Friday, May 27, 2005

Sub Base New London Closing Criteria?

Connecticut politicians and advocates for keeping the New London Submarine Base open are going to have a tough time convincing the BRAC Commission not to close the Sub Base. The task ahead for them is not only to address every point the DOD and Navy has made for closure but also to demonstrate the continued value of keeping the installation open. Focusing on politics is not going to make much of a difference to the Navy planners.

Much of what the DOD and Navy has provided to date lacks detailed justification but does fit the broad outline of the Under Secretary Of Defense Jan 2004 memorandum Subject: 2005 Base Closure and Selection Criteria. The following is a list of those Criteria:

Military value

  1. The current and future mission capabilities and the impact on operational readiness of the Defense Department’s total force, including the impact on joint warfighting, training, and readiness.
  2. The availability and condition of land, facilities, and associated airspace (including training areas suitable for maneuver by ground, naval, or air forces throughout diversity of climate and terrain areas and staging areas for the use of the Armed Forces in homeland defense missions) at both existing and potential receiving locations.
  3. The ability to accommodate contingency, mobilization, surge, and future total force requirements at both existing and potential receiving locations to support operations and training.
  4. The cost of operations and the manpower implications.

All of the above criteria speaks to me of consolidation to even larger military multi-branch and multi-discipline installations. The more remote the area, free of congested sea lanes and air space, the better. Additionally the costs associated the local economy such as cost of living, per diem, facility maintenance and heating/AC costs all contribute to the bottom line in cost savings to the military and its personnel.

How do the New London Sub Base supporters counter the consolidation and better local economic climate justifications? One method I’ve seen is to use the simplistic “is it really that much better” argument. Basically the argument says that Norfolk and eastern VA are economically similar and just as congested to eastern CT. Not a very good standpoint to take, sort of like saying my house is just as ugly as yours only smaller. Another point that has been made is to cite history, partially the Pearl Harbor Attack as a reason not concentrate too much of the military to one region or at one base. A fair point to make but when someone is concentrating on the bottom line of a spreadsheet it’s hard to get them away from the dollars mindset.

The real arguments should be attacking the driving forces behind the DOD and Navy’s rational in the base closing recommendation, those being cost saving, projected submarine force structure requirements and military force transformation. Already some of the cost estimates have been put into question such as what a full environmental cleanup of the Sub Base would require. Additionally much of the facilities at the New London Sub Base, such as the Sub School, do not exist elsewhere and would have to be built. Facilities that do exist in Kings Bay or Norfolk would also have to be expanded. Indeed Norfolk may or may not have a current excess of piers and office space due to a reduced fleet size but the Brac Commission is already reviewing other space in VA to accommodate the closing of both New London Sub Base and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Navy’s projected force structure requirements are also being called into question. Essentially a recent Navy study has revised upward the number of operational Submarines it needs from between 37 and 41 to as many as 45 to 50. That’s only 4 boats less than 54 in service today. Numbers wise there are currently 21 subs based out of Groton including 1 PCU, 13 out of Norfolk including 2 PCUs and 8 SSBNs out of Kings Bay, thats relocating nearly half the submarines on the east coast. If Groton represents such excess capacity why are more than half the SUBLANT Fast Attacks based there? At face value excess pier space in Norfolk doesn't look like a very good reason to move over half the boats and supporting facilities south.

Transformation and network centric warfare are the current go to concepts that the DOD is working on. Basing a number of different services and types of units in one place may help facilitate training for those locally based units but doesn't it also defeat the overall purpose of those concepts? Namely being able to take different units that may be based across a wide geographic area and cross multiple disciplines and have them work together seamlessly.

Other considerations

  • The extent and timing of potential costs and savings, including the number of years, beginning with the date of completion of the closure or realignment, for the savings to exceed the costs.
  • The economic impact on existing communities in the vicinity of military installations.
  • The ability of the infrastructure of both the existing and potential receiving communities to support forces, missions, and personnel.
  • The environmental impact, including the impact of costs related to potential environmental restoration, waste management, and environmental compliance activities.

These other considerations are where the politicians seem to focus their attention, mainly the economic impact. This means votes to them because their constituencies demand they defend the status quo. It’s a no brainer to cite the fact that an employer with a multi-million payroll leaving is going to effect the local economy. Placing too much attention to the lower priorities of the selection criteria and not enough to the Navy’s main justifications could prove fatal. The Navy will defend its position by citing the overall saving the closures will provide to the DOD and additionally cite other communities that have recovered after their bases have closed. For example a Navy Times editorial points to a recent GAO report (PDF) as such an economic justifaction.

If you look close though at the above referenced GAO report you’ll find that many communities that had significant naval base closures have not recovered very well. Here are three examples of facilities that had provided submarine support activity at one time.

Charleston Naval Complex, S.C. -BRAC 1993 -EST jobs lost 6,272 -Recovered jobs 2,797 -Recovery 45%
Guam Naval Complex BRAC 1993 EST jobs lost 2,193 -Recovered jobs 552 -Recovery 25 %
Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Calif. 1993 -EST jobs lost 7,567 -Recovered jobs 1,363 -Recovery 18%

What is Going Where? Below is from the Navy’s Analyses and Recommendations VOL IV (PDF) page 65.

Recommendation for Closure
Submarine Base New London, CT

Close Naval Submarine Base New London, CT. Relocate its assigned submarines, Auxiliary Repair Dock 4 (ARDM-4), and Nuclear Research Submarine 1 (NR-1) along with their dedicated personnel, equipment and support to Submarine Base Kings Bay, GA, and Naval Station Norfolk, VA. Relocate the intermediate submarine repair function to Shore Intermediate Repair Activity Norfolk, at Naval Shipyard Norfolk, VA, and Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, GA. Relocate the Naval Submarine School and Center for Submarine Learning to Submarine Base Kings Bay, GA. Consolidate the Naval Security Group Activity Groton, CT with Naval Security Group Activity Norfolk, VA at Naval Station Norfolk, VA. Consolidate Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory Groton, CT, with Naval Medical Research Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Forest Glenn Annex, MD. Relocate Naval Undersea Medical Institute Groton, CT to Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, and Fort Sam Houston, TX. Consolidate Navy Region Northeast, New London, CT, with Navy Region, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, VA.

The existing berthing capacity at surface/subsurface installations exceeds the capacity required to support the Force Structure Plan. The closure of Submarine Base New London materially contributes to the maximum reduction of excess capacity while increasing the average military value of the remaining bases in this functional area. Sufficient capacity and fleet dispersal is maintained with the East Coast submarine fleet homeports of Naval Station Norfolk and Submarine Base Kings Bay, without affecting operational capability. The intermediate submarine repair function is relocated to Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity Norfolk at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and the Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, GA, in support of the relocating submarines. Consolidating the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory.

The Navy spent 1.3 Billion over 10 years to develop the Submarine Base in Kings Bay GA. and now plans a major expansion to save the Navy of $1.6 billion over 20 years. Also you can't spit in the Tidewater area of VA without hitting something with a MILSPEC tag on it. So this all makes sense to me, how about you?

Update 5/27/05 8:30- Former Submariners Bubblehead and PigBoatSalior have been covering the Sub Base New London closing news pretty heavy lately and have some good posts on the subject. You should swing by their Blogs for some additional info.

1 comment:

PigBoatSailor said...

Excellent, and well thought out post. I agree the New London backers have to start picking apart the Military Value and DoD savings aspects of the decision, rather than focusing on the econmoica impact, if they want to make an impression on the BRAC. Great overall look where it all stands so far.