- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 1999

In December 1941 the United States and its Navy were unprepared for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Navy fleet numbered in the low 300s and military readiness was less than it should have been. The world was an unstable place with Hitler on a rampage in Europe and Japan at war with China. Fifty-eight years later one again finds the U.S. Navy with 320 ships and military readiness at something less than it should be. The world is still unstable and while there are no major wars at this time, the forecast is for greater instability in the years ahead.
Our nation and our Navy are now unprepared for the threats we face, and it is time that our nation’s military and civilian leaders stopped hiding from the problem. We need to either increase the size and capability of our Navy or reduce our nation’s commitments. It is that simple.
In 1979 the Chief of Naval Operations testified before Congress that the Navy was “… trying to meet a three ocean requirement with a one-and-a-half ocean Navy.” The Navy of 1979 was being stretched beyond the breaking point. Spare parts were in short supply, retention was at an all-time low and ships were failing to meet their commitments.
Now, the situation is much the same, but our military leaders are not being as blunt as Adm. Tom Hayward was in 1979. Neither the secretary of the Navy nor the chief of naval operations has testified to Congress that the Navy cannot meet its mission with the forces and resources that have been provided. Our current Navy leaders only hint that there are problems and that “mounting evidence leads me to believe that 305 ships are not likely to be enough …” in the words of the present chief of Naval operations.
These are not the bold and unvarnished words that are needed to head off another Pearl Harbor and hollow military. These are not the clear words that can convince Congress and presidential candidates that this is an issue that demands to be addressed.
In 1979 Naval leaders made it clear that the Navy needed more resources, and in 1980 the American public gave a mandate to Ronald Reagan to restore America’s defenses. The Navy’s goal was a 600 ship Navy with a backbone of 15 aircraft carrier battle groups. In the 1980s the Navy was strengthened tremendously, and by the mid-1980s the Navy was well on its way to achieving a 600 ship fleet. With the end of the Cold War that trend was reversed and the Navy was downsized (or “right-sized,” as the Clinton administration described it).
The time has come for an open debate on defense spending and where our nation wants to go in the 21st century. Do we want to remain a superpower with global interests and truly global military capabilities, or do we want to just pretend to be a global power?
The American people deserve to know the real facts. They deserve to know that they are increasingly vulnerable to missile-delivered nuclear, chemical or biological attack from rogue states such as Iran, Iraq or North Korea. They deserve to know that our nation’s military forces are no longer capable of fighting two major wars at one time even though the Clinton administration says that that is the present strategy. Americans deserve to know that the limited U.S. military operations in Kosovo (a country the size of Connecticut) put a huge strain on America’s military capacity. Kosovo operations required almost 100 percent of America’s aircraft jamming capacity (EA-6B aircraft) and more than 90 percent of America’s air refueling capacity.
Americans need to know that our Navy is stretched so thinly that we had to pull the one and only aircraft carrier we had in the Western Pacific to cover operations in the Arabian Gulf. For the first time in 70 years, the United States had no aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific, even while North Korea threatened ballistic missile tests. Americans need to know that the Kosovo campaign continued for two weeks before an aircraft carrier was present. Time sharing of carriers between crisis regions is not the way to run the U.S. Navy.
Fifty-eight years ago, the United States paid a terrible price in blood and treasure for being unprepared. Now, although America talks like a global power, it is having trouble walking like one. Like our Navy prior to World War II, all our military forces, and particularly the U.S. Navy, are too small and stretched too thin. We need to either reduce U.S. commitments or increase the size and capability of our military forces most notably the Navy.

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