Tom Schram is tire Executive Director of the National Submarine Science Discovery Center (NSSDC) in New-port, Kentucky. He served 7 years as an Intelligence Officer (16 l 0) after graduating from the Naval Academy in 1969. He spent J 5 years with Procter & Gamble before becoming an independent marketing consultant. He began work on this project in August of 2002.
President Bush signed the FY 2004 Defense Appropriations Act on September 30, 2003 and provided a non-profit organization an opportunity to not only save the ex-Narwhal (SSN 671) but also to develop a science center on the bank of the Ohio River. Section 8145 authorized SECNAV to transfer NAR-WHAL to NSSDC in Newport, KY. This transfer can only take place after removal of the Reactor Compartment (RC) and other classified or sensitive military equipment and upon receipt of a satisfactory donation application by the Navy from NSSDC.
Background. The Navy inactivated NARWHAL at Newport News in I 999 and towed her to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for water borne storage to await hull recycling. In August of 2002, NSSDC began investigating the feasibility of developing a science discovery center with a decommissioned SSN as its centerpiece. The Navy has not previously donated an SSN to a non-Navy organization.
Concept: NSSDC pursued the feasibility of a concept with three elements: (I) the BENEFITS to the region and the community, which had to have significant educational value and be viable economically; (2) the potential LOCATION, which had to provide high visibility and synergy with nearby attractions; and (3) a. decommissioned SUBMARINE (SSN) to serve as the centerpiece for the project. The investigation focused on these elements in tum.
1a. Educational Benefits. NSSDC wanted to deliver improved science education for students in grades 5-12, with specific emphasis on having a proven program available within months. NavOps Deep Submergence™, a 9-month science and math curriculum for the 5th grade was selected as the first program to implement. The NavOps curriculum was developed with a Navy grant by Purdue University Calumet School of Education for students in the 5th grade. This was critical since students not having a positive science experience by the 51h grade have a low probability of taking an elective science or math course in later academic life. Since the U.S. has an annual shortfall in technical college graduates, this program made strategic sense.
The accompanying NavOps submarine control room simulator and software was developed by a submariner, CW0-4 Fred Huddleston USN(Ret.). The combination of curriculum, classroom experiments, and simulation exercises started in the Gary, IN school district in the fall of 1997 in one pilot school and expanded to all 22 district schools in 1998 and is still the district’s science program.
NSSDC introduced NavOps to potential pilot schools in the Northern Kentucky, Southwestern Ohio region for consideration. The response was positive and NSSDC concluded there was sufficient potential with the NavOps program, and other programs for grades 6-12 already on the drawing boards to meet the educa· tional benefit criteria.
1b. Economic impact and feasibility. An analysis of the region indicated this project could have a potential impact of over $20 M annually. Additionally, as the only science discovery center for 150 miles in any direction, it would be unique and represent a draw for multiple visitor segments. These included regional/local visitors, national tourists, military reunions, educational visitors (stimulated from the NavOps classes) and special events. The facility would be self-supporting from the first day and could continue so at 70% of the minimum anticipated visitation level. Net, it made sense economically.
2. Location. After the concept had been identified, studied, and proposed on a contingent basis to the region, with a very positive response, NSSDC began seeking a location to ensure a high probability of success. Newport, KY (directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) agreed to donate an ideal site. It is on the river directly adjacent to a local family entertainment center (Newport-on-the-Levee) that draws almost 4 M visitors annually and includes the Newport Aquarium. Additionally, the NSSDC site can be seen from almost every seat in the new Cincinnati Reds venue, the Great American Ballpark, as well as from all over downtown Cincinnati and adjoining communities.
3. Obtaining a decommissioned SSN. Once the NSSDC had a viable concept and a location, we pursued donation of a decommissioned SSN. After discussions with NA VSEA representatives, NSSDC concluded the best process to follow was a legislative one. This would assign a specific SSN to NSSDC. In NSSDC’s case, the program and location were strong but the precedent in asking for an SSN was unusual. Therefore, potential contributors would participate only if an SSN was available and that assurance could only come from legislation.
Legislation. Senator Jim Bunning of KY submitted an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act Joint Conference Committee authorizing SECNAV to designate NARWHAL for NSSDC. The Navy had no objection to the proposed legislation and it was signed into law on September 30, 2003. Transfer of NARWHAL is at no cost to the Navy other than what would normally be incurred in a typical SSN recycling.
Design clements for modification. The RC and all equipment aft of it, which is sensitive military equipment, must be completely removed. As shown in the illustration, NARWHAL will be displayed completely out of the water, sitting on keel blocks or a keel cradle on the deck of a double hulled and ballastable barge, similar in look to a floating drydock but with water tight ends. About 40% of the NARWHAL’s hull will be visible above the barge sides when viewing it from a distance. A barge is needed to structurally support the modified hull and to enable towing to and transit on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, where a vessel can draw only I 0 feet.
Hull modifications. The illustration shows NARWHAL’s current and planned configuration. NSSDC will insert a sleeve identical in dimension to the RC. The space aft of the RC will be open and will be used for displays, interactive exhibits, or historical presentations. Access to NARWHAL from the barge deck will be via a ramp leading to a double door entranceway onto a quarter-deck. Forward would be the restored operations and bow sections. Aft would be the open area created from RC removal, etc. Nearby would be a building for other elements of the Discovery Center.
Cost. It is estimated that the total project cost will be about $50 M -$55 M with over half coming from in kind contributions such as the sub, its modifications, and donated berth location. NSSDC’s costs are estimated at about $25 M and will be finalized as a result of engineering studies, economic analysis, master planning, and scope of the berth preparation. Initially, the engineering and planning effort to develop an acceptable ship donation application will cost about $2.2 M.
Next steps. Effort is underway now on several fronts to develop an engineering design package while, at the same time, preparing a master plan for the facility. An opening date in 2007 is contemplated. To learn more about this project, please v1s1t http:///www.NSSDC.us and send an email via the web site for more information.