Thursday, December 22, 2005

Navy Payments for Katrina Loss Questioned

From the Washington Post - Navy Payments for Katrina Loss Questioned

WASHINGTON -- A Navy plan to pay Gulf Coast shipbuilders about $1.7 billion for losses related to damages and construction delays from Hurricane Katrina may overstate the actual costs and could dampen efforts to collect insurance payments, according to a Congressional report.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said Northrop Grumman may be able to collect insurance claims for future increased costs related to labor and overhead. If the government pays now, the report said, the company will have little incentive to negotiate with insurers for those payments.

The Northrop Grumman shipyards in question seem to include those with a recent record of poor performance as I noted here and CDR. Salamander noted here and here. The amounts requested appear to have been all over the place - from the same article:

Navy Assistant Secretary John Young initially requested $2.7 billion to restore the shipyards, replace lost material and get workers back on the job. The Pentagon later asked for a total of $6.6 billion, including $2 billion for shipbuilding. Congress cut the Defense Department funding back to about $5.8 billion in the bill.

The congressional researchers took issue with the Navy's argument that the money is needed immediately, and suggested the government should wait for more accurate cost estimates. Delaying the request, the report said, could also allow insurance negotiations to proceed.

Could the billions requested be to prop up failed shipyards and shipbuilding programs in the form of economic relief that insurance will pay a fair portion of anyway?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Arctic Oil and Submarines

From The Stamford Advocate - Conn. defense funds stalled by Senate's Arctic oil fight

WASHINGTON -- Billions of dollars in federal funds targeted for Connecticut defense firms will sit in limbo as the Senate wrestles over the contentious issue of Arctic oil drilling.

Democrats, including Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, are threatening to filibuster the defense appropriations bill as Congress rushes to finish its work before Christmas. They object to language added to the bill by Republicans that would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Connecticut Democrat lawmakers are in a difficult position, do they unite behind their party and filibuster the $453 billion military spending bill over an Arctic oil drilling provision, or let it pass in favor of their Connecticut constituents in the defense industries.

Both CT Democrat Senators Joe Lieberman and Christopher Dodd spoke out against the ANWR oil drilling provision in the current defense bill. Whereas, Republican Rep. Rob Simmons said this about the defense bill "The bill provides some relief for the unique work force at Electric Boat. I will continue to work in Congress to ensure that good-paying shipbuilding jobs remain in Connecticut." Simmons district includes the Electric Boat Groton shipyard.

In the bill Electric Boat would receive $2.5 billion for an additional Virginia Class nuclear attack submarine and $15 million for the design of a new attack submarine. Electric Boat had recently announced a planned layoff of 2,400 shipyard workers in 2006.

Perhaps if we started purchasing diesel submarines from Europe Lieberman and Dodd could find their way to backing the ANWR provision. Although I don't think ANWR oil drilling belongs in a defense bill I do believe we need a better energy policy than the current no new drilling, no new refinery environmentalist lock. Speaking of energy, the defense bill also includes $3.75 million for Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury CT to develop a molten carbon clean fuel cell generator.

Update 12/20/05: Rhode Island lawmakers add their disapproval to the Defense bill's ANWR provision with Sen. Jack Reed (D) saying "It is a cynical gesture that has delayed approval of this important bill". The bill is important because R.I. firms could gain more than $50 million in the defense bill so I suspect the RI lawmakers to approve the spending bill despite their complaints.

Update 12/21/05: Sen. Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) lost his bid to attach ANWR oil drilling provision to the Defense bill.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sumatra tsunami of Dec 2004 legacy

Submersible surveys of the ocean floor where the December 2004 Sumatra tsunami originated show it is devoid of life.

Sumatra Tsunami (Graphic Source: USGS)

From the Sydney Morning Herald "Shocked scientists find tsunami legacy: a dead sea"

A "DEAD zone" devoid of life has been discovered at the epicentre of last year's tsunami four kilometres beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Scientists taking part in a worldwide marine survey made an 11-hour dive at the site five months after the disaster.

They were shocked to find no sign of life around the epicentre, which opened up a 1000-metre chasm on the ocean floor.

Instead, there was nothing but eerie emptiness. The powerful lights of the scientists' submersible vehicle, piercing through the darkness, showed no trace of anything living.

The south Asian tsunami claimed more than 270,000 lives and created one of the largest relief efforts in recent history. A year later, the "fast acting" UN is having its second meeting on setting up a regional tsunami warning system. Gallery of tsunami photo can be found here.

Some scientists think that a US east coast mega tsunami is possible. Maybe someday the US eastern seaboard could its own tsunami warning system.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Submariner Santa (SS) - Update

I 've received a few emails on my previous post about Santa wearing Dolphins and being Qualified in Submarines so I decided to provide an update. This update may raise more questions than it answers.

I started the previous post by saying that it was the USS Charlotte's (SSN 766) recent visit to the North Pole that had me wondering "Does Santa wear Dolphins". One proud parent of an SSN766 crew member had this to say in an email to me:

"My son went to the North Pole on the Charlotte. I asked him about Santa, but all he would tell me was "Loose lips sink ships." I could tell from the tone of his voice, he saw something. Maybe some day it will be declassified, and he can tell me all about it. "

I hope this person doesn't mind I quoted their email but it appears Santa has some sort of "need to know" clearance and may be working on an upcoming operation (NORAD video link). It appears submarine sailors know something but are keeping it silent while others service members aren't so silent.

Additional pictorial evidence of Submariner Santa or Mr. (SS) has shown up in my email box as well.

Santa has silver Dolphins?

This new evidence has raised a bit of a controversy. It appears Santa's Dolphins are silver making him a "white hat" enlisted type although some may question this observation. This doesn't reflect poorly on those who wear gold dolphins, it just means Santa has a sense of humor about his own chain of command. Why else would he send his helpers to Santa's North Pole Academy which even has a Moscow branch. We all know that Academy graduates qualified in submarines usually wear the gold Dolphins.

There you have it a Secret Santa who may wear silver dolphins and not gold. To steal a line "we present the facts you decide".

Happy Holidays - LL

Friday, December 09, 2005

Does Santa wear Dolphins?

A recent photo I saw at TheSubReport of the USS Charlotte (SSN 766) at the North Pole combined with the approaching holidays has got me wondering; “Does Santa wear Dolphins?”.

Using Lubber’s Line investigative tools, google, beer and memory, I decided to document my suspicions. The accumulative evidence is overwhelming:

First take the coincidence of names, there is a Submarine named the SANTA Fe (SSN 763) and a famous Submarine harbor in Guam located in the village of SANTA Rita. Could these names be in honor of that golly old elf?

Second is the fact that submarines are constantly visiting the North Pole and are sometimes greeted by St. Nick himself. The pictorial evidence (Photos Source: US Navy) below is ill refutable.

Santa Greeting the USS Hawkbill (SSN 666)

Navigator of the USS Connecticut (SSN 21) asking Santa for a new gyrocompass.
(Elves can be seen in background)

Santa Claus was the first to celebrate the arrival at the North Pole of the NAUTILUS and there has even been foreign news reports of other Subs visiting Santa.

Occasionally Santa will return the favor, come down from the northern latitudes, and visit his bubblehead friends. Although in some cases he should get the proper clearances first.

Not to miss a good sale Santa hitches a ride on one.

Submariner's even write poetry about Santa visits.

Then there are those unique Santa attributes:
Never heard or seen, in the dead of night he uses stealth to deliver his payload.
He can climb up bridge trunk or the inside of a chimney with ease.
He is rarely seen out of uniform with spit shined boots and a distinctive red poopy suit.
Mid-rats seems to be his favorite meal.
His year is filled with intel ops, checking on naughty and nice activities.
If you shave his beard and give him a crew cut he looks like the COB.

At the end of year the elves get grumpy and overworked in preparation of a ritual they've nicknamed ORSE (Old Red Suit's Excursion) or the alternate TRE (Tree Receptacles Evolution).

But the true clincher for me was the fact that submarine escape training required you to learn the Santa song and sing Ho, Ho, Ho all the way to the surface.

Santa's new red submersible safety suit (Ho, Ho, Ho)

I hope all this evidence is convincing because, some day, when my young son asks me the inevitable question, "Dad is there really a Santa?" being honest I'll have to say:

"I can nether confirm or deign the existence of Santa, but if he is real, I think he wears Dolphins".

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dec 7, 1941 - A Submariner's Response

After the Imperial Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941 the United States was at a loss on how to retaliate. For months the American Navy was on the defensive and reeling from the loss of so many of it's capital ships.

Over four months later on April 18, 1942 the response came in the form of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

USS Hornet launch of B-25 for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

It was an WWI submariner Capt. Francis S. Low (former commander of the S-12) who conceived of the idea to takeoff heavily laden bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Captain Low got the idea a month after Pearl Harbor, when he saw Army bombers perform simulated bomb runs over the outline of a carrier deck painted on a runway. An example of intuition and creative thinking by a submariner.

An Army bomber flown off a Navy carrier conceived by a pig boat sailor and executed three months after the idea is presented, now that's innovative warfighting.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Between Two Worlds – Surface/Submerged

Because of a corporate merger, I have been away from the blog for a week on a business trip teaching my replacements at the new main office in Minnesota. Approaching unemployment had me feeling a little introspective about career changing events and I remembered two minor events in my service on submarines that shaped my feelings about being at sea. I thought I would share some these personal contradictions.

Surfaced heading for the deep:

A person at sea can feel insignificant or small compared to the vastness of the ocean’s expanse and depths. I had such a feeling aboard the USS Alabama SSBN 731 on a cold and clear midwinter’s night in 1985.

We were somewhere near the end of a progression of builder’s trials before commissioning, at sea, on the surface and off the Southern New England coast. Having just come off watch I requested permission to go to the bridge for some air. With permission granted, I climbed up to the bridge and into a different world.

On the Bridge, the temperature was significantly colder than down below in the control room. The below freezing temps weren’t uncomfortable but invigorating after a long maneuvering watch on the Radar and ESM. Once topside I scanned the horizon west of us for the fishing trawlers I had tracked while on watch earlier. We had passed a small group of trawlers around the 50+ fathom curve, probably fishing the moraines and ledges that run for miles out beyond Block Island. The only sign I could see was a single white masthead light flickering out of sight as we moved away and further towards our dive point.

It was a nearly clear moonless night and the canopy of stars seemed to stretch to infinity. It’s hard to describe the extent of the night sky when there’s no city or street lights to obscure or diminish the view, but if you have ever been far out at sea or in the wilderness at night you know what I mean. The only other light source outside the ship was the blue-green glow of millions of bioluminescent sea creatures disturbed by the boat’s movement through the ocean. A glowing greenish frothing wake trailed off behind us in a gentle arch towards the western horizon. Occasionally the bow pressure wave would produce miniature flashes as the ships motion forward excited these dinoflagellates.

Other than orders here wasn’t much conversation going on between the bridge watch standers. Everyone seemed to be just taking it all in.

What struck me was the contrast, in one moment I could step back into the cold, feel small, and alone surrounded by the vastness of the ocean and night sky. The next I could move over the bridge trunk, feel the warm air rising up, hear my shipmates busy below and feel the power of the ship pushing through the sea. A cocoon of steel and technology soon to disappear into the depths of the cold vastness of the sea.

At that moment, I was a lifer ready to sign the re-enlistment papers for another hitch.

Submerged looking to the surface:

I heard that the Navy did a study a while back and found that colors or the lack of can have an effect on an individuals mood and mental state. From personal experience, I felt that was true even before I heard of the study.

On the Trident boats, we had lots of colors, different decks and passageways had different colored paneling, orange, blue, green, red. Not so on the old 640 class boomers. My first boat had basically two colors battleship gray for the equipment and a tan color they called mushroom on almost everything else.

Towards the end of a routine and boring boomer patrol we were having our weekly 4 hour field day. I had just finished cleaning behind the BCP, cleanest cableways on the boat, and was getting ready to secure from field day when I realized both scopes were still up. The quartermasters had for some reason decided to clean the bottom of the periscope wells that field day.

We were doing about four knots submerged with the scopes still completely underwater. I decided to take a quick periscope liberty before going down to the mess decks for lunch. After getting permission from the Officer of the Deck I stepped up to the scope and looked out into the underwater world.

There wasn’t much to see, far from land it was a sunny midday somewhere in the warmer reaches of the Atlantic and the water was crystal clear. I aimed the periscope elevation as high as it would go and peered at a translucent surface of brilliant blue. It reminded me of lying at the bottom of a swimming pool as a kid and looking skyward.

Then pointing the scope aft I slowly panned the elevation down toward the missile deck. The colors progressively went from bright blue to blue-green to blue to deep blue and eventually pitch black. Where the missile deck and aft end of the sub should have been was blackness, I couldn’t see the submarine.

From my two-minute periscope liberty, the sense of blackness where I existed and the brilliant color and light of the surface made me aware that making patrols had an effect on me that I had not anticipated. After four patrols I did a split sea tour to new construction for a change of pace less routine and more daylight.

Changing Course:

Both experiences, although not profound, in some way affected me. I always seek some form of adventure but suspect that what may seem routine to me may not be ordinary.

Thanks for reading my self-indulgent posting. -LL