GUANTANAMO BAY — I hit this Monday during a lull in the Khadr trial, but please do read David Axe on Secretary Gates’ big challenge to the Navy. He’s got way more relevant context than I provided:

One Navy planner had anticipated Gates’ call for reform. Beginning last year, Captain Jerry Hendrix, a strategist at the Pentagon, began calling for the Navy to devote roughly 10-percent of its $15-billion-a-year shipbuilding budget to building a large number of small, inexpensive warships organized into “Influence Squadrons.” Each squadron would comprise around 10 ships and cost a billion dollars.

Swapping just one carrier group for Influence Squadrons would add perhaps 100 vessels to today’s 280-strong fleet. Breaking the fleet down into more, smaller vessels would reduce the risk of catastrophic strikes on singular, captial-intensive vessels … and would also allow the Navy to have ships in more place, simultaneously, to chase pirates and smugglers.

Not only would this fleet be more affordable and arguably more survivable, it might actually be a better fit for America’s role a stabilizing power. “What if presence … was actually the most critical naval mission?” Hendrix asked.

All good stuff. I’d merely add, as would Sir Elton, that Gates was just firing off warning shots in that speech. On Saturday, at the Eisenhower Library, he’s going to give a broader speech about “political will and the Defense budget,” he said. I have no idea what he’s going to say — well, I think I have a fairly good idea, particularly with the fact that he’s giving it at the library honoring the president who warned about the military-industrial complex. So not to presume knowledge that I don’t have, but the fact that a secretary of defense is even confronting Congress’s relentless defense profligacy at all is an encouraging development.

OK, court is coming back to sesssion. Khadr’s there.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman