The joint House-Senate conference for fiscal year 1998 defense appropriations recently funded $35 million for continuing work on an arsenal ship demonstrator. The Clinton administration had asked for almost $103 million. The two-thirds reduction made the arsenal ship one of the Navy's hardest hit programs.
To some observers, however, it is surprising that the arsenal ship survived at all. Its critics-inside as well as outside of the Navy-have been forceful in their opposition. Supporters of the Air Force view the ship as a threat to the strike mission of manned bombers; naval aviators see its concentrated firepower taking away part of the carriers' mission; submariners want to save some of the Trident strategic missile submarines scheduled to be discarded in the next few years by making them underwater arsenal ships; surface warfare specialists see the ship as a threat to funds for the planned SC/DD-21 surface ship-and the list goes on.
Despite almost two years of discussions of the arsenal ship, the misunderstandings are considerable. For example, a recent commentary in Proceedings by a young naval officer states: