Naval Submarine Base New London
On the east bank of the Thames River near Groton, CT, New London Naval Submarine Base was the birthplace of the submarine force. It was originally a Navy yard, converted to a submarine base in 1916, and greatly expanded in World War II. The advent of nuclear power required an improvement in training and support facilities. By 1959, New London had become the largest submarine base in the world with 8,210 active personnel. In 1969, the base also took on logistical and training responsibilities for fleet ballistic missile submarines. In 1974, the Naval Submarine Support Activity was established. By 1979, the base supported the new Los Angeles and Ohio class submarines. Major units included Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, and Naval Submarine Support Facility. The base was recommended for closure by the DoD in the 2005 BRAC Recommendations (see BRAC 2005 below for details).
In 1868, Connecticut gave the Navy land and, in 1872, two brick buildings and a "T" shaped pier were built and officially declared a Navy Yard. This new yard was primarily used as a coaling station by Atlantic Fleet small craft. On October 13,1915, the monitor Ozark, A tender, and 4 submarines that accompanied her arrived at SUBASE. Future submarines and tenders followed and in 1916 the Navy established it as a submarine base. Following World War I the Navy established schools and training facilities at SUBASE.
Today the Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE NLON) is located on the east side of Thames River in Groton CT. All submariners in today's Navy will be stationed here for training and perhaps a tour onboard a fast attack submarine or with a pre-commissioning crew while their new submarine is under construction. SUBASE NLON is home to more than 40 tenant commands including the submarines and crews of Submarine Group TWO, the faculty and students of the Submarine School, and the Naval Submarine Support Facility (NSSF).
The base supports twenty one attack submarines and the Navy's nuclear research deep submersible NR-1. The base occupies approximately 500 acres and has over 400 buildings, with the housing and support facilities for 10,000 active duty and civilian workers and their families.
New London Harbor is on the northern shore of Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Thames River, including the ports of New London and Groton, and the Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE). The main harbor comprises the lower three miles of the river from Long Island Sound to the vicinity of the bascule railroad bridge and twin Highway 95 bridges that span the river between New London and Groton. The main harbor includes Greens Harbor, Shaw Cove, and Winthrop Cove. The inner harbor extends approximately nine miles upriver from the highway bridges to the city of Norwich, CT. The main harbor is open to the south through the mouth of the Thames River. Hills or bluffs with elevations exceeding 100 ft exist east and west of the main harbor except for some fairly flat topography on the lower portion of the harbor's eastern shore. The low elevations expose the harbor to southeasterly winds. The topography is more pronounced along the river above the highway bridges. Bluffs exceeding 200 ft on both sides of the river create a channel for north and south winds.
Many references state that the channel depth is 40 ft to the mouth of New London Harbor and 36 ft from New London Harbor to the SUBASE. However, SUBASE harbor pilots state that dredging had increased the channel depth to 40 ft from the mouth of the Thames River all the way to the SUBASE. The harbor pilots further state that the newly dredged depth is still insufficient for Ohio Class submarines to safely proceed upriver to the SUBASE. The upriver limit of Ohio Class submarines is a line approximately between the US Coast Guard Station on the west side of the Thames River and the Electric Boat facility on the east side.
The SUBASE is located on the Groton (east) side of the Thames River approximately 1-1/2 nmi north of the highway and railroad bridges which separate the main and inner harbors. The SUBASE pier complex consists of a mix of concrete piers and wooden piers. Most of the piers have deck heights approximately 5 ft above high tide level or approximately 8 ft above mean low water (MLW). An ongoing construction project is gradually replacing the older, wooden piers with more modern and substantial concrete piers. As of October 1996, a total of 15 submarine berths were available. The adjacent topography which provides considerable shelter from the easterly components of wind. It should be noted that the potential storm surge height at the SUBASE is calculated to be 17.4 ft in a worst case scenario, or approximately 6.2 ft above the 100-year flood level. In this instance a worst case storm is a Category 4 hurricane moving north at a 60 kt forward speed of movement.
A pilot is required for all submarine arrivals and departures at the SUBASE. Arriving submarines will normally board pilots north of buoys 5 and 6. According to DMAHTC (1995), boarding south of the buoys can be imprudent due to cross channel current set. Pilots will normally remain on departing submarines until the vessels are south of the highway bridges.
The SUBASE has a complement of two US Navy YTB class (2,000 hp) tug boats, one 2,600 hp tug and one 1,600 hp tug to assist submarines and other vessels at the facility. One tug will be assigned for arrivals and departures of all naval ships, except that two tugs are to be used for SSBN submarines. Three tugs are required for any undocking. According to Fleet Guide New London, the Electric Boat Company provides tugs for ships undergoing contractual trials regardless of berth location. New London Harbor has several commercial tugs up to 3,200 hp available for use at the port. Arriving commercial vessels usually go to the inner harbor without assistance, although a tug may be required when head winds and contrary currents exist. Large vessels normally require tugs for docking and undocking evolutions.
Four general use anchorages exist in the New London Harbor area, designated as anchorages A, B, C and E. The locations of Anchorages A, B, and C are within the limits of New London Harbor. Anchorage E is located approximately 1/2 nmi east-southeast of the seaward end of the entrance channel. All are said to provide good holding. Anchorage A has depths of only 15 to 18 ft at mean lower low water (MLLW) and a bottom of mud and soft mud. Anchorages B and C have depths of 20 to 30 ft with a mud bottom. Anchorage E has depths of 42 to 50 ft, with an unspecified bottom type. The preceding bottom types have been interpolated from sparse descriptive data printed on DMAHTC Chart 13213. Other bottom types may exist in the anchorages.
New London Harbor has more than 30 wharves and piers of various sizes and configurations, which are used as repair berths and for mooring recreational craft, fishing vessels, tugs, barges, ferries and government vessels. Depths alongside the various facilities range from 10 to 30 ft.
Berthing at the US Coast Guard Station consists of two large piers, Pier 4 and Pier 7, and other mooring facilities for small craft. Piers 4 and 7 were formerly assets of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC). NUWC closed as of January 1, 1997 and turned the piers over to the control of the US Coast Guard Station. The northernmost pier, Pier 7, is a 656 ft concrete pier capable of accommodating one Ohio Class submarine on its north side. Water depth on the north side of the pier is 42 ft at mean low water (MLW). Shallower depths exist on the south side of the pier. Deck height is approximately 15 ft above MLW. Pier 4 is a 555 ft long, wooden pier. Depths alongside Pier 4 are 19-20 ft at MLW. Deck height is approximately 8 ft above MLW. Pier 4 is exposed to seas moving northward into the harbor. Pier 7 is afforded limited protection from wave motion by Pier 4.
State Pier is located on the west side of the Thames River just south of the railroad bridge. The pier was previously leased and controlled by the US Navy because the USS Fulton, a submarine tender, was semi-permanently moored to four concrete dolphins located just northeast of the pier. The Fulton was decommissioned and no replacement vessel was assigned. The pier has now reverted to civilian use. As of October 1996, the pier was undergoing extensive renovations. Before renovations, the deck height of the pier was 10 ft above MLW. Alongside depths vary from 39 ft at MLW on the east side, 30 ft on the face, and 29 to 33 ft on the west side. When leased by the US Navy it was normal practice for departing vessels moored at the pier to back into the center of the channel and then proceed forward, down the channel to Long Island Sound.
The Coast Guard Academy Pier is used by the Academy's sailing ship Eagle (WIX-327), a Coast Guard Cutter, and miscellaneous small craft. Depths alongside the 410 ft long pier range from 17 ft on the face, 19 ft along the south side, and 15 to 17 ft on the north side. The pier is exposed to southerly winds.
The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation has a variety of docks with deck heights approximately 6 ft above MLW. The facility is reserved for ship building, refitting and repair. Submarines in various states of repair may be found there, including unmanned new construction vessels. The facility also has a variety of barges, including berthing barges for the personnel of vessels undergoing refitting or repair.
Hess Dock is privately owned by the Hess Oil and Chemical Division, Amerada Hess Corporation. The facility is located on the east side of the Thames River opposite Greens Harbor. The T-headed pier has a 55 ft face and 960 ft of berthing space, with dolphins. Deck height is 8 ft with an alongside depth of 40 ft. Use of the facility is primarily limited to oil and chemical barges. Larger vessels go to one of the four anchorages available at New London.
Greens Harbor is a small craft basin with general depths of 6 to 17 ft. Located just north of the New London Harbor entrance, Greens Harbor is exposed to southeast winds. Shaw Cove is a well protected, dredged basin for small craft located between the Coast Guard Station and the downtown New London wharves. A railroad bridge with a swing span crosses over the entrance to Shaw Cove. Clearance under the span is 6-1/2 ft. Winthrop Cove, at the northern edge of the downtown New London wharf area, contains facilities for ferry boats making regular runs to/from the harbor. Winthrop Cove is exposed to southeasterly winds.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: Close Naval Submarine Base New London, CT. Relocate its assigned submarines, Auxiliary Repair Dock 4 (ARDM-4), and Nuclear Research Submarine 1 (NR-1) along with their dedicated personnel, equipment and support to Submarine Base Kings Bay, GA, and Naval Station Norfolk, VA. Relocate the intermediate submarine repair function to Shore Intermediate Repair Activity Norfolk, at Naval Shipyard Norfolk, VA, and Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, GA. Relocate the Naval Submarine School and Center for Submarine Learning to Submarine Base Kings Bay, GA. Consolidate the Naval Security Group Activity Groton, CT, with Naval Security Group Activity Norfolk, VA, at Naval Station Norfolk, VA. Consolidate Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory Groton, CT, with Naval Medical Research Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Forest Glenn Annex, MD. Relocate Naval Undersea Medical Institute Groton, CT, to Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, and Fort Sam Houston, TX. Consolidate Navy Region Northeast, New London, CT, with Navy Region, Mid- Atlantic, Norfolk, VA.
Secretary of Defense Justification: The existing berthing capacity at surface/subsurface installations exceeds the capacity required to support the Force Structure Plan. The closure of Submarine Base New London materially contributes to the maximum reduction of excess capacity while increasing the average military value of the remaining bases in this functional area. Sufficient capacity and fleet dispersal is maintained with the East Coast submarine fleet homeports of Naval Station Norfolk and Submarine Base Kings Bay, without affecting operational capability. The intermediate submarine repair function is relocated to Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity Norfolk at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and the Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, GA, in support of the relocating submarines. Consolidating the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory with assets at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center Forest Glen Annex will create a DoD Center of Hyperbaric and Undersea Medicine that will increase synergy by consolidating previously separate animal and human research capabilities at a single location. The consolidation of Navy Region, Northeast with Navy Region, Mid-Atlantic is one element of the Department of the Navy efforts to reduce the number of Installation Management Regions from twelve to eight. Consolidation of the Regions rationalizes regional management structure and allows for opportunities to collocate regional entities to align management concepts and efficiencies.
The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $679.6M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a cost of $345.4M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $192.8M with a payback expected in three years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $1,576.4M. This recommendation indicated impacts of costs for at the installations involved, which reported $11.3M in costs for waste management and environmental compliance. These costs were included in the payback calculation. Naval Submarine Base New London reported $23.9M in costs for environmental restoration. Because the Department would have a legal obligation to perform environmental restoration regardless of whether an installation was closed, realigned, or remained open, this cost was not included in the payback calculation. Assuming no economic recovery, DoD estimated that this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 15,808 jobs (8,457 direct jobs and 7,351 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Norwich-New London, CT Metropolitan Statistical Area, which would be 9.4 percent of economic area employment.
In another recommendation, DoD would realign Naval Submarine Base New London and two other locations by relocating all mobilization functions to Fort Dix, NJ, designating it as Joint Pre-Deployment/Mobilization Site Dix/McGuire/Lakehurst. This recommendation was part of a larger recommendation to consolidate mobilization funcitons at several other sites. This recommendation would realign eight lower threshold mobilization sites to four existing large capacity sites and transforms them into Joint Pre-Deployment/ Mobilization Platforms. This action would be expected to have the long-term effect of creating pre- deployment/mobilization centers of excellence, leverage economies of scale, reduce costs, and improve service to mobilized service members. These joint platforms would not effect any of the services units that a have specific unit personnel/equipment requirements necessitating their mobilization from a specified installation. The realigned, lower thresholds mobilization sites had significantly less capacity and many less mobilizations. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 5 jobs (3 direct jobs and 2 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Norwich-New London, CT, metropolitan statistical area (less than 0.1 percent).
Community Concerns: The New London community argued the closure of the Submarine Base would eliminate a critical US military strategic presence. Advocates repeatedly expressed concerns that the closure would sever longstanding synergies with the Submarine School, Submarine Development Squadron 12, Electric Boat Company (which designs, constructs, and maintains nuclear submarines), Naval Undersea Medical Institute and such nearby facilities at Newport, RI, as the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Surface Warfare Officers School and the Naval War College, as well as loss of nearby college and university centers of undersea research. They argued DoD's closure recommendation deviated from the 20-year Force Structure Plan because it was premised on fewer attack submarines than their understanding of the requirement, and would restrict the future Navy because of insufficient basing capacity. Further, they asserted DoD undervalued New London's military value by not considering tenant commands such as the Submarine School, piers, Submarine Support Facility, and synergy relationships. Advocates claimed closure costs were greatly underestimated due to environmental considerations, personnel relocation and reconstitution of facilities at Norfolk, VA, and Kings Bay, GA. Similarly, savings were overestimated because of unrealistic personnel savings and construction requirements at Norfolk and Kings Bay to accommodate relocations. Last, the community projected a much greater economic impact on the local and extended area because of jobs associated with not only the base, but also those losses attendant with supporting facilities, including Electric Boat.
The Norfolk, VA, community expressed confidence that they and the Naval Station can support all personnel, submarines and equipment.
The Camden County, GA, community supported the closure recommendation, claiming the Navy can adequately support the current 55 Fast Attack Submarines. They claimed a lower force structure number would simply add to excess capacity. They backed DoD's assessment of relative military value for submarine bases. Kings Bay, a multi-use base, would provide synergy opportunities by collocating Fast Attack Submarines with a Fleet Concentration area that provided operating, training and maintenance interchange with Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines as well as Fleet Surface and Aviation units. They asserted that DoD calculations adequately considered construction costs, environmental considerations and potential savings. Advocates for Kings Bay indicated that with several thousand acres of unencumbered, developable land, there is ample capacity to accommodate relocated personnel, submarines, support and equipment. The community adamantly claimed there would be more than an adequate amount of high quality housing, educational and quality-of-life facilities to support an increased military population since the military presence would still be less than that supported in Camden County ten years ago.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that excess capacity exists in the surface-subsurface category, that significant savings would accrue, and that a solid business case was made for closure of Submarine Base New London. However, the Commission also found that decoupling and displacing long-standing collocation relationships with undersea centers of excellence, the Submarine School and a nearby submarine construction company could adversely affect operational readiness. In addition, the Commission found the argument of overall economic impact compelling. Further, the Commission's analysis found serious doubts about the threat assessment and resultant Force Structure Plan basis for the number of required Fast Attack Submarines. These factors combined to present an inherently unknowable and therefore unacceptable security risk to national security if the base were to close.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1, and the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut by consolidating Navy Region Northeast, New London, CT, with Navy Region, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, VA.
The Commission found this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all other recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.
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