Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is reportedly considering reducing the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet—at a time when the Navy is already struggling to meet its current obligations. In response to these reports, Representative J. Randy Forbes (R–VA) released a bipartisan letter to Secretary Hagel on the importance of an 11-carrier fleet.

Representative Forbes also made this statement:

The Secretary of the Navy was right this past fall when he noted that a smaller aircraft carrier fleet would be unable to execute the missions described in the Defense Strategic Guidance. Such a reduction in the Navy’s carrier force would profoundly damage U.S. national security, limiting our ability to deter aggression around the world and respond to crises in a timely manner. It is unacceptable to pretend that the United States lives in anything less than an 11 carrier world given China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific, rising instability in the Middle East and the persistent danger of global terrorism. As Rear Admiral Moore has phrased it so starkly, we’re an eleven carrier Navy in a 15 carrier world.

The reductions being eyed by the Pentagon are a troubling illustration of how disproportional cuts to the defense budget could result in the loss of military capabilities. That these cuts are being considered at a time when the Navy is already failing to meet the minimum 313-ship fleet needed to meet its current obligations is worrisome, particularly as China’s naval program gathers steam and its leaders articulate the goal of making China a “strong maritime power.”

A decade of combat operations and two decades of underinvestment have left the U.S. military too small and inadequately equipped to meet the growing demands placed upon America’s men and women in uniform. The military’s equipment is old, unreliable, increasingly obsolete, and insufficient in number.

Since 2009, the government has reduced defense spending on three separate occasions by a total of close to $1.5 trillion. These decisions were made with no analysis of their impact on the military or national security strategy. And the consequences of those decisions are once again being illustrated here.

As he left office, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it clearly: When it comes to predicting what our next military engagement will be, “since Vietnam, our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right.” We do not know when or where the next conflict demanding our action—or the next attack on America—will arise.

Out-of-control spending on our entitlement programs is the real culprit of our ballooning federal debt—not the defense budget.