In a significant step forward for its naval program, Russia has made operational a new nuclear-powered missile submarine for the first time in over 20 years.

Naval reinvigoration has been a central theme of President Vladimir Putin’s presidency. Russia has pledged tens of billions of dollars over the next few to revamp its naval fleet.

At the same time, the U.S. Navy fleet has dwindled since the Reagan years. The Heritage Foundation’s Brian Slattery explains the extent of the American decline:

The days of the 600-ship fleet have long since ended, and now U.S. naval leaders are struggling to find ways to meet a new requirement of around 300 ships. Currently around 285, the fleet will shrink further if more investment isn’t made in naval modernization.

Unfortunately, because of sequestration, our navy will continue to waste away while nations like Russia bolster theirs:

Predictions show current funding levels would reduce the fleet to 263 ships. While the sequestration cuts to defense have been temporarily delayed as part of the fiscal cliff deal, they are still a looming possibility and would shrink the fleet to its lowest level since 1915.

America needs to maintain a robust navy to protect its interests around the globe. But now that President Obama has delayed the development of a replacement nuclear submarine for over two years, we run the risk of falling short of our legally mandated 12-submarine fleet.

Do you think lawmakers should allow our defenses to wither as nations like Russia strengthen theirs?

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