Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Trident Sinking Navy's Surface Ships

Can you hear the sound of the klaxon and the command to abandon ship??? Or perhaps it should be "battle stations" as senior naval staff fight over what surface ships will be funded (or cut) as the Ohio Class Replacement program busts the Navy's shipbuilding budget. The following article is likely the opening salvo in what could become a protracted struggle over which programs (and which ships) will be built (or not) "'during the period of construction of the Ohio replacement.'"

Nowhere in this current conversation on Navy shipbuilding is there any mention of the Navy's rationale for building 12 submarines to replace the current Trident fleet (beyond the existing party line - "strategic nuclear deterrence"). The time for this conversation and debate is NOW! It is time to abandon Trident!!!


Navy Cancelled New Destroyer Flight Due to Ohio Replacement Submarine Costs

By Sam LaGrone
Published July 14, 2014 in USNI News

USS Truxtun (DDG-103) on July 9, 2014. US Navy Photo
The looming hit to the shipbuilding budget from the Navy’s plan to build 12 new nuclear ballistic missile submarines resulted in the cancellation of a fourth flight of Arleigh Burke destroyers (DDG-51) as well as the controversial plan to layup 11 Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers (CG-47), the navy’s chief shipbuilder told a congressional panel in a recent hearing on cruiser and destroyer modification.

The shifts in the Navy’s large surface combatants come as the $100 billion bill for the 12 new boomers begin to take up more and more of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget — leaving less and less for other shipbuilding programs.

From 2021 to 2035, the service’s estimated shipbuilding budget will rise to about $24 billion a year at the peak of the Ohio replacement program, almost double the service’s traditional yearly outlays.

One of the largest future problems for the surface forces is how to coordinate the air defense of the carrier strike group — a role built into the aging Ticonderogas and not a native function of existing Arleigh Burkes.

“We need an air defense commander with deploying battle groups,” Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA), told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces in a Thursday hearing. “11 carriers, 11 carrier battle groups, 11 air defense commanders.”

Now, the air defense commander is the skipper of accompanying cruiser. The ship’s combat information center (CIC) has room for consoles and a staff of three to four for the carrier protection role.

“Our cruisers are commanded by a captain with a more senior staff on the ship and more individuals dedicated to the planning and execution of the air defense mission for the carrier strike group,” Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, the outgoing director of surface warfare (N96) for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) told the panel. “That’s really how we drive that requirement for the cruisers and the air defense commander on the ship.”

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea
(CG-58) and USS George Washington (CVN-77) on July 2, 2014.
US Navy Photo
Until the current budget, the follow-on to the air defense commander role was to be filled with a new flight of Arleigh Burke that would be built to fill the air defense commander role, Stackley said.

“We need to recapitalize those [cruisers] with a future ship class, either an upgrade to a DDG-51 — a Flight IV type of ship — or a cruiser,” Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA), told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces in a Thursday hearing. “We do not have the ability to do that during the period of construction of the Ohio replacement.”

Including an air defense commander capability on the upcoming Flight III version of the Arleigh Burke is unlikely given the limited margin remaining in the ship once the planned Air and Missile Defense Radar is installed, USNI News understands.

Absent a Flight IV and the next future surface combatant not due to start construction until 2028, the Navy wants to keep the cruisers that it has.

In February, the Navy proposed to layup half of its cruiser force in in a cost savings plan that would preserve the air defense component of the carrier strike group (CSG) and reduce manpower and operations and maintenance cost of the total 22 ship force to the tune of $4.7 billion.

The 11 ships would all go in layup by Fiscal Year 2016 and would come out of layup one at a time, receive a modernization upgrade to extend the cruisers into the 2040s and likewise the cruiser air defense commander role.

The plan has met resistance in Congress. Last month the House Appropriations Committee limited instructed the Navy to sideline no more than two Ticonderogas a year starting in Fiscal Year 2016 and have no more than six in lay up at any one given time.


Original source URL:  http://news.usni.org/2014/07/14/navy-cancelled-new-destroyer-flight-due-ohio-replacement-submarine-costs

Breaking Bad: The SSBN(X) Version

Finally a senior official in the U.S. Navy has uttered the word "unsustainable" in reference to funding the extraordinarily expensive OHIO Class replacement submarines. Of course, that hasn't altered the Navy's plans in the least (it's still living in a Cold War Nuclear Deterrence world!!!). It's still full steam ahead for a weapons system that can never be used, will continue to create a global nuclear proliferation nightmare, and put any possible hopes for cooperative global disarmament efforts on hold for who knows how many lifetimes. Read all about it below in this article from Breaking Defense.

"All bad things must come to an end," especially TRIDENT!!!

Navy Finally Admits It Can’t Afford Fleet, Esp. New SSBNs


Originally published in Breaking Defense on July 08, 2014

WASHINGTON: “Unsustainable.” That’s the Navy’s own official assessment of the spending rates required to keep the fleet large and modern enough to do its missions. For the service to state this in writing ratchets up not just the rhetoric but the likelihood of future budget battles in the Pentagon and on the Hill — especially over the immensely expensive program to replace aging Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs), which the Navy desperately wants someone else to pay for.

Every year, the Navy publishes a 30-year shipbuilding plan. Every year, both partisan and neutral observers deride it as fiscally unrealistic: “The way you fund the shipbuilding plan is fantasyland,” House seapower subcommittee chairman Randy Forbes once told me. But this year, for the first time, the Navy plan itself admits it can’t be done.

Senior admirals and officials have been increasingly candid in recent months about the mismatch between the ships they want to build and the money they’ll have to build them. But they’ve never before been quite this blunt, not in an official report to Congress.

“The Navy’s started to be a lot more blunt when [Rear] Admiral [Richard] Breckenridge testified before HASC last fall,” one Hill staffer told me. “At the time we thought he was leaning forward, but eight months later, it seems to be a consensus issue” among Navy leaders.

Last year’s report, submitted along with the 2014 budget request, said blandly that “the Department [of the Navy] will encounter several challenges in executing this shipbuilding plan.” In stark contrast, this year’s report – sent to Congress months late, on July 1st – says bluntly that “it requires funding at an unsustainable level, particularly between FY25 and FY34.”

In particular, the new report continues, “the DON can only afford the SSBN procurement costs with significant increases in our top-line or by having the SSBN funded from sources that do not result in any reductions to the DON’s resourcing level.”

Navy boosters like Rep. Forbes have long argued that the at-sea leg of the nuclear triad is so important – and so expensive – that the Defense Department as a whole should bear the cost, not just the Navy budget. Admirals have said so as well. But to make the argument in the official shipbuilding plan amounts to a declaration of war against the traditional division of the budget among the four armed services.

What was unthinkable not too long ago, however, is now up for a vote in Congress. “I think we moved the ball with the SSBN special funding line,” the staffer told me. Despite bitter differences on many other issues, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have approved language creating a “national sea-based deterrence fund” outside the regular Navy budget to pay for the Ohio replacement. (The House passed the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, but the full Senate has yet to vote).

The Ohio replacement isn’t the Navy’s only problem, though. With the new SSBN, the Navy estimates – arguably over-optimistically – that it will require an average of $17.2 billion a year for shipbuilding from 2020 through 2035, one-third more than the recent years’ average of $13 billion. But even without the Ohio Replacement Program, the plan admits, they’d still be a couple billion over, at $14-15 billion a year. What’s more, while the Ohio replacement cost peaks after 2025, the costs of replacing other aging ships spike earlier, in the early 2020s.

The problem is the Navy is still living off the Reagan buildup. “Most of our current fleet is comprised of ships being built between 1980 and 1990,” the plan says. With most classes prone to wear out after about 30 to 35 years of service at sea, that means “block obsolescence” and mass retirements from now through 2025. “These retiring ships will need to be recapitalized at rates that are unaffordable in today’s environment.”

Particularly under pressure is the Navy’s cruiser fleet, the aging CG-47 Ticonderoga class. In the past, the service has proposed retiring seven older “Ticos” to save money, only to be shot down brutally by Congress. In this year’s budget, however, the Navy suggests semi-mothballing 11 of the 22 cruisers for years, then returning them to service, with modernized equipment, when the other 11 retire. This “innovative approach,” the plan says, “will enable us to spread retirements across longer periods and mitigate the impact of block retirement.”

Republicans, however, remain deeply skeptical that the Navy will ever bring the cruisers back. The Democrat-led SASC approved the mothball plan, but the Republican-lead HASC did not. That sets up a conference battle over whether to keep the ships – and where to get the money to keep them when sequestration is set to slash the budget.


Source article URL:  http://breakingdefense.com/2014/07/mission-unsustainable-navy-officially-admits-it-cant-afford-future-fleet/

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Doom from the Depths: Coming Your Way!!!

Lawrence S. Wittner, PhD, who wrote Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, has now written a concise, clear argument against building a new generation of ballistic missile submarines.

Published earlier today on the History News Network, Wittner's essay makes a compelling case for scrapping plans for New Trident. The US Government's current quest for nuclear weapons modernization is sending a clear message to other nations; and they are certainly (based on the evidence) following our example.

Wittner states what should be obvious: "Why not act now, before this arms race to disaster goes any further?"


Do We Really Want a New Generation of Nuclear-Armed Submarines?

by Lawrence S. Wittner

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, "What’s Going On at UAardvark?"

Ever since the horrors of submarine warfare became a key issue during World War I, submarines have had a sinister reputation. And the building of new, immensely costly, nuclear-armed submarines by the U.S. government and others may soon raise the level of earlier anxiety to a nuclear nightmare.

This spring, the U.S. government continued its steady escalation of research and development funding for the replacement of its current nuclear submarine fleet through one of the most expensive shipbuilding undertakings in American history -- the phasing-in, starting in 2031, of 12 new SSBN(X) submarines. Each of these nuclear-powered vessels, the largest submarines the Navy has ever built, will carry up to 16 Trident ballistic missiles fitted with multiple nuclear warheads. All in all, this new submarine fleet is expected to deploy about 1,000 nuclear warheads -- 70 percent of U.S. government’s strategic nuclear weapons.

From the standpoint of the U.S. military, nuclear-armed submarines are very attractive. Capable of being placed in hidden locations around the world and remaining submerged for months at a time, they are less vulnerable to attack than are ground-launched or air-launched nuclear weapons, the other two legs of the “nuclear triad.” Moreover, they can wreak massive death and destruction upon “enemy” nations quite rapidly. The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review of 2014 explained that the U.S. Navy’s future fleet would “deliver the required presence and capabilities and address the most important war-fighting scenarios.”

From the standpoint of civilians, the new Trident submarine fleet is somewhat less appealing. Strategic nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons in world history, and the use of only one of them over a large city could annihilate millions of people instantly. If the thousands of such weapons available to the U.S. government and other governments were employed in war, they would incinerate most of the planet, reducing it to charred rubble. Thereafter, radioactivity, disease, nuclear winter, and starvation would end most remaining life on earth.

Of course, even in an accident, such weapons could do incredible damage. And, over the years, nuclear-armed submarines have been in numerous accidents. In February 2009, a British and a French submarine, both nuclear-powered and armed with nuclear missiles, collided underwater in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the two vessels were fitted with state-or-the-art detection equipment, neither spotted the other until it was too late to avert their collision. Fortunately, they were moving very slowly at the time, and the damage was limited (though enormously expensive to repair). But a sharper collision could have released vast quantities of radioactive fuel and flung their deadly nuclear warheads across the ocean floor.

In addition, when the dangers are so immense, it is worth keeping in mind that people, like the high-tech nuclear submarines, are not always infallible or reliable. Submarine crews -- living in cramped quarters, bored, and isolated for months at a time -- could well be as plagued by the poor morale, dishonesty, drug use, and incompetence found among their counterparts at land-based nuclear missile facilities.

Taxpayers, particularly, might be concerned about the unprecedented expense of this new submarine fleet. According to most estimates, building the 12 SSBN(X) submarines will cost about $100 billion. And there will be additional expenditures for the missiles, nuclear warheads, and yearly maintenance, bringing the total tab to what the Pentagon estimated, three years ago, at $347 billion. The expected cost is so astronomical, in fact, that the Navy, frightened that this expenditure will prevent it from paying for other portions of its shipbuilding program, has insisted that the money come from a special fund outside of its budget. This spring, Congress took preliminary steps along these lines.

People might be forgiven for feeling some bewilderment at this immense U.S. government investment in a new nuclear weapons system -- one slated to last well into the 2070s. After all, back in April 2009, amid much fanfare, President Barack Obama proclaimed “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” This was followed by a similar commitment to a nuclear weapons-free world made by the members of the UN Security Council, including five nuclear-armed nations, among them the United States. But, as this nuclear weapons buildup indicates, such commitments seem to have been tossed down the memory hole.

In arguing for the new Trident submarine fleet, U.S. military leaders have pointed to the fact that other nations are maintaining or building nuclear-armed submarines. And they are correct about that. France and Britain are maintaining their current fleets, although Britain is on the verge of beginning the construction of a new one with U.S. assistance; Israel reportedly possesses one; China is apparently ready to launch one in 2014; India is set to launch its own in 2015; and Pakistan might be working to develop one. Meanwhile, Russia is modernizing its own submarine ballistic missile fleet.

Even so, the current U.S. nuclear-armed submarine fleet is considerably larger than any developed or being developed by other nations. Also, the U.S. government’s new Trident fleet, now on the drawing boards, is slated to be 50 percent larger than the new, modernized Russian fleet and, in addition, far superior technologically. Indeed, other nations currently turning out nuclear-armed submarines – like China and Russia -- are reportedly launching clunkers.

In this context, there is an obvious alternative to the current race to deploy the world’s deadliest weapons in the ocean depths. The nuclear powers could halt their building of nuclear-armed submarines and eliminate their present nuclear-armed submarine fleets. This action would not only honor their professed commitment to a nuclear weapons-free world, but would save their nations from making enormous expenditures and from the possibility of experiencing a catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude.

Why not act now, before this arms race to disaster goes any further?


Original Source URL at History News Network: http://hnn.us/article/156221 

Editor's Note: The blog post title is the original title given to this article by Wittner. 

Trident, Jobs AND Transition... or, Moving The Money!!!

Every community should have sustainable, long-term, good jobs now and for the future. Every level of government has a role to play to make that become a reality.
That statement opens a July 2nd Opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about transitioning from an economy dependent on "defense" jobs to a local and sustainable economy. Although this opening does not mention the role of citizens in this process, the article makes it clear that local citizen engagement is key to making transition work.

Whether tanks or Trident, the essential process is the same in terms of local, citizen engagement in the process. Of course, in the case of Trident, we have a very steep hill to climb. There is no lack of funding to keep the Trident nuclear weapons system functioning 24/7 patrolling the seas ready to launch its Trident II D-5 missiles bristling with thermonuclear warheads at any location on the globe.

Therefore, the local economy is well stimulated by nuclear weapons spending, and there is little incentive to change. Just here in Kitsap County, tens of thousands of people depend on Trident to support themselves and their families. It will require a significant paradigm shift in our thinking about nuclear weapons to enable us to consider the utility (or lack thereof) of the Trident nuclear weapons system and ultimately make the important transition to local, civilian, sustainable economy.

What might the land where Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific look like in a future without Trident? What local, sustainable industries might this valuable land bordering Hood Canal support? How do we create the critical paradigm shift so necessary to create an opening for abolition and ultimately a local, sustainable economy???

Judith LeBlanc, Field Director for Peace Action shared the July 2nd opinion piece by email. Here is what she had to say:
The oped is the prelude to the efforts to utilize the Office of Economic Adjustment grant in Oshkosh as a public engagement opportunity on defense industry transition. The author participated in the Move the Money training conducted by Peace Action and National Priorities Project and is a part of the core organizing to develop a statewide strategy on defense industry transition. 
It will also be printed in the Capitol Times in Madison and reprinted in a regional labor publication. 
The oped and the planning underway in WI coming out of the Move the Money Training is an example of how relationship building, a proactive response to a local jobs crisis and a national effort to begin to answer the question what comes next when we do succeed in cutting the Pentagon budget come together. The next steps are being discussed: possible referenda, building support for a bi-partisan support for a state bill to establish "defense transition" commission as well as continued public education through local events along side of bird dogging during the midterm elections. 
The layoffs at Preisler's plant were not from cuts to the Pentagon budget. They were due to contracts ending from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. But it shows how we can join with labor now to plot the steps for a just transition from dependency on defense contracts for good paying union jobs to a local sustainable economy.
When it comes to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on Trident and the hundreds of billions to be spent on New Trident, is this money spent on weapons intended (by their very design) for omnicide a good investment??? May we, as citizens join together to say NO To NEW TRIDENT and YES to LIFE and LOCAL, SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIES!!!

Click here to read Future of the State Workforce, By Joe Preisler,  former president of UAW Local 578

Source URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/the-future-of-states-workforce-b99303692z1-265610181.html