The Army, Marines, and Air Force might be getting hammered with the new proposed Pentagon budget, but the Navy avoids the hammer. The Army will cut 80,000 men and the Marines 20,000; the Air Forces is proposing to cut seven squadrons. But the Navy? As the Navy Times reports:
The U.S. fleet keeps its 11 aircraft carriers as well as its 10 air wings. About a third of the fleet of 22 cruisers — seven ships — will be decommissioned early. A number of shipbuilding programs or hulls will be pushed back, but not — apparently — killed. And there was no mention of reductions in any Navy aviation program.
All in all, as expected, no Navy program suffered a severe blow from the Pentagon’s 2013 budget-cutting ax.
Of course we need the Navy strong for power projection. But if you look at the recent conflicts–Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Libya, the role of the Navy was relatively limited. It was the Army, Marines, and Air Force that did most of the heavy lifting. It’s great to be able to get somewhere, but what if you don’t have the resources to fight once you arrive?
It’s pretty clear that the strategy for the future is to rely on indigenous forces and local allies for the bulk of any land force. That is wise and makes sense–but there are certainly scenarios you can envision where the locals might want to remain neutral. What happens then? You can keep a lot of soldiers in the armed services if you retire just one Navy aircraft carrier. They are large, vulnerable, and not terribly effective in a era of anti-ship missiles and ballistic missiles. A Nimitz aircraft carrier costs $4.5 billion to build, and it requires a mid-life overhaul of $2.3 billion and associated other costs. In addition, as defense analyst Edward Luttwak puts it, you basically need an armada of other ships to protect the carrier. It’s time to give up a carrier. I’d rather give up one carrier and keep a bunch of grunts any day.