Thoughts of an American Centrist

Monday, May 16, 2005

SOS (Save our Submarines)

From the "Stupid Choices in Government" desk, let's examine the closing of the Groton / New London (CT) Submarine Base. The largest of the bases targeted for closing, Groton is home to the US's first Nuclear submarine, the Nautilus (no, not this one).

What do you get with nuclear submarines? That's right, nuclear waste! Boy, that stuff is expensive to clean up. It's too bad that the Pentagon didn't budget any money for cleanup in its base closing plan. Says John C. Markowicz, chairman of the Subase Realignment Coalition:

I thought our argument was going to be that they understated the environmental costs, but I never would have guessed that they would just ignore them,”

Hmm, I'd say that's an oversight. More:

The Pentagon's recommendation to close the Groton base estimates that it will save $193 million a year in the first three years, paying off the $680 million cost of closing the base.

If the actual cost of cleanup was included, Markowicz said, the payback period would stretch out for many more years.

The report estimates the cost of environmental cleanup at the base at just $23.9 million, a number he said is ridiculously low for a base that has 15 identified Superfund sites (ed emp). In addition, he said, there are low levels of contaminants in the sediments at every pier dating to the early days of nuclear power when submarines discharged waste water into the Thames River.

Disclaimer, I live in southeastern Connecticut, and work in Groton, so yes, I am slightly biased. This base means a lot to our community. Also, I want to give credit to the New London Day, one of my local papers who carried this story.

All bias aside, however, doesn't this seem a bit odd? The entire purpose of this base realignment was to save money, so one would think that a thorough analysis of all closing expenses would be in order. This is the biggest base that is to be closed, and they didn't even account for one of the most basic expenses. How many details were missed while analyzing some of the smaller bases?

Buy some submarine making stock
Because the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics, also located in Groton, will have to close its doors if it loses its proximity to the base. So what does that mean for the taxpayer? Less submarine manufacturers = less competition = higher prices.

So where are these subs going?
Norfolk. The subs that are currently stationed in Groton will be amalgamated into Naval Station Norfolk (Virginia). More and more ships are being grouped into Norfolk, less and less are at ports throughout the length of the Atlantic Coast. Does anybody remember Pearl Harbor? How quickly we forget the lessons of the past in order to save a buck.

Keep our base open. Please.