Much of this reduction is due to a cutback in the number of littoral combat ships (LCS), small vessels designed for shallow coastal engagements, which the Navy says aren't needed as much in light of a lessening requirement "to support U.S. Africa command."
The figure of 313 ships was originally set in 2005 but was never a hard number according to Navy Spokeswoman Lt. Courtney Hillson. Rather, the focus has been on having enough ships to create the right mix of ship types in order "to meet combatant commander demands."
The actual number of ships in the fleet fell as low as 275 in May 2007, down from 300 in summer 2003.
Currently, the fleet is at 288 ships; an anonymous source on Capital Hill believes the push to 306 may mark the last time the Navy will get to operate with this many ships. Budget constraints will simply make it impossible to fund a 300-plus ship fleet in the future.
Photo credit: Nicholas Kontodiakos/U.S. Navy