The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was commissioned today in Norfolk, Virginia. NewsMax says the ship cost $5 billion to build; The Virginian-Pilot reports that "$37 million in research and development led to some 1,300 significant design changes, according to Navy officials."
Five billion big ones -- that's a lot of money. Now, check out this story. -- It's about a "Ronald Reagan bear" -- a Beanie Baby that looks like a teddy bear and wears a sailor's hat. The story informs us that
Profits from the sale of the bear - which will hit shops nationwide Monday - will go entirely to the Santa Barbara Council of the Navy League to support ship improvements aboard the carrier Ronald Reagan. The Navy League of the United States is a civilian organization dedicated to supporting members of the Navy and their families.
What kinds of improvements does the bear pay for? The Santa Barbara Council's Web site explains:
While the Navy provides for sailors’ basic personal and educational needs, the Santa Barbara Navy League will provide “enhancements” designed to improve sailors’ comfort and quality of life. Such enhancements include recreation equipment; additional books and computers for crew members who are continuing their education while deployed; video equipment and email systems so sailors can feel a little closer to their loved ones at home; upgrades to lounge and mess areas; and china and silver for use when dignitaries are on board.
Now, I've never served in the military, but it surprises me that sailors' families and friends actually have to pony up for some of this stuff. Why wouldn't a $5 billion ship have enough computers to allow everyone who needs to to send e-mail? Why isn't there adequate recreation equipment? And why on earth do civilians have to supply china for use on the ship when dignitaries on board? (Isn't it a tad ironic that a ship named after Nancy Reagan's husband has to go begging for fancy china?) Has it always been this way in the military, even after it went all-volunteer -- huge expenditures, but not enough money spent on the troops?
You've probably seen that bumper sticker that reads (I'm quoting from memory), "It'll be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers." I guess there actually is some of that bake-sale neediness in the military -- for the troops themselves, even while lots of cash is spent on the flashy hardware.