Navy Rebuilding

July 23, 1976

Report Outline
Debate About Naval Strength
Relationship of Navy to U.S. Aims
Blueprints for the Future Navy
Special Focus

Debate About Naval Strength

Shaping the Future Navy; Election-Year Issue

The united states navy, neglected during and immediately after the Vietnam War, is embarked on a rebuilding program that will determine the shape of the American fleet for the rest of the century and beyond. It is hardly surprising that the Navy—its size, its strength vis-a-vis the Russian fleet and its ability to protect American interests abroad—has become an issue in the 1976 presidential campaign. Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former submarine officer, told New Jersey voters on June 5 that he favored “an aggressive shipbuilding program with concentration on quality and mobility” to counter a Soviet naval buildup.

President Ford's Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan, has accused the administration of allowing the United States to become the second strongest naval power in the world. Ford denies this, saying: “…[Y]ou do not compare numbers [of ships and men]. You compare total tonnage and combat capability—and you find we are on top.” Nevertheless, shortly after his defeat in the May 1 Texas primary, Ford asked Congress to increase the Navy's shipbuilding budget by $1,174,000,000 during fiscal year 1977, up from the $6.3-billion he had requested in January to more than $7.4-billion. This would permit construction of 21 instead of 16 new ships. In defending the higher request, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 4 that while the U.S. Navy is currently “superior” to its Soviet counterpart, an accelerated shipbuilding program must be started to reverse “adverse trends.”

In addition to the growth of the Russian fleet, these “adverse trends” include a decline in the number of active ships in the U.S. Navy from 976 in 1968 to 477 in early 1976. The current number is the lowest since 1939. Many of these ships were built just after World War II and will have to be replaced in a few years. Adm. James L. Holloway, Chief of Naval Operations, told a congressional subcommittee last fall: “If the United States is to maintain the margin of maritime superiority that we enjoy today—although it is a slim one—over the Soviets, we must have a minimum of 600 active ships by the mid-1980s.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Navy
Jul. 23, 1976  Navy Rebuilding
Mar. 06, 1968  Sea Power and Global Strategy
Oct. 06, 1945  Army-Navy Consolidation
Oct. 02, 1941  Undeclared Naval Warfare
Oct. 25, 1939  Naval Blockades and Submarine Warfare
Nov. 20, 1935  American Naval Policy
Nov. 19, 1934  Naval Limitation and Pacific Problems, 1921–1936
Oct. 27, 1931  The Proposed Naval Holiday
Jul. 25, 1930  Military and Naval Expenditures
Jan. 16, 1930  The London Naval Conference
Sep. 28, 1929  The Anglo-American Naval Situation
Feb. 13, 1928  The 1928 Naval Building Program
Defense Budget
Defense Technology and Force Planning
U.S. at War: Cold War