- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Navy is downsizing the minimum number of ships it needs to meet future demands, the Navy said in a report to Congress on Thursday.

The report said the Navy, which now has 287 ships, will need 306 ships, not the 313 as earlier indicated.

The changes reflect the need for six fewer large surface combat ships after moving four destroyers to a U.S. naval station in Rota, Spain. The Navy also needs three fewer littoral combat ships, used to patrol off shore, and two fewer oil tankers, because of a decreased requirement from the U.S. Africa Command. It is also upgrading cruise missile submarines instead of buying four new ones.

The fleet would also include an addition of eight ships, mostly for its “afloat forward staging bases,” or ships that act as sea bases.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Navy’s plan for a smaller fleet would have a long-term effect on the Navy’s ability to defend American security interests worldwide.

“The U.S. Navy is already overworked and experiencing the consequences of an undersized fleet,” the California Republican said.

“And while the Navy makes the point that this downsizing is the result of operational requirements, the decision should also send a clear warning about what’s ahead in the event the Navy’s budget tightens under sequestration, as well as the damage created by the lack of a coherent and forward-looking budget,” he said.