Monday, May 11, 2015

THE U.S. AIRCRAFT CARRIER SHELL GAME


THE NEED FOR A MAJOR OVERHAUL OF ONE 

CARRIER WILL RESULT IN A SHIFT FROM EAST 

TO WEST COAST FOR ONE CARRIER'S HOME 

PORT AND SENDS A WEST COAST UNIT TO 

JAPAN. 


Photo: U.S. Navy , Photographer: Petty Officer 2nd Class Felix Garza, 

 The Navy is moving three of its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers into different home ports to accommodate a long term yard period for a carrier presently located in Japan. The USS Theodore Roosevelt was scheduled to leave Norfolk, Virginia, on Monday. The ship will be on a nine-month deployment to the Middle East. When its duties there are completed, the Roosevelt will continue on to its new home port in San Diego. The shift of home ports means that crew member families presently residing in Virginia will have to move across the country to San Diego in order to resume any semblance of family life. This is a great hardship for families and a major expense for both families and government. This is exactly the sort of shell game that became necessary when the Congress failed to keep up the carrier force at a level where at least one  designated "swing ship"would be available to maintain the watch from an already established home port when long term overhauls were needed. A swing ship can be organized to maximize the number of single crew members, provide extra travel allowances and compensatory leave programs for crewmembers who expect the idiosyncrasies of such an assignment. When you have "just enough carriers" there is major upheaval. The family upheaval that comes with a homeport change preceded by a 9 month foreign deployment causes retention problems. The problems generated with the just enough shell game lend themselves to the question; did the elimination of one carrier actually lead to any real savings? 

 The Roosevelt relocation is part of a plan to allow the USS George Washington ,based in Japan to come in for a mid-life overhaul in Virginia. Apparently such an overhaul can not be produced on the West Coast which begs the issue of what has happened to America's shipbuilding and repair capacity?  Once again the lack of a coherent U.S. maritime policy that provides logically for the inter-related needs of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine leaves the Navy with the necessity to work "off the cuff". 

 The San Diego-based USS Ronald Reagan will replace the George Washington in Yokosuka, Japan. Here again crew families are faced with an unexpected mid assignment move to a foreign base of operations. Carrier duty is hard on families due to the length and frequency of deployments. With adequate home porting plans a crewmember could complete one three year tour on a carrier with his or her family comfortably settled in the carrier's homeport. Typically such sea duty is followed by a rotation to shore duty. If the carriers are stationed near large naval bases it is possible to leave a family in the same housing for six years. If the next ship or assignment is within commuting distance a sailor might be able to extend his family's "home port to 9 years. Where this kind of thought is given to such matters a naval family might only have to move about three times in a twenty year career. When the moves come more rapid than that family morale suffers as does service member retention. The shell game in naval force management is a false economy. 


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