- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2005


President Bush’s plan for the Navy calls for buying fewer ships, while China, a potential security hot spot, is increasing and repositioning its fleet ” a prospect that concerns some lawmakers.

The plan is contained in Mr. Bush’s 2006 budget proposal, which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Thursday defended, saying the military was closely watching China’s moves but that the U.S. Navy remains the world’s pre-eminent fleet.

“The United States Navy … is the Navy on the face of the Earth that is a true blue water navy,” Mr. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “On the other hand, when one looks at trend lines, it is something that we have to think about.”

The Pentagon says buying fewer ships than previously planned won’t affect combat ability. Previous budgets envisioned purchasing six Virginia-class attack submarines, seven DD(X) destroyers and 10 San Antonio-class amphibious landing ships through 2011.

The 2006 budget calls for three submarines, five destroyers and nine landing ships. It also proposes eliminating one of the Navy’s 12 aircraft carriers. Overall, Mr. Bush is proposing to increase the Pentagon’s budget by $19 billion, to $419 billion next year. The budget calls for buying fewer planes, ships and submarines in favor of spending more on counterterrorism.

Republicans and Democrats argued that cutting back now could jeopardize the Navy’s long-term domination of the seas, particularly in light of China’s military improvements. Lawmakers also worry that any reductions would cost them work and jobs at the nation’s shipyards.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, whose state of Maine is home to the Bath Iron Works, one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders, expressed her reservations to the defense secretary.

“I recognize that our naval fleet still remains the most technologically advanced in the world. But the decreasing number of ships being procured, particularly in the light of the Chinese buildup, really concerns me,” she said. “Are you concerned about projections that the Chinese fleet may well surpass the American fleet in terms of numbers in just a decade’s time?”

“Senator,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “it is an issue that the department thinks about and is concerned about and is attentive to.”

China has invested heavily in defense in the past few years. Prohibited from buying U.S. and European arms under an embargo, Beijing purchased at least $13 billion worth of weapons from Russia between 1993 and 2003, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China’s arsenals now are stocked with Russian-made submarines, destroyers, supersonic fighters and anti-ship missiles, as well as weapons it increasingly is making on its own.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan responded to Mr. Goss’s comments in a report yesterday by state media as an “irresponsible act” that “has severely violated the conventions of international relations.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide