Although the SEA WOLF continued to claim the bulk of submarine news over the past several months, history probably will note that the more momentous news certainly was President Bush’s statement significantly, and unilaterally limiting U.S. nuclear weapons deployments — including those on attack submarines.
The SEA WOLF coverage included reports of the ebb and flow of Congressional tendencies to authorize the FY -92 ship of the class, status updates on the hull cracking in the lead ship, new developments in the contract dispute over the award of the second ship, and a fair amount of commentary concerned with whether the nation should continue with that building program at all.
Discussions of the new Strategic Command, new missions for attack submarines, new kinds of attack submarines, and even the possibility of women serving in submarines have all attracted some attention in the press. The general news noted, among other items of interest, that the Submarine Force is leaving Holy loch and that the Chinese Navy (PRC) lost a submarine at sea.
- The Washinaton Post of September 28th carried the President’s statement in full and the specifically applicable portions are quoted: “I am therefore directing that the United States eliminate its entire worldwide inventory of groundlaunched short range, that is, theater nuclear weapons.” … “Recognizing further the major changes in the international military landscape, the United States will withdraw all tactical nuclear weapons from its surface ships and attack submarines, as well as those nuclear weapons associated with our land-based naval aircraft. This means removing all nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. ships and submarines, as well as nuclear bombs from aboard aircraft carriers. The bottom line is that under normal circumstances, our ships will not carry tactical nuclear weapons. Many of these land- and sea-based warheads will be dismantled and destroyed. Those remaining will be secured in central areas where they would be available if necessary in future crisis.”
- Defense News of October 7th reported that “The Soviet Union wants submarine-launched nuclear missiles included in U.S.-Soviet talks on reducing the number of weapons deployed on multiple-warhead missiles scheduled to begin this week, Soviet officials said.
“Responding last week to the proposal of U.S. President George Bush for talks aimed at cutting to one the number of multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles permitted on long-range nuclear missiles, Soviet officials (in Moscow) stressed the inequity of the U.S. proposal that would require Moscow to make much deeper cuts in its missile force.
“About 85 percent of Soviet multiple-warhead missiles are deployed on land, according to Soviet estimates, while the majority of U.S. multiple-warhead missiles are based on submarines that are considered virtually impossible to track.” The SEA WOLF Budget Process:
- Forbes magazine in its September 30th edition which came out in mid-month, summed up the problems in an article titled “SEA WOLF at bay,” with a lead paragraph that expressed a prime shipbuilder concern. “Worries are growing at the two yards capable of building the sub … (that) if not canceled, this program vital to their futures will be stretched out.” The article went on to describe the original program of three per year, commenting that the new subs ” … would replace LOS ANGELES class subs, which cost less than half as much each.” This was followed by a 37 word questioning of the need for SEA WOLF now that ” … the U.S.S.R. is going out of business.” The contract dispute and hull cracking problem were both discussed in short paragraphs and the advent and implications of the Centurion study were similarly covered.
In addition, the combat system was also mentioned as a problem: “A large part of the package is a complex battle management system called BSY -2 or “Busy Two”. General Contractor on the BSY-2 is General Electric. The computer system’s total cost isn’t known (“in the billions”, says Ronald O’Rourke, a naval analyst with the Congressional Research Service), and its technology is still miles from being completed. Likewise, development of the new torpedoes, mines and missiles that are to be carried by SEA WOLF is still a long way from being completed, and no cost estimates are available. Critics say BSY-2 and the weapons could lift total cost of a single SEA WOLF to $3 billion or more.”
- The Washington Post of September 21st reported that “‘The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a 1992 defense spending bill that raises further doubt about the future of the B-2 bomber while giving new life to the SEA WOLF attack submarine.” The news commentary went on to describe the recent history of the submarine portion of the defense bill.
“The SSN-21 SEA WOLF attack submarine program, which bad appeared in jeopardy Thursday, got a reprieve when the committee restored $238 billion that the administration bad requested to buy one SEA WOLF. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D. Hawaii), chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, bad argued on Thursday when the panel eliminated money for the submarine that the money would be better spent on building two older-model LOS ANGELES-class attack submarines. He said the SEA WOLF was encountering too many problems.
“But Inouye changed course yesterday after what he described as intensive lobbying by Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett ill, officials of the SEA WOLF contractor Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, and the senators from Connecticut where Electric Boat is headquartered.”
- Defense Week of October 7th carried a somewhat in-depth report of the Senate subcommittee actions and the lobbying behind it. In part, the piece said that: “Behind Inouye’s reversal was a case study in effective lobbying and tag-team play between the Iron Triangle of industry, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. Senators phoning senators into the night or twisting arms on the Senate floor. Lawmakers mobilizing industry lobbyists and the Navy, polling them for hard facts to use as ammunition with other lawmakers.” The article continued with some background: “Neither Navy legislative affairs officials, senators with SEA WOLF constituent interests, nor industry lobbyists paid to get an inside track knew that Inouye or his staff wanted to delay the SEA WOLF. There were none of the traditional rumblings that accompany such a recommendation. Besides, Inouye had previously supported the sub.” After speculation as to why the delay came to be favored, the article discussed the down side of that argument: “The SEA WOLF proponents feared that if the submarine was delayed, termination would soon follow. And if it was killed in favor of LOS ANGELES subs, the Pentagon wouldn’t save money as Inouye believed. ‘Our point was to show them ieu cost this much to terminate the SEA WOLF, this much for LOS ANGELES start-up, and when you get to the end, this is how much you really save.’ said the Navy official.”
- Defense News of September 23rd also commented on Inouye’s subcommittee reversal but cited further doubts: “Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, ranking minority member of the subcommittee, agreed to go along with the change, but warned that it bodes ill for the Navy’s future submarine program. By pursuing the expensive SEA WOLF program and the complementary new Centurion submarine, ‘both programs are going to lose,’ he warned last Friday. ‘I believe we are kissing the submarine program goodby.'”
- Defense Daily of October 4th reported on the opinions of another Senator with: -senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said yesterday the SSN-21 SEA WOLF submarine, the B-2 Stealth bomber and mobile Peacekeeper missile will not survive more than another year.” It went on: “McCain has long said the almost $2 billion SEA WOLF is wasteful, and put forth two efforts in the past two months to end production of the submarine.”
- Inside the Nayy of November 25th ran an article examining the SEA WOLF program and concluded that “its future is cloudy.” The first paragraph sums up the paper’s account: “‘The Navy’s next-generation nuclear attack submarine, the SEA WOLF, survived a barrage of attacks during the fiScal year 1992 budget process but its future looks bleak. Although the SEA WOLF slipped through in this budget, the FY-93 process could be an even tougher battle for the Navy. Because of skyrocketing cost estimates for the first SEA WOLF being built by Electric Boat in Groton, Cf, the diminishing Soviet threat and the lawsuit holding up the contract award of the second SEA WOLF, a wide range of congressional and industry sources believe the SEA WOLF program will be short-lived with its final numbers being in the range of three to six. Yet ardent supporters of the SEA WOLF do not plan to give up the fight. While continuing to buck the trend that the Soviet threat is dead, the supporters are justifying the submarine’s expense by playing it up as having multi-role capability, similar to the arguments being used by advocates of the Air Force’s B-2 long range bomber.”
SEA WOLF Hull Cracks:
- Hartford Courant of November 17th noted the release of a summary of the Navy’s Inspector General’s report: “Navy investigators, who were asked to look into what caused the microscopic cracks in the hull of the first SEA WOLF attack submarine, Thursday released details of a new report that appears to avoid assigning primary blame to either the Navy or Groton’s Electric Boat. Their report summary hinted the Navy shouldered much of the responsibility, however, for failing to follow up on unspecified problems encountered in a mid-1980s production test that were ‘recognized as an early warning’ of deficiencies in the vessel’s new HY-100 steel welds.” The Courant piece went on to note that “Both the Groton shipyard and its supporters on Capitol Hill had been hoping however, that the Navy, as designer of the SEA WOLF welding specifications, would accept full responsibility for the cracks.”
- Inside the Navv of November 25th published the letter from Gerald Cann, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, to Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) which forwarded a copy of the report along with Cann’s comment that “We are confident that the hard look we have taken because of the HY-100 weld deficiencies will benefit the Navy not just in shipbuilding but in other acquisition areas.” The paper then went on to comment that: “‘The Navy is estimating that the cost of the repairs will range from $50million to $100-million.
SEA WOLF Contract Dispute:
- Richmond Times Dispatch of September 21 reported on the latest round of court filing and asserted in its headline that “Bidding Rules Set After Offers For SEA WOLF.”
“‘The Navy sought and received bids to build the nation’s second SEA WOLF submarine several months before devising an acquisition strategy to underpin the purchase, according to court papers filed this week in the multi-million dollar case. ” … the legal papers show that ground rules for the high-stakes bidding game were not set when the game began.
“The Navy asked … for bids on the pivotal contract in November 1990. The shipyards put their offer on the table in early January. More than four months later, Defense Department officials finished haggling over how to weigh basic factors in evaluating the bids, the papers show. Two weeks after that, the Navy awarded a $615 million contract to Electric Boat. Newport News Shipbuilding filed suit.
“In the court papers, the Navy argues for overturning a July 31 decision by U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar that voided the contract and ordered new bids. According to the Navy, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals should reverse Doumar because the judge mistakenly substituted his judgement for that of trained militaty minds.”
Later in the article it continued with: “While Newport News Shipbuilding bid about $88 million higher than Electric Boat, the Virginia shipyard said the Navy had virtually guaranteed it the contract if its bid was under $708 million. Long after the bids were submitted, Pentagon officials still were debating whether to hold a straight-up competition, or perhaps pick the high bidder to introduce competition to the program. Competition could save money in the long run and preserve an industrial capability to mobilize in an emergency.
“Because Electric Boat was building the first SEA WOLF, it had suppliers and a labor force in place that translated into a cost advantage for future bidding. Newport News Shipbuilding needed a break to get equal footing. In the legal papers, the Navy noted that in December 1990– after seeking bids for the second SEA WOLF, but before receiving them — the Pentagon reduced the SEA WOLF program.”
The article closed with: “Still, the court papers show that the Navy had a plan to keep both yards in the program through fiSCal 1993 by awarding the second ship to Newport News and the third to Electric Boat.”
- Inside the PentaKOD of November 7th reported that it had obtained “An internal Pentagon study completed last Januaty” which recommended that Electric Boat be awarded the second SEA WOLF because Newport News was “already operating at its peak-efficiency capacity.” The paper described the report as: “A thorough analysis of the nation’s two nuclear capable submarine shipyards, the study overturned conventional wisdom by arguing that, on the basis of industrial base considerations, the FY-91 SEA WOLF should be awarded to lead-shipyard Electric Boat, which also offered the lowest price for building the submarine.
“News of the report first surfaced in March, when Congress was considering whether to mandate that the FY-91 SEA WOLF be built at Newport News Shipbuilding. Prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) productions and logistics staff, the report instantly sparked debate among supporters of both submarine shipyards. Although the study was ostensibly prepared in response to a Senate directive in its version of the FY-91 defense authorization bill, the report was never delivered to Capitol Hill.
“Nevertheless, the study was presented to Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition Donald Yockey, who reportedly used it as the basis for his oversight decisions in the program. When the Navy suggested in April that the FY -91 boat be awarded to Newport News, Yockey rejected the plan, and directed the Navy to award the ship based on the ‘best overall cost for the government,’ a clear reference to the study’s conclusion that the cost of other ship programs at Newport News would increase if the shipyard was awarded the FY-91 boat.”
The paper then published the January 1991 report in its five page entirety.
- Associated Press reported on its wire service on December 4th that “Newport News Shipbuilding lawyer Gregory Stillman told a federal appeals court yesterday in Richmond the U.S. should defer a decision on employing just one American shipyard to build SEA WOLF attack submarines. The decision should be delayed ‘until the world situation clarifies,’ Stillman said in arguing his company’s case to obtain a second SEA WOLF contract.”
- Hartford Courant of October 23rd ran a humorous Op-Ed piece by a copy editor of The Vir&inian-Pilot in Norfolk in which it was suggested that ” … both sides can still win if they don’t build any SEAWOLFs and just split the cash. This approach has several advantages” the piece postulates, among which are:
“Perhaps each community that was counting on a piece of the SEA WOLF action could just throw a big party and invite the other side to make up.” ” .. maybe the workers could all take a couple of years off and go to college … suddenly America would have the smartest shipbuilders in the world.” “Consider how many layers of bureaucracy would be eliminated … if the Pentagon could eliminate all the accountants, systems analysts and other pencil-pushers it now needs to verify that monster weapons actually work. .. ”
The SEAWOLF Discussion:
- Navy Times of October 7th quoted the CNO as to the future of the Navy’s submarine building programs:
“The SEA WOLF program, originally planned as a 30-boat class, could end after construction of only seven submarines, according to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Frank B. Kelso n. “‘SEA WOLF is not a forever submarine,’ Kelso said at a defense writer’s breakfast September 25, describing how the Navy will end SEA WOLF and ‘move ahead’ to build ‘a nextgeneration low-cost’ submarine by 1997 or 1998. This is three years earlier than Navy officials told Congress last May.
“Because it takes 12 years to design and build a submarine, ‘we can only push (a new submarine) so fast,’ Kelso said. The earliest plans for the next generation submarine, Centurion, were drawn in November and December 1990. “‘We never intended to build one submarine at a time,’ Kelso said, adding it was vital to keep the present submarine-building capability.”
Boston Globe of November 23rd commented with a piece titled “A SEA WOLF Past its Time.”
“In last summer’s military budget debate, Congress gave the SEA WOLF nuclear attack submarine a free ride. The SEAWOLF passed the Senate 90-10 and sailed through the House as well. As a result, Americans are committed to pay $2.5 billion in 1992- and are scheduled to pay $18 billion by 1997 – which will buy seven attack submarines the Navy simply doesn’t need. Like other weapons planned at the height of the Cold War, the SEA WOLF has become expendable not only because it carries a big ticket, but also because the mission for which it was designed is no longer compelling.
After noting that “SEA WOLF was designed to fight underwater duels with the likes of ‘Red October'” and decrying the ‘Maritime Strategy’ for targeting Soviet SSBNs, the paper noted that… the U.S. will be able to get by with 80, 60, or even 40 attack submarines. At the moment, it has 91. So much for the bean count. At $25 billion a copy, there is no need for another SEA WOLF.”
- Government Executive, in its November issue, also quoted Admiral Frank Kelso as saying that a “Leaner Navy Should be ‘Just as Fme’.” In its coverage the magazine noted that “Kelso concedes that the seiVice may be lucky to buy half a dozen of the new SSN-21 class SEA WOLF submarines now in production, where it had once envisioned a fleet of 30 or more.
“‘I want to be straightforward and acknowledge that the SEA WOLF program is coming to fruition at a time when the threat it was built for doesn’t look as menacing as it once did, and I don’t want to overemphasize the need for the SEA WOLF to counter a big Third World threat,’ says Kelso, who nevertheless lauds the capability represented by the $2 billion submarine. He expects to buy the SEA WOLF at the present rate of one a year until1997 or ’98, at which time the Navy hopes to introduce plans for a less expensive submarine.”
- National Defense. the monthly magazine published by the American Defense Preparedness Association, in its November issue carried an article titled “Submarines for the Post-Cold War Navy” in which it covered the SEA WOLF-Centurion debate and offered the following suggestion; “Continued production of Improved 688’s, modified as new technology becomes available, would preserve the industrial base, ensure a minimum force level, and fulfill Centurion’s missions at half the cost of SEA WOLF.
The General Submarine Discussion:
- Defense News of September 23rd carried a letter from T. L Phillips of Chula Vista, California, which responded to another letter published in the July 29th issue under the headline “Sub Hysteria.” Mr. Phillips countered the various points offered in the earlier letter and gave substantive reasons for being concerned about the threat from the submarines of the Third World navies.
- Navy Times of October 7th carried a major article titled “Modular Submarines Among Options for 2010” which quoted a CDR Steve Pelstring of the Navy;s Strategic and Theater Warfare Division as saying that “While the Navy is building two types of attack submarines … and one strategic missile submarine … the seiVice would only build one class of submarine under the future modular concept. .. ” “Central to the modular concept is that significant cost savings can be achieved by building identical front and rear sections of a submarine with only a specialized middle section, housing either ballistic missiles or torpedoes. That will determine whether the submarine will be outfitted for attack or strategic deterrence missions:
- Inside the Penta2on of October 24th reported that “‘The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is quietly studying whether conventionally powered submarines can perform some of the missions the Navy assigns solely to nuclear-powered submarines.” It went on to identify the two OSD offices making the studies as ” … Program Analysis & Evaluation (PAGE) and the naval warfare and mobility shop under the director of defense engineering.”
- Navy Times of December 2 reported a speech by Vice Admiral Roger Bacon, Assistant CNO for Undersea Warfare, in which he said that the Navy would begin studying the issue of women crew members aboard submarines while it designs the Centurion class submarine. General Submarine News:
- Evans & Novack Political Report of 10 September, in looking toward action on the Defense Budget predicted a major “anti-Defense fallout,” citing several primary effects – one of which was: manpower and training are known to be easy victims of premature overcutting. Instead, the Chiefs want the strategic services hit first, saving the Navy’s missile-subs for least reduction. The Triad could be changed around.”
- The New York Times of November lOth reported from Dunoon, Scotland, that the last missile submarine, USS WILL ROGERS, had left the American base in Holy Loch. The report also mentioned that the submarine was followed by antinuclear demonstrators in a small launch as it left port on a last patrol before returning to its home port in New London, cr.
- Los Angeles Times on November 17th cited Jane’s Defense Weekly for reporting photography of” … a sonar-evading ‘stealth’ submarine that defense experts regard as the Soviet Navy’s most modem secret weapon: They quoted Jane’s as saying that” … the submarine, the BELUGA, was photographed in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol on November Jrd. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in service with the Soviet Navy.”
- Washington Times of December 2nd reported that “Communist China has lost a conventional Romeo-class submarine in the Yellow Sea, and ships and helicopters from the People’s Liberation Party have not been able to find it.”
- Reuter, on its wire service of December 4th, reported that: “Chief of the Soviet General Staff, General Vladimir Lobov, toured Britain’s top-secret Polaris submarine base yesterday at Faslane Bay, Scotland. Lobov smiled and gave a thumbs-up sign as he descended into the nuclear-powered Polaris submarine HMS REVENGE for an inspection. ‘We have left behind the enemy image,’ the Soviet General told reporters. ‘We believe the world should develop in a different direction. We should not search for enemies, we should cooperate. We need contacts.”‘
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