Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Proceedings’ carries an article on aircraft carriers that comes close to self-parody

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on March 25, 2014. The February issue of Proceedings carries a very poor cover article by an admiral that says that aircraft carriers are well worth their $15 billion pricetag. Why? Well, pretty much because he says so, dammit. He makes no real effort to ...

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Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on March 25, 2014.

The February issue of Proceedings carries a very poor cover article by an admiral that says that aircraft carriers are well worth their $15 billion pricetag. Why? Well, pretty much because he says so, dammit. He makes no real effort to engage the critics and respond to their spate of recent criticism.

Look, it is fine to argue in favor of carriers. I just think that to be intellectually honest, you need to look at today's huge flattops in the context of the advent of the UCAV and of global satellite coverage. The headline on the cover of the magazine is "CARRIERS: Cost Effective and Crucial." That strikes me as a direct repudiation of the article by Navy Capt. Harry Hendrix that was published last year by CNAS. Hendrix argued that the carrier as we know it is rapidly becoming the battleship of our time, seen as powerful yet actually surprisingly irrelevant -- and quite expensive. But the article doesn't mention Hendrix's work. So instead of being a professional discussion -- the ostensible role of Proceedings -- it falls into the realm of service propaganda.

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on March 25, 2014.

The February issue of Proceedings carries a very poor cover article by an admiral that says that aircraft carriers are well worth their $15 billion pricetag. Why? Well, pretty much because he says so, dammit. He makes no real effort to engage the critics and respond to their spate of recent criticism.

Look, it is fine to argue in favor of carriers. I just think that to be intellectually honest, you need to look at today’s huge flattops in the context of the advent of the UCAV and of global satellite coverage. The headline on the cover of the magazine is “CARRIERS: Cost Effective and Crucial.” That strikes me as a direct repudiation of the article by Navy Capt. Harry Hendrix that was published last year by CNAS. Hendrix argued that the carrier as we know it is rapidly becoming the battleship of our time, seen as powerful yet actually surprisingly irrelevant — and quite expensive. But the article doesn’t mention Hendrix’s work. So instead of being a professional discussion — the ostensible role of Proceedings — it falls into the realm of service propaganda.

By leading with weak, uninformative articles like this, Proceedings runs the risk of further marginalizing itself. In this budget environment, you can’t simply ignore those who make cost-based arguments, or attack them for doing so.

Hmm. Bob Work, who is nominated to become deputy secretary of defense, was head of CNAS when Capt. Hendrix’s article was published. I wonder if the Navy did this to fire a shot across his bow.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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