Should we time-share aircraft carriers?

In the hunt for budget savings, shouldn't we ask our allies to share more costs of military operations and equipment?

The fears and concerns around the defense budget are real, and potentially dangerous, particularly if there is a sequestration failure, and if the cuts are made with blunt objects and not precision instruments.

Amber Corrin at FCW.com reported at the end of last week that the Defense Department is looking at freezes on hiring and IT purchases. Contracts are being reviewed for more savings.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are warning of the creation of a hollow force. They want adequate resources and the freedom to shape the force to “new budget realities.” And they should get that flexibility.

How DOD addresses the new budget realities is going to set the tone for the rest of the government.

Let’s look at some of the actions that the services are talking about: the Air Force may reduce non-readiness flying; the Navy will reduce flying hours and ship steaming days; and the Army will reduce “utilities consumption.” All are talking about curtailing training and conferences.

One of the many unfortunate aspects of this whole sequestration debacle is that so much of the focus is the short-term, reactionary cuts. I guess its survival mode. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says, the greatest threat is uncertainty.

Even saying that, I’m not seeing bold moves that can set the tone for DOD for the next decade.

I wish I could remember who I heard say this, but I heard a speaker some months ago say that the government, particularly the Defense Department, hadn’t gotten serious yet about saving money and making cuts.

I keep thinking about what he said next: We won’t show anyone we are serious until we ask another country to split the costs and share the use of an aircraft carrier. For him, that’s when the cuts will be getting serious.

I can’t remember who said that, and as more time passes, I wonder how crazy an idea it is.

Why not ask the U.K. and France to help pay and man an aircraft carrier that cruises the Atlantic and Mediterranean? Or India, Japan, South Korea and Australia to do the same for one based in the Pacific and Indian oceans?

I can hear the groans and complaints about a loss of control and national security, etc. Maybe that idea goes too far, but it is worth debating, particularly in this era of multilateral military operations.

Why not push “jointness” among the services a little farther and consolidate more units and operations across the Army, Navy and Air Force? I’m sure there are tons of redundancies that continue more for the sake of politics, turf and tradition than for national security reasons.

We need to think beyond simple reductions and cuts. This is actually a great opportunity to rebuild and retool the Defense Department for the next decade or more. DOD needs to be leaner, more creative and smarter in how it uses its resources.

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