25 May 2005

This is how New London gets defended?

I must admit, I have shut up about this whole BRAC process for a few days, to take a step back and try and assess rationally the various proposals and what I think they mean for the Sub community. Those who browse through the various sub and Mil bloggers might have already seen comments I left elsewhere regarding this, and for those who haven't, I will sum up: I am an avowed fan of the New London SUBASE. I think closing it is a bad idea for a slew of reasons, some of which I think are based on logic, some of which are, admittedly, emotional, and some which are hard to quantify. I will also admit I do not have a dog in this fight. The base I work at is basically untouched by BRAC, so I am totally on the outside looking in. I have, however, looked forward to seeing what kind of defense was put up to try and save Groton from the hangman's axe. So, I was happy to see that CT's senior senator had an op-ed piece in the NY Post defending New London. (Thanks Bubblehead <http://bubbleheads.blogspot.com> and the Sub Report <http://www.thesubreport.com> for pointing me in the right direction). Link (and registration info via bugmenot.com) below if you care to read.
http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/44509.htm (Acct: planplanandplan@yahoo.ca Password: password)

I was, however, dismayed at the rather weak defense that Sen. Lieberman puts up for Groton. Granted, he is mostly worried about the jobs that will be lost, but, let's be honest, that is not the BRAC's #1 priority. Military Value is, so that should be the strongest argument. Is it? To sum up:

The closing of the New London SUBASE is "part of a continuing and unhealthy trend of shifting military facilities to southern and western states, removing national defense and contact with the military from the daily lives of Northeasterners."
Ummm, ok. Now, I know folks have said Groton was not that friendly in the first place. I never saw this - in fact, my wife experienced quite the opposite, especially when I was on deployment. But is this a valid point of contention? Keeping the military part of everyone's daily life? If the question can even be asked, then this point is weak at best, and probably shouldn't have been one of the leadoff strikes.

"Let's start with New London's value as a military base. New London is one of the few ports in the United States with the infrastructure and capability to handle nuclear powered vessels. That capability is a strategic national asset that once lost, will never be recovered."
Ok, this is valid - once we lose a port, it will be far to costly to try and regain it. This can not be said enough, yet, this is all the attention he gives it. As for being one of the few ports that can handle nuke boats, well, unfortunately, not quite right there. East Coast - Norfolk, King's Bay, and Cape Canaveral can all handle having a nuke at the pier. The Commission knows this, so this point is rather weak. Now, as for carying capacity, well, can they handle all the Groton boats if they get dispersed amongst these ports? This is a question worth discussion, yet he doesn't bring it up.

"New London also offers the quickest access to deep water and the polar route under the ice caps of the increasingly pivotal Pacific Ocean."
BS comment. See Bubblehead's post <http://bubbleheads.blogspot.com/2005/05/ny-post-editorial-closing-subase-bad.htm> on it.

"New London also provides great synergy by having the submarine base, the Naval Submarine School and Electric Boat"
Ok, almost a good comment. Having Sub School and the base together is key - however, sounds like they are planning on moving Sub School to King's Bay along with the majority of the boats, so this argument becomes moot. As for EB, yes, it has been doing sub construction for as long as we have had a sub fleet. However, when I was on the boat, I remember everyone there, from squadron to SSSU to the guys on the deckplates snarling anytime EB was brought up. In DC, they hated dealing with EB because they were costly and didn't seem to manage themselves well. So EB is not helping the Senator's case here.

"This proximity clearly enables gains in production, research, maintenance and training as the skilled technicians who build and maintain the submarines work side-by-side with those who operate them and those who train the next generation of submariners."
Partial truth here. Not much research is done in NLON now that NUWC has been moved up to Newport. Production, well, yes, some is done at EB. Some also done at Newport News in Norfolk, so that is a zero sum gain point. Maintenance and training are done wherever a sub is homeported, and yardbirds will always work side-by-side with operators because, frankly, we don't trust them to work on our boats unsupervised. As for those who train, again, looks like Sub School will move to King's Bay, and the TRE teams are based out of Norfolk, and are down on those boats all the time, so again, weak point.

And that pretty much sums up the Senator's points regarding military value. Sheesh. If that is the best they can do, it looks like New London is in a hard spot. Myself, I would have emphasized the number of boats homeported in Groton, compared to the available pier space in Norfolk (none) and King's Bay (I admit ignorance here). Or the sheer scope of facilities that comprise Sub School, and the difficulty in transitioning those. But nope, those points got passing reference, if at all. Although I did learn that there are already -15- Superfund sites identified at New London. Wow - I knew she was a dirty base, but wow. I wonder if that counts the Thames, because if it doesn't, well, standby. That river defines polluted.

Ah well, here is hoping the CT folks can put together a stronger defense, because I would hate to see the SUBASE go.

On another note, I apologize for the lack of links in the post - emailing it in today, due to time constraints, and I am not yet sure how to get the linkage to work via this route...


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