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Five areas where the fleet could be in trouble:
■China: A rising adversary
■Budget cuts: Beltway battles do damage
■Fleet size: Running the numbers
■Industry: Can the yards do the job?
■Risk aversion: Are leaders encouraged to play it too safe?
Have your say: We’ve asked the experts, now have your say — is the fleet getting weaker? Send your thoughts to
and they could appear in an upcoming issue.
Why it’s hurting the Navy: The Navy is dependent on five major shipyards to construct its fleet. Submarines are built by Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat. Destroyers and amphibious ships are built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, while Bath Iron Works builds solely destroyers. Carriers are built by NNS. National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, better known as NASSCO, and a division of General Dynamics, builds support ships. (Two smaller yards built littoral combat ships. Defense experts believe this industry is especially vulnerable to budget cuts. The larger worry is that the U.S. could degrade its shipbuilding capacity, which would be essential in a confrontation with a rising power. China, a global leader in merchant ship construction, is still developing sophisticated naval yards.
Key quote: “This is the first time since 1890 we’ve been faced with a competitor with potentially greater shipbuilding capacity than us,” said former Navy Undersecretary Bob Work.
Counterpoint: There isn’t much of one. Few, if any, defense experts believe the industry can get much smaller without more consolidation, which could dampen their ability to produce in volume. Another dilemma is the effect on sole-source manufacturers who, for instance, produce many of the parts for shipboard nuclear power plants.
Key quote: These single-source manufacturers are “a single point of failure” that is susceptible to budget cuts, warned retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly: “If you put more stress on the system, you could have the potential where people could get out of the market.”