Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pentagon Backs Conversion of Tridents to Carry Cruise Missiles Briefing Good Omen for Kings Bay Base

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pentagon Backs Conversion of Tridents to Carry Cruise Missiles Briefing Good Omen for Kings Bay Base

Article excerpt

Byline: Bruce I. Friedland and Lindsay Tozer, Times-Union staff writers

No official decision has been made on whether to convert Trident submarines to carry cruise missiles, a Navy spokesman said yesterday.

But it seems clear from remarks made by President Bush last month and a Pentagon briefing given Tuesday on how to transform the military, that the Trident proposal has some powerful supporters in the new administration.

If the plan gets a green light, two of the converted Tridents would likely be kept at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base near St. Marys, Ga., keeping 1,000 jobs in South Georgia and Northeast Florida.

Without such conversion, two of the Tridents, which now carry intercontinental ballistic missiles mounted with nuclear warheads, would be scrapped to adhere to the START II arms control treaty.

Tuesday's Pentagon briefing by a former Air Force general reflected only recommendations that will be forwarded to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who could still decide against the proposal. The briefing was the first detailed glimpse into Bush's plans to transform the military, presenting proposals to build agile forces armed with radar-evading fighters and led into battle by ships and bombers armed with precision weapons.

What effect the plan will have on Jacksonville's bases is akin to studying "tea leaves" for the answer, one Pentagon pundit said.

"To be honest, I've almost stopped trying to follow the panels and the conclusions they come to," said Steve Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments in Washington. "It's too early to assume they've made any firm conclusions."

One of more than a dozen such task forces convened to study military tactics and policy, the review panel charged with suggesting ways the military could best transform its conventional forces is the first to release its recommendations.

Although recommendations are being gathered now, it could be more than a year before long-term plans are hammered out.

Eugene Carroll Jr., a retired rear admiral and naval issues expert at the Washington think tank Center for Defense Information, said the suggestions keep pace with the Pentagon's priorities.

"The report reflects the spirit coming out of the Pentagon: warfare conducted at the speed of light," he said. "No time to steam ships 5,000 miles when you can operate from space or launch a B-2. …

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