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U.S. Pacific Fleet shrinks even as China grows more aggressive

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / OCT. 1, 2015 Family members of sailors wave as the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrives at a U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan south of Tokyo.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet is shrinking even as the U.S. and its allies are facing challenges posed by China’s growing military power.

U.S. Navy officials say the more advanced ships of today make up for the decline in numbers. But the Navy has also had to lengthen deployments and postpone maintenance to maintain its presence with fewer ships.

Peter Jennings, an expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank, said the issue in peacetime is whether there are enough American vessels to reassure friends and allies.

“I think this is emerging as a serious long-term problem,” he said.

The Pacific Fleet currently has 182 vessels, including combat ships like aircraft carriers as well as auxiliary and logistics vessels, said spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss. That compares to 192 nearly two decades ago.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious ships and patrol craft, according to the Pentagon’s Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy report released in August.

This all comes as China has grown more aggressive in asserting claims to islands also claimed by U.S. allies, including the Philippines in the South China Sea and Japan in the East China Sea.

China sees the U.S. military presence in Asia as an attempt to contain it, said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu. Beijing sees itself as returning to its rightful and historical role as the pre-eminent cultural and political power in the region, he said.

Since December 2013, China has built what the U.S. estimates to be 3,000 acres of artificial islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea using sand dredged from the ocean floor.

China has said the islands are meant to help ships, fishermen and disaster relief.

Questions about whether the Pacific Fleet has enough resources are more of a reflection of regional anxieties than the Navy’s actual capability, said its commander, Adm. Scott Swift.

“I’m very comfortable with the resources I have,” Swift said.

He pointed to the USS Benfold, a guided missile destroyer upgraded with new ballistic missile defenses, as well as three new stealth destroyers, the DDG-1000, in the pipeline, as examples.

One consequence of a smaller fleet has been more time at sea. Retired Adm. Zap Zlatoper, who commanded the Pacific Fleet in the 1990s, said deployments longer than six months made it harder for the Navy to retain sailors. Ships now deploy for an average of seven to nine months, though the Navy plans to lower this to seven.

Ship conditions have also suffered. The USS Essex left an exercise with Australia early in 2011 and skipped another with Thailand the following year because it developed mechanical problems after delaying maintenance to stay at sea.

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank, said these are signs the status quo is unsustainable.

In a November report, Clark outlined alternatives: build more ships, though this would require money Congress may not give the Navy, or deploy less, though the Pentagon has been reluctant to accept less of an overseas presence.

The other choices: keep more ships at overseas bases where they would be closer to where they operate or mix up how ships deploy. One example would be to send fewer escorts with an aircraft carrier.

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    • It is another manufactured “crisis” that benefits the arms dealers who control so much of USA policy. USA has been had by the war mongers that always want a crisis and an excuse to cash in on the public treasury. Sorry but no one here cares a hoot about japan’s being nervous about the South China Sea. If they are unhappy, then let them fund their military to deal with it.

    • So what is the cost of freedom, unlimited military spending? Or 20% of our federal budget, 30%, 40%, or more? Please, try to sound more intelligent rather than just spouting worn clichés.

    • Mike, from where do you get such nonsense? Please tell Obama to stop decimating our military as he has done. Trump knows and believes that the primary function of the federal government is national defense and he will see to it that it is done soon after he becomes president in January 2017.

      • Since you clearly believe, despite the explicitly wording it the Constitution that the Executive Branch DOES NOT writes laws and spends money, you therefore must credit the massive decrease in the deficit under Clinton NOT to the Republican Congress, but to a Democrat President.

        Or you are a raging, out of control partisan hypocrite.

        • By the posters reference to “ronin” in his handle, it should be pretty obvious his perspective on seeking a “disgraceful” excuse of a man as one to look up to.

    • First of all, do you have ANY idea what the military budget already is and by how far it exceeds every other country’s spending? Second, how much more funds do you want to see released for the military? Please, provide some answers and sound intelligent for a change.

    • Did you even read the article? “The Navy and its regional component, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, both have fewer ships now than in the mid-1990s. Navy officials say vastly improved technology on those vessels outweighs any disadvantage from a drop in numbers.

      Questions about whether the Pacific Fleet has enough resources are more of a reflection of regional anxieties than the Navy’s actual capability, said its commander, Adm. Scott Swift.”

      • You expect partisan tool-bags to read? They are partisan tool-bags because they can’t read. Part of being a card carrying partisan tool-bag is a requirement to only read the headline and then make up whatever you think the article said. Also, you are forbidden from using Google to read. You can only get your media from Breitbart of Moveon.

        • Non partisan tool-bags read only what they want to believe. Card carrying non partisan tool-bag requirement is to agree with the status quo. You can only get your media from SA. Agreeing with everything Obama does and arguing with everyone makes you look like the south end of a north bound donkey. Relationships between the U.S. and the world is reaching an all time low. Our enemies are preparing for war. The Anti Christ has you blinded.

      • seaborn you have to look beyond what the talking heads are saying and see that the PRC would not be so emboldened to even challenge America had they not detected weakness in our leadership. Adm. Swift likes his job, so he will not say anything disparaging about Obama, but even he knows the results of this failed president. Congress has had sequester cuts because the president does not know how to negotiate with Congress, Obama designed the sequester to weaken the military further so that the GOP would buckle under his wishes. Congress didn’t and the sequester went into effect further weakening the military.

      • Don’t expect intelligent discussion from dodos who can’t decipher our own military saying our military capabilities still far outweigh what Chinese can muster. Couple of our subs and aircraft carriers are more than capable of annihilating the Chinese Sampan fleet.

  • The president’s plan to weaken America is working. Lead from behind, by destroying our military was the goal, and after 7 years of Obama, the fruits of his efforts are now becoming very apparent. How proud his supporters must be for this dramatic transformation that Obama promised 7 years ago, and now we see that he kept his promise. Thanks Mr President.

    • Gotta laugh at all these utterly clueless, legend in their own mind, rookie posters who willfully fail to understand it is our utterly dysfunctional congress which holds the pursestrings for the military. It was through the failure of our congressional bureaucrats the military was hit with the Budget Sequester, cutting billions from their funding.

      In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if they couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion – about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across the board budget cuts started to take effect in 2013.

      Sad to say our elected congressional bureaucrats are part of the problem – Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai. Typical beltway bandits.


        • You do not seem to understand you are wrong. Localguy is obnoxious, but at least he has his branch of government right. Which is more than I can say for 99% of people who post here.

          The House originates spending bills. Not the President.

    • You and your buddies failed to read the article. “The Navy and its regional component, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, both have fewer ships now than in the mid-1990s. Navy officials say vastly improved technology on those vessels outweighs any disadvantage from a drop in numbers.

      Questions about whether the Pacific Fleet has enough resources are more of a reflection of regional anxieties than the Navy’s actual capability, said its commander, Adm. Scott Swift.”

        • It is highly unlikely that your family listens to your offensive dribble at the dinner table. Is that why you take out your frustrations and insult everyone anonymously?

        • saveparadise, my family isn’t a bunch of incompetent fools who can’t be bothered to research anything. You however, along with Ronin and Winston are.

      • The commander of the Pacific Fleet, like most top ranking military officers, are appointed by the President, serve at his pleasure, will say publicly what he wants them to say. Those who don’t are quickly shown the door to civilian life.

        • You said this about Climate change. And then we pointed out how many currently sitting appointed military leaders during the Bush Administration stated climate change is happening and you fled like the coward you are. Your claim of political persecution is just claim and you always run from defending your beliefs.

    • By your measure, if we automate or move to heavy machinery, we’ve destroyed American construction by replacing a 1,000 workers with shovels with 2 guys in heavy earth moving machines. Doing more work, but apparently destroyed the industry?

      The simple fact of the matter is our stuff now can do more than our stuff before with less ships and people. Compare an F-22 to a F-16. Numbers alone confer no advantage. That applied in Sun Tzu’s time and it applies now.

      Why do you think China is engaged in mass espionage? Because it knows numerical superiority will not save it against the US or Japan. They must tech and tech fast. Why do you think Russia is so nuclear dependent? Because it is not only numerically inferior, but more importantly, technologically inferior.

      Once we get solid state laser weapons up, a single ship will be able to function as an entire fleet. The age of relying on numbers ended in WWI.

      • I really want to believe in your barrage of our military superiority but in a real war numbers can and will make a difference. You would have us believe that our enemies are of no concern. Your strong opinions are neither totally fact nor fiction but I do hope we never have the need to find out. The element of surprise goes to the aggressor and Hawaii will surely be a strategic target again.

        • Do you ever even bother to read what you reply to?

          I never said they weren’t a concern. Did you somehow get from my statement about nuclear reliance that they aren’t a threat? It is obvious you flunked out of the DOE given your complete failure to understand anything.

          What I ACTUALLY SAID, is that numbers are not an advantage and that the equipment we have now is much better than the equipment we had before. So harping about having fewer ships while comparing to a number of inferior, but numerically superior.

          Furthermore, Hawaii will get nuked. That is the easiest, most surefire way to remove the threat of Pearl Harbor. And the easiest way to deliver a nuclear weapon to Oahu is via container ship.

        • By the numbers – US and it’s allies have more than enough nukes to destroy the world 10 times over. Our so-called enemies (guess you’re including China as our enemy – whom you’re supporting with your purchases of their goods) likewise has enough nukes to destroy the world 10 times over. Is that enough numbers for you?

        • It’s nice that you’re trying to save paradise but, please, could you first try to save us from your insanity?

    • Yes, thank Obama for succeeding in killing Bin Laden, bringing American troops back home, and seeking peace initiatives in the middle East. Thank Bush for the “Mission Accomplished” joke (although he didn’t mean it as a joke). Also, thank your Republican buddies who actually were responsible for budget cut through their “sequestration” mandate (if you understand what that means, which I doubt).

  • 33% APPROVAL in 2009…fast forward to Dec 2014, 19% APPROVAL. Military personnelPOLLING, what is your APPROVAL of O now in 2016….SINGLE DIGITS?

  • It’s all about the President’s legacy come hell or high water. He is not about working with the opposition, he wants it his way. The better presidents were able to work with the opposition. Johnson and Reagan to name few were able to work with opposition and accomplished much.

    • Do you forget that when Obama was first elected the Republicans signed with Norquist to obstruct Obama at every possible opportunity? There has been no working with the oppostition because they weren’t going to work with him.

    • How many other Presidents had the opposition party meet on his inauguration to systematically plan 4-8 years of obstruction to the point they willingly abandoned their own party’s beliefs and platforms?

      Several major Republicans have come forth admitting they were at that meeting and subsequent meetings.

      • The two party system has worked rather well in this case. Some folks have no tools in their bag. Tool-bag is cute compared to the usual terms i.e. racist, nutcase, hater. Mahalo

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