SIGINT Basis for Warnings Against Cutting Attack Sub Fleet
Reports, including one in The Washington Post, indicate that the Navy is using support for signals intelligence (SIGINT) and other special operations as the rationale for not cutting the attack-submarine fleet as much as called for by the Quadrennial Defense Review. The new idea supports a fleet of 68 attack subs, instead of dropping to the 50s. Although critics question the value of attack submarines now that the Cold War is over, the Navy plan includes using the undersea boats to spy on Third-World adversaries, tap undersea communications cables, intercept communications and secretly monitor weapons tests and military exercises. These missions will need new high-tech equipment for these missions. Like most defense programs, however, cost will be a major consideration.
There is no guarantee, however, that the plan will come to fruition. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army GEN Henry Shelton, has been quoted as saying that he is not leaning one way or the other on the idea. Finding money for this will conflict with other priorities. Further discussion will await a more in-depth risk assessment.