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Bigger Navy worth cost

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The editorial “Keeping America strong: Rebuild our Navy” (June 9 and TribLIVE.com) reminds us of the important link between naval shipbuilding and global naval dominance. The people of Pittsburgh proudly produce steel and major machinery for shipbuilding to this day. Still, our distance from major international ports distances our awareness of the need for a strong Navy.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, visited Pittsburgh last March to show us how Navy ships operating across the globe “affect the whole world” by deterring aggression and preventing crisis escalation at numerous maritime crossroads. Indeed, 95 percent of international trade moves by sea. A quarter of that trade flows through U.S. ports, including Pittsburgh. The U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) moves more than 2.3 billion tons of cargo worth more than $2 trillion annually.

Yet funding a strong Navy proves financially and politically challenging, hampered by a lack of awareness of the magnitude of the positive impact on commerce and security. Inadequate funding decisions set declining trends, difficult to detect and correct because of the multidecade life cycle of fleets of ships.

Today's fleet numbers 286 ships, but Navy League analysis shows the number needed is 308. Our shipbuilding budget is low, about $15 billion per year. Rebuilding our fleet requires $20 billion, a mere 1 percent of the $2 trillion moving through the MTS — a small price to pay to keep America strong.

Henry M. Rainone

Upper St. Clair

The writer is president of the Pittsburgh Council of the Navy League of the United States (navyleague.org).

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