Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Connecticut Counterattacks BRAC

The New London Day has had the best coverage of the continuing efforts by various groups in Connecticut to save the Submarine Base in Groton; I'm hoping that they might relax their "registration required after one day" policy to let more cybervisitors read their coverage. While Governor Rell is focusing on the "we don't want to lose our jobs and all the federal money" angle that frankly sounds a little whiny, Senators Lieberman and Dodd seem to be going more for a "why do we need such a steep reduction in overall submarine numbers" that I think is more likely to sway BRAC commission members. (Yes, I know "BRAC commission" is like "ORSE exam" or "CAT team", but it sounds better.) [Update: Yes, I also know that the "C" in "BRAC" doesn't stand for "Commission", which renders my whole little comment irrelevant. I don't think it's fair to edit my stupid mistakes out, though, so I'll keep it in.] Excerpts from Bob Hamilton's latest article:

"U.S. Sens. Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman, both D-Conn., fired off a letter to Navy Secretary Gordon R. England on Friday requesting β€œthe justification for this force level,” which was apparently approved in March, two months before the release of the list of bases to be closed...
"...Critics of the closure plan are questioning the 192-page Navy document's outlining of how Navy officials arrived at the conclusion that Groton should be closed, in particular the section where it says it revised the force-structure plan that it delivered to Congress in March 2004, which was supposed to guide the BRAC deliberations.
"The report says it is reducing the number of aircraft carriers from 12 to 11, an 8 percent drop, and the number of battle-force ships β€” cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines and other warships β€” from 378 in 2004 to between 341 and 370, which would be a cut of 2 percent to 11 percent.
"The only element of the battle-force ships that was broken out separately was submarines, which it noted have been reduced by 21 percent."


Of course, they're also going with the "the base is so old and polluted that we'll force you to spend any projected savings in cleaning it up before we take it back" argument that approaches whininess as well. [Money passage on Sen. Dodd: "He also asserted that the environmental cleanup at the vacated New England base would be enormous, saying that Navy officials who calculated the cost at $29 million were 'living in Disneyland.'"]

Hopefully this whole exercise will result in a national debate on the important role submarines play in our defense and why we shouldn't cut their numbers, but I predict it'll just degenerate into a "mean neo-cons want to take money from blue states" sh*t-slinging match.

Staying at PD...

Update 1345 21 May: CDR Salamander has a most excellent summary of this thoughts on the Navy side of BRAC.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Bernie said...

Why do we need such a reduction in the number of submarines?
Because there is no enemy out there with anything that floats worth a $200,000 MK-48.
Subs cost too much and do too little. 13 years and 5 boats and All I have to show for it is an endless cycle of ins[ections and field days. Close the checkbook and shut em down!

5/21/2005 4:13 PM

 
Blogger Chap said...

The "reduction" they state was locked in years ago in the budgets and set in granite by the current CNO.

It'll take more than that to keep that from staying the same...

5/21/2005 10:51 PM

 
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

bernie-

If you think all subs do anymore is tote ADCAPs around, then you have missed out on how their roles have shifted. The first unit to be ready and to fire tomahawks in Afghanistan? Yeah, a sub. The most effective units at intercepting comms from potential baddies? Yeah, subs. The guys who pick out ships for the maritime patrols to board long before anyone else knows they are coming? Yeah, subs. And then there are the traditional roles that are still pertinent - Battle Group escort chief among them. the CNO has consistently stated that ASW needs to be the Navy's #1 focus - the rapid proliferation of cheap and quiet diesels and AIPs has the surface boys scared. Who combats this threat best? Not airedales - IEER has not proven itself via Distant Thunder still; Not surface boys - ADS is still powerpoint engineering, PLUSNET is still just a dream, and LCS is a joke wrt ASW.
So, subs still have a role, and a big one. It may not be as 'cool' as hunting Sov's, but it is still needed - that is why subs today have a rediculous OPTEMPO - they are way overtasked.
As for the reduction, it is still not set in stone. Yes, they bumped down funding to the VA class *again*. But that is still fluid. There are those who say we need to go down to 35 boats, and those who say we cannot support our missions with fewer than 50. I tend towards the higher end (see OPTEMPO arguement). Yes, I know what the current out year budgets look like, but, as I said, they can change. The role of the sub needs to be re-emphasized for the leadership, and the sub community is not doing a great job of it - we are too used to being secretive about what we do, and expecting people not to bother us. Maybe some Senate attention focusing on the sub's importance will be good for us...

5/22/2005 10:22 AM

 
Anonymous Bernie said...

Sattelites and AUV's can monitor enemy comms cheaper than subs.
Subs were not needed to launch tomoahawks against Afgahnistan, Surface ships can carry more of them and because of thier ability to go into shallower water than subs, were more usefull. With full control of the sea, we can launch tomahowks from barges towed by tugs. Thee has not been a Frogman lockout mission since the Korean war. Even there, we should build small diesel or or AIP boats that can submerge in shallow water for the SEAL Support mission.
All of these "New missions" is nothing more than an attempt to justify building more ORSE inspection platforms. A dozen boats on each coast can currently sink any potential enemy Navy with nothing more than a minor interruption of thier ORSE workup schedule. The budget is broken, we can no longer afford these expensive toys. Close the checkbook and shut em down!

5/22/2005 12:53 PM

 
Anonymous Bernie said...

What we really need is a total re focus on the sub force. the nuclear monopoly need to be broken.
35 or even fewer SSN's can do the job with the current threat. This is persuant to having smaller, cheaper diesel and AIP boats as force multipliers. We need an underwater SBU for SEAL support, An underwater "Fighter" type sub thancan operate out of an LSD's well deck, and of course SSN's capable of being underwater mosubs in the manner of the DSRV and ASDS.
Simply adding an extra large lockout chamber to a traditional ORSE inspection platform does not cut it.

5/22/2005 12:59 PM

 
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Sattelites and AUV's can monitor enemy comms cheaper than subs.
True, but not as well. There is only one way to intercept certain types of comms. Subs due it best, due to proximity, loiter time, and stealth.

Subs were not needed to launch tomoahawks against Afgahnistan, Surface ships can carry more of them and because of thier ability to go into shallower water than subs, were more usefull.
Not needed, but first on station. You will never convince me that response time is not important.
A 688I can carry 30+, and routinely do now. The SSGN will carry more than an entire CVNBG. And trust me, subs can go shallower, more safely. A surface ship has to worry about missles and bombers in boats. Subs don't.

Thee has not been a Frogman lockout mission since the Korean war. Even there, we should build small diesel or or AIP boats that can submerge in shallow water for the SEAL Support mission.
Actually, there has been. And diesels or AIPs do not have the range, endurance, speed combo that SSNs bring. AIPs almost have the range and endurance, but not quite, and SSNs will always have the spped edge.

Now, I will not dispute that we could do well with AIPs as force multipliers. I think the sub force should take it as a slap in the face that the surface fleet is leasing an AIP for training. We need to fill that role. We are working on an improved SEAL vehicle, that will quickly attach to all sorts of mother ships, SSNs and SSGNs among them. However, having a "fighter" sub out of an LSDs well deck surrenders the sub's best defense - stealth and suprise. With an LSD out there, a potential threat has an inkling what might be coming. Simply, that is not a good idea.

So, to sum up - yes, we could use some diversification. Yes, AIPs are a good idea for our fleet. Should we simply dismiss the new roles SSNs are assuming? No - there is a reason they keep getting these missions assigned - we do them well. If this were not true, someone else would do them.

5/22/2005 4:19 PM

 
Blogger ninme said...

Um, why would their argument be "It's too polluted for us to take so you'd have to clean it up which would be so expensive you might as well clean it up...which would make it even more polluted!" like it makes any sense? I mean, if it's that horrible, wouldn't closing it be a good thing...?

5/22/2005 4:37 PM

 
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

ninme-

Sadly, that argument has been used effectively to keep several places open. It would save X to close it, but it would cost Y to clean it up after closing it. Since Y >> X, why bother closing it? It is a pathetic statement on Navy enviro-friendliness, but a lot of these bases pre-date our convern for the EPA...

5/22/2005 4:39 PM

 
Anonymous Bernie said...

Once again, it is about cost and expendability. The SSN does indeed have more endurance but what good is that if they can't get close enough to shore? What is needed is something small enough to enter a harbor fully submerged. Also, with the current "Submersible reactor plant" metality of current sub commanders, a CO would write off an entire SEAL platoon rather than risk his reactor plant. I have served under CO's who actually proclaimed that going to war was a violation of reactor safety regulations.

The 35 SSN's we are cutting back to will be more than enough if we have AIP boats as force multipliers.

5/22/2005 7:05 PM

 
Anonymous Bernie said...

Another thing to note:

Prior to WW2, there were a lot of costly flops in submarine design. It was thought that the Nautulus and Narwahl would be the premier boats of the war, they had 8" deck guns, external mine dispensers, and even external torpedo tubes. The Gato on the other hand were easier to mass poduce and thus, were expendable.
The Gato class became the premier boat of the war for several reasons, it was simpler and thus... more reliable, it was faster due to its smaller size and same horepower. And fianlly, it was expendable.

Likewise, it was not the Essex class carrier that won the war but the baby flat tops that went in where it was too dangerous to risk the large carriers. During the battle of Guadalcanal, the Admirals wrote off the Marines because they did not want to risk their carriers. They broadcast to the Marines "You are authorised to surrender". Later in the war, Jeep carriers AKA CVE's carried the day. Be it fighter aircraft, ships, or submarines...If you can't afford to lose it, you can't afford to use it.

5/22/2005 7:13 PM

 
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Once again, it is about cost and expendability. The SSN does indeed have more endurance but what good is that if they can't get close enough to shore?
They can. Trust me, they can and they do. Sometimes, they do it just to prove they can.

What is needed is something small enough to enter a harbor fully submerged
Again, SSNs can. Trust me, they can. I cannot give proof, other than my word. 688s can. And what is more, VA class are designed to do it even better. Don't know why you think they cannot, but my experience with the current fleet tells me otherwise.

As for the "Submersible reactor plant" metality, true, we place perhaps too much emphasis on the aft end of the boat, but it is not nearly like it used to be. ADM Bowman was a lot more loose than his predecessors. However, we cannot just treat the reactor like the sphere, for instance. If the reactor fails, the entire community will get slammed in the court of public opinion. However, I have never, ever heard a CO say that taking a boat into action violated reactor safety. You had a string of awful COs if that is all you experienced.

As for your arguement for AIPs (the Gato line of reasoning); I have already said having some is a good idea. However, we can never, ever say of a class of ships, "And fianlly, it was expendable." Those were different times. The US will not allow itself to ever consider its sailors or soldiers expendable unless we are in a death struggle. We do not have the will for that at this point, nor do we have the need. I am not saying we do not have the will to lose it if needed, but to simply write them off, no. Even AIPs we would employ judiciously. We are not the Swedes, who assume they will not return if combat starts.

5/22/2005 9:51 PM

 
Blogger ninme said...

You guys make me nervous sometimes. I'm just waiting for the black-clad men with fine military bearing to come barging in here, haul me out, take me to some cold cement room for "debriefing," after which they'll dump me in an inner city slum somewhere I've never been with a wiped memory and food stamps so everyone thinks I'm just another schizo crazy.

Nonetheless, it's all terribly interesting.

5/22/2005 9:56 PM

 
Blogger Bubblehead said...

Don't worry, Ninme, we sub-bloggers don't put out the classified stuff here; plus, if we do, we can always claim we're going for disinformation.
I obviously disagree with bernie's probably tongue-in-cheek comments about the usefulness of submarines in today's world, but agree to a certain extent that the Sub Force leadership seems to be more interested in running drills than actual ops, at least to the guys on the deckplate. I'm not sure what it'll take to get rid of that mentality, but all I can do is hope it doesn't get worse.

5/22/2005 11:44 PM

 
Blogger ninme said...

So guess what I just saw on the financial news? New London, Conn made the very top of the list for the best city in the country to live for wages/cost of living. So that's good, isn't it? Unless of course that's completely dependent on that base in Groton. Which would be bad.

5/23/2005 3:23 PM

 
Anonymous Bernie said...

A 688 canenter a harbor submerged? You know nothing of what the depth of PD is! You cannot submerge a 7000 ton SSN in 40 feet of water!

5/23/2005 8:46 PM

 
Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

bernie, not all harbors are 40 feet. in fact, many interesting harbors are significantly deeper. When was the last time you were on mission? Trust me, I know what I speak of...

5/24/2005 4:14 AM

 
Anonymous Bernie said...

Having been a ships diver and later an EOD diver, I can tell you that I have made many a security swim on many moats in many harbors.
On most harbors, you can kneel on the bottom and still touch the keel of the boat above you. You cannot gat a glorifoed ORSE inspection platform into most harbors submerged. I have been on 5 boats in 13 years and all we ever did was work up for the next ORS or NTPI. Even when on a "Real Mission" our focus was always on drilling and field daying.
The sub force is just another corrupt self serving institution demanding billions of dollars for more ORSE inspection platforms.
The national debt is growing, the budget is broken. Close the checkbook and shut em down!

5/26/2005 7:19 PM

 

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