For Sale, $300 Million, 600 Feet Long Navy Ships, Never Used, Make An Offer

in Waste

Just when you think that you have identified the latest government waste of taxpayer money, some big new wastes jump into your face. Consider some recent news reports that reported on how the U.S. government was scrapping two of its Navy ships even though they had never seen one day of service. Details of the waste include:

  • Two large Navy ships, that have never been used, are headed for the scrap yard even though they are almost completely finished and ready for duty.
  • Work began on the USNS Benjamin Isherwood and the USNS Henry Eckford in 1985 at the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company and were intended to carry fuel to the Navy's ships around the world.
  • When the company defaulted on their Navy contract in 1989, the 600 foot ships were sent to Florida for completion. At the length of two football fields, these were not insignificant ships.
  • The ships were eventually moved to the James River Navy yard and have sat there at 95% and 84% complete the past 18 years.
  • A British company considered buying the ships and completing their build out for sale to a NATO country.
  • However, since the ships are single hulled and double hulls are required for today's fuel carriers, the British company decided not to complete the construction and instead, settled on a $10 million contract and taxpayer expense to scrap the ships altogether.
  • This week the ships are being towed to Texas to be cut up for scrap iron and scrap steel for recycling.

Thus, after spending $300 million to begin building the ships, almost finishing their construction, getting absolutely no use out of them, and paying to tow the ships from port to port, the taxpayers will get hit with one last insult and be charged $10 million to destroy the never used ships.

Where to start on this insanity:

  1. Who is responsible for ordering the construction of these ships but never getting any use out of them? In the private market, if a business person was to incur that big of a screw up they would be out of a job.
  2. Was there nowhere in the world that these ships could have been sold in order for taxpayers to get some money back rather than incurring another $10 million cost to have them destroyed? Even though the could not be used to haul fuel, was there no company in the world who would not want a sturdy Navy ship to ship other goods in its hold that was not fuel related? There must be a Chinese shipping company who could use a new ship or two, especially since China's exports in the first half of 2011 was a record level of $874 billion, 20% higher than in 2010 (The Week, July 22, 2011).
    Thus, not only should the people responsible for building $300 million worth of ships be fired, the people who could not get anything in return by selling the ships should also be fired.
  3. Whatever Congressional committee or subcommittee members were responsible for flushing $310 million of taxpayer wealth down the drain need to be removed from their committee or subcommittee posts.

The article contains a quote from Joseph Keefe from Maritime Professional who stated that the scrapping the ships will "close one of the saddest chapters in American shipbuilding history and for that matter, Federal fiduciary folly." In other words, what a waste of taxpayer money. Very well said, Mr. Keefe.

Another scary aspect of this story is the thought that this may not be an isolated incident. What other $300 million wastes are hanging around the Pentagon closets? With Pentagon resources deployed in three war zones, dozens of foreign countries, and probably most of the fifty states, I find it hard to believe that this is the only wasted money in the Pentagon budget. Eliminating this type of despicable behavior would reduce the Pentagon budget without further endangering the defense of the United States.

While we are on the topic of waste, let's move out of the Defense Department domain and move to another area of gross government waste. According to USA Today article, that was highlighted in the July 7, 2011 issue of The Week, the Federal government wastes about $17 billion of taxpayer wealth every year in the operation of its unemployment benefits program. Almost 12% of the program's budget is paid out fraudulently to Americans who are either collecting benefits they are not entitled to or are those people that have gotten a job but are still accepting unemployment benefits.

Compare these figures to the politically motivated focus of President Obama over the past few weeks. He has made a big deal about closing tax loopholes for oil companies and corporate jet users. Now, while I agree these loopholes should be closed, they are a pittance compared to the unemployment fraud.

Over ten years, the oil company loopholes would amount to about $20 billion and the corporate jets loophole would amount to about $3 billion, a total of $23 billion or so over 10 years. Ten years worth of this type of unemployment benefits waste comes out to $170 billion, which is almost eight times more than the political gamesmanship loopholes of Obama.

It never ends. The government cannot plan its Navy needs, resulting in wasting over $300 million on just two of its ships. The government cannot efficiently run a simple unemployment benefits program, wasting 12% of its budget and $17 billion a year. The politicians worry about the smaller, trivial wastes of taxpayer money while the bigger wastes go on and on every year.

The worst part of all, there is no apparent accountability. No one ever seems to be held responsible for all of the waste. Politicians continually get re-elected in the face of the waste. Government bureaucrats never seem to lose their jobs despite inefficiency and waste.

You wonder what kind of world those in DC live in where how well or bad you perform your job has no ramifications on your monetary reward and career paths. Its the kind of world we would all like to live in where performance is unrelated to reality. But first, lets see if any of those ships are still available, they are too good a deal to pass up.

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Bruno Korschek has 1 articles online

Walter "Bruno" Korschek is the author of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government. - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class," which is available at www.loathemygovernment.com and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Our daily dialog on freedom in American can be joined at www.loathemygovernment.blogspot.,com.

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For Sale, $300 Million, 600 Feet Long Navy Ships, Never Used, Make An Offer

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This article was published on 2011/07/25
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