to the revised cap levels in the Budget Control Act, then fully funding the Department of the Navy’s total budget at the levels shown in the current Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) would require increasing the Department of the Navy’s share of the non-Defense-Wide part of the DOD budget to about 41%, compared to about 36% in the FY2014 budget and an average of about 37% for the three-decade period between the Vietnam and Iraq wars.While shifting 4% or 5% of DOD’s budget to the Department of the Navy would be a more ambitious reallocation than shifting 0.8% to 1.3% of the DOD budget to the Navy’s shipbuilding account,similarly large reallocations have occurred in the past.
Appendix C. U.S. Strategy and the Size and Structure of U.S. Naval Forces
This appendix presents some observations on the relationship between U.S. strategy and the size and structure of U.S. naval forces that can form part of the context for assessing Navy force structure goals and shipbuilding plans.
Strategic considerations that can be considered in assessing Navy force structure goals and shipbuilding plans include, among other things, the U.S.strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region,China’s modernization of its maritime military capabilities,and requests from U.S. regional combatant command-ers (COCOMs) for forward-deployed U.S. naval forces that the Navy has testified would require a Navy of about 450 ships to fully meet.
More broadly, from a strategic perspective it can be noted that that U.S. naval forces, while not inexpensive, give the United States the ability to convert the world’s oceans—a global commons that covers more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface—into a medium of maneuver and operations for projecting U.S. power ashore and otherwise defending U.S. interests around the world. The ability to use the world’s oceans in this manner—and to deny other countries the use of the world’s oceans for taking actions against U.S. interests—constitutes an immense asymmetric advantage for the United States. This point would be less important if less of the world were covered by water, or if the oceans were carved into territorial blocks, like the land. Most of the world, however, is covered by water, and most of those waters are international waters, where naval forces can operate freely. The point, consequently, is not that U.S. naval forces are intrinsically special or privileged—it is that they have a certain value simply as a consequence of the physical and legal organiza-tion of the planet.
An additional point that can be noted in relating U.S. naval forces to U.S. national strategy is that most of the world’s people, resources, and economic activity are located not in the Western Hemisphere, but in the other hemisphere, particularly Eurasia. In response to this basic feature of world geography, U.S. policy-makers for the last several decades have chosen to pursue, as a key element of U.S. national strategy, a goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another, on the grounds that such a hegemon could represent a concentration of power strong enough to threaten core U.S. interests by, for example, denying the United States access to some of the other hemisphere’s resources and economic activity. Although U.S. policymakers do not often state this key national strategic goal explicitly in public, U.S. military operations in recent decades—bothwartime operations and day-to-day operations—have been carried out in no small part in support of this key goal.
The U.S. goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another is a major reason why the U.S. military is structured with force elements that enable it to cross broad expanses of ocean and air space and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival. Force elements associated with this goal include, among other things, an Air Force with significant numbers of long-range bombers, long-range surveillance aircraft, long-range airlift aircraft, and aerial refueling tankers, and a Navy with significant numbers aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered attack submarines, large surface combatants, large amphibious ships, and underway replenishment ships.
The United States is the only country in the world that designs its military to cross broad expanses of ocean and air space and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival. Theother countries in the Western Hemisphere do not design their forces to do this because they cannot afford to, and because the United States is, in effect, doing it for them. Countries in the other hemisphere do not design their forces to do this for the very basic reason that they are already in the other hemisphere, and consequently instead spend their defense money on forces that are tailored largely for influencing events in their own local region.
The fact that the United States designs its military to do some-thing that other countries do not design their forces to do—cross broad expanses of ocean and air space and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival—can be important to keep in mind when comparing the U.S. military to the militaries of other nations. For example, in observing that the U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers while other countries have no more than one or two, it can be noted other countries do not need a significant number of aircraft carriers because, unlikethe United States, they are not designing their forces to cross broad expanses of ocean and air space and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival.
As another example, it is sometimes noted, in assessing the adequacy of U.S. naval forces, that U.S. naval forces are equal in tonnage to the next dozen or more navies combined, and that most of those next dozen or more navies are the navies of U.S. allies. Those other fleets, however, are mostly of Eurasian countries, which do not design their forces to cross to the other side of the world and then conduct sustained, large-scale military operations upon arrival. The fact that the U.S. Navy is much bigger than allied navies does not necessarily prove that U.S. naval forces are eithersufficient or excessive; it simply reflects the differing and generally more limited needs that U.S. allies have for naval forces. (It might also reflect an underinvestment by some of those allies to meet even their more limited naval needs.)
Countries have differing needs for naval and other military forces. The United States, as a country located in the Western Hemisphere with a goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another, has defined a need for naval and other military forces that is quite different from the needs of allies that are located in Eurasia. The sufficiency of U.S. naval and other military forces consequently is best assessed not through comparison to the militaries of other countries, but against U.S. strategic goals.