The U.S. Navy wants to decommission 39 ships over the next year as China continues building up its Navy, already the largest in the world.
Those ships are to be cut over the next fiscal year, U.S. Naval Institute News reported, which ends after September 2023. The first ships were set to be decommissioned on Halloween.
Most of the ships to be cut are part of the Ship Battle Forces, the category of warships that the Navy uses to measure its strength against foreign powers, according to Popular Mechanics.
The cuts would bring the Ship Battle Forces down from 292 ships, where it stands today, to 269.
The Navy is also set to commission new ships in 2023, but is only expected to build about one-third the number of ships slated for decommissioning, Popular Mechanics reported.
The Navy has plans to rebuild its forces through 2045, hoping to reach a fleet of 373 manned ships and 150 unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, according to USNI News.
A recent report suggested China, with ships and submarines already numbering 355, has the resources to increase that by as much as 18 percent in the next 10 years.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday pushed back against the argument that the Navy is moving too slowly.
“We don’t have the capacity in the industrial base to pump out that number of ships in a short period of time,” he said. “It’s going to take a couple of decades really to deliver, to mature the fleet.”
Sixteen of the ships the Navy plans to axe could be saved by provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that manages the military’s budget, according to USNI News.
The Senate’s version of the bill currently protects 13 ships, and combined with the House version, would keep all nine littoral combat in commission.
The House version also would limit the Navy to decommissioning only four of five cruisers on the chopping block.
And versions in both chambers protect the USS Vicksburg, which the Navy would take out of service despite being nearly finished with a $200 million modernization project, according to USNI News.