There's a stimulus plan that President Obama could put forward that would attract strong bipartisan support and which would also produce great jobs at great wages while strengthening the nation's defenses.
He could propose to build the Navy the country needs.
Five years ago the United States Navy put forward a plan to deploy a fleet of 313 ships by 2020.
The Navy is presently at or around 280 ships in its ranks. A year ago the Congressional Research Service filed an assessment of the state of Navy shipbuilding which included these numbers:
The Navy’s five-year (FY2011-FY2015) shipbuilding plan includes a total of 50 new battle force ships, or an average of 10 per year. Of the 50 ships in the plan, half are relatively inexpensive LCSs or JHSVs.
The Navy’s FY2011 30-year (FY2011-FY2040) shipbuilding plan includes 276 ships. The plan does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the 313-ship plan over the long run. The Navy projects that implementing the 30-year plan would result in a fleet that grows from 284 ships in FY2011 to 315 ships in FY2020, reaches a peak of 320 ships in FY2024, drops below 313 ships in FY2027, declines to 288 ships in FY2032-FY2033, and then increases to 301 ships in FY2039-FY2040. The Navy projects that the attack submarine and cruiser-destroyer forces will drop substantially below required levels in the latter years of the 30-year plan.
The Navy estimates that executing the 30-year shipbuilding plan would require an average of $15.9 billion per year in constant FY2010 dollars. A May 2010 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the plan would require an average of $19.0 billion per year in constant FY2010 dollars, or about 19% more than the Navy estimates. The CBO report states: “If the Navy receives the same amount of funding for ship construction in the next 30 years as it has over the past three decades—an average of about $15 billion a year in 2010 dollars—it will not be able to afford all of the purchases in the 2011 plan.”
The Navy is short by more than 30 ships of its own admitted needs. That is the equivalent of just under three complete aircraft carrier strike force groups (each with 13 ships built around a carrier and each requiring about 8,000 sailors).
Using the CRS numbers, a rough estimate of the cost of that entire additional ship-building program could not be more than an additional $25 billion dollars per year.
How can the president propose blowing another $400 billion in Stimulus 2.0 without at the same time allocating the money needed to build the Navy required to maintain America's security and the world's sea lanes?
Certainly many of the jobs that would be generated by a fleet build-out would be union jobs, checking off one of the president's needs.
Shipbuilding would be disproportionately located in Virginia --a purple state-- but would also be located in and would inevitably assist the economies of all the deep blue west coast states, even if it did end up at least in part with some Mississippi jobs created as well.
The politics work. There would be bipartisan support. No one doubts that the United States must have a Navy that is second to none and one that far outdistances its closest competitor.
So if the president really and truly wants a stimulus proposal that will sail through the House and Senate (and please pardon the pun), let him ask for the money needed to return the navy to full strength, and to do so in the next three to five years, not the next ten to twenty or more.