The head of the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command pushed back Thursday against an idea to have all ships stationed overseas return to the United States every seven to 10 years for maintenance.

Speaking at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium, Adm. Phil Davidson said today’s Navy fleet is too small to bring forward-deployed ships, like those stationed in Japan or Spain, home so frequently.

Virginia Republican and seapower committee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman had offered the idea on Wednesday during his speech at the symposium, a policy the Navy has not always followed through on.

In response to a question about the initiative, Davidson pointed to the logistical entanglement regarding the forward stationing of four destroyers in recent years to Rota, Spain.

Davidson said those four ships were slated to be rotated out after six years and relieved by updated ships.

Four replacement ships have been pulled out of the strike group pool to get the required modernizations, in order to replace the four destroyers in Rota that need maintenance.

“Pretty soon this looks like eight ships out of the strike group rotation for three years,” Davidson said. “We’re going to need a bigger Navy to have that kind of policy.”

He added that such challenges do not apply to every kind of ship.

Davidson also noted during his talk Thursday that the comprehensive review of the surface fleet that took place after the fatal collisions involving the Fitzgerald and John S. McCain was in the works after the initial Fitz collision in June that killed seven sailors.

The review had not kicked off in earnest when the McCain was struck by a merchant vessel in August because leadership wanted to “digest” the Fitz’s findings first, he said.

“The McCain made it a more urgent priority,” Davidson said.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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