The Navy wants and needs more capability to ease the strain on its slowly growing fleet, a strain amplified by global great-power competition. The pace of the 30-year shipbuilding plan as envisioned falls short in fielding the offensive power or the number of ships necessary to challenge adversaries. Achieving “the Navy the nation needs” warrants an innovative approach. The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.
Critics deride the Navy’s emphasis on ships numbers. They say it is not numbers but the capability carried by the ships that matters. But both are important.