Omakase

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How Hurricane Sandy Proves We Need To Cut The Defense Budget

Hurricane Sandy just tore up the Jersey Shore, an area I grew up in, and a place I hold dear. The hurricane also roughed up New York and Connecticut, and I hope that all affected by Sandy can bounce back quickly, and get abundant assistance to do so.

Except for the assistance coming from the US Navy in the form of three aircraft carriers on their way to New Jersey. These carriers are being sent to "provide landing platforms for Coast Guard, the National Guard and civilian agency helicopters if needed."

Nobody would object to more air support for recovery efforts - large parts of the Jersey Shore are cut off from land, and regular transport links including rail and road are submerged. But notice - the military isn't moving the carriers to provide the air support - just to provide the off-shore platforms.

What really is at play here is a quest by the US Navy for good PR and more funding. The US Navy's current tagline is "A global force for good," and the slogan is usually accompanied by footage of operations in response to the Indonesian Boxing Day tsunami. Such a good image is worth billions to the Navy - not just as measured in terms of goodwill, but in terms of funding.

I might not object to having an extra place for air support to land if it weren't for the fact that the affected areas are saturated with huuuge military bases like Dover AFB and Fort Dix-McGuire JFB. Also in easy range are Atlantic City airport, a huge FAA station, Willow Grove NAS, the Brooklyn Navy yard, Groton navy base, and several Coast Guard stations. The kicker is that one of the Navy's largest air stations (i.e. landing platform), Lakehurst NAS, which is now attached to Dix-McGuire is only 15 miles (5 minutes by helicopter)  from the most affected areas of the Jersey Shore. (If Lakehurst sounds familiar, it is the site of the Hindenburg blimp crash in the 1930s.)

Here's how close Lakehurst is to the Jersey Shore:




But in spite of the concentration of military assets, the Navy has dispatched 3 aircraft carriers. I could maybe understand one carrier, but the lesson that I take from the 3 carrier search for photo-ops isn't that we need more Navy for situations like Hurricane Sandy, but rather we've got too much Navy around if in spite of Navy deployments in the China Sea, the Persian Gulf, the coast of Somalia, and other regular stations we've still got 3 aircraft carriers to deploy to the Jersey Shore to complement enormous military assets already in place. This isn't the conclusion that the Navy wants you to reach, especially after some Navy scenes to be shown on TV, but I can't see it any other way, except to wonder if this is a decision driven by political optics rather than military budget optics.

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
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