Friday, July 28, 2006

Think this through..

Stansfield Turner has argued that the supercarriers might not be needed, and this led to some hearings from a Congressman.

Folks, this is the same Stansfield Turner who gutted CIA's HUMINT capabilities, from which the CIA never recovered - despite a brief resurgence under William F. Casey, arguably the best DCI that has ever served.

His track record is one that needs to be considered before we follow his advice.

That said, CVN-21... I'm unsure about. We're paying at least $14.6 billion for it ($5.6 billion in R&D and $9 billion per carrier). That's almost enough for three Nimitz-class carriers - or two Nimitz-class CVNs and thirty littoral combat vessels.

Maybe it is time to kill CVN-21 and the DDG-1000 (Zumwalt-class destroyer), and instead just build more Nimitz-class carriers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. IT's cheaper, and the U.S. Navy will have more of them.

3 comments:

Ken Prescott said...

About building more Nimitz-class ships:

What capabilities do you take out to stay within displacement constraints? The last of the growth margin got used up on the Truman.

I do agree with building more Burkes and killing the Zumwalt program--the DD(X) strikes me as a ship without a solid mission rationale that will cost far too much to produce in the quantities needed. I also support expanding the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.

The real problem with the carrier is that we're talking about building ships with a 50-year life cycle. The carrier's been around for 65 years--are we willing to bet ten gigabucks a copy on it staying around in its present form for another 50?

The carrier's most worrisome aspect is that it is a single point of failure--if the carrier is disabled or sunk, then all air capability is lost. This ship has easily identified signatures. In an era of ever-cheaper standoff PGMs, that is an unacceptable risk.

So how to address the problem?

One idea that was floated in the late 1980s and early 1990s was the "Carrier Dock Multimission" or "Carrier of Large Objects." The idea was to have a set of generally similar ships that could perform a wide range of missions with suitable changes in carried vehicles (aircraft and small surface/subsurface vessels). These ships would be harder to identify and would have their capabilities more evenly distributed than they are in the present carrier strike group, with its uniquely identifiable carrier and Aegis ships. This idea died with the end of the Cold War.

We've lost 15 years due to trying to do the same thing with less and less money.

Turner raised some good questions. No, we should not accept his tentative conclusion solely because he's a former admiral; but we should carefully weigh the questions he raises.

Harold C. Hutchison said...

True. My problem isn't just Turner being a retired admiral. It's his general track record - particularly the time he slashed CIA's HUMINT assets. That loss came back to bite us over the last five years.

I just don't trust his track record.

Ken Prescott said...

True. My problem isn't just Turner being a retired admiral. It's his general track record - particularly the time he slashed CIA's HUMINT assets. That loss came back to bite us over the last five years.

And that, in itself, started from very good motives: the Operations Directorate at Langley was overrun with marginal performers whose only field experience was Vietnam. They had to go.

The problem? It's very hard to tell where legitimate housecleaning ends and cutting critically needed capabilities begins.

Additionally, the CIA has always had a narrow tunnel vision on the enemy du juor. We never cultivated agents in the Muslim world to the extent that we recruited in the USSR and Eastern Europe. A graduate student at Cairo University recruited in 1981 would probably be a major player today--but we never recruited that graduate student.