The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole sits pierside at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Oct. 10, two days before the 10th
anniversary of the suicide bombing of the ship that killed 17 Sailors and wounded 39 while it was refueling in the Port
of Aden in Yemen. Cole returned to the fleet in 2002 and has deployed four times since the attack.
Navy oilers could become potentially lucrative targets in a future conflict, during which they could be
attacked in order to deprive surface combatants of the
fuel required to escort and protect the aircraft carrier
battle groups, Taylor said.
Taylor, a member of the powerful House Armed
Services Committee and chairman of its seapower and
expeditionary forces subcommittee, lost his bid for re-election Nov. 2.
Oil supplies also are at risk of being disrupted as a
result of fallout from a conflict that may not directly
involve the United States, but which may affect areas
where tankers ply their trade. Witness the disruption
caused to oil distribution during the Iran-Iraq War,
when the two countries performed attacks on tankers
in the Persian Gulf from 1984.
Market volatility and political unrest in oil-producing
nations can lead to price increases or supply disruption
that threaten to further tax a U.S. defense budget already
Dependence on fossil fuels also has tactical consequences for the Navy. Surface ships can be vulnerable to attack
when they are being refueled at sea. Moreover, given the
dependence that surface combatants have on fossil fuels,
naval oilers can be attractive targets for an enemy.
The October 2000 suicide bomb attack on the
Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, which
claimed the lives of 17 Sailors during a refueling stop,
underscored the reality that foreign ports where U.S.
Navy ships routinely refuel also are susceptible. These
factors are having an effect on U.S. Navy thinking.
“Increased attention to carbon footprint and the
increased cost and national security implications of
foreign-based fossil fuel supplies have contributed to
the renewed look at nuclear propulsion,” Dougan said.
For energy security, nuclear-powered naval vessels
have a clear appeal. Unlike their diesel- or gas turbine-powered counterparts, they do not require regular
refueling, effectively limiting the vessel’s endurance to
that of its crew. Furthermore, nuclear reactors can have