Now what are we going to do? Most submarine supporters had pinned all of their hopes on a third Seawolf. In anticipation, the Navy has been a study in obstructionism since termination, objecting to every submarine initiative proposed to provide submarine work. The resultant paralysis continues to this day.
It's time to get off the dime. The House Armed Services Committee markup is 2 months away. We need ideas, good ones, now. It is essential that a submarine be included in the fiscal year 1994 Defense authorization and appropriations conference bills. The ability of this country to produce nuclear-powered submarines is in peril. Once lost, it is unrecoverable. No further President, Congress, or Pentagon, will see the day when new nuclear vendors or shipyards are certified. NIMBYitis will take care of that.
A coalition needs to form quickly around a submarine initiative that will be acceptable to the majority of our colleagues, fit within the budget, and provide relief to nuclear vendors, nonnuclear vendors, and shipyards alike. Otherwise, we will trade away a naval trump card forever.
I ask that the aforementioned Hartford Courant article be included in the Record.
The article follows:
Washington: President Clinton's defense budget probably will not include funds for a third Groton-built Seawolf submarine, but high-tech products such as Sikorsky Aircraft's proposed Comanche light helicopter, now on the drawing board, will be funded in this budget plan due next month.
`I thought that at least one more ship should be completed than the [Bush] administration, and then we should in effect transform the operation to produce a smaller follow-on ship.' Clinton said Saturday of the Seawolf, now under construction at General Dynamics' Electric Boat division in Groton, Conn.
The president made his remarks in a 20-minute meeting in the Cabinet room with about a dozen Connecticut reporters as he sought to sell his defense cutback and military conversion plan through a series of public appearances and interviews.
He voiced no explicit worries that the deteriorating situation with Russian President Boris Yeltsin might cause him to rethink his defense cuts.
`We are obviously concerned about him.' Clinton said. `He represents a passionate commitment to democracy and economic reform. . . . I think we should support that.' He said he hoped other democratic nations would step up their backing of Yeltsin, too.
On the Seawolf, Clinton left the door slightly open, but suggested that the nation's submarine builders should look ahead to the next, smaller generation of boats.
`I think it is an open question but I haven't changed my position on it,' he said. `The last time I had a conversation about this, there was a general consensus that the design of the Seawolf was not necessary in terms of size, given a declining Soviet threat . . . but that we still need and are quite dependent on submarine technology to maintain our overall military superiority,' he said.
During last year's presidential campaign. Clinton voiced support for the Seawolf, though he never said how many he thought should be built. He spoke of the need to protect submarine construction expertise, though he never specifically endorsed Electric Boat as the anointed site. Subs also are built at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, and talks are under way between Newport News and Electric Boat on possible sale or consolidation of the two companies.
A third Seawolf would cost at least another $2 billion, a large sum at a time Clinton is proposing to trim the defense budget by more than $100 billion in the next five years.
Clinton's endorsement of the Comanche, the army's top modernization project, stopped short of support for a particular production plan or schedule. When Clinton was asked about the Comanche at the end of the session, he said he was short on specifics and would provide an answer soon. The White House press office, after conferring with officials at the Defense Department, said Clinton supported `initial production' of the Comanche, which is still several years from coming off the assembly line.
Clinton also spent Saturday morning meeting with reporters from California and Florida, states hit much harder than Connecticut in the administration's proposal, unveiled Friday, to shutter 31 military bases and scale back 134 others, including the Navy's submarine base in Groton.
The morning sessions, which followed Clinton's weekly radio address, excluded most members of the national press corps, who complain that Clinton has offered few opportunities to question him directly since he took office Jan. 20.
Clinton was tieless and clad in a beige sweater and dark sports jacket. He drank from a white mug and answered questions--sometimes talking for several minutes on a single issue--as he sat at a leather oval table in the White House Cabinet room, surrounded by about a dozen reporters from Connecticut news media.
The president stressed his recently unveiled $20 billion plan for defense diversification and tax credits, and he said that Connecticut would receive about $118 million from his separate stimulus package that is designed to provide new jobs for highway, environmental cleanup and community development projects. Each program is subject to congressional approval.
`Obviously those will create a lot of jobs, and some of those will be in the same areas where defense jobs have been lost,' he said.
Although Clinton acknowledged that some defense contractors are cool to using military technologies in civilian manufacturing, he said he helped to bring them around. He plans meetings with his administration and defense contractors around the country, saying he wants to get them involved long before contracts with the military expire.
`The thing that has bothered me about this all along is that these contracts have been canceled and then someone comes along and says, `Why don't you think of something else to do?'
`This whole thing has to be coordinated,' he said.
He pointed to Sikorsky, a division of United Technologies Corp., for its sales in the civilian and overseas markets, and he cited another, unnamed Connecticut helicopter maker, presumably Kaman Corp. of Bloomfield, for similar diversification.
As for submarine conversion, he said, `I don't know that General Dynamics' options are to know whether that is the right or wrong suit. All I can say is that we are prepared to assist . . . companies that are serious about conversion.' But he noted that `submarines have few uses other than military. It's hard to imagine.'
He suggested that closing military bases, no matter how painful to communities affected, was the right course for states such as Connecticut because it might save some jobs with defense contractors that have a brighter future if they diversify.
`If you don't close any of them and you have the defense budget going down, it means more reductions for contractors.' He said he was committed to maintaining a `very, very high level of technological superiority and military readiness.'
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., said Saturday he believes Pentagon cuts are moving too swiftly, and he said that building a third Seawolf would be the most `cost-effective way to maintain the submarine industrial base.'
But he also acknowledged that if the president does not include the third sub in his budget plan, it will be hard to persuade Congress to fund it anyway,
Rep. Sam Gejdenson, D-2nd District, said that he was not surprised Clinton did not endorse a third Seawolf.
`There is some money already available. . . . It is not impossible but it is a very tough fight,' he said.
`it's a long stretch, to get to the next class of boats,' Gejdeson said.
Clinton also was asked whether he thought Connecticut should endorse casino gambling beyond the Mashantucket Pequots' complex in Ledyard. He said he was not necessarily the right person to ask because he had grown up in a town that had extensive and illicit gaming parlors until the mid-1960s.
Although be stressed that legalized gambling should be decided state by state, he offered this: `analyze very carefully what the costs and benefits are. It is not a free ride, that's the only thing I will say. . . . It is not an unmixed blessing.'