In recent years, the U.S. oceanographic community has suffered a significant reduction in the size of its research fleet; if funding for the research fleet does not increase, the academic community may lose one or two more of its larger ships during the next 5 years. Federal agencies that sponsor research at sea, primarily the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), are deeply concerned about the diminishing U.S. oceanographic capability, and they have requested a special study of the problem by the Ocean Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences. This study, under the direction of Michael Mullin of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, is nearing completion, and a report is expected soon. In the following, I try to identify some of the reasons for this reduction, although the primary reason is not hard to anticipate (operating costs have been rising much faster than operating funds over the past 10 years).