June 29, 2023
Earlier this year, US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro raised the alarm about China’s expanding naval fleet and America’s inability to keep up quantitatively. By 2025, the Pentagon projects that China will have 400 surface ships in its fleet, while the US fleet sits at just 300, and that gap is only widening. Part of the reason for the growing gap is America’s lower shipbuilding capacity when compared with China.
A recent CNN report floated a possible solution: Partner with our treaty allies who also have highly developed shipbuilding industries, particularly South Korea and Japan. Although Korean and Japanese ships are noted as being high-quality, less likely to have cost overruns, and are already designed to incorporate other US weapons systems, current US law prohibits the Navy from acquiring ships built in overseas shipyards. The law does not, however, preclude Japanese and South Korean shipbuilding firms from assisting shipbuilding efforts here in the United States.
Could changing how we work with Japan and South Korea to bulk up our shipbuilding capacity close the growing naval gap? How might this be accomplished? This was discussed by NPEC and the Hudson Institute. Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute and a former Navy officer and Jeffery Nadaner who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy led with brief presentations.