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With Only 4 Major Types of Warship Left, Can the U.S. Navy Still Dominate the Seas?

It's budget-cutting time for the U.S. Navy. And while the admirals seem fine with this, Congress is getting nervous.

As reported on last week, there's a furious debate brewing between Congress and the Pentagon over the future of the Navy's cruiser fleet. In a nutshell, it goes like this: Currently, we have 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers in the Navy. While sometimes dispatched on solo missions, or to lead a surface combatant task force, these cruisers' primary purpose is heading up the air defense squadrons protecting America's 11 aircraft carriers.

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) recently completed a mission to the Black Sea, where Russian warplanes had just finished "buzzing" a U.S. destroyer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Problem is, America's cruisers are starting to look a little long in the tooth. Built in the 1980s and '90s by contractors General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) and Huntington Ingalls (NYSE: HII  ) , most of the Ticonderoga-class cruisers are nearing the end of their lifespans. By 2028, all 22 are expected to have lived out their useful service lives, worn out and ready for retirement.

And right now, we've got nothing to replace them.

A planned replacement class of warships, dubbed CG(X), was canceled in 2010 over worries the ships were becoming too expensive. What remains of that effort, and a sister program called DD(X), is what we now call the DDG-1000 program. It consists of a grand total of three planned "stealth" warships, built by General Dynamics at a cost of $3.5 billion apiece -- and they're not even full-sized cruisers, but just upsized destroyers.

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000). A pretty ship, but can just three of them really replace 22 cruisers? Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Navy thinks it has a solution to the problem. It has proposed taking 11 "CGs" out of service starting in 2019, and upgrading them to extend their service lives at a cost of $8.8 billion. The 11 cruisers still in service would still quietly expire by 2028. But the 11 upgraded ships should be good for another 15 years each and, after returning to the fleet, would keep us "in cruisers" through about 2045.

You can have half, or you can have nothing
The upshot? The Navy's giving Congress two choices: Either operate on half today's cruiser fleet for the next 30 years, or face the prospect of going 100% "cruiser-less" after 2028.

This half-or-nothing proposal has ruffled the feathers of defense hawks in Congress. Complicating matters further, some Congressmen worry that the Navy's real intention is to retire the first 11 cruisers, not upgrade them at all, and spend its money on other pet projects instead.

Crazy as it sounds -- worrying that the Navy has a secret agenda to shrink its own fleet -- it's not entirely without basis. After all, the withdraw-upgrade-reintroduce plan would see new-old cruisers returning to the fleet beginning around 2030. "Upgraded" or not, the newest of these ships would be 36 years old when it returns to service.

So what's the alternative?
There's no denying the U.S. Navy is looking rather sparse these days. The DDG-1000 program is stuck at just three ships, down from a planned 32-ship fleet. The last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates are on their way out the door. Now, we find that the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, too, are also on their last legs.

That leaves us with -- what? A few dozen attack submarines, and about 18 nuclear "boomers?" A handful of Littoral Combat Ships (also under attack)? And of the aircraft carriers -- of which we're supposed to have 11 -- only 10 are now afloat. The only ship that's being produced in real numbers these days is the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyer -- of which a total of 77 are planned.

At best, we're looking at a Navy heavily reliant upon just four major ship classes today -- and if we're being brutally honest, a Navy that's looking awfully one-dimensional, and overly reliant upon the DDG-51. Even if every problem in the world is a nail, I'm not sure the best solution is to hit them all with the hammer that is the $1.5 billion Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

A modest suggestion
What the Navy really needs is to broaden its base. On the small ship side of things, the proposed Small Surface Combatant class of warships is one solution. But on the larger side of things, just slapping a new coat of paint on won't do the trick. The Navy really must get the CG(X) ball rolling again, and develop a viable large warship to replace its aging Ticonderogas.

How much would that cost? It won't be cheap, that's for sure. Figure a DDG-1000-like price tag of $3.5 billion per cruiser, and it could cost $77 billion to replace the Ticonderoga fleet -- a huge windfall for shipbuilders General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls, and nearly nine times what they'd likely get for just "upgrading" 11 existing ships.

But considering that the primary mission of each of these cruisers will be defending taxpayers' investment in $13 billion Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear aircraft carriers, a new fleet of cruisers just might be worth the expense.

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The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) (artist's rendering) is a very big boat. And taxpayers should expect to pay a very big bill to protect it. Photo: U.S. Navy.

Read/Post Comments (71) | Recommend This Article (48)

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  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:40 AM, jimlamb2 wrote:

    the navy knows these ships are sitting ducks to missiles. to avoid destruction they must be faster with new technology, its hard to retrofit older ships to go faster. congress is the last people on earth to tell the navy what they need.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:42 AM, wskadavis wrote:

    We live in a period of transition and things are tough. The main objective of the terrorist on 9/11 was to disrupt our economy, this situation proves the achieved their objective as we are broke. However, it is imperative we maintain our supremacy at sea for numerous reasons. We must learn to spend smarter.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:42 AM, vet212 wrote:

    Bring back the Battleship the ONLY Littorial combat ship that makes sense and the only one with the Sledge hammer impact of indestructability

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:44 AM, Ebby720 wrote:

    It isn't the size or type, it is what they carry and the range that makes them superior.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:44 AM, heyheyhi wrote:

    68 Nuclear subs, im gonna sayyyy yyyyyeah.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:46 AM, duuude1 wrote:

    Hey Rich,

    First. If everyone has rubber dingys, you can dominate the seas with a rowboat.

    Second. Diminishing returns (i.e., there is always an optimal amount of $$ or effort to obtain an goal - expending more yields diminishing returns - and may eventually yield negative returns like a sluggish economy).

    Third. During the Millennium Challenge 2002 Marine Lt Gen Van Riper showed that a smart 3rd world dictator can marshal his resources and deliver a crippling blow to massive naval iron with a bunch of cheap cruise missiles.

    Like the big swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark swinging his big iron with his big muscles - and Ford just smirks and shoots the duuude...

    Military expenditures must scale to current policy goals and international context.

    An even more modest suggestion: mothball at least half the carriers, and expend proportionately less on cruisers.


  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:49 AM, SamCro wrote:


    Defense Spending 2012 - $1.2 Trillion Dollars

    Pentagon: $558 billion

    Pentagon Misc: $7.8 billion

    Afg. & Iraq: $118 billion

    Nuclear-weapons-related (DOE): $19.3 billion

    "Overseas Contingency Ops"/terror stuff/State Dept: $8.7 billion

    National security funding, numerous depts: $54 billion

    CIA, NSA: $53 billion

    Veterans programs: $129 billion

    Military aid / foreign countries: $6.6 billion

    International peacekeeping operations: $2 billion

    countering proliferation of wmd/terror/landmines: $709 million

    US military and Dept of Defense pensions: $68.5 billion

    Interest paid out, past Pentagon borrowing: $185 billion


    Eight (2003-2011) years in Iraq. I am sure the insurgency in Iraq has at least a TRILLION dollars to spend looking at their success at locking us down. The bloated Generals say we can't cut!!! Why would they want to give up the narcotic of BILLIONS of Dollars a month? They want the 100 year war instead of sitting behind a desk in Washington. How about we stay home and protect out own boarders?

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:53 AM, ptt196 wrote:

    I served on a Cruiser 10 years ago for several deployments.

    At this point, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers are effectively slightly smaller versions of Ticonderoga class cruisers. They can do effectively all the same missions and are a bit more modern than these old birds. Just 25-30 fewer missiles in their vertical launch units, that's it. (96 vs 122 if I remember correctly).

    The newer Arleigh Burke class can carry 2 helos, just like the cruisers. They can both perform undersea warfare, surface warfare, and both have similar AEGIS systems to help protect the carrier.

    Cruisers were really only useful in the gun/anti-aircraft gun days. With missiles it doesn't matter how big your ship is or how big the guns are.

    As a patriot and an American taxpayer I would say get rid of the cruisers entirely and build more Arleigh Burke class if you need to. No sense in wasting billions to build a slightly larger Zumwalt. Makes NO sense.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:56 AM, NavyMurph wrote:

    The strength of America's Navy will always lie in its men and women. At the same time, our role in keeping shipping lanes and choke point open for international trade is not always given enough credit. Shrinking the Fleet is a step back for economic development and international security,

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:58 AM, GaryR40 wrote:

    Simple solution for the lack of fund: Bring back the tax rates from 1950-1980, one of the best economic growth periods in the US history. We were able to finance the space program and fight a war in Vietnam at the same time. We also had a few social programs going at the same time and colleges were more affordable. Waste? There has always been waste.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:58 AM, SamCro wrote:

    The driver of our debt is our military­complex machine! Why is it that the private sector always has to cut personnel or 

    lay off workers to meet their budgets, but the federal government keeps growing? 


    There are over 700 admirals and generals.  


    Our Navy battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies of the world ­ and 11 of those countries are our allies. 

    The Defense Department has the fine motor skills of a dinosaur. This is a fine place

     to start cutting.  $17.5 TRILLION DOLLARS in debt.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:06 AM, WalkingMan wrote:

    Name a ship after a POTUS who extended clemency to Vietnam War evaders and other war related criminals.

    Recalling that he also pardoned Nixon who had resigned. Nixon's only faults included listening to Kissinger and others. And, NOT leaving SE Asia by at least 1969.

    Sorry, I have digressed.

    I suppose that the DoD will begin accepting bids from China.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:11 AM, WalkingMan wrote:

    SamCro asked the question about protecting our own boarders. Yes, those boarders need protection. We paid for this protection in the 19th C. Too many boarders from Ireland, Italy, and E. Europe. Then, the existing borders didn't protect the decent folk from these new boarders.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:23 AM, bellhead wrote:

    The plan was for the CG(X) to house the Missile Defense (TBMD) radar which was predicted to consume 31 MW of power. Add in other systems and the electrical power generation required would have been more than a conventional power plant could have provided. The TBMD also was too big physically to house on the Burke hall. The Navy looked at taking the San Antonio hull and putting one of the new Ford reactors which produce around 300 MW in it to meet the hull requirements and the power. Throw in about 500 VLS missiles and the space to house a command staff and it was a winner. Two per Carrier group would have been perfect for Whiskey duty which is the strike group’s air warfare commander who is responsible for the Air Defense of the Carrier battle group. The Burkes can't handle this role as the hull isn't big enough or space available.

    Everybody liked the idea except it came in at about 3 to 4 billion per ship. The navy killed the idea due to costs.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:25 AM, j1rose wrote:

    There are over 700 admirals and generals.

    And none of them keep out 55,000 CHILDREN from our borders.

    How safe are we to a real terrorist ???????? So why can't we keep 10,000 men on our borders 24/7 ?

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:29 AM, doawithlife wrote:

    We have to cut somewhere.

    I don't agree with much Obama does, but buying modern armor/armored vehicles and another round of drones was cheaper and better considering the state of technology.

    Water is just a means to get from one part of land to another. We use to rely on these ships for troop transport and supplies. Now the corporate world has plenty of inter-continental transport. We also have bases all around the world, bases we can launch air strikes from. An aircraft carrier is nothing but a mobile base. When we now have this many land bases, we no longer need as many mobile water bases.

    Drones are king now. The US has at least a couple dozen drones circling the planet, these drones cover the same territory that was traditionally covered by our navy and they do so without costing humans lives and the dones move at much higher speeds then a 30 mph boat (30 knots).

    We still need some navy, but we should be scaling back. Our government has to cut budget somewhere, this certainly seems like a good place to me.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:30 AM, lukaplakia wrote:

    Mr. Smith,

    You've violated the golden rule, which causes your credibility to approach zero: do your research!

    "It consists of a grand total of three planned "stealth" warships, built by General Dynamics at a cost of $3.5 billion apiece -- and they're not even full-sized cruisers, but just upsized destroyers."

    The DDG-1000 is far more than a up-sized destroyer. In fact, it is far more than an up-sized cruiser. Its nearly twice a current destroyer, and over 50% larger than a cruiser.

    Arleigh Burke Destroyer:

    Length: 509 ft, Beam: 66 ft, Displacement: 8,200tons

    Ticonderoga Class Cruiser:

    Length: 567 feet, Beam: 55 feet, Displacement: 9,600tons

    Zumwalt Class Destroyer (DDG-1000):

    Length: 600 ft, Beam: 80.7 ft, Displacement: 14,798tons

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:32 AM, GaryR40 wrote:

    SamCro, we can cut the national debt by raising taxes and cutting unnecessary spending at the same time. Unfortunately, too many people, especially the 1%, are thinking only of themselves and don't want to sacrifice for the country.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:38 AM, ilsm50 wrote:

    Investing Okinawa, again, will only work again if the Japanese do not have nukes and the US navy is willing to lose a couple of CVN's.

    In 1988 USS Vincennes (Aegis) did what the Ukraine separatists did the other day, confused a passenger liner for a threat.

    The navy's prime radar supplier cannot build a usable multi function radar (MFR) therefore missile defense and a lot of other jobs for both CG and Arleigh Burke are not worth building new ships.

    The US Navy has been "debating" what to do. The Navy does not want nuclear CG's which is needed for the power requirement if the famous vendors might make an antenna and processor to work.

    AW&ST did a detailed 5 part series about 4 years ago, suggest reading it!

    The dinosaurs are the CVN's, none of which will venture within missile range of a nuclear power.

    The US navy is the Kaiser's high seas fleet, too valuable to risk.

    Put the navy in mothballs!

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:39 AM, CancerStrikes2 wrote:

    So agree with Samcro. Military is (will be) the one driving our country down to the drain. Remember Roman Empires history? We are heading to there at nano speed.

    We don't need to be the world #1 shinning knight to the world or the #1 world leader while our citizens 40% in poverty and try to make their everyday living.

    I paid 28% in fed/state income taxes (single + hi salary bracket) which make me sometimes wish not wanting to work any more. 20 years working and I am so sick to see where our government go.

    A smaller Government is the best solution to pay off our national debt and give our people a breath on high cost of living in America.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:50 AM, TMFDitty wrote:

    @bellhead: Excellent rundown of the CG(X) history. Thanks for contributing.

    @ptt196: Having served aboard a cruiser, any thoughts on those comments?

    and finally, @duuude1: Not a half bad idea. You could buy a whole lot more smaller warships, and cover more territory, with the savings from a CVN and a couple of CGs.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:56 AM, weworkforamerica wrote:

    America has gone through this process several times usually after a major conflict. The US military cannot maintain the spending levels without bankrupting this country. We spend excessively during a conflict and then try to find a way to pay for it. Dwight Eisenhower, the last good Republican President, despised war and despised borrowing to pay for it. So to pay for his two wars he raised the tax rates on the richest Americans to 91% and...America prospered.

    Marine General Butler said that most US wars were fought for the benefit of large corporations. They want us to die for their profits, pay for they weapons to fight for their bottom line and then donot want to pay their taxes.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:58 AM, RetMasterChief wrote:

    The USS Zumwalt looks like an upside down DDG. I know that the stealth mode is important but it really looks strange. I had 12 years of Sea Duty when I retired with 20 years of service. I recall the time when President Reagan wanted to have 1500 ships in the Fleet and 15 carrier battle groups. Times are changing. Until you are being chased by a Russian submarine or you are chasing one as a crew member, it's somewhat difficult to understand about having the support of the fleet to protect you. If we don't beef up our fleet and we get involved with two wars again on different parts of the world, we will be in the same position as always and trying to catch up. Why can't these people learn from our mistakes, every time we end a war, there is a major drawdown in troop strength and equipment. If North Korea decides to attack South Korea and then Iran starts to attack Israel or some other country at the same time, we will be standing around with our thumb up our keester. My God people, don't take away one of our major weapons to defend America.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:00 PM, TheAncient wrote:

    "National security funding, numerous depts: $54 billion" aka 'slush fund' for all the garbage the military doesn't want 'outsiders' (read that WE, the People) to know about.

    "Zumwalt Class Destroyer (DDG-1000):

    Length: 600 ft, Beam: 80.7 ft, Displacement: 14,798tons" They may label this a destroyer but in reality it is a heavy cruiser. May as well bring back the battleships.

    Back in the day, destroyers and cruisers were the screen for carriers and support ships. Build real destroyers, 400-500ft It is not like an enemy is going to launch 1000's even 100's of 'smart' missiles at the fleet so a defensive ship should not need dozens and dozens of surface to air and surface to surface missiles. The capital ships should be carrying the heavy duty radar and the screen smaller versions.

    For an offensive weapon build something like the Russians have, that huge mega missile ship that has 100's of missiles of all types.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:12 PM, TheAncient wrote:

    RetMasterChief - the world no longer thinks highly of us playing world cop and I see no reason to do so either. We've got 10 flattops, 2 major oceans so 3 in each ocean and 4 in reserve for rotation. If 3 aren't enough then 5 probably won't be either. The only way Iran can catch Israel off guard is with a long range missile attack. Should they be nukes, you can bet your retirement check that Tehran would cease to exist within hours by Israeli hands. It'd be a one way flight for Israel's nuke laden F-15s. The only way/reason N. Korea would attack is to bleed off some of its excess poor people. N.Korea is a puffer fish.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:14 PM, weworkforamerica wrote:

    Both Russia and China use similar military tactics. They have large numbers of second rate, cheaply built units spread over large areas with the elite guard held in reserve. In war they send masses of the second tier forces in to bloody their enemy and cause it to quickly expend resources, supplies and ammunition, to weaken the enemy and then send the elite units in to fight. They feels it makes for a greater chances of victory. China used this against the US during Korea. They would charge US forces with mostly unarmed troops that would run the US out of ammo and then overrun our positions with armed troops. The Soviets did something similar to defeat the Nazis. They have the people to spare.

    Do not depend on a few elite weapon systems to do the job. It is important to have reserve weapon systems that can be quickly mobilized to respond to imminent threats. These do not need to be active duty troops or systems but do need to be equipped and trained. EVERY Israeli citizen performs a public service and most have had military training. Bring back the draft to lower costs. Every citizen should support the collective good. E Pluribus Unum...from many, one.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:14 PM, AbdalAzzizz wrote:

    We expand and contract the military just enough to get the highest cost for the least return.

    The picture caption says, "The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)," but the flight deck has a big "80" on the bow. I think they have the wrong ship pictured.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:16 PM, pepawjoe wrote:

    Preparing NOW. That's TODAY!

    When we fail to get Health, Car or Home Insurance " IN ADVANCE OF THE NEED FOR", it's simply "TOO LATE" if and when the "NEED ARISES".

    Where there's a World filled with Terrorist, Rogue Governments, Tyrants, and many who NOW "HATE AMERICA" in Everyday Life Cycles, "NOT BEING PREPARED IS NO LONGER A MILITARY ADVISED SOLUTION", as many People had rather believe, but actually these DECISIONS are those of a Government and more Central Being the DECISION of the President of the United States and "HIS/HER" Personal Choice. "WITH-OUT" the overall "ELECTED GOVERNMENT'S APPROVAL or CONSENT" !



  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:20 PM, cityperson wrote:

    I'm retired Navy and the biggest problem we have is Congress. Getting one ship built takes years of pay offs and unions. By the time one ship is built the cost over runs are big and that is nit including the aircraft that is needed. Most do not realize the time the system is put on paper till the actual build and adding the new technology many cost over runs. Pus during the build, to add the newer technology costs.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:22 PM, anti wrote:

    The present administration has no apparent use for a military strong or otherwise. The next group will probably need all the help they can get.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:23 PM, 29tide wrote:

    The difficult problem facing competent military strategists (the “competent” part here excludes most of Congress) is how to successfully fight the next war and not the last one? Clearly modern missile and torpedo technology is a serious threat to a large target like the present day super carrier. Can an aircraft carrier survive a modern missile attack and still perform its mission of projecting air power? There are legitimate reasons to conclude it cannot. The “proof of the pudding” will be its deployment in some future conflict against an adversary equipped with modern anti-ship weapons and see what happens. Even if it is not sunk but only disabled to the point of not being able to conduct air operations it will be a failed mission. I hope someone has a realistic contingency plan for such a circumstance. (For history buffs, a debate similar to this one raged during the 1930s concerning naval strategy of that era until the Prince of Wales and Repulse experience of December 1941, demonstrated war had evolved.)

    The present issue here is what is the future, if any, of Ticonderoga class cruisers? For most circumstances the cruiser’s primary mission is to protect the aircraft carrier. If this can be done with smaller and less expensive vessels is this a better alternative? I will help our Congresspersons with this one; yes smaller and less expensive is a better solution!

    The Ticonderoga cruisers issue is the tip of the larger debate as how to evolve the U. S. military to successfully project military power in future conflicts? This means win and minimize losses and costs. Probably, and this is subject to debate, smaller and numerous is more effective than larger and fewer. This says relying on “carrier strike groups” is putting a lot of eggs into few baskets at great costs. In regards to air power, the day may come when smaller but numerous vessels equipped with unmanned combat air vehicles will supersede present day carrier strike groups and perform the mission of projecting military air power at less cost. Time will tell?

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:26 PM, ilsm50 wrote:


    If NK goes after SK, SK can do the job.

    If Iran goes after Israel, Israeli nukes will play the tune.

    What either of these have to do with running 12 CVN navies, and 8 Amphib navies with $800B in subs lurking nearby is a few trillion bucks beyond reason.

    When China has 6 each 100000 tonnes carriers and not their one unprovisioned 60000 tonne rust bucket.....

    With the no improvement Dual Function Radar coming on line [whenever and whatever], I would not say Navy has a credible air situation in a third world situation.

    Build a radar for the ships before making work for shipyards.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:29 PM, peterwolf wrote:

    Can the Navy still dominate the seas?? The short answer is: No. We don't have enough hulls in the water and the number is still shrinking. No matter how technologically sophisticated they may be if there are not enough of them ( or planes on their decks) then they can't be everywhere where they need to be. It's that simple. As Admiral Horatio Nelson once said; 'Only numbers annihilate'.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:56 PM, RobAllen wrote:

    How can the US GOV. have enough money to spend on these programs Defense, Educations, Jobs training,Jobs stimulus, Healthcare when the Congress have allowed :

    1) The Rich to legally avoid paying taxes with loopoles.

    2) Big companies to send millions of Jobs overseas without

    paying a min of Flat 15% on income, in the end many cos

    like GE, Apple Computer paid little or no taxes at all.

    3) Spend billions every year on troops overseas, must pull

    more troops back.

    4) Cut back subsidizing foreign gov. they can take care of

    their own defense.

    5) Deport many more illegal immigrants, since 1/4 of them

    have babies and end up on welfare, food stamp, medicare

    since these children are US citizens, costing the US

    each year hundreds of billions.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 1:22 PM, JD724 wrote:

    You need to have the pawns, knights, and bishops in your chess match. If it's cheaper to retrofit existing ships- then they need to do it. These ship builders really should do more to present a plan for that. It prolly doesn't bring as much money to the table, but it will bring enough to keep them in business for a long time. Older recycled structure with new technology is not necessarily a bad thing.

    The US NAVY has to have a core structure of the battle group in place- Nuclear powered carriers, subs, and destroyers. there's no getting around that. But to expand the NAVY's reach and stamina in battle, there's nothing wrong with flooding the sees with recycled support ships. they can be the front runners in any battle. with back up support from the high value destroyers.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 1:23 PM, macdaily wrote:

    First the Ticonderoga-class cruisers is top heavy and always been a issue, it was a oversize destroyer and was nothing more than a missile platform and we are lucky that it never had to go to a real war with this class. Second the artist rendering of the Aircraft Carrier is a Ford Class Carrier and CVN-80 will be the new USS Enterprise, I have some doubts about only having three elevators instead of 4, I just wish it had more weapons to defend itself and more structures and space for drones built into it! We seem to be moving into a drone age and our carriers need to depend upon themselves. Maybe building a few of the new cruisers to help get us through this period and start a new bidding program is a start. We now rely on only a couple companies to build ships and that is sad in a capitalism nation. Sad... and a sad deal!

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 1:35 PM, kleach2534 wrote:

    The one thing I didn't see mentioned is all the jobs the military provide and I'm not talking about soldiers. It takes a lot of man power to build ships. So unless you can come up with something for the workforce to do they would have to go on welfare

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 1:42 PM, Horseboss wrote:

    Before arguing about how many/what types ships the Navy needs Congress needs to define its requirements for what kind of Navy the US needs. By definition, REQUIREMENTS are REQUIRED and NOT OPTIONAL. This needs to answer:

    1. How many CV Battle Groups (BG) does congress need to have deployed at any single moment in time? (Note that you need 3 BGs to have 1 deployed all the time)

    2. What capability does congress want each BG to have? This will be where you start to define BG composition and ship type. This will also affect what types of support ships are required.

    3. What types of missions will the Navy/Marine Corps be performing?

    4. What outlying requirements does congress have which require a smaller Naval presence.

    5. How much flexibility does congress want the Navy to have with unexpected issues such as humanitarian relief/conflict/embassy evacuation?

    Once the boundaries and Conops are defined, the Navy should be tooled to accomplish those tasks with the minimum number of assets required to do the job. If congress won't properly tool the Navy, the Navy needs to explain the consequences of what it will not be able to do so that congress can decide if compromise is worth it.

    Starting the debate with "We need xx cruisers" or "yy carriers" will only escalate into a shouting match as these numbers will lack context and meaning.

    So I ask, "What objectives do we hope to accomplish with our Navy?"

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 1:43 PM, MNSmith wrote:

    If you were given a bill to continue to fund the military at its current state for the next ten years at the cost of the next generation to all have to work 8 extra hours per week, would you do it? These are the decisions Obama currently has to make, its not easy.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 2:34 PM, rwk2008 wrote:

    There are many major problems with this article.

    1) Motley Fool is supposed to be a forum for investment advice, commentary, and knowledge. The size and strength of the US Navy's war-making power is hardly included in this field.

    2) The US does not have, and has not had for some time, any credible foes in the world. The need have to maintain an enormous and destructive 'defense' power has long ago ended. The sole purpose of the massive military power held by the US is to intimidate and threaten any country or region that might choose to follow a course other than the one dictated by the US government.

    3) The US Congress and administration are almost completely the servants of the large corporations, particularly the ones that pay massive amounts of money to the congresspersons and members of the administration. Their perspective is clearly not to do what is best for the country or its citizens, but to do the bidding of the corporations. Corporations, of course, want to increase profits. There are few activities more profitable that building weapons and performing services for the US military, since most contracts are extremely generous, and include provisions for massive overruns and additions, all of which add to profits. So Congress and President are strongly biased in favor of more, more, more of everything, whether or not the weapons are useful or make any sense. This article treats the Congress as though there was actually some realistic evaluation taking place, which most of us realize is a joke.

    4) The discussion assumes that the US needs a vast fleet of aircraft carriers, and a corresponding fleet of cruisers to 'protect' the aircraft carriers. Problems: protect from who? And why? Aircraft carriers were extremely important in WWII, which ended almost 70 years ago. Modern attacks are carried out primarily by missles, which can be launched from anywhere, and by drones, which don't require a big ship with a flight deck. Aircraft carriers in 2014 make about as much sense as saddles and bridles made for the army in 1940.

    5) The United States currently has huge infrastructure needs, as well as budget problems. If the money projected to maintain the largest standing military presence in the history of the world were diverted to upgrade infrastructure, modernize power grids, highways, and communications, the country would benefit greatly. Building more huge ships benefits the ship-building industry and their paid congresspeople, and not much of anyone else.

    The Soviet Union collapsed, not because of Ronald Reagan, as many believe, but because of outrageous runaway spending on military power at the expense of everything else. The United States seems determined to follow the USSR into the dustbin of history, if the present course of never-ending wars and military build-up continues.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 2:53 PM, KeepGodInAmerica wrote:

    while this may be an investment oppurtunity. THIS IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM. Youd think that the most powerful nation on the planet would have a super fleet right we could be crushed. I guess the exit strategy tho is to just nuke eveybody. No winners no losers.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 2:55 PM, Wise3842 wrote:

    I'd like to know what experience the author has in advising the U.S. Navy on what ships it should purchase? According to his bio -

    "Rich Smith

    Rich Smith spent most of the mid-to-late '90s in Moscow, advising U.S. and European companies eager to get in on the action of Russia's emerging market. Segueing into Ukrainian law, he then did the same thing for Westerners investing in Kiev. At some point, he decided that instead of telling these companies how to make money for themselves, he'd prefer to own a piece of the companies (and their profits) -- and began investing. Retiring to rural Indiana to continue this project, he continues to invest for his own account, and to advise other investors on how to maximize their profits, and minimize their risks, by writing directly for The Motley Fool as a contributor, and on special assignment for Yahoo! Finance and AOL DailyFinance. He undertakes assignments for other media outlets -- online, print, radio, and television, upon request.


    So what knowledge is he speaking from?Downsizing to only four ships would save costs in the long run in standardization of equipment, training, and maintenance costs. Also, it's not the size of the ship that determines how effective it is but the firepower it carries and mission it's detailed for. If the Arleigh Burke destroyer class fulfills most of these missions then there's no logical reason to purchase or upgrade to a new cruiser.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 3:09 PM, letsplayagame wrote:

    Because of the theft of U.S. technology and the advances in technology by the chinese, with tech sold to our adversaries It would be advisable for the United States to build and use more drones to offset the balance, Air drones, sea drones, land drones underwater drones, and space. Just to cover all the basis.

    Because of all the recent United States policies changes, the sides of our allies and friends can change real fast. It is best not to get caught with our pants down.

    It is the age of the robots..and in various cases.. People are robots too.

    ( Besides )

    Naval tonnage is not enough, Assumed and developed superiority is not enough in a war, According to history and by the grace of God some times people get lucky.

    The United States was a sleeping giant.....But we had industry then.

    message complete.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 3:16 PM, MoreBS wrote:

    I think that a good case could be made to get rid of all the offensive weapons platforms and buildup up primarily defensive. Carriers are very very very expensive and have one purpose to intimidate a potential adversary but what happens if that adversary isn't intimidated and rolls out his own carrier and drives it to our shore? Do we square off carrier to carrier? My carrier is bigger than your carrier? Then look at Viet Nam, we had the Airforce flying missions from ground bases and carriers flying missions from the ocean. What was the purpose of having both? It gave both services a chance to justify their budgets. This is the same logic used to develop the nuclear triad. Each service demanded their share of the money. So if you stop this carrier BS you no longer have a need for the cruisers, frigates and overgrown destroyers to "Protect" the carriers and can look objectively at what you need to protect CONUS..

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 3:28 PM, soulless666 wrote:

    Maybe taking a lesson from science fiction(root of all scientific advancement), and start constructing dreadnought class ships, 10 inch thick steel 8 hulls, all guns. Pretty Much an aircraft carrier with all the space for planes and personnel taken out for weapons.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 3:55 PM, Buckskins wrote:

    What a ludicrous article, and some of the comments are not much better.

    There is NO country that can come close to challenging the US Navy.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 4:08 PM, lionsntigers wrote:

    Ok...a couple of notes and/or observations;

    This article starts out saying something to the affect of, well, it's budget-cutting time again...if memory serves me correct, haven't we been cutting the budget - especially the DoD budget EVERY YEAR for the past 20 years or so? When we got to the point that we were a 600-ship Navy, we started cutting the budget and there hasn't been a year since then that we haven't had to cut the I'm confused about "It's budget-cutting time". It's ALWAYS budget cutting time.

    Another ponderance: There was a time that we had ships in the Fleet that were 50 and 60 years old but still deemed worthy warships..since I retired from the Navy in 1982, we've built ships and decommissioned them, saying they had become "obsolete"...what happened to retro-fitting and upgrading and modifying existing units instead of demolishing them and building new ones?

    And in response to your question - NO!!! our Navy can't continue to "rule the seas"...for every ship we decommission, China builds a 2 or 3. I've been saying it for years, we're going to get caught with our proverbial pants down, and it's not going to be in a Singapore bar!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 4:09 PM, 2smartforlibs wrote:

    A lib would say its not fair we have 4 how many does anyone else have. I saw we fight the bad guys in their back year or yours so figure it out

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 4:30 PM, ptt196 wrote:


    As for bellhead's comments - Arleigh Burke destroyers are already performing this mission after being outfitted with SM-3's.

    Doing the CG(X) program makes absolutely no sense. Billions of dollars down the drain for maybe a slightly bigger Zumwalt?

    There is a reason battleships are no longer built. No need for a ship that large when smaller ships (cruisers, destroyers) armed with missiles could do just as much damage.

    There is a reason Frigates are no longer built - cruisers and destroyers are armed with just as good undersea warfare equipment & can hunt subs just as well.

    It is now the cruiser's turn.

    Here's a question - what makes the Zumwalt a destroyer? Answer? Nothing but conventional naming. Lukaplakia was right above - you should have done your research, the Zumwalt is bigger ship.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 4:33 PM, Rotomoley wrote:

    Surface ships are obsolete or soon will be. Except for certain transport services out of harms way. Against today's missiles even carrier survival is doubtful. DDG is nearly useless as it can't effectively defend itself. Frankly, if it ain't underwater it will be!

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 4:44 PM, Dutchman61 wrote:

    I think the real issue has to be where the weapons technology is going for us and for potential enemies. The real truth is a few massively expensive units (ships, tank divisions, bombers) can not be everywhere and cover every threat. Numbers matter which means cost effectiveness matters. The target is not super ships, but ships that stay far enough ahead of the enemy to win. our carriers and the Burke destroyers fit that definition. You can include the boomers and Virginia attack subs as well. At least for now.

    It is clear that the DDG 1000's were an exercise that went off track and they built a heavy cruiser rather than a destroyer. As such though they are useful platforms to test in service. it is clear however, the Navy does not know how to put a smaller warship together. The Combat Littoral classes are at best mixed bag and lack firepower. The frigates being retired were designed for convoy duty and policing activity in distant ports. The lack of success with the littoral means though we have a huge hole in our power projection. small hulls can only carry a few missiles and with weapons proliferation it makes them vulnerable.

    the real answer does not come up in this article and the US Navy is not being forthright with anyone. For combat missions, the holes fall into small combat ships (frigates) and heavy combat ships. Heavy cruisers traditionally were used as surrogate battle ships to show power. They could fight most opponents except capital ships (1/2 dozen navies at peak) and they could dominate. Since the 50's the US Navy has ignored this role and treated cruisers as carrier escorts only. At the same time, the small ships need more firepower. The answer just might be the hi-tech toy the navy lose to brag about: rail guns. The simple truth is a rail gun could give a small ship a weapon with long rang, accuracy, and a lot of rounds to fire. If you could carry several hundred 5 or 6 inch rounds in the same space as two dozen missiles, you can profoundly change the power equation. The same applies to the heavy cruiser. It is in this ship the navy must actually use a few brain cells and define a new mission. Carriers can never cover all the areas in question anymore. We can not build enough and they are too expensive. What is needed is a ship that can operate alone or with a few destroyers around the world and deliver an crippling punch to enemies. Rail guns offer the potential to do this. A large hull with a mixture of missiles and rail guns probably could be developed. In truth it would be the size of a WW2 battleship, but automation would require only a small crew. There is also no reason such a ship could not have anti-sub systems as well increasing its usefullness as a stand alone ship. The current rail guns are being sized around 5 inch, but there is not reason a large bore weapon could not be developed. We are looking at a need in 2030, not today. We have real room. Maybe we should use it. And maybe we should not look at ships to fit traditional slots.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 4:59 PM, DavidvGoliath wrote:

    Having worked in the Government Contract field for the better part of 25 years it has never ceased to amaze me the willingness of some in our Government, both Civilian and Military alike to spend for the Navy. But I find it most impressive that many of the Military have embraced lighter and more tactical resources to defend the country and it's interests. I don't need to see the size and scope of our armed forces, it's enough to know that they have what they need, and not what they don't require.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 5:17 PM, thetnrebel wrote:

    the democrats cut the military around 51% before WWII.. Many do not know that the supplies McArthur men used in the battle were left over from WWI.. Much of the ammo would not work.. McArthur men out numbered the Japs but They were left to die, because the white house told the military to leave them.. Will this happen again? I hope not but history has a way of repeating itself

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 5:40 PM, frellmedead wrote:

    More propaganda and sabre-rattling by the war mongers and the war profiteers. Love the caption beneath the picture of the USS Vella Gulf, as if the destroyer couldn't have easily shot down the Russian planes, but we didn't want to start a conflict.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 6:04 PM, frellmedead wrote:

    rwk2008's entire post, every point, hit the nail on the head. Besides military might, another capability that would make potential foes think twice is our manufacturing. We can't even build our own bridges anymore but have to order the spans from China. Far more than having "only" four classes of warships remaining, what makes us look weak and, more importantly, what makes us a nation in decline, is having a crumbling infrastructure and a shrinking manufacturing capacity.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 6:09 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    <There is a reason Frigates are no longer built - cruisers and destroyers are armed with just as good undersea warfare equipment & can hunt subs just as well.>

    I agree, but only because they can hunt subs not at all..... Among the conundrums that have not been touched on is the strategic dilemma imposed by the vulnerability of surface ships (targets) to submarines and the inability of submarines to land large numbers of ground forces or deliver relentless punishment ashore. Even casual observation suggests that one needs both, and the sound reasons for development of ASW by submarines continues....

    We are at the threshold of simply not having enough ships to do anything well. Unless the realities of salt water and maintenance, ops tempo have greatly changed since my active days on an SSN, you are lucky to have 60% of your ships on active ops and not in the yards for long time or short restricted availability. In a 300 ship Navy that means you have about 90 ships of all types in either near ocean presuming an even split. Put half on training missions working to delpoyment or returning and we can deploy something like 40 of all types...If ANYONE has ever spent a reasonable amount of time in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean, as I have, that is not nearly enough, and it takes a L-o-n-g time to move even fast ships from one side to the other. (yes I have done this)

    And if anything I am too conservative and kind to the "small navy" case here.

    The only saving grace so far has been that neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had much of a Navy or many submarines.... and you could have said something similar about Japan before 1935

    Those of you who think the navy is big enough should read some Mahan

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 6:57 PM, mhobart wrote:

    The Pentagon always wants the fanciest, gold-plated, weapons systems. This is understandable. What they chronically do not recognize is that they do not have a bottomless checkbook. If they play the game of under-estimating costs and then hope that Congress will come up with extra money half-way through a program (we've spent $XXX, you can't let that be wasted!). Sooner or later Congress will do just that, start refusing to spend extra money on programs when it is not clear how much extra needs to be spent.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 7:46 PM, Fingalad wrote:

    Are we truly afraid of the current 'competition' on the high seas? Fact is there is none. Our best defense is a a sound foreign policy not an aggressive military agenda. That agenda will lead us into greater and greater conflict. We should build small quick reactive forces without the ungodly expenditure, we already possess the most powerful large scale sea forces in in the world. If/when China or another nation like perhaps India begins to be 'competitive' then we should make a strategy to continued dominance. But as it stands now nobody comes close to us.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 8:24 PM, timotheus8866 wrote:

    The problem is that every time the Navy proposes a new ship design, the ships become so unbelievably expensive to produce that the Navy either abandons the program, Congress de-funds the program or the Navy takes delivery of a very small number of ships.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 9:42 PM, Nenblom wrote:

    Great. We spend such a ridiculous amount of. Only on our military and we NEVER seem to gave money to improve our crumbling infrastructure, our healthcare system, our schools, etc. Flex our muscles overseas while the homeland falls apart! Not a good idea.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:16 PM, BambiB wrote:

    12 Carriers. And one in mothballs. Does the US really need more carriers than the rest of the world COMBINED?

    I think not.

    Decommission half the carriers. They're not much more than huge targets these days anyway. The Chinese have a missile that will blow right through the deck, straight down through to the water line and beyond. Carriers are dinosaurs… or holes in the water into which the US continues to pour money.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 10:46 PM, mtobits wrote:

    There are only two types of ships - submarines and targets. Nuff said.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:22 PM, astronut75 wrote:

    A few dozen attack submarines???The other needs to do some research. The US Navy currently has 59 active with 6 under construction as well as 14 boomers, so try doubling your imaginary numbers.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 12:29 AM, yank1776 wrote:

    The French make the FREMM Frigate,the Italians make the Horizon Frigate and even the Dutch make the Zeven Provinicien Class all proven excellent ships Buy them save a bundle.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 1:45 AM, daverhall wrote:

    To keep our military in properly maintained shape and able to cope with current or future crisis, we need adequate fund and manpower at all times. At this current time we don't have the funds. Our funds come from taxpayers and most businesses do not pay a fair share of taxes. To remedy this we need to stop outsourcing America's jobs and return all those jobs to the US immediately and then we need to have the draft restarted for all capable adults. People who don't earn money don't pay taxes and most all businesses don't pay any taxes because of their Congress contacts. What happened to our loyalty to America?

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 5:22 AM, Fight4Justice wrote:

    It would seem that our military is always running around telling us that 'the sky is falling' and apparently far too many of us actually believe this rhetoric. First let's remember that the US taxpayer is sitting on a debt load of $17 trillion and growing. In fact, we can't even pay the interest on this debt much less the principle itself. Secondly, the US already spends more on the military than the next biggest military spenders in the world combined, did you get that the next TEN COMBINED, including #2 China. Third, we already have enough weaponry to destroy the entire world many times over. How much is enough? Fourth, no major power will ever be threatened by another because of the Nuclear Option. I mean really, think about it. Fifth, if you haven't heard the world, including our own allies, is moving quickly to replace the dollar as the world reserve currency and when that happens we had better be ready for one major blow to our standard of living and to our economy forever. This cannot be over stated, it is serious and it is coming in fast. Finally, we can no longer afford to continue to police the world and to provide a ready defense for our allies around the world. They know it too which is why they, our allies, are building up their own military capabilities as fast as possible. Additionally, our allies are not worried about Russia or China in the least as evidenced recently by France selling war ships to Russia and Germany selling engines and other components to China's military.

    Therefore, do we need more, newer Naval Warships? Absolutely not! If we do go ahead with it anyway, then surly we will have squandered what little hope we have of ever getting out of this financial and political ticking time bomb that we find ourselves sitting atop. Stop the insanity now or we will all suffer the consequences.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 7:32 AM, ronvan wrote:

    For me it is all about the MONEY vs the end product! Look at the F35. A true POS and WE keep throwing $$$ into it? WHY not "upgrade" some or all of the current Navy ships? Would that not be cheaper than building some new "super" do everything, ship? And all this "stealth" stuff? I have heard & read many articles that it can now be defeated? Carriers are the deadliest ships on water, but not because of the ship itself, it is because of the planes on it! ALL other ships in a BCG are there to protect it!

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 9:30 AM, SkepikI wrote:

    <would seem that our military is always running around telling us that 'the sky is falling' and apparently far too many of us actually believe this rhetoric. >

    hmmm, well our collective ability to predict our next opponent and the decisive element has been historically, well, pitiful....

    And everyone who is now agonizing over their dead citizens including the Dutch were cozying up to Vlad the Impaler, err ahh, Putin last week, until his equipment and likely his guys shot down an airliner...shades of KAL 007. Yes, I know you lawyers out there "nothing is proven" and yet I and others knew it was Russia's Surface to Air capability from first reports. Its no trick to deduce that it takes very sophisticated radar and high altitude missiles to do the job and you don't train a bunch of grade school educated thugs to do that overnight....

    Russia has been a VERY dark place for centuries and nothing has changed except the smile on the bear. Read Dostoyevsky or Solzhenitsyn...or even Lenin.

    And for those of you advocating for many, cheaper, less capable ships- I wonder if YOU or maybe even more appropriate your children and grandchildren would serve on them?

    Naval ships and capability take a LONG time to build...and last even longer in service. Naval mistakes are very costly especially when they involve basic strategy or capability. In 1941 and early 1942 the US Submarine Service suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any combat force of the US...there weren't many wounded... this was largely because the US Navy had maintained a large number of obsolete submarines, including coastal defense subs with limited capability, and "up rated" them by producing new torpedo types...which didn't work...including the wonderful feature of the occasional "circular run" resulting in own ship near misses and destructions. we only found out about it from the near misses, and even then, BuOrd denied it was happening.

    The seeds of this disaster were sown in the 30's as were those of the Bataan Death March following the surrender of troops in the Philippines when they ran out of food and usable ammunition noted in earlier commentary.

    Yes Russia no longer has a Navy Base on Soccotra Island in the IO nor an Echo, a Charlie and a Kynda stationed there. Dreaming that Russia has NO Navy is a bonehead's paradise

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 10:07 AM, GCshipbuilder wrote:

    Absolutely no mention of the potential Small Surface Combatant (SSC) or LCS programs? Really? The program that the Navy proposed to replace the LCS which was supposed to be a good flexible design to fill gaps in our combatant capabilities? Wow, very thorough article bud. Well laid out argument to bash defense spending.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 11:31 AM, agsb wrote:

    This is Obama's military where Washington expands government except the military, now if we can get government officials to fight our next war.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2014, at 9:31 PM, kurta wrote:

    ptt196 you sure don't know what your talking about. First a DD can't do everything a CG can and being a so called CG sailor you say you are you should know this. I was a CG sailor on the most decorated cruiser the USS Wainwright CG-28 and no destroyer had the same combat capabilities than we did of the time. We need Frigates Destroyers and Cruisers because each has it's defined missions and no single ship can do all 3.

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