The small-ship navy

In USA TODAY. Now, I wonder where Instapundit might have come across this bit of discussion on reshaping the military?

When it comes to the Navy, we can have a big fleet of small ships, or
a small fleet of big ships.  For quite a while now, we’ve gone with the
big ships, but some people are arguing that that’s a mistake.

One of those is Commander Phillip E. Pournelle, U.S. Navy, who recently wrote in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute that
“In an age of precision-strike weapon proliferation, a big-ship navy
equals a brittle fleet. What’s needed is a revamped force structure
based on smaller surface combatants.”

He makes some excellent points. Currently, the U.S. Navy dominates the seas. A U.S. Navy Carrier Battle Group can project power
in a way no other nation’s navy can approach, essentially placing a
large airbase within striking range of pretty much any place on the
planet worth striking. Of course, the problem with this is that
aircraft carriers aren’t just powerful. They’re also big, expensive and
vulnerable. (The non-carrier part of a Carrier Battle Group is basically there to protect the carrier from submarines and missiles).

However, the fact is that regardless of how the USN reconfigures, it can’t expect to dominate the coastlines like it did in the heyday of the aircraft carrier. Great Britain managed the transition from the age of the ship-of-the-line to the age of the battleship without losing its dominance of the high seas, but there is no guarantee that the USA will be able to do so.

In fact, in light of the demographic changes and consequential decline in national capabilities, I expect that China will surpass the USA as the leading naval power before the 22nd century.