I also very much so disagree with the assumption that the Federation needs years to construct a large star-ship.
While granted it IS possible, it's also unlikely given the amount of Federation resources, how large it actually is, it's technological capabilities (not to mention the humongous mushroom type star-bases).
Also, let's keep in mind that what was seen onscreen can hardly be taken as a direct interpretation all the time since A LOT of things were simplified (dumb-ed down) for the TV in favor of ... ding ding ding ... DRAMA.
I would at the very least be generous and say that SF has a minimum of 8000 combat/exploratory star-ships at their disposal.
Given the amount of space the Federation has, it's hardly a wild number.
DS9 on the other hand would have you think that SF has about 1500 ships at it's disposal.
I'd shoot the Federation officials myself if they had such a pitiful number of ships.
Granted, SF is not a military organization, but if you want to be effective and prepared for a potential war with a species that wants you exterminated ... then have an actual fleet capable of doing the job of protecting the amount of territory you have at your disposal.
Nothing more, nothing less.