Bartlett hopes for 'new vision' of nuclear submarine role

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Since 07-10-05

Excerpt from NSL UPDATE 06-15-05

By Michael Bruno, Aerospace Daily, 10 Jun 05

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's projection forces subcommittee, hopes an upcoming Groton, Conn., field hearing on nuclear submarines will bring "a new appreciation of submarines for our national defense and a new vision of what they could do for us in the future."

Appearing before the Naval Submarine League's 2005 symposium June 9, as well as speaking to The DAILY afterward, Bartlett highlighted the role that U.S. nuclear subs could play in a potential matchup against a burgeoning China. Lawmakers have been briefed, he said, that within a decade, the United States may not be able to compete "head-to-head" with China and instead "it will be we that are looking for asymmetrical weapons."

U.S. nuclear subs, if fairly considered against surface fleet assets, can help provide asymmetrical capacity, he said. Moreover, last year China, which spends one-tenth as much on its military as does the United States, bought 10 times as many subs, he said. "We face a very uncertain future," Bartlett told the symposium.

Bartlett also reiterated a message that he has been giving for weeks on a potential worldwide oil crunch and how that will affect U.S. needs. With China's growing military, economy and energy consumption, the United States could find itself pressed to secure its oil dependence.

"If in fact we are at peak oil, then there will be an increasing demand with a decreasing supply - what do you think will be the geopolitical consequences of this?" he told the group of submariners and industry supporters. "When there's one [U.S.] person in 22 [globally] that has developed this lifestyle that they've got to have 25% of the world's oil, what do you think is going to happen?"

The projection forces subcommittee will host a public hearing on the U.S. Navy's nuclear sub force in Groton on June 13 (DAILY, June 6). The lawmakers will hear from Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, and Vice Adm. Charles L. Munns, commander of Naval Submarine Forces.

In addition to raising the profile of U.S. subs, the hearing also is expected to touch on the Pentagon's proposal to close the Naval Submarine Base - New London, as well as escalating costs of Virginia-class subs and related cost caps that the House has endorsed on future vessels.