The Twelve Carrier Act: A Bottomless Pit of Investment

When deployed, a metal monstrosity that spans several acres provides sovereign U.S. territory across any stretch of international waters. This is the American hunk of steel known commonly as the aircraft carrier. Because of its girth, this behemoth requires a large budget for its construction, maintenance, and operation.

While increased funding might be the solution to some inter-jurisdictional problems in government, much of the current allocation for aircraft carrier construction is money ill spent.

On February 7, 2017, H.R. 941 — The Twelve Carrier Act was introduced into the 115th Congress in order to increase the Navy’s naval combat forces from 11 carriers to 12. Since then, it was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services and later to the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

Frankly, we could only hope that this legislation would die there in committee. The legislation calls for more money going towards funding the program. If the money addresses specific weak points and does not simply push past problems under the rug, I am all for increased funding. Otherwise, these vessels compromise the protection of our nation instead of defending it. 

With public support for these carriers renewed by articles published by various publications, politicians stop studying the numbers of our budget because they can take advantage of fears tactics fueled by international conflict.

Proponents for the bill contend that it is beneficial to eliminate the required Navy certifications for shock trial clearance. Their advocates claim that this bolsters American naval strength in the event of a global catastrophe with quicker access to more ships. I beg to differ.

Past trial tests indicate that this expedited process would be counterproductive for American defense since some issues have not been addressed. By passing this amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, Congress would be neglecting some crucial details since naval certification would no longer require inspection. Though the fear-based advocacy resonates with the American public, the amendment actually bars our armed forces from ensuring safer facilities in favor of a quicker turnaround time.

Justin Bachman, a Bloomberg fellow, reported on June 28, 2017, that before considering the outright costs that the U.S.S. Gerald Ford has had for the military, “critical performance at this time exhibits kinks that contractors anticipate will not be remedied until 2019 at the earliest.”

Although the legislation in question states that it takes effect in 2023, removing the prerequisite of Navy certification establishes a negative precedent. Passing this bill dissolves any parameter for future investigation. The current terms of the National Defense Authorization Act, providing accountability for the operation of these vessels, would cease to exist, and suddenly Navy officers have the ability to hide malfunctioning components aboard these carriers. In the effort to label a carrier as operational, the probability of technical difficulties will only increase and ultimately lead to catastrophic stalling in the midst of any national crisis. Surely, it’s safe to assume that malfunctioning radar systems and aircraft launch systems are grounds for keeping these required certifications in place.

Essentially, any future issues that surface with these aircraft carriers will jeopardize continued operation without certifying continued shock tests. If the flagship carrier is experiencing issues with basic mechanics like propulsion, I would hope that we wouldn’t allow the Navy to ignore such a fundamental function of these ships. I mean, how else is the ship going to get anywhere in the first place if it cannot propel itself?

If this was not enough of a consequence, it is also imperative to realize that the investment itself is flawed. Rather than allocating funding to ensure that the vessels commissioned would improve upon older designs, it seems that continued efforts will only create the need for more funding. It would be nice to believe that mechanical problems solve themselves as time passes, but reality proves otherwise.

Scot Paltrow, a financial journalist with Reuters Magazine, finds that the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford is currently $2.5 billion over the budget originally allocated to it.

This is problematic, primarily because the Twelve Carrier Act uses the Gerald R. Ford as the template for the construction of the next ship. Common sense would have us realize that it would not be wise to build a copy of a ship that has problems that have not been addressed yet. Unless our goal is to hinder our military from providing domestic tranquility and security, the preferred action would have us build vessels that require minimal maintenance. 

Regardless of whether you support increased defense spending or are a staunch member of its opposition, the effort in question is flawed in its implementation.

As a hopeful finance major, I would be crazy to advise you to support an effort that does not offer the intended returns on investment. With this in mind, my recommendation to Congress would be to hold their assets for the time being. Throwing money at this issue won’t make it any better.

And while we’re at it, maybe we can get rid of the proposition altogether. That way, we can start over and draft a better, more efficient way to solve this defense issue.

Categories: Law

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