Cashless Aircraft Carrier

We are racing toward a cashless society at the speed of a twin-nuclear reactor U-S Navy aircraft carrier headed into the wind at more than 30 knots. There isn't any change on the U-S-S "Harry S. Truman"—pocket change, that is. It is a cashless ship. The 5,000 sailors and Marines on the Truman have red, white, and blue debit cards instead.

They use plastic for everything from the mess deck's vending machines to the collection plate in the chapel. The big ship used to carry $250,000 in coins, largely to feed the vending machines. There had to be sailors on duty around-the-clock, just to count all those nickels, dimes, and quarters. Now, those crewmembers are doing more productive work. And the brass is happy too. In fact, the Navy will be expanding the cashless program to 175 ships over the next four years.

The Navy is sometimes accused of being a little too tradition-conscious, some might even say overly so, with its continued use of such anachronisms as "aye" for the word "yes," and 13-button pants. The Navy's been around since 1775. The started out with only—that's a lot of tradition. But replacing money with debit cards—now that's up-to-date.