The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky transits the Hood Canal on June 15 as it returns to Naval Base Kitsap, following a strategic deterrent patrol. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will meet with the submarine’s crew during a visit to the base. Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda R. Gray/U.S. Navy

Defense secretary will visit Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor

BANGOR – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will visit Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, possibly today, his department reported Aug. 7.

Mattis will receive a briefing from Submarine Group 9 leaders, along with a tour “and an opportunity to engage the crew of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky,” Terri Moon Cronk of DoD News reported.

Also on Mattis’ travel itinerary: visits to Amazon headquarters in Seattle, the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental in Silicon Valley, and Google’s main campus in Palo Alto, California. He is scheduled to return to Washington, D.C. on Aug. 11.

At Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, Mattis will meet with staff and discuss with key leaders in the technology community “how the Defense Department can leverage new commercial technologies and methodologies and further expand initiatives designed to accelerate fielding capabilities to the warfighter,” Cronk reported.

Poulsbo-based Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action noted that Mattis’ visit comes amid an escalating war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. On Aug. 8, President Trump used his strongest language yet against North Korea: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

“One day before the President’s statement, on Aug. 7, the Department of Defense announced that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would be visiting Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor within the week,” Grund Zero stated its announcement of the visit.

The Bangor submarine base has the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. According to Ground Zero, if Washington state were a sovereign nation, it would be the third-largest nuclear-weapons state in the world.

“Hopefully, this is not as ominous as it sounds,” Ground Zero member Glen Milner said in an announcement of the upcoming visit by the secretary of Defense. “But it should remind citizens of the Pacific Northwest that our area will be in the forefront of any nuclear exchange, whether it involves North Korea, China, or Russia.”

The USS Kentucky, the Trident submarine that Defense Secretary Mattis will tour at Bangor, is estimated to carry about 108 nuclear warheads, according to Ground Zero. “The W76 and W88 warheads at Bangor are equal respectively to 100 kilotons and 455 kilotons of TNT in destructive force,” Ground Zero reported. “One submarine deployed at Bangor is equal to more than 1,400 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs.”

According to his biography, Mattis is a native of Richland, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve at the age of 18, and after graduating from Central Washington University in 1971 was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He served in the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. He served as the 11th Commander of United States Central Command, overseeing U.S. military operations in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, and Central Asia from Aug. 11, 2010, to March 22, 2013. He retired as a four-star general in 2013.

Mattis became Secretary of Defense on Jan. 20.

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