March 8, 2011
'Where are My Carriers?'By James G. Wiles
It was Bill Clinton who famously said that, when an international crisis breaks in some rough corner of the world, the first thing an American President does is ask where his aircraft carriers are.
Did President Obama do that when things came to a boil in Libya two weeks ago? We don't know. But, if you'd like to play President-for-a-Day, you can see what Barack Obama would have seen in the White House Situation Room -- and also how it probably looks today.
I think you'll be very surprised. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the U.S. is not in the game because the present Administration has chosen not to be. But it's also true that the steady shrinking of the U.S. Navy since 1992 has handed President Obama and the anti-war Democrats a perfect excuse for inaction. This explains Defense Secretary Robert Gates and senior military officers' controversial remarks last week about the difficulty of the U.S. intervening against Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya.
At gonavy.jp, there's a handy little webpage, occasionally updated, which purports to give the status and location of every American supercarrier. Let's begin by asking: how many supercarriers does the United States Navy have? Not helicopter carriers, but the big, nuclear-powered flattops which starred in Top Gun, each with its own embarked air wing of 60 or more planes?
Surprised? I was. But it gets even more interesting.
Guess how many supercarriers are not available for action because they're in dry dock for extended repair or preparing to be de-commissioned?
Out of the eight available to go in harm's way, one, the Abraham Lincoln, is returning home to rest and refit after an extended tour in the North Arabian Sea supporting operations in Iraq and AfPak. So, really, there are only seven American supercarriers available
Now, how many were reported to be on active sea duty on March 2?
The Carl Vinson is on station in the North Arabian Sea and the USS Enterprise, has just arrived from Norfolk. Although she only transited the Suez Canal three weeks ago, she's now Johnny-on-the-Spot for Libyan and Aden. Press reports suggest she's somewhere in the Red Sea or off the Horn of Africa.
So, what do we see?
Contrary to doctrine, the U.S. Navy is not, in fact, forward-deployed. It is hard to believe this is an accident.
There are no American supercarriers in the Mediterranean. None. A helicopter carrier and a support ship from the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain were deployed there last week. An Aegis cruiser and a guided missile destroyer arrived in the Eastern Med around March 1.
The UK just retired its carriers because of budget austerity. So, unless our EU allies allow American planes to attack Libya from their territory, a no-fly zone or other action is not an option.
Nor is the Med (and the Suez Canal) the only strategic choke-point which the Obama Administration has uncovered. So are Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca. If you're an American adversary (say, China) what do you make of this? What may the Peoples Republic discern as to the objectives and beliefs of the current occupant of the White House from the present deployment of the U.S. Navy?
The fact that six of America's available supercarriers are sitting out the instant crisis, literally on the other side of the world, says it all. This President has no options because, a month into the Arab Spring, he has decided against moving American naval assets to give himself options.
There's presently only one aircraft carrier, the George Washington, in the Far East, docked in Yokosuka. There's none between the West Coast and Japan (except for the home-bound Lincoln). They're either in port or training, maybe, off California. And, as of the March 2nd posting on gonavy.jp, there were no American supercarriers in the Atlantic Ocean either. They're all in Norfolk.
Finally, our supercarrier fleet continues to shrink. Three carriers have been retired from the Fleet since September 11, 2001. Two new supercarriers have joined the Fleet in that time.
There's new construction; but the next new supercarrier won't be ready until 2015. Two years before that, the Navy will retire another supercarrier. That means there'll only be nine left in the U.S. Fleet from 2013 until 2015.
Remember the famous 2008 Stimulus Bill? It included no money to re-build the U.S. Fleet and make it a seven-ocean navy once again. None.
It's as simple as that. The Obama Administration's work of dismantling America's status as the world's sole superpower continues apace.
The information in this piece is as accurate as the 3/2 update on the gonavy.jp website. I did an Internet, English language search and also checked the websites and Facebook pages of each of the carriers. A press release from 5th Fleet/Bahrain says the Enterprise is still in their operational zone (this was in connection with a capture of some Somali pirates by part of her flotilla, in which she was mentioned). The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot doesn't mention any of their carriers leaving; the Lincoln, according to some commander's post to facebook.com Sunday, just crossed into the fourth time zone west of Hawaii. So, she's still steaming East from Singapore, her last port of call since the Arabian Sea.
If the Reagan or the Stennis have sallied from the West Coast, I can't find it. The Washington has to stay in or near Japan.
Gonavy.jp just updated their site today. It says:
1. On March 5, USS RONALD REAGAN was reported as having "departed the Southern California area of operations for regularly scheduled deployment to the WestPac and CENTCOM AOR."
2. From March 1 - 7, the US JOHN C. STENNIS was in the "EastPac."
3. From March 2 - 5, the USS ENTERPRISE was stated to be in the "Red Sea."
4. All other supercarrier locations are unchanged, included all Norfolk-based carriers still being in Norfolk (except for the ENTERPRISE).
The Navy posted a press release a little while ago about the departure of the REAGAN and her Battle Group.
There's nothing new about the USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH and her Group, in Norfolk. However, last month they completed pre-deployment training at sea. A February press release states they've to be deployed "later this year."