The Navy’s High-Tech $50,000 Kitty-cat Removal System

The Navy’s High-Tech $50,000 Kitty-cat Removal System

Posted on February 29th, 2012 in Blog, News, Services, Top Picks


The Navy’s High-Tech $50,000 Kitty-cat Removal System


It is almost too easy to mock the six-agency, 18 month, $3 million effort to clear 59 cats off of a Navy-owned island.  The island of San Nicolas hosts a launch platform for short and medium missile testing, and radar observation facilities for missile testing.  At some point it was declared that the non-native cats had to go: the invasive kitties dined on the federally threatened island night lizard and competed for food with the island fox, a protected species.


According to the LA times, the initial attempts to use dogs didn’t work, and neither did “felid-attracting phonics” also known as digitally-recorded meows.  As the LA Times explains, “Ultimately, the job required the skills of a retired bobcat hunter as well as some 250 custom-built traps that flashed computer alerts to researchers miles away.”


At over $50k per cat, this declawing effort reminds us that while the military should often embrace new technological advances to tackle novel problems, high-tech isn’t always best-tech.  A retired bobcat hunter probably doesn’t need computer-linked cat traps to rid a Navy island of invasive cats, and digitally recorded meows was an idea that should never have left the drawing board.


Being enamored with unnecessarily complex high-tech solutions can be wasteful and dangerous.  Arthur C. Clark’s parable reminds us not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Affordable, resilient, and reliable should be the most important characteristics of a budget-constrained military.


The A-10 was introduced in the late 1970s, and at less than $12 million per unit (1994 dollars) this plane still plays a highly cost effective role at providing close air support in Afghanistan.  Furthermore, the A-10 can take quite a bit of perforation and remain flyable.


The US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, costing around $500 million each, has a limited shock-hardened design, meaning that it cannot fight and expect to survive in a littoral combat environment, literally what it is supposed to do. 


Affordable, resilient, and reliable need to be the mantra, not the exception, to the military’s modern procurement process.