USA: “Serious Challenges” Facing Navy’s Submarine Force, Retired Admiral Says


Electric Boat’s building of two submarines per year for the first time in more than 20 years doesn’t eliminate the “serious challenges” facing the Navy’s submarine force, a retired admiral said Friday.

Former Rear Adm. John B. Padgett III, a Norwich native who lives in Old Lyme, said he was very concerned about what will happen when the Navy goes below 48 attack submarines. The force is at 52.

“At that point, you’ll be deciding to do things you shouldn’t be doing,” he told a lunch gathering of the Nautilus Chapter of the Naval Submarine League in Groton. “The industrial base is facing many challenges, as well.”

The industrial base is made up largely of EB and suppliers that feed the company’s shipyards in Groton and Rhode Island, of which 75 percent Padgett classified as “small businesses.”

Padgett, who is national president of the Naval Submarine League and has close contacts with Navy admirals, called on EB to increase payloads and sensors. He complimented EB’s engineers on its Virginia payload module design.

Padgett has been EB’s vice president of business development and strategic planning since December 2003. He served 34 years in the Navy.

Shifting federal budget priorities will likely mean more maintenance work for EB’s Groton shipyard, something that has been in short supply of late. Budget uncertainties are blocking EB from building the Virginia payload module and getting excited about additional maintenance work, spokesman Robert Hamilton said.

“Until the money is there, we can’t move ahead with some things,” he said.
The submarine force could maintain its strength if one ship were added in 2018 and one in 2023, Padgett said. “Bundling” those ships with others that have already been ordered would be cost effective, he said. He is also advising procurement of the Virginia class through 2033.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have any votes in Congress,” he said.

He said that replacement of Ohio class submarines continues to be the force’s top priority. The successes of the Virginia class, which the admiral called “the darling of the Department of Defense,” should be talked up widely in New England and Washington, he said.

The number of suppliers to EB and the Navy is shrinking, Padgett noted. This is likely to drive up the costs of building and maintaining submarines, he said. Missiles and torpedoes are not being created at replacement rate, he warned.
“The politics can change overnight, but we have to keep thinking about these things,” he said.

Source: norwichbulletin, September 26, 2011