A Seaworthy Navy
Jerry Hendrix correctly urges an increase in the number of ships in the Navy in “The Navy We Need” (November 12).
The reasons for the Navy’s present state are many, but I want to highlight two. First are the “clubs” of the Navy. Aviation, submarines, and surface warfare are its three career-enhancing fields. Any aspiring naval officer has to belong to one of the three clubs if he or she hopes to wear stars. Any other area is basically a career dead end. One need only look at the parlous state of mine warfare in the Navy to see this at work. The competition among these clubs drives most decisions, whether they relate to acquisitions, operations, or deployments. There is rivalry for money and careers among the officers who serve. This must stop.
Second, Hendrix talks about the “peace dividend” and other reasons for the reduction in ship numbers. Another important reason is the Navy view that only new is better. Too many admirals in the Navy are like children in a toy store when it comes to ships, always grabbing new and shiny things when there are perfectly usable toys at home. There is no reason a ship cannot serve 30, 40, even 50 years if it is maintained correctly.
And there is the rub. Again, ship maintenance and shipyard assignments are avoided at all cost by naval officers. Additionally, maintenance is an activity constantly kicked down the street in terms of money spent. If the Coast Guard can keep ships in use for as long as it does, why cannot the Navy? An example is the Oliver Hazard Perry class of frigates recently retired in great numbers. Admittedly, they served for decades, but I have to ask: If they were in such bad shape, why were foreign navies lining up to buy them?
Greater numbers, yes, but let’s see some structural changes in the way the Navy makes decisions, too.
Harold N. Boyer
Commemorating the Great War
Allen C. Guelzo’s “The Great War’s Great Price” (November 12), an otherwise excellent piece claiming that “Americans have chosen to forget World War I,” overlooks one point. There “is no monument to the First World War on the National Mall. . . . Nothing there memorializes the [first] great American war of the 20th century,” Guelzo asserts. But there is a monument, in a poorly maintained, wooded area not far from the Reflecting Pool. It’s hard to find, rarely visited, and modest compared with the other war memorials, but it does exist. Which is the worse sin, forgetting to honor, or making the honor forgettable?
Allen C. Guelzo responds: Yes, there is a monument along Independence Avenue, but it’s to the Washingtonians of the war. It’s not a national monument, which is what I was referring to when discussing the national memorials on the Mall to Vietnam, World War II, and Korea. There has been off-and-on-again effort in Congress to convert and expand the D.C. memorial into a national World War I monument, but nothing has so far developed. Oddly, there is a national World War I monument but it’s in Kansas City.
Correction: “A Better Test” (John J. Miller, November 12) referred to an alternative scholastic-aptitude test as the “Classical Learning Test.” Its correct name is the “Classic Learning Test.”