The Magazine

Sea-questration

The dismantling of the Navy.

Apr 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 28 • By SETH CROPSEY
Widget tooltip
Audio version Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Middle East is far from the only area affected by the Navy’s planned budget cuts. Four logistics ships assigned to the Pacific Command will be laid up next month, which is especially noteworthy because the Pacific’s immensity makes resupply critical to effective presence and, if necessary, combat missions. Other areas of the world are also harmed. A frigate’s deployment to the U.S. Southern Command will end early. The Southern Command is primarily responsible for assisting friendly nations with stemming the flow of illicit drugs into the United States and wiping out narcotics dealers. It is also increasingly burdened with the growing coziness between narco-traffickers and Middle Eastern jihadists. The Navy’s traditional humanitarian mission in Central and South America carried out by ships, Seabees (construction battalions), and medical units will also be “deferred.”  They earn goodwill and contribute to smooth relations with nations with whom we work to alleviate the problems of illegal drugs and imported terror. And, again, this is just the beginning of sequestration.

Nor do the cuts stop at current missions. The Navy plans to begin negotiations with its contractors to end payments on vessels for which funds will not be available. This will harm the Navy’s attack submarine program and the construction of the nuclear reactors that power some surface and all combatant subsurface vessels. The effects will multiply in coming years as increasing shortfalls in the fleet will prevent it from covering regions that until now have been considered central to American strategic interests.

Although it may sound inconsequential, the Navy’s crack team of performing fighter aircraft, the Blue Angels, will be canceled for now. The Blue Angels are not only a superb instrument of recruiting. Their appearance around the nation is an inspiration that reminds viewers of the excellence, bravery, discipline, and need for strong naval forces that some of our elected representatives seem to have forgotten. They symbolize the real thing—for both domestic audiences and foreign onlookers.

In sum, sequestration faces the Navy with degrading its readiness, decreasing its presence in the two most volatile regions of the world, the Middle East and East Asia, and deferring the investments required to keep the fleet from shrinking more than it already has. And—it is important to remember—even if sequestration is somehow finessed, both the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service agree that if the Navy were to receive the large increases in shipbuilding funds that it wants over the next 30 years, it will still fall substantially short of its goal, resulting in a smaller fleet than the already shrunken one that now exists.

This sets a course for naval impotence. It will vacate the international order that American seapower has played a key role in establishing over the past century. Our place will be filled by chaos, or by China’s growing naval power, or by some combination of the two. This is as dangerous for the nation’s security as it is foolish for political leaders to acquiesce to.

Seth Cropsey is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute. He served as a naval officer from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and G. H. W. Bush administrations. His book Mayday, on the rise and decline of American seapower, will be published by Overlook Press in April.


Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers