A forward deployed, global Navy is going to have problems. Ships are expensive, and occasionally they will go “bump” in the night, like the USS FITZGERALD did recently. While we can hold ship CO’s responsible and fire them when they screw up (and we do), the Navy’s dangerous business means that we’re going to occasionally take damage.
We take more damage during war. Looking back to World War 2, CDR Salamander (another blogger) wrote a great article at USNI about carrier losses during the war. Japan obviously lost 100% of their carriers, with 2/3rds of those in the first year. But the US and Britain suffered as well, losing over half of their carriers by the end of the war. That means that with our current inventory of carriers, we could expect to lose 5 carriers in a war with China or Russia, with 3 in the first year of the conflict.
Each carrier has about 5,000 people on it, so just carrier losses account for 25,000 Sailors. To put that in perspective, that is about half of our Vietnam era casualties, and 5 time the number of people we’ve lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. And this reality is not an “if,” but a “when,” if we go to war with China or Russia (both of which seem eager to do so).
But the sheer volume of losses isn’t the point of this article. We won World War 2 in the Pacific because we could replace those losses quickly. Carl Vinson, a Georgia Representative, saw our aging fleet and built it up inside the limits of existing naval treaties, at a time when the nation could have cared less about the Navy. His efforts ensured that the Navy had warships on par with the Japanese, and when they lost these ships, they could be replaced, something that Japan was never able to do. Carl Vinson created a “tough” Navy, one that could take a punch.
Secretary Mattis called out Congress recently for not doing their job of passing budgets. We can design the best ships, but the reality is that a major war is going to deplete them. We’re becoming increasingly vulnerable at sea, and we don’t have a good plan to get healthy soon.
We need a new Carl Vinson in Congress, now more than ever.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. Please take a moment to keep the Sailors of the USS FITZGERALD in your prayers.