November 30, 2012

Republicans widely expected to trade “no tax” pledge for promise of future spending cuts PLUS some awesome magic beans

Filed under: Economics, Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:45

Most of the conservative pundits seem to expect the Republicans to cave in almost immediately and give Obama the tax increases he’s asking for:

1. President Obama is convinced he will walk out of this crisis with an extremely sweet deal. [. . .]

2. Democrats are completely convinced that enough Republicans in Congress will cave and acquiesce to almost everything they want as the cliff approaches. They have some recent historical examples to provide encouragement in this belief.

3. Democrats are completely convinced that if no deal is reached, the Bush tax cuts expire, and sequestration takes effect, Republicans will get most of the blame. This is probably largely correct, but I think they’re whistling past the graveyard on the consequences to an Obama presidency if 2013 dawns with tax hikes, defense-spending cuts, and another recession.

[. . .]

4. For the GOP, a deal on Obama’s terms is probably worse than sequestration. The middle will not suddenly like the GOP a lot more because they embraced tax increases for the rich. Even if they did, it’s unlikely they would gain enough ground to offset the damage such a move will do among a betrayed and enraged party grassroots. As I said this morning, “Once the Republicans become the party of tax increases, why do we need them? They become indistinguishable from the Democrats.”

[. . .]

The biggest obstacle to all of the options for real deficit reduction and real entitlement reform is that the public doesn’t really think they’re necessary; they think a few tax hikes on the rich will do the trick. Perhaps it’s best to let taxes go up for everyone, from the highest earners to the lowest earners, and let the public see how little that changes the numbers.

Stopping by the Copyright Office on a Snowy Evening

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:28

Virginia Postrel charts the ever-expanding copyright protections under US law:

Even as digital technology has made reproducing, remixing and repurposing creative works easier — with potentially enormous benefits for consumers and producers of new works — the monopoly privileges of copyright have expanded. The result is a bizarre combination of rampant copyright violations, frequent encroachment on legitimate fair use, suppression of new technologies and business models, and the ever-present threat of draconian penalties.

Consider how the law applies to Robert Frost’s classic poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” first published in 1923. Back then you only got copyright privileges for works officially registered with the copyright office, and only for a term of 28 years, which could be renewed if you filed again, as Frost did in 1951.

Requiring such simple procedures reserved copyright privileges for creators with strong commercial or sentimental interests in limiting the publication of their works. Today, by contrast, copyright automatically applies to every eligible work, including your vacation snapshots and your 4-year-old’s handmade Mother’s Day card.

Under the law when Frost wrote his poem and renewed the copyright on the volume including it, it would have presumably entered the public domain in 1979, more than a decade after its author’s death in 1963. That’s not what happened. Beginning in 1962, Congress gradually extended copyright terms, and in 1976 it passed a new copyright act that gives works already under copyright a new term of 75 years from their first publication. That meant “Stopping by Woods” wouldn’t go into the public domain until 1998.

That’s not what happened either. Just as the poem’s copyright was about to expire, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which gave existing works a new copyright term of 95 years. (The 1923 Frost volume including the poem was one of the works cited in a lawsuit unsuccessfully challenging the act’s constitutionality.) So Frost’s poem won’t enter the public domain until 2018 — assuming that Congress doesn’t pass yet another extension.

Can we bury iTunes yet?

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:42

In Slate, Farhad Manjoo calls for the abolition of the worst carbuncle on Apple’s escutcheon:

iTunes 11 did not arrive on time. Apple originally promised to deliver the next version of its ubiquitous music-management program in October. Last month, though, the company announced that the release would slip to November, because the company needed “a little extra time to get it right.” This week the Wall Street Journal, citing “people who have seen it,” reported that the real cause was “engineering issues that required parts to be rebuilt.”

I suspect both those explanations are euphemisms for what’s really happening in Cupertino. I picture frazzled engineers growing increasingly alarmed as they discover that the iTunes codebase has been overrun by some kind of self-replicating virus that keeps adding random features and redesigns. The coders can’t figure out what’s going on — why iTunes, alone among Apple products, keeps growing more ungainly. At the head of the team is a grizzled old engineer who’s been at Apple forever. He’s surly and crude, always making vulgar jokes about iPads. But the company can’t afford to get rid of him — he’s the only one who understands how to operate the furnaces in the iTunes boiler room.

Then one morning the crew hears a strange clanging from iTunes’ starboard side. Scouts report that an ancient piston — something added for compatibility with the U2 iPod and then refashioned dozens of times — has been damaged while craftsmen removed the last remnants of a feature named Ping whose purpose has been lost to history. The old engineer dons his grease-covered overalls and heads down to check it out. Many anxious minutes pass. Then the crew is shaken by a huge blast. A minute later, they hear a lone, muffled wail. They send a medic, but it’s too late. The engineer has been battered by shrapnel from the iOS app management system, which is always on the fritz. His last words haunt the team forever: She can’t take much more of this. Too. Many. Features.

I use iTunes, but only because I need to back up my iPhone data … and nearly half the time, iTunes craps out on me and I have to go looking for fixes or work-arounds from Apple. Since I updated my iPhone to the most recent iOS version, I haven’t been able to sync with iTunes at all. Here’s hoping that the new version will fix that — and maybe, if we’re lucky, some other issues, too.

Update, 1 December: The update went well enough, but it still couldn’t contact the iTunes store or detect my iPhone. After a few minutes of looking through the Apple troubleshooting help pages, I reset the DNS cache and re-enabled iTunes to run in Administrator mode. That was enough to let it detect the iPhone and run a backup and re-synch.

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:24

My regular Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. The big talking point for a lot of sites was all of the information we got from Chris Whiteside’s exhaustive session at Reddit, which went on for several hours. That, plus all the usual blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction.

Christine Jorgensen

Filed under: Health, History, Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:58

The BBC has a retrospective on Christine Jorgensen, who started life as George Jorgensen, switching gender 60 years ago:

News of a pioneering sex change operation, one of the first involving both surgery and hormone therapy, was announced in 1952 — exactly 60 years ago this weekend.

“Ex-GI becomes blonde beauty!” screamed one headline as newspapers in the United States broke the news.

George Jorgensen, a quiet New Yorker, shocked a nation by returning from a trip to Denmark transformed into the glamorous Christine.

[. . .]

On her return to the US, Jorgensen was greeted with curiosity, fascination and respect by both the media and the public. There was relatively little hostility.

Hollywood embraced her. Theatre and film contracts began to roll in, she was invited to all the most glamorous parties and even crowned Woman of the Year by the Scandinavian Society in New York.

“I guess they all want to take a peek,” Jorgensen once said.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s she made a comfortable living, touring the country singing and doing impressions in her own show.

She was less successful in her personal life. Her first serious relationship broke down soon after their engagement. The next went as far as the register office, only for Jorgensen to be refused a marriage licence when she pulled out a man’s birth certificate.

November 29, 2012

“Why would we want to drink a wine that tastes like these things?”

Filed under: Education, Randomness, Wine — Nicholas @ 11:41

Jason Wilson is teaching a university course called “The Geography of Wine”. He’s finding it a constant struggle to get past certain descriptive words in the wine vocabulary, because they’re not at all intuitive or meaningful to a non-wine-drinking audience.

But if there has been one stumbling block, it is when we leave the comforting aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers and herbs and enter into more challenging tasting territory: Minerality. Chalk. Tar. Tobacco. Animal. Farmyard. Petrol.

“Why would we want to drink a wine that tastes like these things?” my students want to know.

It’s a reasonable and valid question. Look, I tell them, if you’re happy and content with fruity, pleasurable red wines redolent of berries and cherries and plums or zippy, easy-to-drink whites with tangy citrus and orchards full of apples and pears… well, then that’s what you should drink without feeling any need to move beyond that. Wine should be, foremost, about pleasure — and pleasure is personal. There’s a reason that romantic comedies with happy endings, sunny, catchy pop music, mac n’ cheese, whipped cream vodka, and wearing Ugg boots with pajama pants remain popular.

But if we think more deeply about pleasure, we realize it isn’t always so straightforward or even comfortable. After all, why do so many of us love sad poems, disturbing horror films, or intense, subtitled psychological dramas. Why am I capable of loving Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” or The Smith’s “Meat Is Murder” or Elliott Smith’s “From a Basement on the Hill” — while at the same time I can enjoy T. Pain, Taylor Swift, and dancing with my kids to Psy’s “Gangnam Style”?

With the arts, we inherently understand that without the darker, more confounding elements, there can be no light. Wine is no different. Just as in novels or films or musical compositions, the more complex and ambitious the wine, the more unique and potentially discomforting aromas, textures, and flavors we’ll find.

QotD: Transforming Ontario’s wine market

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Quotations, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

A major transition is never easy, but it would be worth it. The strategy we recommend would lead to more government revenue for health care and education; a sustained commitment to the socially responsible use of alcohol; increased economic growth based on greater access to markets; a renewed emphasis on responsible environmental practices; and wider choice, more convenience and competitive prices for consumers.

The present beverage alcohol system took shape at the end of Prohibition. For decades, Ontario has made minor repairs to the system when a complete overhaul was needed. In our view the government should focus its role on effective regulation, and restructure the system from top to bottom to establish a more competitive model.

After 78 years, change is long overdue. It is time to transform Ontario’s beverage alcohol system for the 21st century.

“Part IV. Conclusion: Towards a Competitive System”, A Report of the Beverage Alcohol System Review Panel July, 2005

Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:20

In History Today, Paul Lay talks about the power of well-written historical fiction to raise interest in real history:

The case of Richard III was long ago examined in a historical novel, which has come to recent public prominence due to its championing by the High Tory journalist Peter Hitchens and the Cambridge classicist Mary Beard, an incongruous pairing if ever there was one. The subject of their mutual admiration is Josephine Tey’s 1951 thriller, her last, The Daughter of Time. It takes its title from Francis Bacon’s adage — ‘Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority’ — and features Tey’s fictional detective, Inspector Alan Grant. At the start of the novel he has broken his leg and is recuperating in hospital. There he is handed a reproduction of a contemporary portrayal of Richard III. Grant fancies himself as a great judge of character and is convinced that the king he sees before him is a kindly and wise character, the very opposite of the Shakespearean monster. With his leg on the mend, Grant heads off to the British Museum to research the truth about the king’s life.

Grant’s conclusion makes The Daughter of Time a firm favourite with members of the Richard III Society, apostles of the last Plantagenet, for the inspector convinces himself that Richard III is indeed a victim of the Tudor propaganda machine. We can believe that or not, but what makes The Daughter of Time such a compelling read is not its rather flimsy conclusion but its extraordinary depiction of process, for few books have so vividly brought to life the historian’s quest, the desire to reveal exactly what happened in the past and the methods used to discover that truth. That’s why historians love it. Beard found it an inspiring work: it ‘partly made me a historian’, she claims; while Hitchens praises Tey’s ‘clarity of mind’; her ‘loathing of fakes and propaganda are like pure, cold spring water in a weary land’.

The F-35 program in the cross-hairs

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:10

I thought it had been a while since the last “bash the F-35” round of articles came past. Here’s Christopher Drew talking about the parlous state of the F-35 in light of the US government’s crushing budget woes:

The F-35 was conceived as the Pentagon’s silver bullet in the sky — a state-of-the art aircraft that could be adapted to three branches of the military, with advances that would easily overcome the defenses of most foes. The radar-evading jets would not only dodge sophisticated antiaircraft missiles, but they would also give pilots a better picture of enemy threats while enabling allies, who want the planes, too, to fight more closely with American forces.

But the ambitious aircraft instead illustrates how the Pentagon can let huge and complex programs veer out of control and then have a hard time reining them in. The program nearly doubled in cost as Lockheed and the military’s own bureaucracy failed to deliver on the most basic promise of a three-in-one jet that would save taxpayers money and be served up speedily.

[. . .]

“The plane is unaffordable,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group in Washington.

Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research group in Washington, said Pentagon officials had little choice but to push ahead, especially after already spending $65 billion on the fighter. “It is simultaneously too big to fail and too big to succeed,” he said. “The bottom line here is that they’ve crammed too much into the program. They were asking one fighter to do three different jobs, and they basically ended up with three different fighters.”

“One economist [said] that his colleagues’ pursuit of happiness was depressing him”

Filed under: Books, Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

If you read newspapers or magazines, you’ll have noticed a spike in the economics of happiness over the last few years. Everyone seems to be reporting results of happiness surveys from all over … few of whom seem to agree on how to measure it or in some cases even what it is that they’re trying to measure. Claude Fischer talks about this recent boom market:

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission uses citizens’ reports of their happiness to assess national progress, and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy appointed a Nobel-encrusted commission to study a similar idea; the United Nations places “happiness indicators” on its war-burdened agenda; American science institutions pour money into fine-tuning measurements of “subjective well-being”; and Amazon’s list of happiness books by moonlighting professors runs from The Happiness Hypothesis to Stumbling on Happiness, Authentic Happiness, Engineering Happiness, and beyond.

Since at least the 1950s, academics have analyzed surveys asking people how happy or satisfied they feel. We’ve used fuzzy questions such as, “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” to assess respondents’ morale. We’ve compared, say, women to men and the poor to the rich. Dutch sociologist Ruut Veenhoven started compiling the findings into his World Database of Happiness back in the 1980s.

So what set off the current frenzy? Economists found happiness.

In the decade after 2000, the number of articles on happiness in major economics journals roughly tripled. One economist told me a couple of years ago that his colleagues’ pursuit of happiness was depressing him. Nonetheless, established leaders and bright new scholars turned to the topic and brought with them the funding, media prestige, and political clout of the profession. That a guild which prides itself on scientific rigor and hardheadedness would embrace such a sappy concept measured in such mushy ways is, well, bemusing. Even Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke drew on the new economics of happiness to find the moral for his 2010 commencement address to University of South Carolina graduates: “I urge you to take this research to heart by making time for friends and family and by being part of and contributing to a larger community.”

November 28, 2012

Is Ontario finally “grown up enough” for private wine stores?

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Law, Wine — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:38

In the National Post, David Lawrason talks about the push for changes to Ontario’s Prohibition-era laws regarding the sale of wine in private stores:

The Wine Council of Ontario has flipped the switch on a website called www.mywineshop.ca that allows citizens to create their own virtual wine shop. It is a very bold and clever marketing/lobbying idea. And it is the first time an industry association has initiated a public campaign aimed at creating private wine stores in the province. Gutsy stuff.

In less than a week it has painted an appetite-whetting tapestry of what privatization might look like in Ontario, complete with store themes, stock selections and locations across the province as designed by its citizens. And it is giving the public a very direct way to lobby their local MPPs for change.

One of the big reasons the Ontario wineries and wine writers fear pushing too hard for this modernization and liberalization of our drinking law is that the KGBO LCBO has a long history of retribution against dissenters:

The other theme is fear of LCBO retribution. (Talk about “the elephant in the room”). Even our braveheart John Szabo remarked at the end of his piece that “I hope I don’t get put on an (LCBO) interdiction list for writing this”. An importing agent replying to John’s article said he really wanted to talk about the issue ‘off the record’ as he was concerned that being put on an interdiction list would put him out of business.

This fear of the LCBO, whether justified or not, is another compelling reason to re-think the government monopoly. The fear shouldn’t exist within an otherwise free and democratic society; but it does. I have been writing on wine for over 25 years and during that time I have been involved in thousands of conversations with wineries, importers and consumers on shortcomings of the current system. Only once did an individual agree to be quoted.

When your livelihood depends on access to a product controlled by a monopoly, you dare not get on the wrong side of the powers-that-be controlling that monopoly. They may not break legs or leave horse’s heads in the beds of critics, but they can directly freeze the critics out of their profession. An excellent way to limit dissent. Just the hinted threat can be enough to make a would-be critic decide to toe the line and shut the hell up.

Is English really a Scandinavian language?

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:14

ESR on some recent linguistic speculation:

Here’s the most interesting adventure in linguistics I’ve run across in a while. Two professors in Norway assert that English is a Scandinavian language, a North Germanic rather than a West Germanic one. More specifically, they claim that Anglo-Saxon (“Old English”) is not the direct ancestor of modern English; rather, our language is more closely related to the dialect of Old Norse spoken in the Danelaw (the Viking-occupied part of England) after about 865.

[. . .]

Previously on this blog my commenters and I have kicked around the idea that English is best understood as the result of a double creolization process — that it evolved from a contact pidgin formed between Anglo-Saxon and Danelaw Norse. The creole from that contact then collided, a century later, with Norman French. Wham, bam, a second contact pidgin forms; English is the creole descended from the language of (as the SF writer H. Beam Piper famously put it) “Norman soldiers attempting to pick up Anglo-Saxon barmaids”.

This is not so different from the professors’ account, actually. They win if the first creole, the barmaids’ milk language, was SVO with largely Norse grammar and some Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. The conventional history of English would have the girls speaking an SOV/V2 language with largely Anglo-Saxon grammar and some Norse vocabulary.

70 years later, “don’t wish Beveridge a happy birthday”

Filed under: Britain, Government, History, WW2 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:06

In sp!ked, Rob Lyons looks back at the 1942 Beveridge Report and what it led to:

On 2 December 1942, the UK government published the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, usually referred to as the Beveridge Report after its chair, the social reformer (and eugenicist) William Beveridge. The report is commonly regarded as a watershed in the development of the welfare state in Britain, a sign that we were becoming a more civilised and humane society. But the seventieth anniversary of the report on Saturday will no doubt prompt much handwringing about the system that the report helped to create.

[. . .]

The fact that the report’s recommendations were largely implemented by a Labour government, elected after the Second World War ended in 1945, has led to the creation of a myth that these were somehow ‘radical’ or ‘socialist’ policies. In fact, the general assumption that the state had to step in to reorganise and manage large swathes of society had been broadly accepted both before and particularly during the war. Compulsory national insurance had been introduced in a limited way in 1911 and state pensions had been enacted, for the very few people who lived past the age of 70, in 1908. The first call for a national health service came from the distinctly un-radical think tank, Political and Economic Planning, in 1937 — a call which was backed by the British Medical Association a year later.

[. . .]

Beveridge also built his belief in social insurance on another idea: that it was the function of the state to ensure full employment. Beveridge was inspired by the establishment’s new ideologue-in-chief, John Maynard Keynes; ideas about planning and state management of the economy started to become all the rage. The welfare bill would never become too large, Beveridge assumed, because the government would never let unemployment get out of hand. Individuals suffering temporary unemployment would be covered by their insurance contributions. In any event, it was widely assumed that people would, by and large, be too proud and independent to abuse the system and would choose work over welfare.

Yet as the decades passed, the welfare state expanded. The notion of a connection between national-insurance contributions and entitlements has pretty much disappeared. Now there is an amorphous sense of entitlement to welfare, regardless of one’s contributions. The state has positively encouraged this sentiment even as politicians have attacked ‘scroungers’ rhetorically.

For example, incapacity benefit has been expanded, so that millions of people who could work but are not currently employed are effectively told not to bother looking for jobs. This suited politicians when it became abundantly clear that full employment was gone, never to return. Taking those who might struggle to find work off the dole figures, and putting them on benefits that are not reliant upon them looking for work, might seem like a humane or generous thing to do. But in truth, the incapacity system effectively disabled them, by officially branding them ‘incapable’ — a label which many of these people have now internalised.

Chinese aviators start carrier landing practice

Filed under: China, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:52

Strategy Page updates us on the development of China’s aircraft carrier capabilities:

A Chinese aviator, flying a Chinese made J-15 fighter, made the first landing and takeoff from a Chinese aircraft carrier just two months after the ship was commissioned (on September 25th). The first Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning is a 65,000 ton, 305 meter (999 feet) long ship that had spent over a year on sea trials. During that time Liaoning was at sea for about four months. This was all in preparation for flight operations. Last year China confirmed that the Liaoning will primarily be a training carrier. The Chinese apparently plan to station up to 24 jet fighters and 26 helicopters on the Liaoning and use the ship to train pilots and other specialists for four or more additional carriers.

Five years ago the Chinese Navy Air Force began training carrier fighter pilots (or “aviators” as they are known in the navy). In the past Chinese navy fighter pilots went to Chinese Air Force fighter training schools, and then transferred to navy flight training schools to learn how to perform their specialized (over open water) missions. Now, operating from carriers, and performing landings and take-offs at sea, has been added to the navy fighter pilot curriculum. The first class of carrier aviators has finished a four year training course at the Dalian Naval Academy. This included learning how to operate off a carrier, using a carrier deck mock-up on land. Landing on a moving ship at sea is another matter. The Russians warned China that it may take them a decade or more to develop the knowledge and skills needed to efficiently run an aircraft carrier. The Chinese are game and are slogging forward. The first landing and takeoff was apparently carried out in calm seas. It is a lot more difficult in rough weather (when the carrier is moving up and down and sideways a lot) and at night. The latter, called “night traps” is considered the most difficult task any aviator can carry out, especially in rough weather.

They also point out that the US Navy’s experiments with naval UAVs continue and are putting technological pressure on both Russia and China to do the same:

Over the last few years, the U.S. Department of Defense decided that the air force and navy be allowed to develop combat UAVs to suit their particular needs. The X-45 was meant mainly for those really dangerous bombing and SEAD missions. But the Pentagon finally got hip to the fact that the UCAV developers were coming up with an aircraft that could replace all current fighter-bombers. This was partly because of the success of the X-45 in rapidly reaching its development goals, and the real-world success of the Predator (in finding, and attacking, targets) and Global Hawk (in finding stuff after flying half way around the world by itself.)

The U.S. Navy expects UAVs to replace most manned aircraft on carriers and the Chinese are aware of that. So the age of manned aircraft operating from Chinese carriers may be a short one. Chinese engineers are well aware of automatic pilot software and how it works. Now they will have feedback from Chinese carrier pilots and be able to do what the Americans have done.

The usual caveats about UAVs in combat should be noted.

The slow erosion of the US Navy’s carrier capability

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

At the Thin Pinstriped Line, Sir Humphrey looks at the US Navy’s carriers and the tasks they are being called on to accomplish:

On paper from next week the USN will operate 10 aircraft carriers, all NIMITZ class, after the USS ENTERPRISE is decommissioned. In reality those 10 vessels are going to be thinly stretched across the globe. Right now, of the 10 hulls, Nimitz is undergoing repairs, three are forward deployed (two are in the Gulf, one is in Japan) and another is available for tasking in the US. One (Abraham Lincoln) is available, but is about to enter deep refit for refuelling, while two more are in deep refit or being refuelled, with a further two in minor refit. As of today, the US Navy has just three operational deployed aircraft carriers at sea, with a fourth available in the US if required, and this is unlikely to change before summer 2013. (A good source of information can be found here — http://gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html)

The worry is that these sorts of availability problems will continue to grow as the class gets older. Make no mistake, these are some of the most complex and capable warships on the planet, but they are also getting old. Three of the hulls have now been commissioned for over thirty years, and another two for over twenty years. Although designed for an optimised 50 year lifespan, it is likely that as they age, maintenance is going to be increasingly difficult and availability will suffer.

Although a replacement class is now under construction, only one has been ordered so far, and the deep budget cuts likely to hit the DOD over the next few years means that it is by no means certain that further orders can be guaranteed in time to generate replacement hulls on time. This is a grim situation and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

[. . .]

Despite many years, and millions of dollars expenditure, the USN has not yet introduced a wholly new ship class since the DDG51s entered service back in the late 1980s. Although a couple of small ‘Littoral Combat Ships’ have entered service, the programme is delayed and it feels as if it is unlikely to ever yield large scale unit production. The USN surface fleet is getting a lot older though, with the Ticonderoga Cruisers, the older Arleigh Burkes and the residual Oliver Hazard Perry frigates all getting into their late teens through to late twenties. These ships have been worked hard for years, and yet no replacement is currently in site and likely to enter service within the next 5-6 years. The US escort fleet is increasingly reliant on the DDG51, which looks like it will remain in serial production for at least another twenty years. Of the replacement frigates and cruiser programmes, no signs of real progress seem to be occurring. While this situation drags on, funding is going to be needed soon for the next pair of CVNs to ensure serial production of the Ford class continues. So, the USN has a major problem in managing an ever more elderly fleet with ever fewer ships likely to be active. As spares budgets are cut, it will become harder to keep vessels at sea, while procurement of replacements seems ever more delayed.

Earlier this year, I linked to another of Sir Humphrey’s posts, talking about the US Navy’s “East of Suez” moment.

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