Today in AFJ History

October 6, 2013  

1962: Double the fleet!

The guided-missile frigate USS Dale is readied for launching at Camden, N.J., in 1962.

From the archive: October 6, 1962

Shipbuilding Program Must Be Doubled

Navy shipbuilding programs must be doubled if the U.S. Fleet is to maintain present strength and carry out assigned roles in the years ahead.

This is the finding of a special House Armed Services Subcommittee which has been studying the composition of the fleet and block obsolescence of Naval vessels. Led by Representative L. Mendel Rivers (D-SC), the Subcommittee concluded that “over the next several years some 70 new ships must be built each year.” This year’s shipbuilding program provides for the construction of only 37 new ships. The Committee reported that of 860 ships now in the active fleet, 598 were authorized during WWII. Average age of all the vessels in the active fleet is 15 years. Average useful life of a Navy ship is about 20 years. Observing that 387 ships have been authorized for construction over the past 15 years — an average of 24 per year — the Committee said “simple arithmetic … inevitable and unarguable” demonstrates that such a building program will, 10 years from now, result in a decline in the active fleet from 860 ships to 503.

Unless the Defense Department moves to speed ship construction “something in the order of 70 new ships per year,” the Committee said Congress should take “aggressive action to insure that a program of the proper size be authorized.”

Editor’s note: The actual size of the U.S. fleet attained its post-WWII peak of 932 ships in June 1968. Today, the fleet stands at 285 ships.