British naval procurement developments may presage U.S. actions. Because the British military is so much smaller than that of the United States, the problems associated with, for example, limited production runs become prominent in Britain well before they appear in the United States. A close study of British conditions, therefore gives us more time to react to developments that may prove inevitable.
The Royal Navy has been shrinking for a long time, mainly because the unit cost of modern ships has escalated. About 1980, for example, procurement of new Type 22 frigates was cut on the grounds that, though they were advertised as replacements for the earlier and much simpler Leanders, they cost three times as much. (The threat they faced was becoming a lot more sophisticated, too). The British have also long experienced the kind of manpower crisis the U.S. Navy now faces. Beginning about 1957, their future fleet plans were shaped not by the amount they hoped to spend each year, but by the number of sailors available to the fleet.