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If the project now before Congress looking to the establishment of a council of national defense is enacted into law, it should result in the department being able to reckon with considerable certitude on the amount of ordnance work which may be required in a given period of years, and it would then be possible to gauge with considerable accuracy the size and capacity of the Government plants to be devoted to gun manufacture. In the absence of any such certain knowledge it seems inadvisable to disturb existing conditions.
With respect to the 90 per cent of the gun factory facilities which are not devoted to gun work, these are devoted to the manufacture of gun mounts, cartridge cases, powder tanks, and miscellaneous ordnance materials.
The amount of this work naturally fluctuates considerably, some of it being directly dependent on the shipbuilding program and some dependent on the rapidity with which improvements in ordnance are made. Heretofore it has been found possible to maintain a fairly constant working force at the gun factory, and although at times it may appear desirable to increase the force in order to expedite the completion of certain urgent work, such practice is avoided as far as possible in order that heavy discharges may not be necessary when the emergency has been met.
Some classes of work, such as the manufacture of powder tanks, can readily be given to outside parties, once the design has been approved and tested and found satisfactory. This class of work can be done by many private establishments with the same machinery and equipment as is employed in their commercial work, and by giring it out to them the emergency is tided over without augmenting the working force at the gun factory. Some other classes of ordnance materials, such as gun sights, require special equipment, tools, and experience, and it is only in extraordinary cases that this work is given outside unless it is given with gun work. The existing practice of the department regarding these classes of work has given satisfactory results and no change is recommended.
The tendency is to increase gun practice. With increased gun practice the life of the gun is shorter, and with more ships in commission there are more guns in use. At the mobilization in New York we turned out 31 battleships. We would have turned out 32, but for an accident to one, which prevented us from having at the review 32 ships. Twenty-one ships are to be kept in the active fleet and the rest in the reserve fleet.
Mr. Gregg. Twenty-one in the first line?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir. The ideal number which the Navy Department hopes to work up to is a fleet of 41 battleships (with necessary auxiliaries), 21 in the active fleet and 20 in the reserve fleet.
I would like to read a letter that I received this morning in connection with the reserve fleet. It is from the correspondent of Collier's, who was given the privilege of going on one of the ships in order that he might get to Constantinople. He has written me a letter thanking me for this privilege, and says:
I can not speak too highly of the efficiency of the officers who, on such short notice, took out two ships from the reserve ships-coaled, provisioned, and equipped, and then whipping a mixed crew together, brought the squadron into Gibraltar a day ahead of time, with every department working smoothly.
Mr. GREGG. They were taken from Philadelphia?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir; the two cruisers in command of Admiral Knight. They got off on less than three days' notice. What we claim now is that we have the Navy on an emergency basis. With all these ships in reserve, we have in the engine room a third of the crew and on the deck a quarter.
We are having a little difficulty with our enlistments now. We are behind, due to the call for labor all this summer and autumn. When that lets up and the crops are all in, we hope to increase our enlistments. We are to-day 6,000 men behind on the total enlistments allowed by law.
Mr. GREGG. Including the increase that we allowed last year?
Concerning the matter relating to appropriations desired during this Congress, I have recommended in my report, for the consideration of the committee, a floating dock of 40,000 tons capacity, to be used in such locality as the department might from time to time direct or require and two graving docks.
The CHAIRMAN. Before you leave the floating dock, what is the necessity for that, the demand?
Secretary MEYER. The necessity for a floating dock is its availability to float a battleship or cruiser that has been injured or wrecked. or crippled on any part of our coast. The dock could be taken to her. If a ship can go to the dock, then there is not that requirement.
The CHAIRMAN. How many docks have we, and have we authorized ?
Secretary MEYER. We have two floating docks now, the dock out in the Philippines and the dock at New Orleans. The dock at New Orleans will float a battleship of about 15,000 or 16,000 tons. There is some doubt in the minds of some men whether it would be safe to float a 16,000-ton ship. That would be the absolute limit of its capacity. Mr. ËSTOPINAL. It has floated a 16,000-ton ship? Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir. Mr. ROBERTS. What would be the cost of this floating dock? Secretary MEYER. About $2,700,000.
Mr. ROBERTS. What is the design of the department if they get that dock-to station it on the Atlantic or the Pacific?
Secretary MEYER. On the Atlantic.
Secretary MEYER. No, sir. There is no hidden motive. We did not suppose that it would come this year, but the purpose was to go on record that that is a part of the equipment which our Navy should have. England and Germany have gone into building large ones. It has the advantage of the time which would be saved in getting at the ship, and it would bring a ship into commission again with much less loss of time.
Mr. ROBERTS. Do you recall the life of a floating dock?
Secretary MEYER. Of course, the life is not the same as that of a graving dock, and the maintenance is heavier. I am not taking the stand that a floating dock is less expensive than a graving dock; it is a resource to the Navy.
Mr. ROBERTS. Is I understand, you are not advocating strongly the floating dock this year?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; but I want to bring out that it is a part of the equipment which a great navy should have, because you can well conceive that a ship might run aground or be injured and be taking so much water that she could not get to the dock, could not go up to Philadelphia, for instance, in case of an accident, or to any port which has less than a 40-foot channel. Normally they draw 30 feet.
The CHAIRMAN. You were speaking of taking the dock from point to point; might not that involve the safety of the floating dock, since the Dewey sunk at Manila?
Secretary MEYER. There was something very peculiar about that. She was sunk while lying at her berth; she did not sink while crossing the Atlantic.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you never find out why she sank?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir. My recollection is that the report did not demonstrate what was the real cause.
Mr. ROBERTS. Were her valves found open?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir; but why they were open or how they got to be open I do not know.
Mr. ROBERTS. You knew what sank her?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir; but they were not able to demonstrate, as I recall, how that came about.
Mr. ROBERTS. There was no structural defect, nothing gave way or broke?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir. It has been demonstrated that you can take a dock wherever you want to.
The CHAIRMAN. Speaking of the life of a dock, last year in the hearings it was testified that the cost of maintenance of a floating dock in comparison with a stationary or graving dock was very high?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. And that after 20 years it was practically prohibitive?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. That the life of a floating dock, from that testimony, was around 20 years?
Secretary MEYER. About the same as a battleship. A battleship is in the first line the first 10 years, goes into the second line the next 10 years, and then she ought to be
The CHAIRMAN (interposing). When we get a larger number of these 30,000 and 35,000 ton battleships with 14-inch guns, get a much larger number than we have now, will not their life be longer than 20 years?
Secretary MEYER. The life of the ship?
Secretary MEYER. The experts seem to consider that 20 years is about the limit, not on account of weakness structurally or that the
material has deteriorated, but on account of the advancement in design and the changes in the military features of the ship.
The CHAIRMAN. Having a ship of 30,000 to 35,000 tons, with a hull that Admiral Dewey stated before the committee was good for a hundred years, could not the machinery and armament on such a ship be adapted from time to time as invention might suggest improvements ?
Secretary MEYER. I should think not, from the experience the Navy has had in the last 20 years. When the Oregon was built she was considered a wonder, and the country was amazed at the feat that she accomplished in going around tħe Cape, but in 5 years or 10 years she was outstripped in military efficiency, and any change which required heavy armament, etc., would have been a waste of inoney. I do not know but that the money spent on her repairs was inadvisable.
The CHAIRMAN. The Oregon was a ship of 13,000 tons?
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir; but 13,000 tons in those days was as large as 30,000 tons to-day.
Mr. GREGG. The Oregon carried 13-inch guns?
Mr. ESTOPINAL. If the improvements continue at the rate they are going, in a few years we will have a 100,000-ton ship?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; not a battleship.
Secretary MEYER. I doubt if that follows, because there is a limit to the size and depth. The draft is confined to the depth of the harbors. The greatest harbor we have here of any commercial value is 40 feet—the Ambrose Channel, N. Y. The greatest length of the locks of the Panama Canal is 1,000 feet. Whatever improvements may be made in the way of armament and armor, the width of a ship can not exceed 110 feet if we are to use her between the two oceans. Therefore we have a limitation in sight as to the length, beam, and draft, which we had not 10 or 20 years ago.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. Then we have nearly reached the limit which we can expect?
Secretary MEYER. Take the Pennsylvania; she is about 625 feet long, her beam is about 97, and her draft is about 30 feet.
The CHAIRMAN. Assuming that we are now in the neighborhood of the limit of size as fixed by the harbors and the Panama Canal, why would not the hulls and construction be suitable for adaptation to improvements in armament?
Secretary MEYER. We have not yet reached the limit. Experience has shown that in the designs everything is calculated and figured out to the slightest fraction, and any great change in armament involves such structural changes and such great expense that it is not commensurate with the result; furthermore, the designers are making improvements all the time. One of the policies of the past, which has been an expensive one, was that they altered and revamped old ships. We realize now that it is wiser, from our experience, to keep the ship up to the highest efficiency of the design, rather than to attempt to improve and alter its general characteristics.
Now, about the channels. I have publicly taken the stand that for our chief navy yards we should adopt 40-foot channels from
sea to the berthing space and in the vicinity of the dry docks, as the 40-foot channel is what is required for the future.
Mr. Loud. That would provide for perhaps 15,000 or 20,000 tons more than any ship we have to-day!
Secretary MEYER. Whether we could get 20,000 tons—that would mean a 50,000-ton battleship-is a matter that I should want the experts to give an opinion on.
Mr. Lots. We have not reached the limit as yet, by considerable!
Secretary MEYER. No. There is a limit in sight which was not the fact 20 years ago.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. How many places have you now which guarantee 40 feet?
Secretary MEYER. We have Narragansett Bay with plenty of water for everything; we have New York, which has a channel of 40 feet at low tide; we have Boston, which has a channel of 35 feet at low tide and more than 40 feet at high tide; Portsmouth, which has even a greater depth; and there is a 35-foot channel in PhilaHelphia.
Mr. LEE. We expect to make it 40 feet.
Secretary MEYER. I know; but the appropriation was based on 35 feet.
Mr. LEE. Yes, sir.
Mr. BUCHANAN. If Mr. Lee stays in Congress long enough, I think they will have 50 feet.
Secretary MEYER. Those are the deep harbors on the Atlantic. On the Pacific at Puget Sound we have a good depth, and there is a great depth at Hunter's Point, San Francisco, which does not belong to us, but where a graving dock is established. We have a limited depth at Mare Island, 25 feet at low tide, although they are striving for 35.
The CHAIRMAN. They testified the other day that it was less than 35 feet; they said 22 or 23 feet. I was under the impression and called attention to the fact that I thought it was 26 feet, but the Admiral testified that it was 22 or 23 feet.
Secretary MEYER. He has been out there later than I. When I was there they were working on a plan of a joint Army and Navy board.
Mr. Loup. These ships draw 26 or 27 feet?
Secretary MEYER. I think that is confined to the depth at the mouth, which is about 30 feet.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. They have opened the southwest pass and secured 35 feet.
Secretary MEYER. Is it permanent?
Secretary MEYER. I doubt that, but I think they will try to keep it up.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. If they keep it up, that makes it permanent. The southwest pass, the last one opened, has 35 feet clear.
Secretary MEYER. At Charleston we had 30 feet at the dock for awhile, but we can not keep it at much over 23 feet.
The CHAIRMAN. They testified the other day that they had 17 feet!