Richard O’Brien’s Feb. 5 Politico article, “The Navy’s Hidden Crisis,” rightly expresses concern over the decreasing number of ships and its impact on the ability to secure the oceans and project power. However, his analyses tend to be one-sided while his thoughts on messaging reflect a bigger issue as to how the Navy connects with the broader public.
O’Brien needs to look at all of the civilian leadership and their role, not just that in the White House, and should consider how the message of a strong Navy needs to be personalized for the average voter.
First, O’Brien opens by laying the issue at the feet of the Navy itself, writing, “It was only the latest revelation, though, about how deeply and how quickly the Navy’s ambitions are shrinking — even in an age when our adversaries are growing their own navies in oceans around the world.”
Ambition requires resources. I have faith in Navy leadership that if they felt confident that they would get “X” in funding they would do “X” in support of said ambition. However, they must work within the constraints given to them by civilian leadership, both executive and legislative.
Therefore, if one buys into O’Brien’s argument, then it’s not the Navy’s ambitions that are shrinking but that of the nation’s leaders themselves.
Which brings me to the larger concern I have about the article, the near-free pass that Congress gets in his frustration over the shrinking fleet. As a case in point, his discussion about aircraft carriers includes the following quote: “Due to budget cuts and the follow on threat of sequestration, the carrier fleet will likely shrink from the congressionally mandated 11 to 10 or even lower.”