I spent most of the first hour of yesterday’s show interviewing Vice Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet. (Transcript here. Audio here.) We focused on the role of active sonar in the defense of the country given the proliferation of extremely quiet diesel submarines, but Admiral Locklear also expanded on where we find the Navy these days:
HH: Are 280 ships enough to the tasks that the Navy faces these days, Admiral?
SL: Well, I think the short answer to that is no. We’re, you know, the world is far more globalized than it’s ever been. 90% of everything that travels in the whole wide world travels on the ocean. There’s a population explosion going on around the world. Most of those people are going to live within 200 miles of the sea. And there’s places out there, countries, and factions that don’t necessarily like what we have or who we are here back in this great country. And so, you know, the Navy is a big part of ensuring that we have access to the world the way that this country has always had. And 280 ships is probably not going to get it done. We’re on a program right now to try and get up to 313 ships in the next several years. But we’re always faced with challenges. It’s expensive, and we compete with other priorities in this country. But we’re going to need more ships.
The Republican nominee has got to put expansion and sustainment of the Navy at the center of his defense agenda. Reagan’s 600 ship Navy was central to his successes. Demanding and building toward a 400 ship Navy would be a powerful appeal to American’s intuitive support for sea power.