I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones
-Albert Einstein (contemplating nuclear devastation)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Wharf to Nowhere refuses to go away

Ah, the proverbial PORK is squealing all the way to Bangor.  Can you smell the bacon frying?  A former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is calling for significant cuts to our nation's deployed nuclear weapons.  Meanwhile members of Congress play Give Me That Pork all over the nuclear weapons front; even right here in Puget Sound! 

Representative Norm Dicks (Dem., Bangor) is bringing home bacon in a big way to build the Wharf to Nowhere, otherwise known as the Second Explosives Handling Wharf at the Bangor Trident submarine base.  This is one major boondoggle that will squander money desparately needed for education, healthcare and other things that actually help people.

Here's the most recent article (in The Seattle Times) about it, along with a Letter to the Editor with an interesting response.  What do you think???


Spending on nuclear weapons continues despite calls to cut stockpile

Updated at 12:30 p.m. with comments from Norm Dicks's spokesman:

WASHINGTON -- The United States is mulling a drastic reduction of its nuclear arsenal -- but Congress continues to push spending on the weapons.

An influential retired general on Wednesday added his name to a growing call to dramatically reduce the nation's nuclear stockpile. Gen. James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a report commissioned by Global Zero, an international disarmament movement, calling for slashing the number of deployed nuclear warheads by two thirds to 450.

The recommendation comes as the Obama administration is reportedly considering even bigger cuts that would take the U.S. nuclear arsenal to pre-Cold War levels.

So what's Congress doing? Well, last week, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee pushed through a $5 billion measure to build a missile-defense site on the East Coast. Never mind that the Pentagon has said the site is unneeded.

Reps.. Adam Smith of Tacoma, the Armed Services panel's top Democrat, and Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, both voted against the proposal.

Meanwhile, last week's subcommittee draft of the 2013 defense spending bill included $280 million as the second installment payment for a second munitions wharf at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. The Navy has argued that the 30-year-old existing wharf is inadequate to handle upgrade work on the base's Trident nuclear submarines.

The project has been championed by Rep. Norm Dicks of Bremerton, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on defense. But opponents are trying to halt the $715 million wharf, saying that it's unwarranted in a diminished nuclear world.

On Wednesday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the $280 million as part of the military construction budget.

George Behan, Dicks's chief of staff, said in an email that the Trident fleet will remain based at Bangor and and Kings Bay, Ga., "under amost any scenario," making the second wharf prudent.

"If there are reductions in the nuclear arsenal they would more likely come from the land-based side, and any wholesale effort such as Global Zero would likely take many years to achieve results," Behan said.



Letter to the Editor, in response to Kyong Song's May 16th post

By Tom Rogers, Captain, U.S. Navy, Retired, Poulsbo, Washington, Submited to The Seattle Times on May 16, 2012

“Regarding the second explosive handling wharf, the key sentence is: “The Navy has argued that the 30-year-old existing wharf is inadequate to handle upgrade work on the base's Trident nuclear submarines.”  The existing wharf is totally adequate to perform routine handling of the Trident missiles and has been for 30 years.

The upgrade work the Navy refers to is the Trident 2 D5 Life Extension Program, an obscenely expensive $40 billion program that involves removing every warhead and missile from every Trident SSBN, shipping components elsewhere for upgrade and modernization, and returning the components to Bangor and Kings Bay, GA for reloading into the missile tubes.  I saw a Navy press release recently that reported the 135th consecutive successful test launch of a Trident missile.  One wonders why we need to fund a $40 billion upgrade program.

The new wharf planned at Bangor, at a cost of $715 million, is a 6.5 acre over-water structure on pilings in the Hood Canal.  The environmental damage to an already distressed marine area has been grossly understated in the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement.

Finally, the Navy’s contention that it needs the new wharf is based on performing upgrades to all the missiles and warheads currently allowed under the New START Treaty with Russia.  If our national leaders make good on their stated intention to substantially reduce the numbers of weapons, then 5 years from now when the wharf is finished, it will be a useless white elephant.”

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