The Officer May/June 2011 : Page-12

Navy CAPT MARSHALL A. HANSON, USNR (ReT.) • diReCTOR, NAvAL SeRviCeS SeCTiON Carrier CoNCerNs Where are they now? Where do they belong? And how many do we need? he U.S. Navy currently operates 11 aircraft carriers. Fiscal hawks and security doves suggest that this country doesn’t need that many. Manned by more than 5,000 Sailors, the aircraft carrier has become a target for budget cuts. If the number of aircraft carriers is reduced, will the Navy be able to meet crisis demands? The aircraft carrier has been the weapon of choice for U.S. presidents. As expressed by President Bill Clinton during a 1993 visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), “When word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: Where is the nearest carrier?” A debate is forming on what is of greater importance: forward presence or the cost and maintenance of an evermore expensive Navy? The argument is between a budget deficit and a presence deficit. Always fair game for budget cutters, aircraft carriers are under fire because of their massive costs. The Government Accountability Office in 1997 reported that the lifecycle cost of a nuclear carrier is $22 billion. In his 1985 book Pentagon and the Art of War , defense analyst Edward N. Luttwak estimated that “more than $6 billion worth of ships, as well as salaries, benefits, and pensions for 8,000 people are needed to keep a carrier-based air wing of 90 planes at sea.” The rate of inflation has nearly doubled that amount as of 2011. Last summer, the Sustainable Defense Task Force plan suggested that the U.S. Navy could “retire two Navy aircraft carriers and two naval air wings.” Commissioned by Rep. Barney Frank (D–Mass.) and supported by Rep. Ron Paul (R– Texas), the study said this reduction would save the nation $50 billion. Because retiring two carriers actually reduces the number of carrier battle groups, even more ships could be cut, providing even greater savings. The study proposed a 230-ship Navy with an overall savings of $126.6 billion. In the September 2010 report “Budgetary Savings from Military Restraint,” the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., proposed reducing the Navy to eight carrier battle groups, explaining that “under a strategy of restraint, the 12 the Navy would operate as a surge force that deploys to fight, rather than attempting to stamp out trouble by maintaining a presence around the world.” Observers point out that the United States currently has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined. The International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that countries with aircraft carriers in service include Italy (two), Britain (one)—with two planned after 2020—and India (one) with two being constructed and another being rebuilt. Russia, France, Spain, Brazil, and Thailand each have one. China is rebuilding a carrier that it bought from Russia. A 12th U.S. carrier—the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)— is under construction, with an expected completion date of 2015, and two more authorized carriers are yet unnamed. In addition, the United States has 10 amphibious carriers that provide helicopter and Harrier (vertical and short-takeoff and landing aircraft) fighter support. The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is scheduled for retirement in 2013. But the number of available U.S. carriers is misleading. At the end of February, only three were deployed. Of the others, one was in dry-dock, one was being refueled, and one was in ship overhaul. Operationally, two were going through qualifications; two were in training exercises; and one was returning to home port after deployment. The normal cycle is deployment, refit, and train. A particular goal set by then–Chief of Naval Operations ADM Vernon Clark was to enable a surge of aircraft carriers during crisis periods. In 2004, for the Summer Pulse exercise, seven carriers were surged with 12 in the fleet. Looking at February’s numbers, it appears that only five or six carriers could have responded. In an interview with WTNT radio, former United Nations Amb. John Bolton pointed out that the U.S. Navy didn’t have an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean at the time the unrest began in Libya (see “Troubled Region,” page 38) , which precluded evacuation of American citizens. The closest aircraft carrier was the Enterprise, which was stationed off the Persian O fficer / M ay –J une 2011

NAVY

CAPT Marshall A. Hanson

CARRIER CONCERNS<br /> <br /> Where are they now? Where do they belong?<br /> <br /> And how many do we need?<br /> <br /> The U.S. Navy currently operates 11 aircraft carriers.Fiscal hawks and security doves suggest that this country doesn’t need that many. Manned by more than 5,000 Sailors, the aircraft carrier has become a target for budget cuts. If the number of aircraft carriers is reduced, will the Navy be able to meet crisis demands?<br /> <br /> The aircraft carrier has been the weapon of choice for U.S. presidents. As expressed by President Bill Clinton during a 1993 visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), “When word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is: Where is the nearest carrier?” <br /> <br /> A debate is forming on what is of greater importance: forward presence or the cost and maintenance of an evermore expensive Navy? The argument is between a budget deficit and a presence deficit. Always fair game for budget cutters, aircraft carriers are under fire because of their massive costs.<br /> <br /> The Government Accountability Office in 1997 reported that the lifecycle cost of a nuclear carrier is $22 billion. In his 1985 book Pentagon and the Art of War, defense analyst Edward N. Luttwak estimated that “more than $6 billion worth of ships, as well as salaries, benefits, and pensions for 8,000 people are needed to keep a carrier-based air wing of 90 planes at sea.” The rate of inflation has nearly doubled that amount as of 2011.<br /> <br /> Last summer, the Sustainable Defense Task Force plan suggested that the U.S. Navy could “retire two Navy aircraft carriers and two naval air wings.” Commissioned by Rep.Barney Frank (D–Mass.) And supported by Rep. Ron Paul (R– Texas), the study said this reduction would save the nation $50 billion. Because retiring two carriers actually reduces the number of carrier battle groups, even more ships could be cut, providing even greater savings. The study proposed a 230-ship Navy with an overall savings of $126.6 billion.<br /> <br /> In the September 2010 report “Budgetary Savings from Military Restraint,” the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., proposed reducing the Navy to eight carrier battle groups, explaining that “under a strategy of restraint, the Navy would operate as a surge force that deploys to fight, rather than attempting to stamp out trouble by maintaining a presence around the world.” <br /> <br /> Observers point out that the United States currently has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined.The International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that countries with aircraft carriers in service include Italy (two), Britain (one)—with two planned after 2020—and India (one) with two being constructed and another being rebuilt. Russia, France, Spain, Brazil, and Thailand each have one. China is rebuilding a carrier that it bought from Russia.<br /> <br /> A 12th U.S. carrier—the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)— is under construction, with an expected completion date of 2015, and two more authorized carriers are yet unnamed. In addition, the United States has 10 amphibious carriers that provide helicopter and Harrier (vertical and short-takeoff and landing aircraft) fighter support. The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is scheduled for retirement in 2013.<br /> <br /> But the number of available U.S. carriers is misleading. At the end of February, only three were deployed. Of the others, one was in dry-dock, one was being refueled, and one was in ship overhaul. Operationally, two were going through qualifications; two were in training exercises; and one was returning to home port after deployment. The normal cycle is deployment, refit, and train.<br /> <br /> A particular goal set by then–Chief of Naval Operations ADM Vernon Clark was to enable a surge of aircraft carriers during crisis periods. In 2004, for the Summer Pulse exercise, seven carriers were surged with 12 in the fleet. Looking at February’s numbers, it appears that only five or six carriers could have responded.<br /> <br /> In an interview with WTNT radio, former United Nations Amb. John Bolton pointed out that the U.S. Navy didn’t have an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean at the time the unrest began in Libya (see “Troubled Region,” page 38), which precluded evacuation of American citizens. The closest aircraft carrier was the Enterprise, which was stationed off the Persian Gulf at the time.<br /> <br /> Protests against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi began Feb. 16 and quickly escalated when the regime used deadly force to suppress protesters. Resistance grew into civil war as protesters armed themselves, and members of the Libyan military took sides. Several sources reported that Qaddafi hired mercenaries to backfill his military, which potentially added to the level of violence.<br /> <br /> The United States chartered a private ferry to evacuate Americans and other nationals from the port of Tripoli.According to a statement from then–State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley at the end of February: “We are unaware of large pockets of Americans who wished to evacuate but did not. However, we are aware that there may be Americans still in Libya that may need assistance departing the country.” At the same time, Iran sailed two warships through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean for a visit to Syria. “The visit aims to strengthen old ties between Iran and Syria and to enhance maritime cooperation,” said Iran’s navy chief, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari as reported by Al Arabyia News.<br /> <br /> At a March 1 news conference, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced he had “directed several Navy ships to the Mediterranean.” He added that “the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce will be entering the Mediterranean shortly and will provide us a capability for both emergency evacuations and also for humanitarian relief.” Because the 1,400 Marines from the Kearsarge were serving in Afghanistan, 400 Marines were sent from the United States to join the ships. National Journal reported that the Enterprise was ordered to join the two warships via the Suez Canal.<br /> <br /> The available five carriers will be spread thin across potential global crisis spots. In addition, the Navy has accepted humanitarian missions.<br /> <br /> While scheduled to go to the West Pacific already, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was sent to Japan with recovery material support following the Japanese earthquake on March 11. The USS George Washington (CVN-73) is home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan, and rode out the quake at the pier. While the ship’s crew could provide assistance, which was requested of U. S. forces by Japan, it was limited to resources onboard and at the naval station. The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was away from its homeport in Guam, having transferred to the 5th Fleet off the Persian Gulf, where the Navy usually tries to keep two carriers in the Arabian Sea.<br /> <br /> Yet, concerns continue in the Pacific and include saberrattling North Korea, as well as China’s claims over Taiwan and the South China Sea. With tensions rising, the Pentagon may also reconsider keeping a carrier in the Mediterranean.However, other areas of crisis could also arise.<br /> <br /> Elsewhere, the Gulf of Guinea, off the west coast of equatorial Africa, may become a center of gravity because of its oil fields. Clashes in the Ivory Coast, violence and piracy in Nigeria, new leadership in Guinea, and instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could increase.<br /> <br /> There’s also the Indian Ocean, which “combines the centrality of Islam with global energy politics and the rise of India and China to reveal a multilayered, multipolar world,” according to Robert Kaplan in “Center Stage for the 21st Century,” an essay in the March/April 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs. He argues that the Indian Ocean rimland will take center stage in the 21st century, and points out that while Europe and the United States talk about globalization, the countries around the rim of the Indian Ocean are growing more nationalistic. A senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington D.C., Mr. Kaplan is also author of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.<br /> <br /> Another area of growing instability is in the Western Hemisphere. Drug wars send ripples of chaos throughout Latin America.<br /> <br /> Guatemala is becoming a Mexican cartel battleground.Venezuela has replaced Cuba as an agent of aggressive interventionism in the affairs of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean by becoming involved in elections to support leftist guerrillas.<br /> <br /> A 2007 Department of Defense report shows the United States military in 150 countries around the world. The troops perform a variety of duties from combat operations, to peacekeeping, to training with foreign militaries. As troops are pulled back into the United States, the U.S. Navy will assume the greater deterrent role.<br /> <br /> Last February, during a speech at West Point Military Academy, Secretary Gates told cadets that “the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements—whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere.” But with this shift in strategy, will eight carriers be enough?

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