- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Patching the gaping, waterline hole in the USS Cole's amidships will cost the Navy up to $170 million, military sources said yesterday.
The sources said the Navy is initially estimating the damage at $100 million to $150 million, but shipbuilding officials say the bill could reach $170 million.
A bomb ripped through the Cole's hull, opening a 40-by-40-foot gash, destroying gas turbine engines and a propeller shaft, and damaging the main deck mess hall as the ship refueled in Aden, Yemen.
The damage is too extensive for repairs in the Persian Gulf region. Instead, the Navy signed a $4.5 million contract on Monday with the Norwegian owners of the salvage ship Blue Marlin. The crippled, Norfolk-based destroyer will be slid onto the Marlin's huge platform deck and taken piggyback to a U.S. shipyard. The ship is in Dubai on the Persian Gulf and will leave tomorrow for the six-day voyage to Yemen.
The Cole will likely be repaired by one of two yards: Bath Iron Works in Maine or Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi, which built the ship in 1996 at a cost of $1 billion.
Congressional officials are looking for a way to fund the repairs in this fiscal year's budget. The options are to add the money to one of three appropriations bills still in House-Senate conferences or to a omnibus bill.
The Navy has a tight shipbuilding and repair budget, as money has been drained off to fix old ships and support a series of overseas deployments. Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, recently told congressional committees the Navy is not buying sufficient ships to maintain a 300-plus-ship Navy a fleet already overworked by global commitments.
Terrorists struck the Cole while the warship refueled (a brief stop for fuel, or BSF, in Navy parlance). A witness said two men maneuvered a small boat alongside and ignited powerful explosives, killing 17 American sailors and injuring more than 30. The Cole was traveling alone from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf to join the carrier George Washington battle group.
"The ship itself remains stable," Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday. "She's providing her own electrical power."
The Navy has sent a flotilla of warships to the scene to provide security and give an FBI-led investigating team an offshore base of operations. The presence includes a guided-missile frigate and destroyer, and a three-ship Marine amphibious ready group.
"I certainly think that it would be better to err on the side of caution in this case," Adm. Quigley said. "It's felt that by moving some of the various American investigators and salvage folks and what have you from hotels and other facilities ashore onto those naval vessels, that we improve our security posture."
The current U.S. State Department report on global terrorism states that Yemen is a "safe haven" for various terrorists groups.
Adm. Quigley said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has made no decision on whether to appoint a special panel to investigate the ship's security procedures.
Mr. Cohen cited an Air Force wing commander for lax security at the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, where 19 service members were killed by a terrorist truck bomb in 1996. Mr. Cohen blocked the officer's promotion, forcing him to retire.
Adm. Quigley vouched for the Cole's commanding officer.
"I think the commanding officer of the Cole has done a magnificent job in continuing to lead his crew and coordinate the efforts there, at the center of an incredible amount of attention and focus, as it should be," he said.
He also said small boats approaching any Navy ship will get scrutiny.
"The entire Navy, the entire Department of Defense is very much aware of what happened to Cole. I think it's safe to say that everybody is putting a little bit more emphasis on security, no matter where you might be found, even in your home port or any overseas location."

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