Good money after bad, and that's the best option
The [HMCS] Chicoutimi has been sitting in dry dock at the Halifax Shipyard since last spring. It is slated to return to duty in September 2007.
The military admits it has already spent about $25 million assessing the damage and removing some materials destroyed in the Oct. 5, 2004 blaze that killed Lieut. Chris Saunders of Halifax.
But the navy has refused to confirm or deny the projected $100-million cost, which is more than six times the $15 million the navy initially estimated for fixing the Chicoutimi.
*pinky to corner of mouth* One hundred MILLLION dollars!
Seriously, that's a pile of coin. That's over twelve percent of the Upholder project's original 'non-recurring costs' of $812 million, and it's $10 million more than the projected costs of operating the entire four-ship submarine fleet for a year.
Anyone who has ever owned a used car is familiar with the dilemma: at what point does it stop making sense to fix the damned thing and just buy a new one? With a fleet of submarines operated by no other navy in the world, the problem is even trickier. Dragging the Chicoutimi past the edge of the continental shelf and scuttling it doesn't solve the problem, since we have three more of the beasts, none of which are in good working order.
So what are our options? I'm going to assume buying new isn't one of them.
If we decide the repair cost is too high, in terms of danger to personnel and financially, then we not only lose all the formidable capabilities of a submarine force for the forseeable future, we lose the institutional ability to operate such a force. That is to say, our navy forgets how to fight in subs. That's an awfully drastic step to take, because it's not something you can undo in anything less than a generation, and probably more.
So we really have to fix the cursed things. In my opinion, if you're going to take a hit, then take it all at once and take it openly. Sit all four of the ships, and get a comprehensive, and if possible, independent review of what it will take to make all of them reliable fighting ships again. Then cost those modifications and repairs out, not to the lowest bidder, but to the one in which you have the highest confidence - we've done it cheap, now we want to do it right. Then bite the bullet and spend the money.
Otherwise, you fall into the typical short-sighted used-car trap: band-aid solutions to deeper problems end up costing more in the long-run. Better to pull the machines apart once and do everything than to nickel-and-dime it.
Years ago when it was first announced, I had hoped the Upholder purchase would mark a turning point for the long-suffering Canadian Forces submarine community. Since then, we've seen good men die - and I'm not just talking about Lt (N) Saunders here - and we still don't have a credible subsurface capability. It's about time we either ante up or get out of the game; anything less will be a waste of time, money, and quite possibly lives.
Along with our submariners, I'm still waiting for the turning point we so desperately need.
Update: From the comments at SDA, with thanks to Kate for the link, comes the funniest four-word solution I've yet seen: Give it das Boot. Heh.