Recently, several senior Department of Defense officials and influential legislators and analysts raised the issue of whether the U.S. Navy’s current and projected strength is really necessary, considering what they consider to be “massive overmatch” compared with its potential enemies. The aim is to find a plausible rationale for justifying drastic cuts in the defense budget because of the nation’s unsustainable deficits. But the officials undermined their own case by relying on obsolete and largely irrelevant metrics in measuring U.S. naval power.
Naval combat potential refers to physical or tangible elements (seagoing platforms and their weapons/sensors and shore-based support) and intangible aspects such as leadership, combat training and readiness, the will to fight, and doctrine. In evaluating naval potential, both materiél and human elements must be analyzed; otherwise the results will be highly unsatisfactory. The human factor is often more decisive than materiél, and the physical characteristics of the operating environment must be considered as well.