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House panel agrees to convert four Trident submarines

For several years, senior Navy officials and politicians have heavily promoted the plan that the four oldest Trident submarines at Subase Bangor are worthy of being converted into cruise missile or other conventional platform assets, rather than being decommissioned.

But, funding for that conversion was the sticking point, until now. In fact, the conversion may actually save money across the board in the end.

After the Bush Administration requested only $116 million in the current fiscal year for the conversion of two of the four retiring Trident ballistic missile submarines into cruise missile platforms, Navy officials stressed to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D) Belfair, that they preferred to convert all four.

Approval was given Oct. 24 by the House Appropriations Committee to fund all four conversions in a timely manner, and with a substantial cost savings to the government. The panel approved a request by Dicks to add $463 million to the current year defense budget in order to accomplish the engineering and design work necessary for four conversions in succession. With the approval of all four at the outset, Dicks said, the overall cost for each sub would likely be 20 percent lower.

The measure must now be approved by the Senate, which earlier this year demonstrated support for converting four of the Tridents when it passed the Defense Authorization Act.

Dicks said that work on at least two of the four conversions – and perhaps an additional sub - will be done at PSNS, adding to the currently projected workload at the yard during the next several years.

“After discussing the issue with the Navy Secretary and the Chief of Naval Operations this year, it was clear to me that we should ultimately preserve all four of these very capable Ohio-class submarines,” Dicks said. “It makes more sense to invest additional funds at this time to accelerate the program and drive the overall cost down.”

Several other important national defense priorities that will have an impact on military installations in Kitsap County were also addressed in the defense spending bill according to Dicks, including:

•A total of $8.7 million for the second increment of funding for the UUV [Unmanned Undersea Vehicle] Center at Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division, Keyport.

•Extend the highly-successful Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Apprentice Program to workers at Keyport at a cost of $2 million.

•Funding of $7 million to centralize the Navy’s environmental programs work at a Northwest Environmental Center, which would be operated by Concurrent Technologies Corporation of Bremerton.

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