The president says it's OK to have fewer ships because today's vessels have much better capabilities. But each ship can be in only one place at a time.
When Mitt Romney noted the shrinking Navy under Barack Obama's budget cuts and the sequestration his Office of Management and Budget director drew up, the president sarcastically replied:
"We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of 'Battleship' where we're counting ships; it's what are our capabilities."
As we've noted, we can have the most capable ships in the world, but they can't be everywhere at once with all of them constantly at sea. Some need to be in port, being refueled and refitted, their crews resting.
The rest have multiple commitments, such as defending the Taiwan Strait, keeping the Strait of Hormuz open, chasing pirates off Somalia, and contesting Beijing in the South and East China Seas.
So it is a game of counting ships, of all types and all capabilities, and under a second Obama term we will wind up with too few of them.
There is a reason China is building up its navy. It is to project Chinese power, guard Chinese supply lines and enforce Chinese territorial claims. It is the reason China has developed an anti-ship ballistic missile, the Dong Feng 21D, to sink our carriers.
A carrier does not sail alone. A carrier battle group can require as many as 10 escort ships, including guided missile cruisers and destroyers, two attack submarines, a frigate and a destroyer equipped for anti-submarine warfare, and a combined oiler, ammunition and supply ship for logistic support.
The Navy has indicated a need for 313 ships in order to fulfill its obligations
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