March 28, 2011 | 21 comments
Disaster relief — and America’s sense of itself — require nothing less.
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Just as importantly, because communications is one of the first things to fail in a natural disaster, and one of the most necessary to recovery, the super-ships could carry telephones and cell-phone towers, laptop computers, wireless Internet gear, satellite ground stations, thousands of civil and police walkie-talkies — everything needed to restore life-saving, efficient communications. Even the most devastated city would be relinked to the world even as the super-carrier neared port.
The non-nuclear USS Kitty Hawk and USS Constellation are presently floating at pier-side in Bremerton, WA, and the USS John F. Kennedy is on donation hold in Philadelphia awaiting conversion into a museum ship. Those carriers could be made available quickly for demilitarization and modification. Since they are oil-burning ships, their power-generation capabilities eventually would be limited by their bunker capacity, but the Navy has tankers for that. Surpassed only by the nearly endless electrical generating capacity of a nuclear carrier, they could handle the mission perfectly. And since they are already on the inactive list, their conversion would not diminish the Navy’s readiness.
Deploying The Great White Fleet
Where would we station them? We should follow the military practice of pre-positioning; fill them with the necessities and station them around the world so that they would be available where needed as soon as possible. I’d port one in Pearl Harbor to cover the Pacific Rim (including our own West Coast), another at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to cover East Africa, South Asia, and Australia, and a third in Mayport, FL, to cover the North Atlantic. A fourth, when available, could be located in Argentina or Brazil, allowing for a quick dash along the coast, around Cape Horn, or across the South Atlantic to West Africa.
Except for caretaker crews, just enough to get underway and man the flight deck, most personnel (largely civilian) could remain stateside until needed, and be flown to the ships en route aboard US Navy COD transports. Because the ships would usually be idle, staffing and maintenance cost would be low, just as with today’s forward-deployed supply ships.
Of course, one question is “Where will the money come from?” Among them America’s billionaires, most with some claim to philanthropy, could afford to convert and supply four disaster-relief super-carriers. After all, they would not be paying to build these ships from the keel up. Also remember that when the Persians were coming, Athenian merchants put up the money to build the triremes that defeated them. That’s a tradition worth reviving.
Barring that, make this an international program with every coastal nation contributing a fair share.
Meanwhile, imagine the USS Kitty Hawk, the JFK, the Constellation — or the iconic USS Enterprise with its eight nuclear reactors — gleaming, demilitarized, converted for disaster intervention, and painted a blinding white sailing into some shattered port to save lives, heal the injured, feed the hungry, house the homeless, clear the wreckage, and help restore both power and civilization.
I can’t imagine a better second career for any retired warrior; it would be in the highest tradition of American morality and the U.S. Navy. And not only would Roosevelt’s ghost approve, but the hundreds of thousands The Fleet could rescue would appreciate one of America’s greatest strengths, its idealism.
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