Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy got to tour the Arctic on a Connecticut-made submarine named for the Nutmeg State's capital this weekend to educate himself about life under water.
“I took this trip in part so that I can be a much better first-hand advocate for the money we need to continue to build,” Murphy said Monday. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Democrat returned committed to push funding so the quality of life for submarine sailors is “the gold standard.” The USS Hartford was filled with a crew from Groton, Conn., as well as Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.
On Saturday, Murphy and the crew traveled to Deadhorse, Alaska, before beginning the second leg of the trip to U.S. Navy Ice Camp SARGO, a temporary station on top of a floating ice sheet in the Arctic.
At the station, the team boarded USS Hartford. They participated in the Navy's Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2016, designed to assess the operational readiness of the submarine force and to advance research.
According to Murphy, it involves two submarines maneuvering around the station while conducting research. The submarine showed “the pace of ice melt in the Arctic and the threat that that potentially poses,” he said.
Murphy and the other lawmakers stayed with the crew overnight. “The first thing you are struck by is the capability of these sailors; these sailors are oozing competence,” he said.
He stressed the importance of retention in the Navy. “You want to keep them around so they have a chance to ultimately become leadership on these boats,” he said, also plugging the need for funding support systems around their families, too.
He mentioned that in 2021, the Navy will go back to building one submarine of the Hartford's class - the Los Angeles class submarine - per year. The current rate is two per year.
“These Los Angeles class submarines just can’t stay out in the water for longer than their intended life,” Murphy said. He wants to push that replacement rate back up to two per year, a priority also for his state's submarine makers.
“Operations in the Arctic are difficult,” he said.
On USS Hartford, the crew and their guests had pizza for dinner and the weekly Saturday night movie. “Without irony, the movie this Saturday night was ‘The Hunt for Red October.’ [It was] fun to hear submariners critique [it] 600-feet under the surface.”
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