Midway through the Navy's fiscal 1999 budget hearings, a frustrated Senator John Warner (R-VA) had grilled enough admirals and top civilians to fill a frigate's wardroom. But no one, in his opinion, could answer his essential question: How would the Navy stop the shrinking of the fleet?
The Pentagon's five-year financial blueprint proposes an average of six new warships a year—two to four too few to sustain a 300-vessel fleet—and a promise to bump up shipbuilding in the years beyond.
"Where are the dollars going to come from?" Warner asked Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, the Navy's warfare requirements chief, at a March hearing.
Admiral Lautenbacher outlined plans to develop vastly cheaper ways to build, buy, operate, and maintain warships, but Senator Warner took no solace in his words.
"That's the party line, and I'll accept it for the moment," the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman said, pounding a broad oaken table and rising to leave. "But I'm going to continue to probe this."