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Romney Talks U.S. Navy Boost, Compares Fleet Size to 1916 Fleet

By The Maritime Executive 10-09-2012 09:49:05

On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that the current size of the U.S. Navy’s fleet is equivalent to what it was during World War I. He continued on to promise to increase the fleet if elected president.

Romney used Virginia Military Institute’s Marshall Hall as the venue to present his views on foreign policy. During the speech, he noted that the number of ships in the U.S. fleet was nearly equal to the country’s 1916 fleet. According to CNN, he made it clear that he wants to strengthen the Navy wholly by building 15 ships a year, including three submarines.

Many are wondering if it is even conceivable to build this number of new ships given the current industrial base of shipyards in the United States., or what will now be said about the capabilities of the U.S. Navy.

In 2007 under President George W. Bush, the Navy's ship count hit a low not seen since the 19th century, according to U.S. Navy statistics. Between 2003 and 2011, the number of total ships fluctuated between a high of 297 and a low of 278. Under President Barack Obama, the number of ships has grown slightly.

As of 2011, U.S. Navy statistics show that there were 285 total ships in the Navy's fleet including 11 carriers, some 61 destroyers and 22 cruisers. The Navy is a different service than it was a century ago, with each ship serving numerous roles and the most advanced technology put into each vessel. Overall, naval experts claim it is nearly impossible to compare the two generations, and one cannot measure naval strength based on the number of ships in the fleet.

It is also possible that the fleet size could again decrease in the coming years, given the impending possibility of $500 billion more in military budget cuts. At the beginning of each presidential term, there is an assessment of how much military equipment exists and what will be needed in the future. It's unlikley that any president would allow the number of ships to fall below minimum requirements, but with cuts this significant and an aging fleet it may prove challenging to maintain the miniumum requirements.

Romney was fairly close in assessing the size of the U.S. Naval fleet, however, more ships does not necessarily mean anything, unless you have a plan for them, say domestic military experts. Also noted, the numbers seen today reflect decisions made under previous administrations, as it takes years to manufacture a ship.

Romney also spoke at length about America’s role in the Middle East, emphasizing the need to support allies in the region that share our values, in his opinion. “It is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair. We’ve seen this struggle before,” said Romney.

The Maritime Executive does not necessarily endorse any of the opinions herein. 

Photo (thumb): Mitt Romney addresses members of the VMI Corps of Cadets -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.