McR-money’s Navy

So Romney the Latter-Day Chicken Hawk tells a campaign stop at the Virginia Military Institute, a state -owned military-themed school in the Commonwealth of Virginia, about his naval ship build-a-thon binge.  For a Romney scarce on specifics, here’s a detail we can’t afford.

Forty-odd years ago, there was the comically bumbling and mercurial Capt. Binghampton in McHale’s Navy, whose sole rank qualification was yacht club membership.

Also in the late 1960s, there was a draft, feeding cannon-fodder for the Vietnam War. At Stanford, millionaire scion Mitt Romney protested FOR the war. Following Romney family practice, “Mythical Martial” Mitt received a draft deferment to “serve” the Mormon church as a missionary instead. In France. The chateau chef wasn’t serving military canned rations. “Coq au C-Rations?”

Yes, President Barack Obama didn’t serve in uniform. That misses the point. We haven’t had a military draft in use for forty years. It’s long been an all volunteer force.

Romney’s shipbuilding scheme has all the inept thumbprints of campaign adviser and ex-Reagan Navy Secretary John Lehman. As a naval officer, I remember a luncheon in the 80s at the Officers’ Club at Little Creek, Va. where Lehman was the featured speaker. After some mental softball questions on geopolitics from a pair of Marine war college students, a query was made concerning  chronic manpower shortages facing those of us who had to operate ships pouring out of America’s shipyards without enough crew. Never mind the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the former Soviet Union would mothball and scrap a lot of those ships, many early in their service lifespan.

Apart than the birth of my now-grown son, I was perhaps proudest of earning the double-dolphined qualification pin of a submariner. Now Romney tosses out the plan to build three new nuclear submarines per year. I remember a few things about nuclear submarines, even if the ones I served aboard only cost about $100 million apiece back in the early 1960s. Try a price tag in billions each today. Hello? Even when they reach the end of their operational lives, recycling old nuclear boats is an expensive proposition. At the publicly-owned Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, they have submarine recycling down to an industrial science. With the demise of the old Soviet Union, their old nuclear subs were left to rust alongside quays. Neighboring Norway was rightly radiologically worried. We aren’t talking about a quick Bain Capital “strip and run” process.

Romney received three new Washington Post fact checker Pinocchios for his new fantasy fleet scheme when he decried “the smallest navy since 1916.”  Lehman Cold War nostalgia buzz words. Never mind that modern warships serve multiple roles far more potently than Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet of a century ago. The Russian fleet today is a joke. The Chinese build warships, but haven’t figured out how to reliably send them to sea. Iran? Fat chance.

Naval ships are expensive and have finite service lives. We build ships today reflecting national defense needs and high life-cycle costs. America cannot afford a campaign sound-bite massive, multi-billion dollar shipbuilding binge.

What about that “deficit,” Mitt?


  1. One more ship and we get a free sub.