Armed Forces: Pulling the Carriers' Plug

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara last spring stood beside President Kennedy on the tenth-deck bridge of the nuclear-powered carrier Enterprise. For as far as the eye could see, other U.S. ships deployed over the Atlantic seascape. Overhead screeched half a dozen different types of carrier-based planes. The U.S. Navy was conducting an exercise aimed at impressing its civilian bosses. The show impressed McNamara all right—but not in the way the Navy intended. He leaned over to Kennedy and asked: "What good are all these different kinds of planes?"

An even more basic question, enough to shiver any admiral's timbers, was on...

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