But that interpretation seems unsupportable, as the fleet of forty was mentioned in the same breath with pleas for Klingon and even Romulan assistance. Forty'ish is all they could manage, and that was apparently with scraping the bottom of the barrel.
I always felt that there was a disconnect between TNG and DS9 portrayal of Starfleet. In TNG forty ships was a lot and losing them was a major setback. In DS9 they had fleets of nearly thousand ships.