Friday, March 17, 2006
Sub sails into shipyard
By DOUGLAS P. GUARINO
Democrat Staff Writer
The USS Hartford and its crew of 13 officers and 121 enlisted personnel arrived Thursday afternoon at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine for $150 million in maintenance and system upgrades.
(Beth Lorden/Democrat photo)
PORTSMOUTH — Once the subject of a debate pitting the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard against a private shipbuilder in Connecticut, the USS Hartford arrived here Thursday for $150 million in maintenance and system upgrades.
Shipyard Public Affairs Officer Deb White said she expects work on the Hartford to take about 13 months. One of six subs currently docked on the yard, the Hartford's host community will be the City of Portsmouth.
In May 2005, at the height of the battle to save the shipyard from Base Realignment and Closure, Connecticut officials expressed frustration with the Navy's decision to send the nuclear submarine to Portsmouth rather than Groton-based Electric Boat.
The decision was a reversal of a prior plan Portsmouth advocates had lobbied against, beginning in fall 2004 when the Maine and New Hampshire congressional delegation sent a letter to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon Clark.
Initially, the Navy denied the delegations' request to switch the contract, prompting shipyard advocates, including retired commander Capt. William McDonough, to raise concerns the Navy was selecting private contractors over Portsmouth despite the shipyard's superior record of efficiency.
But in February 2005, Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, New Hampshire Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, Maine Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, and New Hampshire Rep. Jeb Bradley raised the issue of the USS Hartford again during a meeting with Navy Secretary Gordon England and Assistant Secretary of the Navy John Young regarding the shipyard's future workload.
This time, the Navy apparently responded, according to a joint press release the delegation issued in April 2005.
U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn. did not receive news of the reversal kindly.
"For the Navy to decide on one day that the work is going south, and the next day that it's going north, doesn't build a lot of confidence in my mind that this is anything other than politics," Simmons, told The Day of New London. "We don't need politics involved when it comes to deciding who's going to repair vessels for our sailors."
Speaking on behalf of the Maine and New Hampshire delegation Antonia Ferrier, press secretary for Snowe, R-Maine, responded to Simmons's comments by saying it was performance, not politics that prompted the Navy's decision.
"The Navy's decision to conduct the USS Hartford's DMP at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is a clear reflection of the yard's outstanding record of performance," Ferrier said.
"This facility is far and away the most efficient nuclear shipyard in the nation, returning $26 million over the last three years and saving 60 weeks of operational time by returning these boats to the fleet early," she said. "We are confident that USS Hartford will benefit from PNS' highly skilled workforce during its time in Portsmouth."
Dale F. Gerry, a Washington-based lobbyist hired by the Seacoast Shipyard Association, echoed similar sentiments.
"It's not about politics," Gerry, vice president of Strategic Marketing Innovations Inc., said. "It's about cost and schedule and the expenditure of taxpayers money — period.
The Hartford, along with her crew of 13 officers and 121 enlisted personnel, arrived at Portsmouth at about 1 p.m. Thursday. Built by Electric Boat and launched in 1993, the 392 foot, 6,900 ton sub is capable of conventional anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, strike warfare, reconnaissance, mine planting and operations with special forces.
Since it's commissioning in 1994, the sub has deployed twice to the North Atlantic, three times to the Mediterranean and once to South-Central America.
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Beth Lorden/Democrat photo The USS Hartford (SSN 76 and her crew of 13 officers and 121 enlisted personnel dock Thursday afternoon at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery Maine for maintenance work and system upgrades.
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Beth Lorden/Democrat photo The USS Hartford (SSN 76 and her crew of 13 officers and 121 enlisted personnel dock Thursday afternoon at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery Maine for maintenance work and system upgrades