Admiral DeMars Speaks Out
Retired Admiral Bruce Demars, head of Naval Reactors through most of the 90s, has sent a powerful letter to the Base Realignment And Closure commission. ADM DeMars doesn't pull any punches:
"Dear Chairman Principi,
I am writing in comment on the recommendation to close Submarine Base New London. I believe this is unthoughtful. The submarine force level study used to support the recommendation is not defendable and no consideration was given to the impact on the cost of building submarines at Electric Boat.
"This naval administration has indicated that we have the wrong Navy - they prefer smaller, swifter surface ships rather than aircraft carriers and submarines. While not subjecting the matter to open discussion, they have taken many actions to advance this premise. The recommendation to close the Submarine Base is the most unthoughtful of the lot.
"The attack submarine force level has undergone some 14 studies in the past 12 years. The current Navy study came up with the lowest number. It had essentially no submariner input, no input from the Fleet Commanders and inadequate peer review. This contrasts with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (PA&E) study of one year earlier. This study included submariner input, Fleet Commander input and was properly peer reviewed. It reached a number some 20% higher. I have some experience with such studies. The Navy study does not meet professional standards and is not defendable.
"Another matter in which I have some experience is the cost of submarines. The Navy has been pressing Electric Boat to reduce the cost of new construction submarines. Some progress has been made. In the 90s, I encouraged Electric Boat to take over the maintenance activities at the Submarine Base. It has worked well and reduced overhead at Electric Boat some $50M per year. If the Submarine Base closes, this advantage is lost and the cost of new construction submarines will rise. I have trouble believing the Navy considered this long term impact on the industrial base.
"Other less quantifiable issues revolve around synergies. The Submarine Force is small with only some 30,000 submariners in the Navy. Driven by the exigencies of the platform they have always been a compact organization with relatively low overhead. Support groups reside near the waterfront to better reflect the realities of the boats. This closure would scatter these groups, removing some from direct contact with the watefront.
"The Submarine Force is important to the defense of our national interests. It has the only truly stealthy platforms in our armed services and is the heart of our strategic nuclear deterrent. It has adapted to the changing nature of naval warfare for over 100 years. It is a rare asset and sets our Navy apart. The closure of the Submarine Base will not mean the end of the Submarine Force but it will start many years of unnecessary chum. The recommendation to close the Submarine Base is not well founded and should be overturned."
I love the comments directed to "this naval administration". And who is the most visible representative of this group? Why, none other that ADM Vern Clark, who's retiring on Friday. Some speculate that ADM Clark's upcoming retirement may make the current submarine force leadership more outspoken in their statements in support of Subase New London. From an excellent article in today's New London Day:
"...The surge in support for the submarine base has spurred considerable speculation about what has caused the “Silent Service” to suddenly become so outspoken, Navy sources said.
One of the most common explanations: the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Vernon Clark, will retire on Friday and turn the reins over to Adm. Mike Mullen. [hyperlink mine]
"Clark has long been seen as supporting serious cutbacks to the submarine force, possibly to fewer than 40, from 54 today, despite a series of Defense Department and external studies calling for a larger undersea fleet.
"If Groton is closed, the Navy can probably only justify a fleet of 15 to 18 submarines on the East Coast, and a fleet of perhaps 40 service-wide based on the balance it expects to maintain between the Pacific and Atlantic, based on the berths it will have, the sources said.
"The sources said if the senior submariners see Mullen as more sympathetic to their cause, it would explain the sudden tendency to more candid comments..."
Lots of good stuff in this article, so read the whole thing. (At this point, I'd normally put a snarky comment in about The New London Day's registration requirements, but it appears that they've been doing the right thing and exempting a lot of their articles about Subase and the BRAC from their draconian policies. BZ, Day!)
In other Navy personnel news, I read that ADM Giambastiani, the submariner currently commanding JFCOM (the joint command formerly known as US Atlantic Command) was confirmed by the Senate to become Vice Chief of the Joint Staff. More submariners in positions of power can only be a good thing... as long as they don't get too high up; I know how some of my readers feel about the one who was U.S. President, and we know the other submariner who became head of his country wasn't a very nice guy.