San Diego will become the hub of Navy mine-hunting this fall under a controversial plan to merge the program with a much bigger command.Given the Navy's typical resistance to any changes, the reaction is about what I'd expect. I suspect there's a lot of synergy that could make both ASW and mine warfare better.
The Mine Warfare Command – including 10 ships and about 1,200 sailors – is to be moved from Ingleside, Texas, to Point Loma.
The program's aircraft will be stationed in Virginia. The Texas base is being closed.
Supporters of the planned merger say it will align two parts of the Navy that have similar missions. They maintain that a merger will give the mine-warfare program access to high-tech wizardry, allowing it to replace an aging fleet of ships geared toward Cold War-era threats that no longer exist. Last month, the Navy decommissioned the first four of a dozen mine-hunting ships it intends to scrap by 2008.
“The time has come to put it all under one roof so we can leverage the technologies that are compatible,” Rear Adm. John Waickwicz told the San Diego Military Advisory Council in April.
Waickwicz is commander of the recently formed Fleet Anti-Submarine Mine Warfare Command.
Waickwicz sees mine warfare fitting nicely under the anti-submarine wing. After all, he said, both types of combat involve the detection and destruction of undersea weapons.
“There are a lot of technologies that can be used for hunting mines and anti-submarine warfare,” Waickwicz said. “We don't want to dilute capabilities. We want to increase capabilities.”
Those concerned about the merger said the opposite would occur.
Placing an independent command within a larger command inevitably would degrade it, they said. Critics cite the inclusion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, and the weaknesses exposed by Hurricane Katrina.
“They are turning back 15 years of planning and exercises,” said Truver, the naval analyst. “(Mine warfare) will truly become a backwater of the United States Navy.”
Mine warfare has always existed on the Navy's fringes, its slow-moving, coast-hugging vessels dwarfed by the bigger, faster oceangoing fleet.
Monday, July 31, 2006