The US Navy is facing a serious crisis as it will no longer be able to confront the emerging global threats due to its tired sailors and dwindling number of ships, a new study reveals.
The Navy and Marine Corps’s main problem is "that demand for naval forces exceeds the supply they can sustainably deliver," according to a recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
The Navy has now about 271 ships compared to 333 warships it had in 1998. Despite the dramatic reduction, the workload has not changed since that time, the study says.
The report also cites a 2014 survey conducted by two Navy officers, which found 49.8 percent of enlisted personnel and 65.5 percent of officers felt overwhelmed because of high operational tempo.
According to the study, titled "Deploying Beyond Their Means: America's Navy and Marine Corps at a Tipping Point," the problems have left the Pentagon with two options; either to have a fundamental policy shift or spend more money.
However, either choice has an implication for America’s largest military shipbuilder, Hampton Roads, which is home to the world's largest naval base in Norfolk and the headquarters of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
The report suggests that the Navy should reduce its presence in other parts of the world amid the escalating tension in Syria, Ukraine and China.
It also recommends building more ships, but this would cost the maritime force dearly as it requires another $4 billion to $7 billion annually to build a sufficient number of vessels to help sustain the Navy's current global presence.
Another option for the Navy is to send another aircraft carrier to Japan to address the challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, the report says, or Congress should allocate more money to cover maintenance and sailors’ salaries in order to keep the current operating tempo.
The Defense Department "will eventually need to reconcile the mismatch between the supply of naval forces and the demands placed on them," the report states.
"The Navy and Marine Corps met the demand by simply doing more with less" over the last decade, said Bryan Clark, a CSBA senior fellow, who co-authored the report with research assistant Jesse Sloman.