Marines: Build Them Like Merchantmen

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April 10, 2006: The U.S. Navy wants to save money by building its amphibious ships to merchant ship standards. This is something Europeans are already doing with some of their smaller warships. The thinking is that these ships, when hit by an anti-ship missile, are not going to be any better protected by the more expensive (double welds on seams, etc) techniques usually used for warships. The navy already has pre-positioning ships, built to merchant ship standards, that would enter war zones along with amphibious ships. This "convergence" building strategy would allow for greater economy in procuring materials and parts, less specialization in labor, etc. The real battle is with the shipbuilders, who have a monopoly building warships, and will wave the flag vigorously if any suggestions are made that reduce their profit margin, with the many lobbyist and special interest groups providing the chorus.

Part of the problem is that the shipbuilders don't want to do anything that would require short term sacrifices for long term gain. The shipbuilding companies are obliged, by the stock markets, to keep those quarterly results up. The navy is required to plan in the long term, and a major battle is brewing here, because the navy has grown increasingly unhappy with what the shipbuilders do, and how they do it.

 


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