Sunday, August 28, 2005

Why Was Groton On The BRAC List?

Cross-posted by Bubblehead in Idaho from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

Among many in the military, and especially those who served on major staffs, the tendency has been to blame any poorly-received change that comes down the pike directly on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his minions. There's no doubt that he's trying to transform the military from a Cold War organization to one that is more agile and, in theory, better able to respond to emergencies in the 21st century. The main question is whether he's going too far...

Therefore, many saw Rumsfeld's hand at the tiller when Sub Base New London showed up on the 2005 Base Closure List. Now that the base has been removed from the list, many in Connecticut are looking at why they got put on the list in the first place, and how they can avoid this in the future. An excellent article from The Day (may require free registration tomorrow) focuses blame on one man: former Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark. Clark, a known skimmer, was originally appointed in 2000, so no one can say that he was Rumsfeld's man from the start. Here's what the article has to say, in part:

"Although the commission did not address it directly, there were also critics of the Pentagon proposal who are convinced that the recommendation was politically motivated — not a “Red State vs. Blue State” payback for Connecticut backing John Kerry over President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, but a clash of the submarine and surface ship communities...
"...In fact, there is some evidence to suggest Clark's office was behind the recommendation. According to the working papers of the internal Navy group that prepared the BRAC recommendations, Groton was under consideration for closure, and the panel sought the counsel of the Fleet Forces Command and Clark's office.
"The next month the group reported that Fleet Forces Command opposed it. Clark's response was not documented, but the proposal advanced, which many took as evidence that he endorsed it.
"The Connecticut congressional delegation, too, seemed to indicate that the submarine force was not getting a fair shake under Clark. Simmons, for instance, once noted that a submarine force structure study ordered by Clark said the Navy could get by with as few as 37 submarines. A Pentagon review done at the same time said the force should go no lower than 45."

Now, the new CNO is also a skimmer, but he's shown that he's willing to break from Clark's agenda, which is a good thing. (Regarding that last link: I've never seen that site before today, and, on first glance, it does seem a little tin-foil-hattish, but I think what they're saying about VADM Sestak is right.) Hopefully ADM Mullen be willing to give the Submarine Force more of a fair shake than his predecessor.

The article in The Day has a lot more really good information -- give it a read.

Going deep...


At 9:39 AM, Blogger Vigilis said...

Interesting, yes. New or convincing, no. In the larger picture, the Navy (except Marine Corp) has been under the gun for least applicability for the buck to immediate needs. The Air Force is not much better off, but joined the Army in criticizing the Navy
after the early war, JAG fiascoes, considered very, very expensive (although dismissed for purely PR purposes).

What is saving the Air Force's butt, I do not know unless it is their satellite and DARPA programs.

The question I have now, is was the sub base every really in peril?
If it was, it will be next time and it is going to be much tougher to save. One guess, is that the sub base was put in play just to prove to the Air Force that stakes are going to get a lot tougher for them.

Another question, what happened to the Army's plans for all those troop / equipment carriers from the prior Gulf war? Was that a similar gambit to force bolder Navy cost reductions? Inquiring minds want to know.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Lubber's Line said...

Another thing not mentioned here but I've read in previous articles in The Day is competition for the shipbuilding budget. Subs at $2.5 billion a copy are about a quarter of the money the Navy gets for shipbuilding and ship repair. That’s at the current build rate of one a year. If you increase that to two a year to maintain a sub force level of 50+ SSNs, that’s half the budget for new construction. That would put additional pressure on those new over budget or unproven surface systems DD(X) and LCS. Both of which Clark was giving a big push.

(Lubber donning his tinfoil hat) If you can reduce the number of SSNs to say 38 and justify the reduction with the lack of available surge pier space by closing the best SSN submarine facility on the east coast. Then you will have more money available to buy those stealthy(??) surface ships. (Removing tinfoil hat)- LL


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