Is the U.S. Navy Too Small?

It has become a common talking point with Republican presidential candidates and think tanks: the U.S. Navy is too small and needs to grow. Although the overall size of the military has been an issue, the size of the Navy has received particular attention. The 2014 National Defense Panel, a statutory, bipartisan panel of nongovernment experts, recommended increasing the Navy to between 323 and 346 ships, arguing that the strategy exceeds the forces provided and that it was better to err on the side of too much rather than too little. Studies from several think tanks have made the same argument.

It is worth considering, then, what the size of the Navy is, how its current size compares with historical experience and other navies, how the Navy’s size drives, and is driven, by various national security strategies, and how this fits into the broader political and international context.

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