The United States Navy is building a new aircraft carrier in memory of former President Gerald R. Ford. It will no doubt be an awesome example of American technological skill and military might. And Pres. Ford certainly earned the honor.
But here's a better idea: Scrap the aricraft carrier. Let's think about a more enduring tribute for the man from Grand Rapids. I suggest the Gerald R. Ford Great Lakes Restoration Act.
The new aircraft carrier is projected to cost $20 billion, according to a report today on National Public Radio. That's essentially the same price as the proposed Great Lakes restoration strategy now languishing in Congress. But will it stand the test of time?
The average expected lifespan of an aircraft carrier seems to be about four decades. The USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned after just 38 years of service. The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was decommissioned after 32 years. The USS Independence, which did a tour in Vietnam, was decommissioned after 40 years. So the USS Ford basically will be parked as a tourist attraction by 2050.
Putting that $20 billion into Great Lakes restoration, by contrast, will help sustain the economy, ecology, and quality of life in the American Midwest for generations. It will cleanup polluted waterways, regenerate Rust Belt cities, and reposition the mega region to compete in the global economy.
It would be a fitting and lasting tribute to President Ford's distinguished legacy. And we can begin by cleaning up the Grand River, right near his boyhood home.
The Navy already is constructing the USS Ford. And that's a good thing. But when they decommission the ship let's dock it in a Great Lakes port relieved of toxic pollution, sewage spills, and all the other problems that everyone knows exists but can't muster the leadership or money to fix.
The picture above, courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, shows the boy that would be president in 1915.