US Navy Lacks Warships for Conflict With China, Says Congressman Waltz

‘The country has become too comfortable allowing our greatest adversary to build the majority of the world’s ships,’ Rep. Michael Waltz says.
US Navy Lacks Warships for Conflict With China, Says Congressman Waltz
Ships from the Gerald R. Ford and Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Groups sail in formation in the Mediterranean Sea, on Nov. 3, 2023. (Jacob Mattingly/U.S. Navy)
Andrew Thornebrooke

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Navy lacks sufficient ships and crew to conduct a war with China, according to one Congressman.

China’s dominance in global ship manufacturing is further exacerbating the issue, said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) during a Feb. 5 talk at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“The situation is not good,” Mr. Waltz said

“We just don’t have enough warships, commercial ships, [or] shipbuilding capacity.”

Mr. Waltz, who serves on the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence committees, said that China’s capacity to create most of the world’s commercial vessels gave it both the infrastructure and funding required to outbuild the U.S. Navy.

“The [U.S.] has become too comfortable, allowing our greatest adversary to build the majority of the world’s ships,” Mr. Waltz said.

“This shipbuilding overmatch that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is developing is on the back of their commercial shipbuilding.”

Experts and defense officials have warned that China and the United States are heading into a prolonged period of maritime competition.

Military officials are well aware of the Navy’s declining ability to meet a confrontation with China head-to-head and of the CCP’s ability to leverage commercial advantages to increase that overmatch.

A leaked slide from the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence revealed last year that China’s shipbuilding capability was roughly 232 times greater than that of the United States.
Similarly, a 2022 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank found that four major shipyards responsible for building Chinese naval vessels also raked in billions of dollars in foreign commercial investment.

As such, China’s premier state-owned shipbuilders are able to use profits from international contracts to directly fund military projects, such as the CCP’s expanding fleet of aircraft carriers.

Mr. Waltz said that the CCP was moving to take control of strategic positions throughout the world by buying out majority shares of key international ports, allowing its military to make ports of call there.

The U.S. Navy is hard-pressed to meet that challenge, and likely will not be able to match China’s shipbuilding capabilities for years to come.

A recent report on U.S. Military Strength published by the Heritage Foundation ranked the U.S. Navy’s overall capacity as “very weak,” saying the service should maintain at least 400 battle force ships to prepare for any contingency.

The Navy currently maintains only 297, and is expected to go down to 290 in the coming years.

For comparison, the Chinese Navy currently has more than 370 ships and submarines and is expected to have at least 460 by 2030. That number does not include China’s patrol boats and anti-ship missile carriers.

“Given current and projected shortfalls in funding for shipbuilding, the Navy is unable to arrest and reverse the decline of its fleet as adversary forces grow in both number and capability,” the Heritage report said.

“Ships are aging faster than they are being replaced, with older ships placing a greater burden on the maintenance capabilities of our relatively few shipyards.”

Mr. Waltz blamed the “dysfunctional budgeting process” of Congress and a university system that is not “creating the workforce that we need” to float and maintain naval assets.

“You can’t have a 30-year shipbuilding strategy that changes every year,” Mr. Waltz said.

To that end, Mr. Waltz said that he and his colleagues in Congress were working to develop language that would allow for the creation of a long-term operational maritime strategy that would not be so beholden to the whims of Congress’ annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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