Mitt Romney Once Again Misrepresents The Status Of The U.S. Navy

Mitt Romney is once again making completely false claims about the status of the United States Navy.

During his foreign policy speech yesterday at Virginia Military Institute, Mitt Romney made a claim that he’s repeated several times in the past:

“The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines.”

This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard this from Romney. He made a similar claim during a debate in advance of January’s Florida primary and he made the same claim during a debate earlier in the month in South Carolina: 

ROMNEY: I’ve still got time. So as long as I still have time I just want to go back and agree with what Governor Perry said, the most extraordinary thing that’s happened with this military authorization is the president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending. Our Navy is smaller than it’s been since 1917. Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947.

We are cutting our number of troops. We are not giving the veterans the care they deserve. We simply cannot continue to cut our Department of Defense budget if we are going to remain the hope of the Earth. And I will fight to make sure America retains military superiority.

Glenn Kessler takes a look at Romney’s claims about our Naval strength and finds them to be completely untrue:

The historical records of the Navy show that in 1916, the Navy had 245 ships. This was also the year that President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Naval Act of 1916, which put the United States on a crash course to build a world-class Navy.

But take a look at the types of ships on the list. Yes, there are cruisers and destroyers but also:

Gunboats

Steel Gunboats

Torpedo Boats

Monitors (that’s kind of a small warship)

These types of boats aren’t on the list anymore. Instead, the current list of Navy ships includes behemoths such as aircraft carriers, “SSBN” (nuclear-powered, ballistic-missile carrying submarines) and “SSGN” (cruise-missile submarines).

In other words, this is an apples-and-oranges comparison. Romney’s line reminds us of a similar strained comparison he made last year regarding the workforce needs to make ships during World War II and today. But in this case he goes even deeper back into history. After all, 1916 is not only before computers, it is before television — even before regular radio broadcasts.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, notes that it is difficult to make comparisons between ships that are even much more recent. “Today’s aircraft carrier has about 10 times the lethality of an aircraft carrier of 20 years ago, due to the advent of precision munitions — in the old days, it was sorties per target, now it is targets per sortie,” he said.

The current level of ships, 285 in fiscal 2011, is actually not even the lowest since 1916. The historical list shows that the lowest ship force was reached during the Bush administration, when the number of ships fell to 278 in 2007. Given the change over time in the composition of the naval force, that probably is the most relevant comparison — and the trend line is up.

Romney is wrong here not just on the facts — the size of the Navy now is not the lowest its been since 1916 — but he’s also wrong because he’s making a completely meaningless comparison. As Kessler notes, there is simply no way to compare nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines to the type of Navy we had 96 years ago. For one thing, today’s ships possess far more firepower than their early 20th Century counterparts did. Indeed, an aircraft carrier and its associated task force allows an American President to project overwhelming military power around the world in a relatively short period of time. The same is true of a submarine equipped with cruise missiles or nuclear weapons. In addition to firepower, today’s ships also possess far better propulsion systems than their ancestors, meaning that they can get from one point to another in a much shorter period of time than was possible when the United States was still deciding whether or not it would get involved in World War One. Additionally advanced communications systems mean that Washington can communicate with this vast fleet at any time such communication is necessary. Finally the Navy of today has something that the Navy of 1916 could only dream of,  an air component consisting of some of the most advanced fighter jets in the world, along with cruise missiles that can strikes any target on the planet with stunning accuracy. Comparing an early 20th Century Navy with an early 21st Century Navy is as ridiculous as it would have been to compare the 1916 Navy with the 1816 Navy, and Romney’s obsession with the rather meaningless number of how many ships we have while ignoring their quality and strategic and tactical value of those assets demonstrates quite clearly to me that he’s using this as a talking point, not a serious element of a serious plan.

Additionally, Romney’s shipbuilding plan isn’t really all that different from what the Navy is already planning to do and would seem to be unlikely to have a major impact:

Romney’s pledge to build 15 more ships per year, including three submarines, also is less than meets the eye. The current Navy plan is to build 34 ships over the next four years — 10 in 2013 — including seven submarines as part of its goal to reach at least 300 ships by 2019. (The Congressional Budget Office, however, has raised questions about whether this plan is feasible.)

Given ship retirements, Romney’s plan probably would net an additional 20 ships, Pike said, but he said it generally takes three years to build a ship and another year to put it in commission. In other words, the Navy in place at the end of a first Romney term would be Obama’s Navy. In any case, even under the best-case scenario under Romney’s proposal, the Navy would end up with about as many ships as in 2000 — which is barely better than 1916.

Much of Romney’s call for additional shipbuilding is reminsicent of President Reagan’s pledge in the 1980 Presidential Election Campaign that he would fulfill the Navy’s strategic goal, motivated in large part by an effort to rebuild from post-Vietnam downsizing, of a 600 ship Navy. At the time, with the Soviet Union still a major strategic thrat and the Cold War at full boil, this was likely an advisable goal. In many respects, this plan was carried out. Ship construction was stepped up from where it had been in the 1970s, many of the Iowa-Class Battleships which had been mothballed after Vietnam were refitted and called back into service. Indeed, the USS New Jersey played an important role in the American involvement in Lebanon in the early 80s, and several of the recommissioned ships were in service as late as the First Gulf War. The 600 ship Navy, though, became a victim of budgetary realities and the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed. At that point, we simply didn’t need the kind of Navy that Reagan had helped construct. Those Battleships that were reactivated are now mostly museum ships.

As I noted when this issue came up back in January, Romney’s argument misses largely because the Navy of today is different from what it has been in the past:

We simply aren’t likely to ever see the kind of multi-ship battles that were a crucial part of World War II’s Pacific component. Today, our Naval resources are more about force projection to far corners of the world and protecting one corner of the nuclear triad. More importantly, even with recent Chinese advances there simply isn’t a Navy on the planet that can match our force today (and there barely was even with the Soviet Union still existed).

And that’s a fact that is unlikely to change anytime in the foreseeable future. Moreover, given the fact that the Air Force now plays an important role in force projection from far further distances, and that some military planners are talking about vehicles that could strike any target on the planet within an hour virtually undetected, one wonders just how much bigger the Navy would really need to be.

Mitt Romney is, quite simply, wrong about our Naval situation. There may well be good reasons to build up our capacity in specific areas. Given the fact that we’re dealing less with major national threats and more with rogue nations and terrorist groups, perhaps more attention should be paid to fast-attack craft that can get into an area quickly, launch a cruise missile barrage, or a drone, and get out before anyone knows they were there. However, he’s simply wrong to compare the Navy today to an era when the internal combustion engine was still, to most people, a novelty.

Photo of the USS George Washington (CVN-73) and part of its battle group via U.S. Navy

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    The man lies about absolutely everything. It’s rather impressive, really.

  2. @mantis:

    I wouldn’t call this a lie — he’s off by less than a dozen ships on the “smallest Navy since 1916” point — as it is that he’s raising an irrelevant and misleading argument.

  3. SKI says:

    Intentionally misleading is another way of saying lying.

  4. Buzz Buzz says:

    Da, the U.S. Navy is strong under Comrade Obama.

    Do not allow the lies of capitalist running dog Romney to penetrate Inside The Hive ™ !

  5. mantis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    as it is that he’s raising an irrelevant and misleading argument.

    That’s the lie part. He knows it is misleading. He is saying it to mislead. That is a lie where I’m from.

  6. Vast Variety says:

    This goes to the question of why on earth do we need such a large military budget. A small strike force equiped with today’s weaponry can pack as much punch if not more than that of a full division of troops from WWII. One carrier task force of today could probably have sunk the enterity of the Japanse Imperial Navy from 1941. While I’m a sucker for big bad ass warships like Enterprise and her replacement carriers, they make the need for a large fleet of ships unecessary which is a good thing.

  7. @mantis:

    I think I’ve made my opinion about Romney’s position on this issue clear enough.

  8. @Vast Variety:

    Actually, the fact that we have aircraft carriers kind of makes a good part of everything else necessary. Even with modern defenses, carriers can be especially vulnerable to attack, which is why they always travel in a Battle Group that includes Destroyers, Cruisers, and other ships designated with the specific task of protecting the perimeter.

  9. Al says:

    So during the debate when he said no sacred cows, he meant except for the sacred cows?

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    as it is that he’s raising an irrelevant and misleading argument.

    Um, that’s called lying.

  11. David M says:

    So to tie it into the other thread, Romney is going fix the deficit by cutting funding for the CPB and increasing military spending? Must be the new math…

  12. Al says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You’ve also just high lighted why carriers are obsolete. Tomahawks can project power just as well as a Super Hornet can and subs aren’t as vulnerable to most of the weapons that can threaten a carrier.

    A smart CIC would Seawolf the Ford class carrier and push for more SSGNs, a replacement for the Tomahawk and UAVs that can be launched from subs.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    Wow. Breaking News: Romney’s full of it.

    Hard to believe.

  14. Blue Shark says:

    Doug…

    …Every time you get all hot and bothered by a possible R-Money win next month … remember what that would actually mean for this great country.

  15. Blue Shark,

    You assume that I care if the Giant Douche or the Turd Sandwich wins in November.

  16. Janiah says:

    I think everyone hearing him takes into account that the technology and power of the ships has been greatly enhanced over the last hundred years. I know I was assuming “number of ships” as what is meant.

    The 1916 Navy was being compared to the 1916 navy of other nations. Our current Navy is being compared to others’ 2012 ones.

    All in all, the voters can decide it the comparison is meaningless. Some no doubt will agree with you. I’m comfortable with his larger point. I’m also realistic. I never much doubt either candidate knows how many ships are in our Navy.

  17. David M says:

    @Janiah:

    Our current Navy is being compared to others’ 2012 ones.

    All in all, the voters can decide it the comparison is meaningless. Some no doubt will agree with you. I’m comfortable with his larger point.

    But that’s the opposite of what Romney is doing by bringing 1916 into the discussion. He’s trying to scare low information voters with nonsense, there is no larger point being made.

  18. Vast Variety says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Maybe I should clairfy that by saying Carrier Task Force.

  19. Vast Variety says:

    What we really need are Subsurface carriers.

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947.

    Here I have to concede, finally, that Mitt Romney is telling the truth. Our Air Force is indeed older than at any time since 1947.

    However, since the Air Force was only established in 1947, I’m not sure that the laws of time would ever allow our Air Force to be younger than at any time since then….

  21. Anderson says:

    Doug is a lawyer (like me), and we have a pretty high threshold for the L-word.

  22. Rafer,

    Whether this point is true or not strikes me as irrelevant. B-52’s have been around for 50 years or so but they’ve been retrofitted, upgraded, and changed so much that they barely resemble their original cousins. And they still are capable of doing the job assigned to them, which they will hopefully never have to carry out.

  23. @Janiah:

    There is no Navy on the planet as capable of projecting force as needed in the protection of national interests as the United States Navy.

  24. Janiah Hoff says:

    @David M: I think the larger point is that Romney plans to spend $$$ enhancing the size of the navy. Hi-info voters will have sophisticated responses to this, as do some here. Lo-information voters are likely to respond with “yeah Navy!” or “we spend too much on the military!” — whatever their prior prejudices may be. In the end, I doubt this will have much impact at all on lo-info voters, either way.

  25. Janiah says:

    A bit of Googling shows me that former Senator Jim Talent, representing the Heritage Foundation, testified in Congress in July 2011 that “The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916.”

    I’m not saying it is true or untrue; I actually have no idea, but would consider Jim Talent and the Heritage Foundation a credible source for the Romney staff to have cited.

    Anyone who wants a navy expert as the next president must be voting third party in any case.

  26. mannning says:

    Romney seems not to have had any military experts around him at speechwriting time. Apparently, his personal knowledge of the Navy in all of its glory is currently very weak. I hope this is corrected before any debates raise the subject. It is most certainly corrected rather easily, and for all of the services, not only the Navy, to the degree one might expect a candidate to know (When elected, he will get a thorough hosing by the DOD on just about a daily basis, just as Obama must have received.).

    (Doug: A carrier group usually has one or more attack subs in the pack to detect and ward off enemy subs, among other jobs–some involving SEALS.)

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @Anderson:

    Doug is a lawyer (like me), and we have a pretty high threshold for the L-word.

    Eh. I’m a lawyer, as I suspect are quite a few of the commenters here, and that’s not true for me. It’s partly because I’m a lawyer that I’m better able to tell when someone is lying. It’s lowered my threshold, not heightened it.

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Whether this point is true or not strikes me as irrelevant.

    Yes, it’s…a joke.

  29. Neil Hudelson says:

    Our biggest strategic threat is, collectively, the Middle East. Collectively (not including Israel) the Middle East has…0 submarines and aircraft carriers. What the hell will three additional submarines do to improve our strategic and tactical capabilities? Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Russia and china have 1 “functioning” aircraft carrier each.

    What is this naval threat Romney sees everywhere?

  30. KRM says:

    I understood exactly what Romney meant.

    Btw, that my eldest boy there on the GW (on the right, fourth plane back).
    Hi, son!

  31. David M says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    What is this naval threat Romney sees everywhere?

    And not just any thread, but a threat large enough to warrant increasing the size of the Navy.

  32. sam says:

    @KRM:

    I understood exactly what Romney meant.

    And what was that?

  33. sam says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    the Middle East has…0 submarines and aircraft carriers.

    Not quite, if we count Iran as in the Middle East. Iran deploys Russian-made diesel-electric subs.
    And damn quiet and damn dangerous they are.

  34. george says:

    How does a larger military fit in with a smaller government? Unless Romney is considering making the navy a private enterprise?

  35. Anderson says:

    I’m a lawyer, as I suspect are quite a few of the commenters here, and that’s not true for me.

    Oh, trust me, I’ve encountered lawyers like that. They’re very popular. (Did your lie-detection powers activate on that second sentence?)

  36. john personna says:

    I heard some poor old guy on the radio, saying he would vote for Romney because Obama has been making the military weaker. That is the market for this stuff. “Low information” voters.

  37. PD Shaw says:

    @Neil Hudelson:” What is this naval threat Romney sees everywhere?”

    China has committed to a substantial increase in its navy and helping build ports on the Indian Ocean.

  38. PD Shaw says:

    Here is a description of the concern:

    China has the world’s second-largest naval service, after only the United States. Rather than purchase warships across the board, it is developing niche capacities in sub-surface warfare and missile technology designed to hit moving targets at sea. At some point, the U.S. Navy is likely to be denied unimpeded access to the waters off East Asia. China’s 66 submarines constitute roughly twice as many warships as the entire British Royal Navy. If China expands its submarine fleet to 78 by 2020 as planned, it would be on par with the U.S. Navy’s undersea fleet in quantity, if not in quality. If our economy remains wobbly while China’s continues to rise — China’s defense budget is growing nearly 10 percent annually — this will have repercussions for each nation’s sea power. And with 90 percent of commercial goods worldwide still transported by ship, sea control is critical.

    Link

  39. legion says:

    @PD Shaw: And India, being (rightfully) far more concerned about an ascending Chinese navy than the US, is responding in kind.

  40. PD,

    Most analysis I’ve read puts Russia’s Navy as being larger than China’s. And, more importantly, China does not have the capacity to project its Naval power very far beyond its shores.

  41. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Janiah:

    The 1916 Navy was being compared to the 1916 navy of other nations. Our current Navy is being compared to others’ 2012 ones.

    That makes the comparison even more asinine. Today’s U.S. navy is without peer and hardly in need of improvement. In 1916 Great Britain still ruled the waves with roughly three times the ships and an even larger advantage in tonnage and armament over the U.S.

    In 1916 a building programme would have made sense. Today ???

  42. sam says:

    @PD Shaw:

    China has committed to a substantial increase in its navy and helping build ports on the Indian Ocean.

    But does the currently scheduled increases in the Navy fall short of addressing that issue? And if so, how?

  43. Clanton says:

    @Doug Mataconis: While the technology has certainly made the US Navy even more stronger, I still would feel more comfortable and safe knowing that the US has carriers, destroyers, battleships, and subs patrolling the oceans. I have always wondered why the SAC (Strategic Air Command) was abolished. This was a deterrent if there ever was one!

  44. Travis says:

    @PD Shaw:
    “At some point, the U.S. Navy is likely to be denied unimpeded access to the waters off East Asia.”

    So? That’s like saying that “At some point, the Chinese Navy is likely to be denied unimpeded access to the waters off Hawaii.”

    We can’t stop the Chinese from building up a navy, or defending their littoral waters. More to the point, why would we want to?

  45. Travis says:

    @Clanton:
    “I still would feel more comfortable and safe knowing that the US has carriers, destroyers, battleships, and subs patrolling the oceans.”

    We have carriers, destroyers and subs patrolling the ocean. Battleships are obsolete dinosaurs.

    “I have always wondered why the SAC (Strategic Air Command) was abolished. This was a deterrent if there ever was one!”

    The bureaucracy was abolished, its weapons have not been. Ask the missileers in the silos.

  46. bk says:

    @Janiah:

    I’m not saying it is true or untrue; I actually have no idea, but would consider Jim Talent and the Heritage Foundation a credible source for the Romney staff to have cited.

    Um, why? You just said that you have no idea whether the statement is true or not. So then why is it credible? Because the name “Heritage Foundation” has some gravitas in your mind?

  47. Graham says:

    @PD Shaw: China and the US depend on each others’ economies. We need their cheap labor and abundant mineral resources and they need our dollars and innovation.

    That and China has around 200 nuclear weapons. The US has over 5000. Both numbers are intimidating.

    States don’t like other states creeping in on their action, but a hot war between the US and China makes no sense whatsoever for anyone involved, and we’ve got a long time before China catches up to us in naval and air power. We are still currently designing and building new ships and naval weapon systems after all.

    Like other global powers, China is worth keeping an eye on, but we don’t need to go full Romney.

  48. grumpy realist says:

    Isn’t this somewhat like comparing a bunch of Cessnas to a bunch of Stealth Bombers?

  49. RobZ says:

    “China’s 66 submarines constitute roughly twice as many warships as the entire British Royal Navy. ”

    Given that there are currently 77 commissioned in the RN, I have to wonder how they came up with that “twice as many.”

  50. An Interested Party says:

    Someone should remind Romney that the Cold War is over and we won…what is this need among some conservatives to have the biggest, shiniest weapons to ward off every bogeyman, real or imagined…

  51. ericinva says:

    So, by all means, let’s elect Obama instead. Clearly Romney is unfit to be CinC on the basis of this nitpicking.

  52. anjin-san says:

    China has committed to a substantial increase in its navy

    Yea, they have a carrier that is not able conduct the operations necessary to project power. Sure, we need to keep an eye on them, but the portrayal of them as a serious threat is more about keeping defense budgets robust than the reality of the balance of forces.

  53. C. Clavin says:

    Romney makes Palin look honest.
    I didn’t think that was possible.
    Romney/Ryan must be the lyingest duo in political history.
    And sycophants like Doug refuse to call them on it.

  54. Franklin says:

    I think Romney’s basic point here is correct: we spend about as much on the military as the rest of the world combined, but it’s just plain not enough.

    /sarcasm off

  55. michael reynolds says:

    @ericinva:

    No, he’s not unfit because of “nitpicking” he’s unfit because he’s lying, distorting reality, pretending there’s a threat when there isn’t, belittling our own armed forces and laying the foundation for more stupid belligerence.

    That’s why he’s unfit.

    There is no naval threat of significance that would be in any way lessened by building more capital ships. The biggest single threat is probably Iranian inflatable craft – Zodiacs – loaded with TNT and driven by suicide bombers. How does another aircraft carrier improve our ability to deal with that.

  56. michael reynolds says:

    For those terrified of the Chinese naval threat, please pull up a Google map of China. See their coastline? Now do you Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hawaii? Can you explain to me how the Chinese get a Navy in and out to go rampaging undetected, undeterred and unsunk?

    Do you understand that we have sub-hunting aircraft flying from bases that entirely surround the Chinese coast? Do you understand that we have massive naval forces within a few hours of Chinese waters?

    Now go look at our coasts. See the difference? Are there Chinese naval bases in Vancouver or Tijuana?

    The Chinese are building subs. Swell. So what? What do you suppose they are going to do with them? Start a naval war? With us? They have a single joke aircraft carrier. What do you think they’re going to do with it? Start a carrier war? With us?

    The idea that China is looking to fight a naval war with us is as ignorant as the notion that we would invade China with a land army.

    We own the oceans. The Royal Navy at its peak did not own the oceans like we own the oceans. No one has ever owned the oceans to this extent.

  57. C. Clavin says:

    Romney also lied about his stand on abortion legislation today.
    He’s pathological.

  58. anjin-san says:

    Clearly Romney is unfit to be CinC on the basis of this nitpicking.

    Actually I am thinking he is unfit because he appears to be ready to outsource our foreign policy decisions to Tel Aviv…

  59. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Sigh…

    In 1916, our Navy was still getting used to being more than a coastal force. Our only real blue-water adventure was during the Spanish-American War, where we beat the crap out of a third-rate European colonial power. And this was still the era of Britain Rules The Waves, but fortunately we were very good friends with them. We didn’t have to worry about most of the world, because Great Britain was doing just fine on that.

    And forget about “power projection.” That’s a military buzzword. The key concept behind the Carrier Battle Group is control. Imagine a bubble around an CBG with a radius of 3-400 miles. Nothing exists within that sphere — air, surface, or submerged — that does not continue to exist with the carrier’s permission. And that sphere extends inland as well.

    China? No big threat. Yet. But that aircraft carrier that is worthless right now? They’re fitting it out for service, and training like hell. Remember that they bought it as a “floating casino,” and swore up and down that it would never be an active-duty warship. That’s the reason Turkey let it pass through the Bosphorus. China is becoming a blue-water naval force. Not today, not tomorrow, but that’s their long-term plan.

    Piracy is also up — significantly up — around the world, and not just off Somalia. Pirates are the enemy of all navies, and part of the reason has to be the general decline in navies around the world — not just ours.

    And it pains me to say this, but the Navy is probably the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster relief force. Park a carrier group off a disaster area, and presto! — instant hospital, communications grid, transportation hub, water distillery, and — in a pinch — power plant, just to name a few.. Plus a whole bunch of very able-bodied workers with plenty of useful tools and skills.

    The Navy does a huge job in promoting our national security. And cutting it back is a very short-sighted solution.

  60. anjin-san says:

    Nothing exists within that sphere — air, surface, or submerged — that does not continue to exist with the carrier’s permission.

    Wow. You’ve read some Tom Clancy novels. I know I am impressed.

  61. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Piracy is also up — significantly up — around the world, and not just off Somalia. Pirates are the enemy of all navies, and part of the reason has to be the general decline in navies around the world — not just ou

    rs.

    We need aircraft carriers to deal with junks and Zodiacs? Just like we need tanks and bombers to deal with carjackers.

    Park a carrier group off a disaster area, and presto! — instant hospital, communications grid, transportation hub, water distillery, and — in a pinch — power plant, just to name a few.

    Yes, we need aircraft carriers to do this. F-18s. Very useful in delivering sacks of sorghum.

    Conservatives are desperate to kill the National Endowment for the Arts but want to build billion dollar carriers to deliver tents to quake victims. Makes perfect sense.

  62. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:

    Oh, I forgot: sigh. . .

  63. michael reynolds says:

    Hmmm. That was for Indiana Jones, not you, Anjin.

  64. madawaskan says:

    You better set Leon Panetta straight–

    “Reductions would delay receipt of capability and drive up unit costs,” he tells lawmakers.

    In an attachment to his letter, Panetta provides more details on what would happen to the military under this worst-case scenario.

    If the sequestration cuts are applied over the next 10 years, a highly unlikely scenario given the upcoming election, they would result in the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest fleet of ships since 1915,,/b> and the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force, Panetta says.

    http://www.navytimes.com/news/2011/11/defense-panetta-letter-to-mccain-sequestration-111411w/

  65. madawaskan says:

    Unbelievable–none of you knew that first came from Leon Panetta?

    I highly doubt this is a legitimate interest if you had no idea about the Panetta letter and/or simply failed to mention it.

  66. Al says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Everything that you mention is done better and cheaper by other ships or groups.

    Subs. not carriers. sunk more tonnage than any other vessel in the Pacific during World War 2 and it was an SSN that forced the Argentinean navy back to port in the Falklands War. Frigates are much better platforms for attacking pirates. Finally, a MEU is much better equipped to provide humanitarian aid than a CBG is. LHAs have just as much comms capabilities and the ships in the group can also produce plenty of fresh water. CBGs lack the larger complement of transport helicopters and hovercraft that an MEU has meaning that they can move more supplies from ports to stricken areas. Plus, the battalion of Marines can do more to provide more security to aid workers and other civilians.

  67. michael reynolds says:

    @madawaskan:

    Panetta said that if sequestration were enacted, and were carried out for the next decade, a situation would result that according to Mr. Romney already exists.

    It was a dumb scare tactic from Panetta, picked up and evidently distorted beyond all reason, by Mitt Romney.

  68. Wayne says:

    First what one needs to establish is what Romney meant by “level and what time frame is he referring to. If he is talking of this last decade instead of just this year that you “assumed” he meant then he is correct. Using the number of combat ships as the level of course. Talking about a decline of military asset as meaning within the last decade is not unusual..

    Many are only guessing and probably in a bias way. As you all proven in debt and deficit discussions, numbers can be twisted in all sorts of way. Perhaps he meant as percent of GDP, spending, etc. Perhaps he made an honest mistake. Why not wait until the press asks him to clarify before calling him a liar? Questioning his statement is one thing calling him a liar is another.

    Obama has been caught making false claims several times including his 5 trillion dollar claim about Romney plan. Several economists have said his statement is incorrect. Even the person he whose study his sited said Obama incorrectly used his study. Yet Obama continues to use that false claim in his attacks.

    Many of you will give Obama a passed but are quick to call Romney a liar without being sure what he even meant. How typical. Are any of you willing to call Obama a liar?

  69. michael reynolds says:

    @Wayne:

    Mr. Romney lies every time he opens his mouth. Just today he managed to take two positions on abortion. That’s a pretty typical day for him.

    The question I have is why you support him. And which Romney exactly do you support?

  70. bookdragon says:

    Forget comparisons to a century ago. Just the fact that Romney wants to build so many more surface ships than subs, when we have a class of subs ready to retire soon, says to me that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

  71. gVOR08 says:

    69 comments. Is it ship count or capability? Is it absolute numbers or relative to other navies? Is it lying or misleading? Is the Chinese navy bigger than the Royal Navy, the Russian navy? Are carriers obsoleted by Tomahawk carrying subs? Iran has submarines. Pirates. Panetta, sequestration.

    Romney lied to suck up to some defense related donor. Why are you people arguing about the details of Romney’s lie?

  72. C. Clavin says:

    Indiana Jones dreams of being in the Navy…but is afraid to leave his mothers basement.

  73. john personna says:

    @Wayne:

    Obama has been caught making false claims several times including his 5 trillion dollar claim about Romney plan. Several economists have said his statement is incorrect. Even the person he whose study his sited said Obama incorrectly used his study. Yet Obama continues to use that false claim in his attacks.

    The clear truth is that there is a $5 trillion hole in the published Romney plan. He won’t say how he fills it, other than by “cutting deductions and credits.” The only problem is, that’s impossible. There simply are not enough deductions and credits, esp. after you remove the house mortgage and medical costs that he’s recently said he’d protect, to make it work.

    So, what do you do? Do you give Romney a free ride on a $5 trillion dollar question?

    Or do you press him, as Obama has done, by saying that until you actually name your offsets, it is a $5 trillion cut?

    Basically GOP partisans are accepting a promise of “magic later,” something they always did in the Bush years, and which didn’t work out too well. Cut taxes up front by $5 trillion, and then insert magic later to return the revenues and not make it a naked tax cut.

  74. C. Clavin says:

    @ Wayne…

    “…Several economists have said his statement is incorrect…”

    You are lying…in order to try and call Obama a liar.

    That’s f’ing rich.
    Romney likes to say that 5 studies have proven that his tax plan works. But the facts are different…two of the 5 are newspaper opinion pieces….one comes from a campaign adviser…which leaves two. The assumptions those two make about future growth and revenues are difficult to justify. That is because Romney has been so intentionally vague about his plan.

  75. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I’d be happy to see a solid study to prove me wrong, but to my knowledge the “best” studies for Romney say this:

    “if we accept Romney’s promises for the hidden math, then yes it works”

    Because, you know, he promises.

  76. jukeboxgrad says:

    This is what Ike warned us about, 51 years ago. That was when Republicans and conservatives were actually conservative.

    It is still possible to find a few Republicans who are actually conservative. Alan Simpson said this:

    Our defense budget is larger than (the combined totals of the next) 14 major countries of the world — and if you think all of it is there for national security purposes, you’re terribly wrong.

    The Economist went a little further:

    America spends as much on defence as the next 17 countries combined (most of whom are American allies)

    Another truly conservative Republican, Jon Huntsman, said this:

    If you look at defense … we’re spending more than the rest of the world combined.

    Politifact says he went too far: “United States’ defense funds make up between 40 and 45 percent of the world’s total military spending.”

    But that’s still high. Why is it so high? Follow the money. War is a good way to make a lot of money; killing is a good way to make a killing.

    Also, war is the only form of government stimulus that the GOP finds acceptable. War solves a lot of problems. Rich campaign donors who own defense stocks get even richer, and the whole economy gets an indirect boost. Army recruiting goes up, unemployment goes down. Happy days are here again, and the people in charge get reelected, because a lot of voters are ignorant amnesiacs. Mission accomplished.

  77. john personna says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    The problem is that Republicans respond to fear-based motivation. All you need to do is tell them “if we spend less than I say, we’ll be weak, and vulnerable” and they’ll believe it.

    They’ll spend anything to make the scary man go away.

  78. Rob in CT says:

    The GOP wants to funnel more money through the DoD budget. There is no plausible basis for this. So one must be invented.

    The end.

  79. Barry says:

    @Janiah: “I’m not saying it is true or untrue; I actually have no idea, but would consider Jim Talent and the Heritage Foundation a credible source for the Romney staff to have cited.”

    I wouldn’t. And just what did the Heritage Foundation say when we took their healthcare plan and implemented it?

  80. C. Clavin says:

    @ JP…
    Of course the hidden math makes assumptions about supply-side economics that the last 30 years have proven to be….well….there’s no other word for it…BULLSHIT.

  81. C. Clavin says:

    The Heritage Fouindation is the organization that said Ryans budget would push UE to 2%.
    They clearly are math challenged.

  82. jukeboxgrad says:

    john:

    The problem is that Republicans respond to fear-based motivation. All you need to do is tell them “if we spend less than I say, we’ll be weak, and vulnerable” and they’ll believe it.

    They’ll spend anything to make the scary man go away.

    Nothing new about this:

    Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship… Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

  83. jukeboxgrad says:

    wayne:

    Obama has been caught making false claims several times including his 5 trillion dollar claim about Romney plan.

    Those wacky Marxists at Forbes say that Mitt is wrong and Obama is right:

    About Mitt Romney’s $5 Trillion Tax Cut … Romney has said that his tax plan would cut all individual income tax rates by 20% … Those tax cuts would reduce federal revenues by $480 billion in 2015 over and above the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts. Allow for some growth in income, and the total comes to over $5 trillion over ten years.

    Yes, that number ($5T) is real.

    Several economists have said his statement is incorrect.

    An excellent summary of the problems with those “economists” is here.

    Many of you will give Obama a passed but are quick to call Romney a liar

    That’s because his track record of lying is spectacularly long and impressive.

  84. jukeboxgrad says:

    barry:

    And just what did the Heritage Foundation say when we took their healthcare plan and implemented it?

    Yes, the individual mandate in Obamacare and Romneycare came from Heritage. And since there will always be people who try to pretend otherwise, let’s recall what Mitt said:

    We got the idea [of an individual mandate] from you [Newt] and the Heritage Foundation

    An excellent summary of this issue is here:

    … in 1989, Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation proposed a plan he called “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans.” Stuart’s plan included a provision to “mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance” … when Mitt Romney designed his health plan in Massachusetts, he did so in large part with the assistance of the Heritage Foundation, especially Bob Moffit and Ed Haislmaier. “I want to begin by saying thank you to Bob Moffit and Ed Haislmaier,” said Romney at a Heritage event in 2006. … Stuart Butler and Heritage were the first people to advocate the individual mandate

    That article, in Forbes, was written by a Romney advisor who works for a right-wing think tank.

    Conservatives thought the individual mandate was a great idea until Obama did it.

  85. jukeboxgrad says:

    clavin:

    Of course the hidden math makes assumptions about supply-side economics that the last 30 years have proven to be….well….there’s no other word for it…BULLSHIT.

    Yes. Mitt is selling the idea that tax cuts pay for themselves. Trouble is, even Alan Greenspan has admitted that they don’t (link).

    But a lot of people still believe in magic.

  86. john personna says:

    @this:

    Dear Idiot Downvoter,

    When someone asks for a detailed budget analysis to disprove them, a down vote is not just as good.

    To prove Romney’s budget works you need math and numbers.

  87. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    The problem is that Republicans respond to fear-based motivation.

    So does everyone else. Case in point: almost every political ad uses it. If your only window into American politics was political ads, you’d be convinced Obama is going to eliminate half the military and Romney is going to ban abortions and fry Big Bird.

  88. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Unfortunately the equality does not quite work out.

    Bedsides many studies show that Republicans do have a greater fear response. Everything from brain scans to drivers of convertibles being more liberal.

  89. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Unfortunately the equality does not quite work out.

    Do you mean Democratic political ads use less fear-inducing language than GOP ads? Not the ones we see here in Virginia–and we see a boatload of them, being a “swing” state. You may see different ads where you are, or fewer. But the ones here all play to voters’ fears.

  90. KRM says:

    Politics aside, let’s hear what the professionals have to say about the state of the Navy. Sure, as professionals they have a vested interest, but, then, so do we.

  91. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Nothing you named above was terribly “fear inducing.” What you did was move the ball a little bit, from “Chinese will kill us” to “here are some policies you don’t like.”

  92. john personna says:

    Now that I’m on a real computer:

    Liberals and conservatives don’t just vote differently. They think differently.

    Seriously, that they process the world differently is the up-stream reason for this different response.

  93. Mikey says:

    @john personna: We’re talking about “fear-based motivation,” right? I submit that when it comes to fear, for many women, “they’re going to take your reproductive rights away” reaches a far higher priority than “the Chinese might attack us.”

    Indeed, for many women, the right to obtain a safe and legal abortion is the sine qua non of a free society, and therefore the banning of abortion presents an existential threat to freedom.

  94. Al says:

    @KRM:

    A supposedly forward looking article that doesn’t address ASBMs at all and pretends that cruise missile threats can be countered by air assets isn’t very forward looking.

  95. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    The kind of fear I’m talking about is direct violence, death by terrorists .etc

    And attack on what women experience as a right is quite different.

    In other news Congress is trying to press more M1 tanks on the military than they want? Good debate topic.

  96. Mikey says:

    @john personna: You didn’t define “fear” that way originally, you just talked about “fear-based motivation.” The fear of a cherished right being infringed or eliminated is no less valid than that of a Chinese attack, and for someone who prioritized that right above the possibility of such an attack, a fear-based motivation appeal will be far more effective.

    For example, conservatives may appeal to the fear of a terror attack in supporting intrusive electronic eavesdropping. Liberals will prioritize the right to privacy above the unlikely event of an attack. So a Republican candidate’s commercial will say “Candidate Blue wants to cut the legs out from under our anti-terror defenses!” while a Democratic candidate’s commercial will say “Candidate Red wants to listen in on all your phone calls to Grandma!” One is an attack, the other a rights violation, but BOTH are appeals to fear.

    Interesting segue into the tank issue, which is actually another kind of fear-based motivation. Congress does this kind of thing all the time. We have 2000 M1A2 in depot, why must we buy more? Because if we don’t, Congressman Forehead’s district is gonna lose all those jobs!!

  97. KRM says:

    @Al: That’s the problem with “forward looking” defense strategy. It has to anticipate tomorrow’s threats using today’s ideas. But it sure beats the inverse.

  98. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Get serious. I was working it from the Amygdala angle from the beginning. That is about visceral fear.

    From. The. Beginning.

  99. Mikey says:

    @john personna: You said:

    The problem is that Republicans respond to fear-based motivation.

    And I responded to that statement with the observation that EVERYONE responds to fear-based motivation, and my evidence is that nearly every political ad uses some form of an appeal to fear. If that didn’t work, campaigns wouldn’t pay hundreds of millions of dollars for it.

    I think the misunderstanding occurred because I responded to your statement about fear-based motivation as a general statement, without linking it to the comment to which you were responding, which was specifically about national defense. So the fault is mine for moving from the specific to the general without clearly stating I was doing so. Apologies for that.

  100. ShawnP says:

    What the Navy needs is MORE ships. Ships and crews are wearing down from constant OPTEMPO. The only one’s who say the Navy doesn’t need more ships are those who never stood the watch.

  101. Unfortunately, it is the author who misrepresents the facts.

    As a 25 year Navy Officer, the truth is that we are woefully unprepared to fight a major sea engagement, let alone be able to fight two major engagements simultaneously. The truth is that no matter how complex or sophisticated a ship (or carrier might be) that asset can only be in one place at one time. With the loss of the Soviet Union and the bi-polar status of the cold war, the world is a far more dangerous place today. So in fact, we actually need more, not less vessels to protect our interests around the globe. Let’s not forget we are a maritime power.

    Love how people love to comment w/o having any idea what they’re talking about. BTW, some of our ships will get disabled or sunk in an engagement, so it is folly to pre-suppose that our capability alone is a sufficient indicator of strength.

    Finally, remember how Reagan directed us toward a 600 ship Navy? We got close but never actually achieved that number. What we do need however is more capability, and that includes lower cost vessels in some cases.