In Hearing at
Groton, Talk of Peril to Sub Fleet
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2005 4:08 AM
Subject: In Hearing at Groton, Talk of Peril to Sub Fleet
for NY Times
June 14, 2005
In Hearing at Groton, Talk of Peril to Sub Fleet
GROTON, Conn., June 13 - The effort to keep the Pentagon from closing the naval
submarine base here was recast Monday into a broader push to save submarines in
general, with Congressional representatives echoing a top Navy submarine
commander who warned that plans to reduce the fleet could weaken the military.
Speaking at a special field hearing of a House Armed Forces subcommittee that
was held at the base, Vice Adm. Charles L. Munns said worrying about the fate of
submarine operations "keeps me awake at night," according to a copy of his
remarks to the committee.
The Navy has 54 attack submarines in operation but has said the number could
decline to 41. Admiral Munns said submarine commanders already lacked the
vessels to complete some operations. The admiral is working to preserve the
fleet as the Pentagon undergoes a review of military operations known as the
Quadrennial Defense Review. But members of Congress hoping to keep the Groton
base open said his testimony also supported their goal.
The Pentagon has proposed closing the base as part of a nationwide restructuring
that would include shutting 33 major bases. An independent federal commission
will recommend to President Bush by Sept. 8 whether to adopt the Pentagon
proposal. "Clearly the more subs you have, the more sub bases you need," said
United States Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican from Maryland who
is the chairman of the Projection Forces subcommittee.
Mr. Bartlett and other members of Congress said it would be premature to close
the base given the conflicting projections of how many submarines will be
necessary. "I think the jury is still out on what the future military will look
like," Mr. Bartlett said. The chairman of the House Armed Forces Committee,
Representative Duncan L. Hunter, a Republican from California, has criticized
the Pentagon plan to close the Groton base. But an Armed Forces Committee
spokesman, Josh Holly, said the hearing was scheduled before the Pentagon
announced its proposal on May 13.
He said that Representative Rob R. Simmons, a Republican whose district includes
the base, had requested the hearing during the winter and that invitations were
sent in April to Admiral Munns and Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, the director of
the Navy nuclear propulsion program. In addition to Mr. Bartlett and Mr.
Simmons, the hearing was attended by Representative Gene Taylor, a Democrat from
Mississippi who has been critical of the Pentagon proposal; Representative James
R. Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island; and Representative Thelma Drake, a
Virginia Republican whose district includes the naval submarine base in Norfolk.
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(ret)