Diversity – the Holy Grail of liberalism. That magic state wherein anything created by two people of different racial backgrounds is, by definition, inherently superior to anything created by two people of the same racial background. Similarly, a man and a woman are inherently a superior armed force than two men. And so on. Absolute bilgewater. But, that’s not the point of this post.
The point of this post is that there is a valid Diversity at play in the Navy. A Diversity that actually carries with it an inherent expectation of superior quality and performance. That Diversity is Type – specifically ship types and aircraft types.
Before we go any further, let’s discuss diversity from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary diversity is what ensures the survival of a species and an ecosystem. Diversity provides the cushion to absorb evolutionary bumps in the road. The cushion takes the form of numerous choices (species) with different characteristics. Thus, when the environment changes, at least one of the many different species will, hopefully, have the characteristics necessary for survival in the altered environment. For example, when the asteroid hit and triggered an ice age which killed off the dinosaurs, species diversity ensured that some would survive and, thus, we had a change from a reptilian world (assuming dinosaurs were reptiles – not settled science!) to a mammalian world. Without the diversity of species, life on land would have ended. Similarly, diversity is what allows gray moths to survive and thrive when their green forest habitats are torn down and replaced by gray cities (we’re talking about camouflage for protection from predators).
Now, how does this apply to the Navy? Well, a diverse fleet of carriers and battleships is what allowed the Navy to survive the loss of most of the battleship fleet at
Harbor and continue to
fight using carriers.
Diversity shows up in other ways, too.
Intellectual design diversity – WWII represented the pinnacle of military diversity. Many different companies offered many different ship and aircraft designs. Some succeeded and some failed but choices abounded. The military was not locked into a single design thought process driven by a single design team.
Contrast that sheer number of design sources and diversity of design thought to today’s very few design sources. How many carrier design sources are there? – One. WWII saw the development of fleet carriers, escort carriers, paddle wheel carriers, and even an ice/concrete carrier.
Test bed diversity – While not every WWII era design made it into production, many did. Those designs offered a vast array of characteristics which underwent the selection process of combat. Some characteristics were seen as beneficial and were continued in subsequent designs while others were failures and dropped from subsequent designs. Again, contrast that situation with today’s extremely limited range of options.
So much for theory. Let’s take a quick look at actual numbers.
Currently, the Navy has three surface warships (I’ll count the LCS if it ever acquires any combat capability).
- Aegis cruisers
- Burke destroyers
Of those, the Navy is trying desperately to get rid of the Aegis cruisers and has settled on their replacement consisting of more Burkes. If one discounts the LCS, the Navy would like to have only two combat ship types: carriers and Burkes.
I don’t even count the Zumwalt since the Navy didn’t want them and only reluctantly built three (apparently the costs of cancellation were high enough that it made more sense to complete three than none).
We can see the same trend towards a single ship type on the amphibious side of things where various types are being replaced by the common LPD-17 (itself, not exactly a successful type!).
So, we’re moving towards a Navy of two surface combatants, carriers and Burkes, and one amphibious vessel, the LPD-17. Where’s the diversity? What happens when war comes and we find out that one of those is not a good design? Where’s the alternative? There isn’t one! We’ve lost our naval diversity.
Why have we lost our diversity? It’s because the Navy has focused on accounting and oversight avoidance rather than combat design. The Navy believes they can save money by having only one basic type of ship – a dubious claim, unsupported by data. Closely linked to this, and probably more importantly, the Navy believes that by sticking to a single ship form they can avoid Congressional, legal, and public oversight. This is why the Burke was chosen as the AMDR platform despite being inadequately sized or equipped to handle it. The Navy has deliberately sacrificed combat performance for savings (almost certainly a falsity) and reduced oversight. You’ve heard the saying, penny wise, pound foolish? This is peacetime wise, combat foolish.
When combat points out the flaws in our very few designs, what alternatives will we be able to look to for better ideas? There aren’t any.
Where’s the reservoir of design ideas from industry? There isn’t any. We’ve winnowed our industrial base too far.
Diversity? The Navy needs it desperately!