Apparently, during his debate with Biden, Ryan whined that our Navy is now smaller than at any point since before World War I.
I have no idea whether that’s true or not, but let’s assume it is. (Given the aforementioned tactics of the GOP, this is clearly not a safe assumption, but go with it.)
What do we need a Navy for today? What is its job? Naval battles as decisive military engagements are basically a thing of the past. Countries don’t maintain ships of the line anymore. At this point no Navy in the world has an active battleship. Ever since Midway, the name of the game has been force projection and air power, and that means carriers.
During the Cold War, we sort of pretended we needed a big Navy, but really it was already the carriers (and submarines) that mattered the most. And that’s still true. And here’s the other part: You don’t need very many of either to have a decisive advantage over pretty much everybody else, and I’d say we have that pretty well in hand.
Of the ten nations that have carriers, seven of them have only one (and China’s isn’t usable). We, on the other hand, have twenty, eleven of which are giant-ass supercarriers, with more (of the Ford class) coming.
One thing you discover if you start reading about American naval power and carriers is that sources disagree on what counts as a carrier. The GlobalSecurity graphic I linked above counts basically all flattop vessels to arrive at 21, but most other sources just count the 11 supercarriers. Even if we go with that figure, though, the comparisons to the rest of the world are just as amazing: nobody else has more than 2. Our navy, all by itself, far exceeds the naval power of the rest of the nations of the world put together.
I’m probably pretty on board with us having dramatic, overwhelming, shock-and-awe level force advantages over any possible antagonist, but it seems kinda unlikely that we really need to maintain this kind of margin. We could drop by 30% and still have that, for example.