Security expanded for Trident subs in Puget Sound : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Security expanded for Trident subs in Puget Sound

By LLOYD A. PRITCHETT Scripps Howard News Service August 09, 2001

BREMERTON, Wash. - Security zones have been expanded around Trident submarines operating in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca in response to a "real, credible and immediate threat" against the nuclear-armed subs, government documents reveal.

The heightened security measures, spelled out in a new Coast Guard regulation, were established under an emergency provision that allows the government to bypass normal rulemaking procedures to preserve national security.

Security zones also have been expanded along the waterfront of the Naval Submarine Base at Bangor, Wash., where the Trident subs are home-ported between deployments.

"The Navy is concerned about possible terrorist acts," said Lt. Paul M. Stocklin Jr., chief of the Waterways Branch at the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Seattle, which oversees the new security zones. "That potential threat still exists."

Military officials declined to discuss how the threat was detected or exactly what it is.

There was no immediate explanation why the heightened security applies only to Trident submarines and the Bangor base, and not to surface naval vessels based in Puget Sound or their home ports.

But Stocklin said the military eventually may expand security zones around Navy surface ships in Puget Sound, too, and the issue is under discussion.

"I know the Navy is concerned about security for all of its assets," he said. "I don't know if the threat was specifically against ballistic missile submarines."

Navy officials contacted for more information about the nature of the threat denied the existence of a specific threat.

Whatever the nature of the threat, the new rules remain in effect and are likely to become permanent, Stocklin said.

Each of the eight Trident submarines based at Bangor carries 24 long-range ballistic missiles capable of launching up to 192 thermonuclear warheads. Each sub is powered by a nuclear reactor containing radioactive fuel. In addition, the Bangor submarine base has bunkers full of nuclear warheads in storage or undergoing maintenance and repairs.

The base's heavily guarded Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific is the only place on the West Coast where nuclear weapons are stored, under a consolidation plan carried out over the past several years.

Under the new security measures, no person or vessel will be allowed within 300 yards of any Navy submarine in transit through Puget Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Before the new rule took effect, no restrictions existed.

In addition, no person or vessel will be allowed within a security zone extending about 500 yards out from the waterfront of the Bangor submarine base. The new base security zone extends about 200 yards farther south than the old zone.

Stocklin said Coast Guard and naval vessels accompany some Trident submarines through Puget Sound to enforce the new security exclusion zone. But so far they have not encountered any vessels classified as a threat.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 09, 2001

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