'The National Security Threats Are Growing': Author Argues For A Bigger Navy
A retired U.S. Navy Captain believes America’s naval power is at a low point. In his new book, "To Provide And Maintain A Navy," Capt. Jerry Hendrix details a rising number of threats to the country and to the international institutions we depend on.
WHRV’s Paul Bibeau spoke with Hendrix about the role of the U.S. Navy, and the future he wants for it.
Listen to their conversation, and find a full transcript below.
Paul Bibeau (PB): Jerry Hendrix, thank you very much for talking to us.
Jerry Hendrix (JH): It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
PB: Your book TO PROVIDE AND MAINTAIN A NAVY describes what I think is fair to call a crisis in the Navy. What does this crisis look like, and why should Americans be concerned?
JH: Well, I wrote the book, because we’ve been arguing about numbers and the number of ships we need, and the types of ships we need.... We’ve been talking about that for 10 to 20 years right now. And the fact is we’re just not getting any traction. And yet, the national security threats are growing. China’s rising. Russia’s becoming a threat at sea again. And we need to do a better job of explaining to the American people and their leaders why it is that we need a Navy, and why it is that we need a larger one. And so that’s what I set out to do in this book.
PB: Could you describe the threat environment that we’re facing that the Navy addresses?
JH: Sure, the problem is that we have two rising great powers we’re facing in China and Russia, who are not only interested in asserting themselves in their spheres of influence, but also in attacking the rules and norms that have been established, not just in recent years, not just in this time when the United States has become a global leader, but in fact the rules and norms that have been established over the last 400 years… concepts like the free sea, free trade, capitalism, the movement of ideas around the world. Both of them have come to view the ocean as a medium that transmits not only trade to them, which they want, but also dangerous ideas to them. So both of them have attempted to extend territorial claims over the high seas -- with China, it’s the South China Sea or the East China Sea; with Russia, it’s into the Arctic -- and both seek to undermine the idea of a free sea so that they can control not only the movement of trade but also the movement of the ideas which they find threatening to them.
PB: The book has a detailed description of the long-term effects of fewer ships with the same responsibilities. Could you walk me through what happens when a dwindling number of ships have to do the same number of tasks?
JH: It’s a great question. We have between 80 and 108 ships out at any given time, despite the fact that we only have a Navy of 297 today. So what does that mean? Well, if you have to maintain over a third of your fleet at sea, then you’re going to take compromises in other aspects of what the fleet is doing. And where the US Navy has compromised is in ship maintenance, the amount of time our ships can be in the yards being maintained, repaired and upgraded… and then also in crew training. And it would seem that that has come home with disastrous effects in 2017, when we had three ship collisions and one grounding in the western Pacific that resulted in the loss of 17 American sailor lives.
PB: Now, a main concern of your book is how naval power guarantees American security broadly. Where does the community of Hampton Roads fit into this?
JH: Where Hampton Roads fits is that the United States Navy has been the guarantor of peace in the world. It’s the thing that has convinced other people not to commit acts of piracy at sea, and it’s created a stable environment for the world to have this unique period of global prosperity.
PB: Jerry Hendrix, that you so much for talking to me about your book.
JH: Thank you very much.