Sea Cows vs. Sea Dogs?

We saw just two days ago that General Dynamic’s San Diego-based National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) delivered the military’s newest dry cargo-ammunition ship to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The vessel, the USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), was named after the late Gemini and Mercury astronaut and is the third of 11 ships of this new class of military cargo vessels being built at NASSCO for the Navy.

Today, in a U.S. Department of Defense news release, it was announced by Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter that the sixth, and newest, of this class would be named after the most famous woman in all of aviation history, Amelia Earhart, and will hereafter be known as the USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE 6). We’ve already made reference to this new class of naval vessel and to the fact that these vessels will be named after famous American explorers. We like that idea. The USNS Alan Shepard and the USNS Amelia Earhart are in good company. T-AKE 1 is the USNS Lewis & Clark; T-AKE 2 is the Sacagawea; T-AKE 4 is the Richard E. Byrd; and the T-AKE 5 is the Robert E. Peary. Good company did we say? No, great company.

An idea that we don’t like, however, is that the powers-that-be have been conning the U.S. taxpayers into believing that foreign shipyards and foreign craftsmen are much more adept at shipbuilding than we are in the U.S. When questions have been raised about the fact that multi-billion dollar shipbuilding contracts are being awarded to overseas facilities and that our yards are no longer a factor in international shipbuilding, the answers from above are that,
1. Our ships are ‘way overpriced because we pay our workers too much money, and
2. Those overseas yards are able to build higher quality ships.

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. Look at the above-named vessels. They’re not just hollow box ships that take on containers in a far distant port, cruise several thousand miles almost on a straight line, then offload those containers after arriving at a predetermined destination. Designers have made no other demands of those container ships. Those uncomplicated and sedate vessels, in fact, remind us of cows being milked.

The multi-functioned T-AKE’s, however, carrying more than 10,000 tons of cargo, are designed to deliver provisions, stores, spare parts, ammunition, petroleum and potable water to the fleet. As in every service ship, intricate and costly systems enable these vessels to carry out the many and varied operations required of Naval Support Ships … for the (stated) 40-year life of the vessel.

But let’s stay with the cow analogy. Those low-cost, foreign-built, uncomplicated container ships are cash cows. The T-AKE’s are not. Those foreign shipyards sell those simple box ships to private entities who make tidy profits at the expense of U.S. consumers. Our high-cost, local-built, complicated warships, on the other hand, must be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, who realize no profit but must also shoulder the operating expenses of these ships over the (stated) 40-year life of the ship.

[Do you feel stupid yet?]