A strike group CO makes the case for existence
Last week you heard Army leaders make the pitch for why the U.S. will always need to be a robust land power, and today it’s the Navy’s turn. Just as with the green service, the blue-side picture is bleak.
The Navy isn’t just looking at the normal yearly shortfall between its rosy-rainbow shipbuilding plans and what it’ll actually be able to afford — now, people are talking about cutting existing ships from the current fleet. Part of that involves the possibility that surface combatants could begin to go away next year, and there are even reports the Navy could mothball one of its carriers in mid life to try to save money.
In the midst of all this, Rear Admiral Craig Faller, commanding officer of the USS John C. Stennis carrier strike group, wrote a blog post Monday that said you can’t put a price tag on what the United States gets out of its big nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, their air wings and escorts.
(Technically, you can: The price is tens of billions of dollars in capital costs and then billions more to operate and sustain the ships and aircraft, but nobody likes a spoilsport.)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that because the Navy is always the “away team,” operating forward and out of sight of most Americans, people lose sight of all it does. Faller wrote his post as away to try to address this PR challenge, he said:
It struck me as we rapidly transitioned, in a matter of hours, from supporting Operation New Dawn in Iraq to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan that the value of a Carrier Strike Group to America’s security is incredibly important … priceless really. So how do we describe that value?
Faller hits all the classic talking points: Carriers are powerful, flexible and mobile, he writes; although he does not call a carrier “four and a half acres of sovereign U.S. real estate” he does reaffirm that a strike group “requires no permission slip” to go wherever commanders need it. If that doesn’t do it for you, he has another, less martial bullet point that’s worth excerpting in its entirety:
Sustainable — A CSG can be self-sustaining for weeks with onboard repair capability, ordnance, food, supplies and fuel. Powered by proven “clean-green” nuclear reactors, an aircraft carrier can go 25 years without refueling. Aircraft carriers are built to last 50 years with armor plating, protective systems, sensors, and advanced weapon systems to meet future threats.
See, all you crunchy granola, tree-hugging peace and love types? A 95,000-ton nuclear-powered warship, its wing of combat aircraft and its cruisers and destroyers are all good for our Earth Mother! They’re “sustainable;” the Stennis’ twin nuclear reactors are somehow “green;” and with its 50 year life, it’s just like your Kleen Kanteen metal water bottle — meant to last, not just be tossed out like a plastic container or a Spruance-class destroyer.
Still not sold, eh? Well how about sleep? Everybody likes to sleep, right? Faller winds up his post defending the existence of carrier strike groups by quoting no less an authority than Kazakhstan’s chief of naval operations, who, per Faller, “Passionately stated: ‘Not just America, but the entire world sleeps soundly at night because the United States Navy stands watch around the world 24–7.’”
Sleep well America … We are ready and we are operating safely and effectively forward.
So there you have it. Is it a compelling pitch, or does it sound a little desperate? What do you think?