Navy Surface Commander: US Needs More Ships or Fewer Missions

Warns Sailors Don't Have Enough Time to Train, Maintain Ships

In one of his last public addresses before his retirement, Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden warned that the US Navy is struggling to recover from ship collisions over the past summer, and that officials need to make a decision to either field more ships, or have the ships do fewer missions.

This may sound like the typical push by a high-ranking Pentagon official for more funding, and indeed many in the Navy have long sought more ships, but Rowden’s comments were in keeping with other reports on the collisions.

A major contributing factor to such incidents is that many of the US ships in the field are being manned by sailors that don’t have all the required hours of training in their operation, and that extra missions often means less time for maintenance.

The sense of constant overwork and lack of preparedness means that when small issues crop up, like an approaching cargo ship, the crews aren’t ready to evade the ship effectively, leading to catastrophes.

According to the Navy Secretary, the US Navy already completes only about half of the missions they’re given, simply because all of the stuff they’re given to do simply can’t get done, even by the world’s largest navy. The “more ships” comment, in this context, isn’t realistic, because the US can’t afford to build so many ships as to keep up with the endless and largely pointless missions that the top brass are constantly throwing at them.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.