RAND’s National Defense Research Institute does a lot of work for the US military and defense intelligence communities under joint contract DASW01-01-C-0004. One recent piece addresses the future of America’s carrier fleet, whose size and capabilities make it unique in the world. The report’s introduction notes:
“Because they offer unparalleled mobility, provide sustained military presence, can send signals of U.S. concern and possible actions, and free the United States from having to conduct flight operations from foreign bases or obtain permission from foreign powers to fly over territory, aircraft carriers likely will continue to be an asset of choice for years to come. Indeed, it is entirely possible that, as the United States seeks ways to stretch its defense dollars, pursue the Global War on Terrorism, and meet other national-security challenges, policymakers will increase their reliance on aircraft carriers, using them more often and in more situations than they have in the past, especially if the vessels have the additional capabilities to respond appropriately.
The current and expected use of aircraft carriers led the U.S. Navy in fall 2004 to commission the RAND Corporation to explore new and nontraditional ways that the United States might be able to employ aircraft carriers in pursuit of traditional and emerging military and homeland defense missions…”
Read “Leveraging America’s Aircraft Carrier Capabilities: Exploring New Combat and Noncombat Roles and Missions for the US Carrier Fleet ” in full [PDF].