I hope we just wasted $1.6 billion on a new Navy destroyer

Please join me now in hoping — or even praying, if that’s your thing — that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., just wasted $1.6 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars. That’s roughly the sum Congress has now appropriated to build a fifth Arleigh Burke-class destroyer at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard. I sincerely hope all that money will prove as useful to our national defense as it would be to take 1,600,000,000 dollar bills and toss them into the Kennebec River.

Because the alternative must be Armageddon, the end of human life on Earth.

The End Times are at hand, our leaders say. The United States faces “countless threats across the globe,” according to Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and “the value and importance of our naval assets to security and stability have never been greater.” The need to build this particular destroyer is a “critical national security requirement,” Collins said, according to an earlier press release.

Those are horrifying statements to consider, assuming they are to be taken seriously, and indeed they must be taken seriously, because who would joke about a matter as grave as the annihilation of our beloved homeland?

Some of us may think we live in relatively peaceful times, but that’s an illusion, our senators are telling us. The threats America faces today are too numerous to even tally. The average person could count dozens of distinct threats to our nation’s existence, or hundreds or thousands of threats if we wrote them on a list, but no — the number of active plots to invade our country and overthrow our government must be well north of ten thousand, one hundred thousand, an uncountable figure.

It’s hard to say exactly, or even vaguely, what the nature of all these threats are. The senators aren’t saying, perhaps because even to name the threats would be dangerous. But these innumerable menaces are obviously not acts of terror, which typically involve a handful of plotters and a few guns and bombs. That’s not the type of threat you prepare for by building billion-dollar destroyers. You build destroyers to battle other destroyers and warships, to launch missiles and shoot enemy missiles out of the sky. And if America is going mano-a-mano with another country’s navy, you can bet such sea battles will be but one of many fronts in a much larger World War, the first to be waged by adversaries both (or all) armed with nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Navy was vital to the survival of our country during World War II, but as our senators just said, the need to have a powerful fleet is more important now than it was even in the midst of that global conflict, or any other war in our history.

USS Michael Murphy, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built at Bath Iron Works. BIW photo.

USS Michael Murphy, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built at Bath Iron Works. BIW photo.

Furthermore, at present we have barely enough warships to maintain the security of our nation. It is not merely important, or advisable, or wise to build this fifth destroyer in Bath; it is “critical” that we do so, says Collins, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Woe to the columnist or any other naysayer who watches the Russian or Chinese flag hoisted over the smoldering ruins of the White House because our Navy — having seen all 62 of its destroyers sent to the bottom of the sea, along with all our aircraft carriers and submarines and cruisers and other combat ships, in what future historians, should any survive, will surely record as the most stupendous military failure of all time — lacked the “critical” sixty-third destroyer that could have protected us.

I so hope we don’t really need this 63rd destroyer, since the scenario in which its existence is “critical” to the future of the United States must be one in which almost everything we hold dear has already been destroyed. Well before America ever approaches the point at which our Navy is even halfway decimated by an enemy, I have no doubt the war will have gone nuclear, with catastrophic consequences for all sides. We’re preparing for that too, having recently undertaken a program to “revitalize” and “modernize” our nuclear arsenal that’s expected to cost at least $1 trillion over the next three decades — again, assuming we survive that long.

We need every dollar we can spare for more destroyers and weapons of mass destruction. This is “a time of serious budget constraints for our Defense Department,” Collins says via press release. The city of Portland is proposing to shut down a clinic serving destitute AIDS patients for lack of federal funds. That $1.6 billion could keep a lot of poor Americans alive, but I’d still rather see all those dollars floating down the Kennebec than being spent on another warship whose very existence presages our country’s collective death.

Chris Busby

About Chris Busby

Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard, a monthly magazine about Portland. He writes a weekly column for the BDN.