New call for a larger Navy

Eli Lake:

A bipartisan, congressionally mandated defense panel on Thursday challenged the Pentagon to broaden its focus beyond counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq and expand the Navy to deal with threats from rising powers in Asia.

The report by the independent panel, headed by former White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former Defense Secretary William Perry, calls for the U.S. military to shift its long-term focus to five areas, ranging from "radical Islamist extremism and the threat of terrorism" to confronting "an accelerating global competition for resources."

The panel report also said U.S. maritime power should be increased to deal with "the rise of new global great powers in Asia," an indirect reference to China's growing military and political power. It said the U.S. military must prepare for the "continued struggle for power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East" and "persistent problems from failed and failing states."


To beef up U.S. maritime power in Asia, the report calls for expanding the Navy from its current fleet of 282 ships to 346 ships.

"In order to preserve U.S. interests, the United States will need to retain the ability to transit freely the areas of the Western Pacific for security and economic reasons," the report said.

"The United States must be fully present in the Asia-Pacific region to protect American lives and territory, ensure the free flow of commerce, maintain stability and defend our allies in the region. A robust U.S. force structure, one that is largely rooted in maritime strategy and includes other necessary capabilities, will be essential."

"The aging of the inventories and equipment used by the services, the decline in the size of the Navy, escalating personnel entitlements, overhead and procurement costs, and the growing stress on the force means that a train wreck is coming in the areas of personnel, acquisition and force structure," the report said.

Sec. Gates is not a proponent of growing the Navy. One of the problems with getting support for a larger Navy is the lack of a marque roll in the current wars for the Navy. Of course, that could change very quickly if we get into a war with Iran. We will need the navy to launch attacks on Iran as well as protect shipping in the Persian Gulf which will come under attack from Iran.


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