As a Navy “blackshoe” surface warfare officer, I saw firsthand how our fleet’s leaders have more missions than they have ships to fill them. I watched flag staff in a command center wrestle with operational problems that would have been easier if they’d had more hulls, more ships, of just about any kind of surface combatant. The Navy’s go-to workhorse destroyers are too expensive to fill the gap, and its recent small-ship programs have been plagued with problems.
As I watched the video of the stricken USS Fitzgerald limping to her pier, I felt nauseated. I noticed things that non-sailors might miss. Firehoses over the side, water pouring out of them, hooked to portable damage control pumps. Exhausted damage control teams on deck, heads in their hands, where normally there’s no sitting.