Submarine Algebra: Calculating the Unknown
We know one of the military's most advanced tools (submarines) for maintaining control of the seas, projecting power and conducting stealth operations is undergoing reductions deep enough to impact the prime contractor (Electric Boat Company) of the world's most formidable submarine fleet. (Yes, the Cold War is supposedly over now, although it appears China, Venezuela and perhaps a dozen other countries intend to upgrade their submarine fleets significantly, including in China's case, submarine launched, nuclear weapons.) Reductions planned have been disturbing to some of us.
Public Info: U.S. boats no longer need to prowl oceans for elusive Soviet subs. Instead, their job is providing far away protection of carrier battle-forces, cruise missile support, early warning and intelligence gathering, harbor mine clearing, Special Operation Warfare team delivery, etc. The Virginia class was specifically designed for this multiple-mission capability in mind.
Conjecture: For we of the general public, there will always be unknowns (for example), classified aspects of defense capability. Could it be that the U.S. now possesses a satellite detection capability that identifies the locations and tracks of submarines in all of the worlds oceans? If not, what other technological miracle could enable the smaller number of subs the U.S. plans to maintain in 15-20 years to perform their critical missions? (Possession of such satellite capability might tie in very well with robotic submarines whose endurance might eventually be multiples of those for manned subs).
Some will argue Occam's razor, that the simplest explanation is merely necessary defense cost cutting. That is convenient, but it assumes a Pearl Harbor like blindness to existing threats exists again in the top levels of government. Though that may not be a hard sell considering the likes of John Murtha or John Kerry, others have not forgotten the lesson of Pearl Harbor -be prepared. Just a thought.