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Navy Public Relations

By Taylor Marvin

USS Enterprise and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rob Gaston

USS Enterprise and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rob Gaston

Yesterday I was having an interesting conversation with a friend about the USS Enterprise’s upcoming deployment to the Persian Gulf, and I mentioned offhand that the ship was crewed by nearly 6,000 sailors and carried over 60 aircraft. My friend was shocked — she’d thought that US aircraft carriers carried at most 10 aircraft!

My friend doesn’t follow naval affairs, but she’s a smart graduate of the UCSD International Studies honors program and generally very well informed and closely follows current events. If she has such a mistakenly low impression of US naval power, it’s certain that many less-informed Americans do as well. In the looming era of a reduced Pentagon budget, these public misconceptions could come back to haunt the Navy. Everyone knows what the Army and Air Force does, but if the public consistently underestimates the size and power projection capabilities of USN carriers, it’d be reasonable of them to question exactly why the Navy needs the funding it says it does.

There are important questions about the cost-effectiveness and survivability of future carriers, and whether advances in anti-ship missile technology and ballooning acquisition costs have made big, expensive CVNs obsolete. But restructuring and ultimately shrinking the bloated American military budget will require difficult choices for policymakers in congress and the Pentagon. If the average American doesn’t understand what the Navy does, the public and their congressional representatives are more likely to question if it deserves precious budgetary resources.

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