The American Shipbuilding Association
, led by president Cynthia L. Brown
, again reiterated the desperate need for increased naval ship construction now to stave off the natural progression of the U.S. fleet below the 300-ship level. The fact that the fleet has shrunk from 600 ships in 1987 to 324 ships today is only part of the problem, according to Brown, who says that procurement levels from DoD over the past seven years is, in essence, a budget for a 200 ship fleet.
While experts active and retired have warned of a perilously thin fleet, the time is a hand when the number of ships in the U.S. arsenal will drop below 300, a psychological comfort level of sorts. ASA reasons that the build level must return to at least 12 ships per year (versus the six to seven ships per year ordered over the past seven years) to maintain an adequate balance. This would, of course, be a welcome development for the U.S. shipbuilding and ship's supply base, which has endured a decade plus of reduced spending and consequent consolidations.