As the race for the White House heats up, the overcrowded GOP field seems to be coming together on one issue: building a bigger navy. Defense hawks in the Republican Party like Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and John Kasich all propose that the current 273 ship U.S. Navy will be expanded if any one of them is elected president.  Candidates should consider ways to pay for an expanding navy with low-hanging reforms. 

Richard Danzig – a former Navy secretary in the Clinton administration – has made his stance clear in terms of a Navy enlargement that “more is better than less”. In addition, the public advocacy group for the Navy has voiced concerns that the Navy is at a “breaking point”, facing overdue maintenance as well as overworked sailors.

Adding a Carrier Strike Group is a costly endeavor worth over $25 billion in total.

  • Gerald Ford Class carrier: $13 billion
  • 2 Ticonderoga Class Aegis cruisers: $2 billion
  • 3 Arleigh-Burke Class Destroyers: $ 5 billion
  • 2 Virginia Class submarines: $5.6 billion


This does not account for operational costs, the price of manning the aircraft carrier or the cost of an air wing that is added to the carrier.

If the Republican field insists on this expansion, they must make sure that any future additions to the fleet adhere to the budget caps. If we want a larger Navy, it needs to be paid for somehow.

The Rebalance for an Effective Defense Uniform and Civilian Employees Act (REDUCE Act) – HR 340 – would save the Pentagon $82.5 billion over five years. The savings would result from a reduction in the Pentagon civilian workforce which has grown 15% while total active military declined by 4%. This is inconsistent with historic trends where a reduction in active military personnel results in a proportional civilian employee reduction. 

The REDUCE Act would also cut the civilian workforce 15% by 2022. Currently, it stands at 770,000, a too inflated of a figure in times of financial restraint and exploding federal debt.

Hence, the funds freed up from the reduction could be spent on the Navy enlargement programs that some of the Republican presidential hopefuls wish to implement.

This bill has wide conservative support; the Heritage Foundation has highlighted the bloated civilian workforce as an easy target for waste cutting. Their study indicated the much needed civilian workforce cuts that the REDUCE Act would implement.

Enacting common-sense reforms such as the REDUCE Act would allow the Navy to expand its fleet by 3 carrier groups: 24 of the deadliest ships ever put to sea. Regardless of the need to add ships to America’s docks, lawmakers can and should bring the Pentagon back to its workforce-norm and spend those resources on American security.