Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas came early this year (for defense contractors in Connecticut)

By now we've all heard the news about the House of Representatives passing the massive 2015 National Defense Authorization Act last week; now it just has to clear the Senate (should be child's play). Hey, it's just $585 billion (in U.S. taxpayer dollars!!!).

Connecticut is a recipient of a decent portion of this largess, giving special meaning to "Made in Connecticut." The Connecticut Mirror ran an article on the bill that spelled out the shell game that is being played with the OHIO Class Replacement Program (New Trident) that will be built in Connecticut.
...a special gift is the bill's establishment of a "National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund" that would allow the Pentagon to put as much as $3.5 billion in a special account, outside the Navy's normal shipbuilding budget. It would pay for a new class of submarines that could be built by Electric Boat in Groton. 
The special fund allows the Pentagon to pay for these expensive ships without appearing to bust the Navy shipbuilding budget.
The author states that building New Trident with that nifty new slush fund with the fancy name will only give the appearance of not busting the Navy's shipbuilding budget. Construction of 12 New Tridents will ultimately cost approximately $100 billion; that's one big slush fund!

AND, this alternative funding method had been used at once before (for another very special program!!!):
The establishment of the fund is a tactic that hasn't been used since the 1980s when former President Ronald Reagan created a similar way to pay for his "Star Wars" missile defense program.
Now that is truly telling! The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was foisted on President Reagan by Edward Teller. The probable effectiveness of SDI was highly questionable, and the program was ultimately scaled back significantly. Ironically, the effectiveness of continuing to deploy ballistic missile submarines 25 years after the end of the Cold War could easily be questioned, unless you're the COO of the Lexington Institute ("a think tank that promotes defense contractors and large Pentagon budgets")
The Ohio-class sub is the most important warship in the entire fleet because it is meant to deter a nuclear war," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute.
While it can be argued that strategic nuclear deterrence worked throughout the Cold War (with many a near-miss... phew!!!), we now live in an era of non-state actors (terrorists), potential failed states, regional political instability and potential instabilities related to climate change; it's an increasingly tense world folks. We should face the fact that deterrence is an outdated concept in today's world. As veteran cold-war policy makers Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, George Shultz, and Sam Nunn said in a January 2007 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:
Nuclear deterrence is a far less persuasive strategic response to a world of potential regional nuclear arms races and nuclear terrorism than it was to the cold war.
Of course, there has been no debate as to the need to replace the undeniably aging fleet of Trident submarines. We just keep hearing the repetition of the need to maintain our strategic deterrent. As it stands, it's not about whether or not we will build New Trident but rather who will build it.
The special fund was proposed by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., who heads the seapower subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and whose district is home to Newport News Shipbuilding. 
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, whose district includes Electric Boat and Naval Submarine Base New London is also a longtime advocate of the plan. The New London base would be protected by another provision of the bill which prohibits funding another round of base closings.
With dueling shipyards (and their Representatives) competing for the mammoth OHIO Class Replacement, it's definitely looking like Christmas came early to Connecticut one shipyard or another. This is one those moments when I actually want to see the Grinch come and steal the presents!

Editor's Note: The article (and all quotes) cited in this post are from Defense Bill Has Billions For Subs, Planes, Copters Made In Connecticut, By ANA RADELAT, The Connecticut Mirror, December 8, 2014, Source URL: http://www.ctnow.com/business/hc-ctm-defense-bill-connecticut-spending-20141208,0,871572.story

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rep. Courtney: Funding New Trident by Hook or by Crook

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday, and it included some major pork ($1.3 for FY15) for General Dynamics Electric Boat, which is engaged in research and development for the OHIO Class Replacement boats and will, of course, build them as well.

Launch tubes for New Trident built by General Dynamics Electric Boat

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Electric Boat (in an article in TheDay.com) is quoted as saying, "This year's NDAA is another strong show of support for eastern Connecticut's submarine industrial base and our top-notch workforce..." Courtney spoke with The Day and gave a "rundown" on how the NDAA affects his Congressional district. Here is what he says about New Trident (OHIO Class Replacement):
The defense bill allots $1.3 billion for the Ohio-class replacement program, which replaces the Ohio-class boats with ballistic-missile submarines, the newest class of submarines. 
The funds will come primarily through Navy Research and Development, but some funding will also come from the U.S. Department of Energy and military construction account. 
Electric Boat will perform research and development work for this new class of submarine, which is scheduled for a 2021 construction start. 
The bill also includes the creation of a separate national sea-based deterrence fund to pay for the Ohio-class program, something lawmakers including Courtney have talked about for a few years. Courtney said the defense bill makes the fund "a matter of law ... and sets up the authority for it to be funded starting next year." 
The defence bill gives the U.S. Department of Defense the authority to move up to $3.5 billion from unused 2014, 2015 and 2016 funding to start the sea-based deterrence fund. 
If the program were paid for out of the Navy's shipbuilding account, Courtney said, "it would suffocate" funding for other programs like surface ships and the Virginia-class submarines.
Overall, the Ohio-class replacement program is a $95 billion endeavor.
What is particularly noteworthy is the "national sea-based deterrence fund" that creates a funding stream for New Trident outside of the existing Navy shipbuilding account, thereby reducing the tension that was created by the competition for shipbuilding dollars. New Trident would have created a huge dent in the Navy's shipbuilding budget, effectively sinking many conventional shipbuilding projects.

This is essentially a huge shell game. The proponents of New Trident are full steam ahead, and damn the illogic of re-building an unnecessary Cold War nuclear weapons system (nearly a quarter century after the end of the Cold War).

Source URL for article cited in this post: http://www.theday.com/military/20141204/electric-boat-a-beneficiary-of-defense-bill-priorities

House passes Defense Reauthorization: Trident gets full funding

The House of Representatives passed the massive ($584 billion) FY 2015 Defense Reauthorization Bill. Of that money, $1.8 billion (fully funded) will go to continuing research and development for the next generation ballistic missile submarine to replace the current Trident (OHIO Class) fleet. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, says (among other things) that this bill "strengthens our economy in Eastern Connecticut." Of course, what Courtney avoids talking about is the huge risk to the U.S. economy, and in fact the global economy, from any use of nuclear weapons.

Building a new generation of Trident as well as other new nuclear weapons systems practically guarantees a future in which at some point these horrific weapons will be used. At that point, all bets are off. Depending on scope of use as well as the geographic area(s) directly and indirectly affected, regional economies and the global economy will be affected.  

But we should digress for a moment from economic factors, which so many supporters (particularly those in Congress) like to cite in pushing new nuclear weapons systems. Beyond the economic devastation of even a limited nuclear war, the effects on the environment that sustains civilization will be unimaginable. Among them will likely be limited or total collapse of civilization as we know it.

If our members of Congress truly represent the people, they need to think beyond short term economic stimulus for their districts and begin to look at the long-term good of the people who (we hope) will be here after we have gone (hopefully leaving things a little better rather than much worse).

Think about that as you read the following article announcing this past week's House vote. What are our priorities???


House passes $584B Defense Reauthorization Bill, includes $5.9B for sub construction

By Adam Benson
The Norwich Bulletin
(860) 908-7004
Posted Dec. 4, 2014 @ 9:39 pm

Electric Boat's multi-billion dollar contract for the continued construction of Virginia-class submarines was approved by the U.S. House Thursday as part of a $584 billion defense reauthorization bill, winning praise from regional economic development officials and the state's congressional delegation.

The measure, which sailed through the House on a 300-119 vote, heads to the Senate next week where it is expected to be approved.

“The kind jobs that come from producing the most sophisticated vessels in the world create an enormous amount of wealth for this area,” Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President and CEO Tony Sheridan said. “We are a maritime community, and this kind of support from the federal government continues a long-standing tradition in Eastern Connecticut.”

Highlights of the bill include the authorization of $5.9 billion for the Virginia class submarine program, including $3.6 billion for two boats in 2015. The measure also fully supports the Block IV multi-year submarine contract completed earlier this year, which calls for 10 submarines to be built over the next five years.

A $1.3 billion budgetary request to continue research and development of the Ohio class ballistic missile submarine replacement is also included in the bill, as is $133 million for the continued development of the Virginia class payload module.

“Despite a challenging fiscal climate, this bill maintains strong investments in our undersea fleet, including continued two-a-year production of Virginia-class submarines, and full funding for the Ohio replacement program and the Virginia payload module,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “The unrivaled work of the men and women of Electric Boat has inspired confidence in these programs for the future. This bill underscores our commitment to maintaining the best submarine fleet in the world, and strengthens our economy in Eastern Connecticut.”

And, if the Senate adopts the legislateon in its current form, there would be no base realignment and closure round in 2017.

Chris Zendan, a spokesman for the Naval submarine base in Groton, said Thursday the Navy doesn’t comment on pending legislation.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. said he is ready to support the bill in the Senate.
“I will fight strongly for approval of this very significant measure for Connecticut and our national security when it reaches the Senate next week,” Blumenthal said. “I am particularly pleased the Congress has recognized the contributions made by our Connecticut workforce to our national security by approving the products and weapons systems made in our state.”

John Beauregard, executive director of the Franklin-based Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, said keeping the region’s military sector operating at existing levels helps stabilize an economy that has been gaining traction in recent months.

Original article sourceURL: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20141204/News/141209749#ixzz3LAMaqIbX

Monday, December 1, 2014

Eric Shclosser: Time for "honest appraisal of the risks and benefits of...Trident"

Journalist Eric Schlosser broke new ground with his 2013 book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. Through his careful and exhaustive research on nuclear weapons for this book Schlosser has become a respected voice regarding nuclear weapons safety and policy.

In the article below in The Herald Scotland, Schlosser says (among other things) that "There should be an honest appraisal of the risks and benefits of having Trident..." Although Schlosser was speaking to a Sottish audience, he was obviously speaking to the subject of Trident on both sides of the Atlantic. Both are relics of the Cold War, and supporters justify their continued existence (and the building of replacement fleets) using Cold War rationale.

We can only hope that Schlosser will continue to travel and speak on the topic, bringing it to the forefront of public discourse on both sides of The Pond so that we can have an open and honest dialogue about why we need to continue spending trillions of dollars on weapons that we can never use and that present such huge risks to humanity.

Note: Text in the article highlighted in BOLD is my emphasis.


Eric Schlosser: there should be an honest appraisal of the risks and benefits of Trident

Teddy Jamieson
Senior Features Writer
Herald Scotland, heraldscotland.com
Tuesday 25 November 2014

On the morning of September 19 this year Scotland woke to find that, among other things, it was still a nuclear state.

The choice to stay within the United Kingdom meant that Faslane remains home to Britain's nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future.

But with the Trident missile programme up for renewal in 2016 the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser believes it should remain a live issue. "I have to say whether you support them or you oppose them, nuclear weapons should be an issue of great concern and interest in Scotland and I hope there's a very vigorous debate about them because they're in your backyard," Schlosser told Herald Scotland.

A british Trident submarine at its home port, Faslane, Scotland
Anyone who has read Schlosser's latest book, Command and Control; The Story of Nuclear Weapons and the Illusion of Safety, can understand why. Schlosser who made his name with Fast Food Nation, his expose of the fast food industry in the United States, has spent the last six years looking at the record of nuclear weapons in the United States since their invention until the present day. Between 1950 and 1968 alone he discovered at least 1,200 nuclear weapons were involved in significant accidents. A single safety switch prevented the detonation of a hydrogen bomb in Faro, North Carolina, in 1961. And that record of accidents continues to the present day.

"There's this mentality that because it hasn't happened it can't happen and that's just a fallacy," Schlossser says. "You could say because of the laws of probability it is more likely to happen now than ever before."

Schlosser, who is based in New York, is travelling to Vienna this week to talk at an international conference on nuclear weapons. Speaking from his home he said that the message he intends to give is that nuclear weapons are complex, dangerous machines, "and, like all machines, they go wrong".

"It seems that human beings are much better at creating these systems than controlling them, understanding them or knowing what to do when they go wrong."

The American military is currently struggling with aging nuclear weapons and poor morale among those looking after them.

 A U.S. Trident submarine 
Last week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has now stepped down, announced that The Pentagon will have to spend $10bn to make emergency fixes to its nuclear weapons infrastructure which is also suffering from broken and missing equipment, poor leadership and inadequate training and staffing.

"There's been incredible complacency in the management of nuclear weapons," Schlosser argues. "They're just not glamorous for the military any more. There's an acknowledgment within the United States military that they pretty much have no use except for deterring an attack on the United States. The military doctrine of the United States right now is whenever possible, as much as possible, to minimise civilian casualties and nuclear weapons are the exact opposite of that."

And America, he points out, has more experience than most in dealing with nuclear weapons. As such it represents best practice. "And yet still we've come close again and again and again. That tells you something about the challenge of managing it."

With India and Pakistan increasing their nuclear capabilities and fears that Iran could develop nuclear weapons through its nuclear power programme we should be worried. Schlosser is not convinced that a deal in the talks with Iran - which have just been extended after failing to meet the deadline - can ever be reached, especially with a very conservative US Congress now in place.

But if Iran does progress to join the nuclear club that raises issues beyond the inevitable escalation of tensions in the Middle East, he points out. "Being a new nuclear weapons state means not having very much experience of this technology meaning a much greater risk of a catastrophic accident."

That doesn't describe Scotland, of course, but Schlosser believes Trident itself is problematic. "It was built for a very specific purpose during the cold war and certain choices that were made make it potentially more dangerous as a weapons system; specifically the type of rocket fuel used in the third stage of the missile and the type of conventional explosive used in its warhead. If you have a fire and an explosion you can have a fair amount of plutonium scattered and you might even have a nuclear yield at some level.

"There should be an honest appraisal of the risks and benefits of having Trident and not just a boilerplate denial that these things are perfectly safe, because they're not.

"If you were going to make the Trident missile today you would not design it the way that it is and it would be a safer weapons system so you could argue one or two things. Get rid of them or load them very carefully and unload them very carefully and protect them from any terrorist activity very carefully."


Source URL for original article: http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/viewpoint/eric-schlosser-there-should-be-an-honest-appraisal-of-the-risks-and-benefits-.1416918630

Schlosser's book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, published by Penguin Books, is available at public libraries and booksellers everywhere.