Opinion: US Carrier Force is a profitable national security asset

A sailor watches the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). US Navy Photo

“What kind of navy do the Americans want? Columnist George F. Will asked in a Washington post remark. “The answer will determine whether the American power can, in [Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan] Greenert’s formulation, “be where it matters, when it matters.”

On August 8, 2014, aircraft from the aircraft carrier George HW Bush (CVN-77) answered this question by leading the first strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria (ISIL or ISIS) in support of President Barack Obama’s decision to re-engage militarily in Iraq. With only a minimal number of troops on the ground, the Bush once again demonstrated the operational flexibility and combat effectiveness of sea-based tactical air power to protect important US interests, US citizens and their allies.

Like US Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) IncludesWith the United States having fewer bases abroad to launch attacks or simply monitor unstable regions, aircraft carriers “effectively move American ‘soil’ anywhere in the world.”


USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) transits the Gulf of Aden on October 23, 2014. US Navy photo

USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) transits the Gulf of Aden on October 23, 2014. US Navy photo

In terms of return on investment, the aircraft carrier is truly one of the most profitable offerings, Defense analyst Loren Thompson explained in a February 10, 2014 Forbes remark. “The US Navy operates more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined, and its aircraft carriers are by far the best. But the cost of designing, developing and building such vessels is a tiny fraction of the federal budget. Navy shipbuilding costs will reach $ 15-20 billion per year through the end of the decade, accounting for 3-4% of defense spending and less than 1% of all federal spending. In other words, the $ 12.8 billion for the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) represents approximately 31 hours of annual federal spending. Short-sighted decisions made today could cripple the Navy – and the other four armed forces – for decades.

Because this is such a large and long-lasting acquisition program, the new generation Ford– a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier would be a budgetary objective even in the best of fiscal times. However, when times get tough, as it did in late fall 2014, and as the repercussions of the 2011 BCA continued to ripple across the federal government, various experts and observers are considering alternatives to the record transport program.

In his remark in September in the Washington post, noted Robert J. Samuelson: “Defense spending is just another budget item, increasingly disconnected from our strategic interests and potential threats. It’s a jackpot possible reductions. . . “

While all U.S. defense spending has seen a reduction of around 20% since 2010, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Evaluations, with general cuts affecting R&D, acquisition, and operations, it is the “gross” elements –– like CVNs –– that can generate overzealousness to cut further.

Forbes called for maintaining strong military budgets while keeping overall federal spending under control, and to that end he supported legislation that would avoid automatic defense cuts by shifting those cuts to non-defense programs, including defense cuts. education and rights programs. Good luck on that.

Value for the nation

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm.  Jonathan Greenert is welcomed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on November 27, 2014. US Navy photo

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert is welcomed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on November 27, 2014. US Navy photo

As Congress and the Obama administration seek ways to resolve defense spending issues, the value of transport aviation continues to be underscored by real-world operations. Nuclear aircraft carriers and their air squadrons of some 75 multi-mission aircraft represent a unique warfare capability which, as demonstrated Bush in 2014 –– can quickly move closer to an area of ​​operations and provide credible and sustainable combat power. Aircraft carriers and their air squadrons produce powerful and timely military effects with significant diplomatic and ultimately military value to our nation.

In an interview with Al Arabiya News, Rear Admiral DeWolfe “Chip” Miller, Commanding Officer Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG), said the US campaign would protect US interests and hinder ISIS’s progress.

“The president has clearly explained our work here,” he said. “We are working to support humanitarian aid operations like Mount Sinjar and the Mosul Dam. We also protect US citizens and facilities in Iraq. “

The value of the Forward Presence of the Aircraft Carrier Battle Group has been proven once again as the Bush The CSG was the only force available to respond during the first ten days of this crisis – where and when it mattered.

Even first-year economics students know that value is what a person is willing to pay for something. The American aircraft carriers, the centerpiece of the carrier strike group, are indeed precious, even if they are only measured by the nation’s desire to allocate increasingly scarce resources to the first and subsequent aircraft carriers of the Ford to classify. And that value is clearly tied to the peacetime-crisis-war contributions aircraft carriers make to America’s security – something Rear Admiral Michael Manazir, Director, Air Warfare (N98), so-called “reactive and relevant” tactical air power to and from the sea.

There is a Ford . . .

USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN 78, dry dock flooding.  Photo by Huntington Ingalls Industries

USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN 78, dry dock flooding. Photo by Huntington Ingalls Industries

Gerald R. Ford, the first of ten carriers Ford-class was christened at Newport News Shipbuilding on November 9, 2013. Ford is the Navy’s first redesign aircraft carrier in nearly 40 years and is the result of extensive study, development, design and construction improvements since the last aircraft carrier of new design, the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) – joined the operating forces in 1975. Many sizes and shapes of ship hulls, propulsion systems and flight deck arrangements were carefully considered before settling on the new design which incorporates the latest technology to improve capacity and reduce cost over the 50 -year life.

These attributes also provide the flexibility and room for growth that will allow these vessels to remain relevant throughout their five-decade lifespan. Initially, the Navy envisioned an evolutionary approach that would spread the significant costs and risks associated with developing new technologies across three ships. Before this plan could be executed, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the Navy to use a “leap forward” strategy that would make a transformational transition to the new class of ships in the world. a single vessel. The decision required a reduction in the schedule for the design of the vessel, the development of many emerging technologies and the construction. The depth and breadth of technological insertion is unprecedented and has increased the complexity and risks of the program.

Ford-Class ships are designed with improved hull, mechanical, electrical and electronic capabilities. The class also incorporates advanced features such as a new, more efficient nuclear propulsion plant, a revolutionary electromagnetic aircraft launch system, advanced arrest equipment, dual-band radar, and nearly three times power generation capacity. greater than that of Nimitz-class carriers. These significant technological improvements will increase operational efficiency, lead to significantly higher output generation rates and more ammunition on target, and facilitate future technologies such as directed energy weapons and unmanned aircraft. At the same time, maintenance and manpower requirements will be drastically reduced, allowing the Navy to reap more than $ 4 billion in projected lifecycle savings per vessel over its lifespan. 50 year life. These savings per vessel take into account the total cost of operations, which includes the acquisition, operation, labor and disposal costs for each vessel relative to the Nimitz-class ships they will replace.

The investment of $ 12.8 billion for Ford includes approximately $ 3.3 billion in one-time engineering costs that are expected to be spread over the expected 94-year lifespan of the ten carriers Ford-class program. (From contract design of CVN-78 to decommissioning the last of its class, spans nearly a century of operations.) With these sunk costs in mind, the cost of CVN-78 will be approximately $ 9.5 billion – still a high-profile item as the Navy and the nation seek ways to meet budget cuts. Although the Government Accountability Office has expressed concerns over the $ 12.8 billion bogey hit, the Navy said the ship will be delivered under the cost cap.

Take a long-term view

An F / A-18F Super Hornet of Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73).  US Navy Photo

An F / A-18F Super Hornet of Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73). US Navy Photo

As has been demonstrated in each of the past 60+ years, the nation’s ‘responsive and relevant’ aircraft carrier and strike groups are indeed a necessary investment in the security of the nation. America.

The aircraft carrier is a carefully controlled and valuable long-term investment and should not become the nation’s “stamp of money” or “bill payer”. The multidimensional contribution of carrier groups to the security and prosperity of our country makes them a necessary expenditure in the defense budget. A core obligation or ‘sine qua non’, investment in the US fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers offers the nation’s most effective multi-purpose response option in any situation that requires flexible, responsive, and air power. , if necessary, murderous.

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