We recently learned that, due to budget cuts, the British Navy is not able to deploy a surface warship to provide a 24 hour emergency response capability. Of course England is not at war right now even though her forces are involved in Afghanistan and, until recently on a limited basis in Libya.
But how much is enough in so-called peace time?
Truth be told, the US did not have a modern battleship until 1895 when three were added to the fleet: the USS Maine, USS Indiana and the USS Texas. The USS Massachusetts and the USS Oregon came on line a year later. Of course we lost one of them, the Maine, on 15 FEB 1898 which brought us into conflict with Spain. The cause of the explosion that sank the Maine is now questioned. In any event, the Maine was re-floated and then scuttled at sea in 1912.
From the following site, Naval History and Heritage Command, we see the US Navy increase it's capacity for surface warfare dramatically after the loss of the Maine and the declaration of war. Of course this involves the cooperation of Congress to approve the funds necessary to build these war craft. Look at the increase in size of the "Steel" Navy.
|SPANISH - AMERICAN WAR|
|Date||Dec 1896||Dec 1898||Change|
The Great White Fleet - 1907
For a decade after the end of the Spanish American War, the fleet grew to about 175-180 ships. Uncertain political conditions in Europe saw the fleet increase to 245 vessels prior to the commencement of WWI hostilities. Look at the difference in the number of battleships, destroyers and cruisers from the prior war against Spain. By Armistice Day our fleet had increased by over 200%. But this was nothing compared to what would happen to our Navy less than three decades later.
|WORLD WAR I|
|Date||Dec 1916||Nov 1918||Change|
By 1924 the fleet had been reduced down to 137 surface warships and 376 total active vessels. However, the biggest decrease was in the number of gunboats, from 350 to only 37. The number of battleships and cruisers were reduced by almost a half. When the Great Depression hit, it got worse. Nothing changed much until the late 30's and then - 1940 when even the doves and isolationists in Congress saw the handwriting on the wall.
|WORLD WAR II|
|Date||Jun 1940||Aug 1945||Change|
*Surface warfare ship totals do not include submarines, mine warfare, patrol or auxiliaries
By 1943 the US Navy had more ships than all other combatant nations combined - that includes allied and enemy navies - the Brits, the Canadians, the Fwench, the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians, everyone.
The end of WWII saw peace dividends realized through the shrinking of our armed forces. By 1950 we were down to 634 warships, less than a tenth of our WWII levels. But as the Cold War heated up, our Navy increased again. By 1968, during the peak of the Vietnam War, we were at 932 warships
|COLD WAR / VIETNAM|
|Date||Jun 1950||Jun 1968||Change|
This didn't last long. As the Vietnam War ended and our nation transitioned to an all volunteer force (1973), our Navy shrunk by 44%; from 932 in 1968 to 523 by 1977. From then on, our highest level of active warships was under President Reagan - in 1987 we deployed 594 warships. It has been all downhill since then. In 2007 we are at our lowest naval strength since 1916; we were down to 278 ships. When President Bush took office, the Navy was at 318 ships; when he left it was 282. We are now at 285.
|THE 21ST CENTURY|
|Date||Sep 2007||Sep 2011||Change|
The question still remains before us. How much is enough? Naval technology has come a long ways to be sure and the capabilities of our warships has changed accordingly. But it seems that our conflicts are not-state-of-the-art affairs, but more along the lines of combating low-tech thuggish cretins armed with AK-47's and butcher knives.
So if I'm wise I had better leave this question in the hands of military professionals who are vastly more qualified than I to render judgement. I know they are obsolete and expensive as all get out to man, but I'd sure feel better if we had an Iowa class battleship or three or six floating off the shores of Egypt, Palestine, Somalia, Iran and Venezuela. Just to piss them off.