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Posted: 3/17/2001 9:40:46 PM EDT
United States Naval Fire Support Association

William L. Stearman, PhD
Executive Director, U. S. Naval Fire Support Association
Member, White House National Security Council Staff, 1971-1976, 1981-1993


FAX PRESIDENT BUSH AT (202) 456-2461

The Bush administration has pledged to avoid the illegalities of its predecessor and return integrity and honesty to the government. Why, then, is the Pentagon now wasting millions of the taxpayers’ dollars to probably violate the law by needlessly towing the battleship USS Iowa, an important mobilization asset, from Rhode Island to California. The tow, which began on March 8, was initiated by the previous administration to illegally fulfill a "pork barrel" request when Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), close to midnight, unnoticed slipped $3.0 million into the FY 2000 Defense Appropriations Bill, specifically for towing of the Iowa to San Fransisco. This money was never authorized and to use it in FY2001 (which began last October) is illegal according to Title 10, U.S. Code 114. Congressman Bob Stump (R-AZ), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, strongly protested this unnecessary and costly move to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld both in a February 23 letter and in person. Stump’s protest was improperly brushed aside with the excuse that preparations were too far advanced to stop. Of course, Secretary Rumsfeld can still divert the tow to the Norfolk Navy Base which is well prepared to maintain it in accordance the law. This is best done before the Iowa reaches the Panama Canal on or about March 24. In addition to everything else, according to a knowledgeable Navy source, battleships are never towed at this time of the year because it is "too dangerous!" (Last month, retired DDG-22 USS Benjamin Stoddart was lost at sea while being towed.)

The battleships Iowa and Wisconsin are unique reserve mobilization assets protected by Public Law 104-106 that requires the Navy to preserve and maintain them ready to be returned to active service. Iowa is going to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) Reserve Fleet facility at Suisun Bay, California 35 miles from San Francisco. According to a Navy source familiar with MARAD, this facility has never cared for a mobilization asset like the Iowa and "does not have the ability to do so." There is no usable pier for the ship which is to be moored outboard of 14 other ships. Getting electrical cable to the ship to provide the 440-volt power needed to operate the nine dehumidification and cathodic systems essential to preserving the ship, will needlessly cost MARAD a small fortune. The current critical power shortage in California renders the essential source of power unreliable. What is more significant is that San Francisco no longer has an active Navy yard, and thus no capability to effectively maintain the ship. The ships maintained by MARAD consist of the Ready Reserve Force (RRF), some militarily useful commercial ships, some still serviceable former Navy ships and ships typed as Category "X", which is one step from the scrap yard. The majority of these ships receive minimum maintenance support, and have no protective systems installed. The MARAD Reserve Fleet at Suisan Bay and James River is, for the majority, the last port of call before being scrapped!

The USS Iowa is a maintenance category "B" ship, and therefore must be maintained in a state ready for
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