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I am pleased to be here this evening. While I have spent a lot of time in Washington, I must tell you it was a “cold water” shock to return after five years outside the Beltway. Aside from some of the political hazards, I’d forgotten how expensive this town was. Someone was telling me the other day that they received a letter from a woman saying that her son had gotten a job in Washington for #30,000 a year. She wanted to know if he could lead a good Christian life on that in Washington. He wrote her back. “He can’t lead any other kind.”

But the everyday problems in Washington aside, I want to say in a more serious vein that it’s a distinct pleasure for me to be here tonight, among long-time friends and associates. As you know, I have been associated with submarines off and on for many years, mainly off for the last few years. But one never sheds his affection for the submarine service. I know there are many people in this room who appreciate that.

The fact is that submarines sort of get under your skin. It’s hard today to realize that submarines used to be oily, smelly, and dirty. But that’s the way they were. I was reading Dolohin Tales and one or the stories reminded me of my own career. It was about an 8-boat tied alongside the dock; one night one of the men went ashore and had a few drinks and came back leading a skunk which he wanted to bring aboard. The gangway watch said, “You can’t do that. You know you can’t bring that skunk on this ship.” And he said, “Why not? Jones has got a dog.” This argument went on for awhile and finally the duty officer appeared on the scene. He likewise tried to convince the young man he couldn’t bring the skunk on board. Finally in desperation he said to the sailor, “Have you thought about the smell?” The sailor said, “He’ll get used to it just like I did.”

Now that’s a real submarine story. But even though the submariner’s act has been cleaned up somewhat over the passage of time, one thing from the past still remains: submariners are an elite element of the world’s finest navy. I don’t think there’s any question about that. As a group they probably enjoy the highest standard or education and training of any military organization in the world.

And the men-of-war they run and have mastered are pound-for-pound the best warships afloat today.

In today’s navy, submarines are important but they are vital. They not only field an invulnerable leg or our nuclear deterrent. Ir war comes, their role will be critical not only in combatting enemy submarines, attacking merchant trarric, and carrying the war to places where no other units can go, but also in righting alongside the rest of the Fleet in coordinated operations. It is, of course, nuclear power which has freed them and this rather dramatic change has enhanced their role.

In that connection I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the passing or Admiral Hyman Rickover. There is no need to belabor the extent of Admiral Rickover’s contributions to the nation. Suffice it to say that in a career that spanned eix decades, this man moved the Navy squarely into the nuclear era by the sheer force of his personality and his intellectual capacity. Irascible, but as demanding of himselr as he was of others, he left an indelible imprint on the country’s defenses. The nation is safer because of his vision and his energy.

In a similar vein, earlier generations have left behind them a rich heritage of courage and achievements that today•s submariners can draw on as we deal with the challenges of this era. Everyone here is familiar with that tradition. Indeed many of you have helped to build and to fashion it. Its sustaining influence is a vital element of the strength that the submarine service exhibits today. All submariners can and should be proud of this spirited and enduring legacy. Certainly the Naval Submarine League has been instrumental in not only focusing attention on undersea warfare but in keeping the retired community involved in the atrairs of the submarine force. I salute your contributions. They benefit not only submariners, but also the armed forces at large.

And speaking of the armed forces at large, tonight I want to take just a few moments to share with you some ideas about the state or those armed forces and about the role which they fulfill in today’s world — in today’s complex world. I have spent considerable time in the last few months talking to audiences around the nation — and also inside the Washington Beltway — about these subjects, and about the need to keep our armed forces strong and healthy.

I’ve also beaten a well-worn but not particularly successful path to the Hill. This education effort — or perhaps I should characterize it more accurately as this communications effort — has proved to be a demanding task — and not necessarily a rewarding one. But I believe firmly and sincerely in the importance of the civil-military dialogue in our country. The American public and their representatives in the Congress need to have the best possible information about our security posture and our defense needs. This is a burden that all or us who are devoted to a strong America can take up with great benefit to the nation and that includes the Naval Submarine League with its reservoir of defense expertise. I can tell you that in large part our ability to fashion an effective defense posture will rest, just as it has in the past, on our success in carrying our case to the electorate.

I think as we attempt to involve and inform the public in security matters that it is important to emphasize three particular areas where the level of understanding is often superficial in this country: the central role of the armed forces in American life, the spectrum of the threats we race, and the current state of our armed forces. At a high level or generality, or course, everyone is familiar with some or the basics. America’s national security goals have never been complicated or mysterious. They have in fact remained essentially unchanged since I entered the Naval Academy in the early 1940’s:

  • We want to preserve the independence, freedom of action, and territorial integrity of the United States.
  • We want to promote u.s. and Allied vital interests around the world; and
  • We want to shape an international order in which our freedoms and democratic institutions can survive and prosper.

But what gets lost somewhere in translation, for many of our citizens, is the point that these are not just empty words. They genuinely describe what our military strength can and does do for us. It has provided a great deal more than simply a shield against direct attack. That same power underwrites our political and commercial dealings with the international community, our use of the sea lanes, our communications with friends overseas, our approaches to arms control negotiations, our credibility in dealing with mischief makers. It cements alliances which, in turn, enhance our own security. In fact, our strength has bee~ an indispensable pillar not only of our freedom and affluence, but also the liberty and prosperity of our friends and allies around the globe. That’s a fact of international life today.

During my time in NATO, I observed firsthand that our military contribution to that coalition literally anchors the unity and political structure of NATO as well as furnishing the centerpiece of its defense. When I served as USCINCPAC, a succession of Asian leaders emphasized to me the importance of a strong and vigorous America. Behind the bulwark of our power they have been able to seek economic prosperity and political maturity in their own fashion and at their own pace. They stressed that to me time and time again. I have visited recently in Central America and the Middle East, The leaders in both those areas clearly want a powerful America as a backdrop for their efforts to build free and functioning societies.

The bottom line is that our military capability, our military strength, our military effectiveness provides us a host of benefits in terms of both national security and foreign policy, everyday. Americans — and millions or hopeful people around the globe — are able to go about their peaceful pursuits, and to move closer to fulfilling their aspirations, because the strength of u.s. armed forces operates, largely invisibly, to contain our adversaries and to facilitate our economic and foreign policies.

I know this because I have witnessed it firsthand. I have lived it. So have you. You know it for the same reaaonH. But for the general citizenry, these realities about the role of the armed forces in their lives tend quickly to be submerged in the press of day-to-day domestic business. So it is vital to continually remind Americans or these realities in today’s complex world. or course, the nature or the peril we race complicates the challenge or educating our public about the need tor strength. Again I am persuaded that there is a rather alarming lack or awareness of the diverse character of the threat. Security challenges now wear many faces other than the specter or conventional or nuclear war with the USSR. American interests are threatened on a number of fronts: terrorism that can occur anywhere on the globe, at any time; the diverse activities of Soviet surrogates who seek to promote instability even in our own backyard; and proliferating local conflicts in the Third World.


But the American public is not used to  thinking of the world — much less the threat in such terms. Henry Kissinger — a philosopher   of some note — once observed that we tend to think of “peace” and “war” as two entirely separate and incompatible spheres of activity. In the everyday world, of course, it is much more blurred than that. Jim Watkins, the former Chief ot Naval Operations and a submariner of some note, uses the term “violent peace” to make the point that today even a “peaceful” world is marked by competition, conflict and strife.

Any newspaper testifies to the fact that he is right: in Central America, in the Eastern Mediterranean, Southwest Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia, Libya, South and North Korea, and in the Philippines we see the evidence.

As a matter of fact, I have a chart in my office with pins in the various trouble spots in the world. I am constantly sending out for more pins.

But our citizens don’t keep these kinds of maps in their living rooms, and they have little incentive to follow these trends and themes. Most ot all, the relative tranquility of their lives here at home numbs them to the significance of Soviet activities which are not only designed to promote the spread of Moscow’s values and institutions, but also to undercut and limit the prospects for pluralism wherever the Free World is vulnerable.

The Kremlin understands very well the fundamentally competitive nature of the world, and seeks de~iberately to take advantage of it at every turn. They have never altered their original goal of overcoming the West through political or military means. And make no mistake, the Soviets will use their power brutally and directly when they believe that the calculus is in their favor. Witness Afghanistan.

It has always fascinated me while many nations use force against their enemies, the Soviet Union doesn’t hesitate to use it against its friends, as members of the Warsaw Pact can testify. But the fact remains that many Americans find it difficult to appreciate the significance of the Soviet military buildup that has proceeded for years. The USSR’s burgeoning military capability is well documented, and I won’t belabor the statistics here. The people here are all too familiar with Moscow’s investment in raw power. Suffice it to say that this growth is unprecedented — also unprovoked — and on sheer momentum alone the Soviet buildup will carry well into the 1990’s, if not longer. Like it or not, it is increasing, not decreasing, qualitatively as well as quantitatively every year. The result is not only an impressive Soviet military apparatus, but also an expanding proclivity for Moscow to project that power, to foster instability, to encourage surrogates, to promote terrorism, to support small but fierce regional conflicts, and to encourage anti-American regimes to challenge Washington in a variety of ways and places.

It is imperative for Americans to recognize these realities and to confront them squarely. We ignore them at our peril. It is up to you and me to be sure that Americans understand that.

Faced with these diverse and ever-present prospects of harm to American interests and people, the Pentagon must build forces that can cope with the full continuum of challenges.

We do the best that we oan, with the resources that Congress sees fit to provide. And I am convinced that the current state of our armed forces is sound by any commonsense measure, thanks to substantial improvements that have been made in the last five to six years.

The depressing trends of the 1970’s have been reversed and we have seen our military capability improve in every category, in every dimension – personnel, readiness, modernization, sustainability, force structure.

Submarine forces, likewise, benefited from this remarkable turnaround. These events have been accompanied by a resurgence of pride and morale at every level. I see it throughout the world in every Service. The spirit is the best that I have experienced in over 40 years in uniform. But I likewise believe strongly and genuinely that we must carry to fruition the President’s programs. Though we have done well in restoring capabilities that atrophied in the 1970’s, and the net progress thus far is encouraging, there is much yet to be done. For example:

  • Only one-third of our armor units have the new H-1 tank.
  • Only one-fourth of our battalions have the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
  • One-third of our Air Force bas yet to receive F-16’s and F-15’s.
  • Over half of our carriers do not yet field F-18’s.
  • Only one-third or our submarine force is made up of the latest attack units.

And I could go on and on.

Aside from these measures of the incompleteness of our progress, consider all the pressures on us to do more, to do better, in the realm of Special Operations Forces, limited intensity conflict, and in counter-terrorism and drug enforcement. In a similar vein, we have new missions and new command responsibilities. Fifteen years ago there was no CENTCOM or Indian Ocean Task Force. These unfulfilled goals and new demands place a high premium on sustaining public support for defense. And, unfortunately, our budget problems, and deficit problems, have spawned a lot of specious and confusing rhetoric in the media and elsewhere about our defense programs. I know you are familiar with this phenomenon. Some critics would make defense spending the scapegoat for mounting budget deficits. Others have attempted to do what former National Security Advisor, Bud McFarlane, warned about several months ago: that is to “de-link” America’s military strength from the threat, from our society’s rising prospects and prosperity, from the decades of peace that our allies have enjoyed, and from the improving prospects for meaningful arms control. We simply cannot allow these detractors to obfuscate the real issue -American security in a trying and challenging age, in a contest that is a marathon not a sprint.

Of course, we confront a genuine dilemma. On the one hand we acknowledge what is true — that we have made great progress in the last few years. On the other hand we must ask for more effort, indeed more sacrifice. The public and the Congress hear the first part, the progress that we have made, and they note that we are “at peace.” It’s hard for them to hear the second part, too, when pressures on our resources are becoming more and more intense.

My point is not that we must match the Soviet Union or anyone else weapon for weapon, gun for gun, man for man. We all know — in fact we insist — that our humane and decent society must do many things in addition to building strength. We know, therefore, that in a major war or other engagement with the Soviets we are going into battle outnumbered in both manpower and equipment. Leaders of my generation have accepted that for many years.

But we move on to find ways to compensate with quality weapons systems, realistic training, broad and support, and the help of our and allies.

excellent people, responsive logistic Free World friends

It’s a “sporty” course; a package that leaves little room for error, and no room for retreat from the challenge in any of those compensatory areas. The programs of the early 1980’s have given us the right impetus. America is safer as a result, and the prospects for what many of our citizens understand as peace are higher.

But the job simply isn’t finished, and the outcome of this year’s budget agoniGs leaves us short of where we need to be. Moreover, given the state of the public mind on these matters, I am afraid we will face a similar struggle next year and maybe for several years. We can live with one or two points on a descending curve but several years of declining appropriations would be disastrous. That is why we — you and I — have much to do in this frustrating business of communicating with the public and the .Congress about our defense posture. In next year’s budget struggles, we must do all that we can to avoid a third successive year of shortchanging our defense systems and our military people.

No military leader in our nation desires war. To keep the peace is the fundamental mission of our armed forces. The primary measure of their success is the ability to deter conflict. But we must constantly remind our citizens that freedom is not free. It requires continuous effort, vigilance and, at times, sacrifice; the type of sacrifice for which our Republic is famous.

I am convinced that our current emphasis on maintaining a strong political and economic posture is sending the right signal to potential adversaries — a signal that the United States, the world’s greatest nation, will continue to play a leading role in promoting stability and preserving freedom throughout the globe.

At the same time, however, it is imperative for American citizens to recognize that our military strength underwrites those policies and underwrites them in many ways. Our citizens must recognize that the threat is real, diverse, and part of the everyday world; that the Kremlin and its surrogates are working diligently to upset the balance and, lastly, that we have some ways to go in improving our armed forces before we can face the future with genuine confidence. If our deterrent policy is to continue to work well, we must match the growing danger with a consistent and rational defense policy geared for the long run instead or one marked by the peaks and valleys which have characterized so much of our peacetime history. Four times in the last 100 years we have let our military defenses deteriorate, as Americans were lulled into lethargy by their peacetime pursuits. And four times we paid the highest possible price for that imprudence, in the ravages of war and in unnecessary loss of lives. We seem to have painfully short memories. I heard a wag say that we remember the Maine, we remember the Alamo, we remember Pearl Harbor. Then when we win, we forget.

Our military is not separate from the state but an integral element of the society it serves. In the end our armed forces will only be as good as the American public wants them to be. Consequently, we need — above all — strong and patient and continuing support from all Americans. I deeply appreciate the role that the Naval Submarine League plays in generating that support.

I would submit that keeping this nation strong is doing the right thing.

Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr ., USN
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff




Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was the Father of the  the Nuclear-Powered Navy. His commitment to  t excellence and uncompromising devotion to duty t were an integral part of American life for a generation. The nuclear-powered submarines, I I cruisers and aircraft carriers deployed through- out the world today in defense of liberty are a  major part of Admiral Rickovers legacy. He  was also a revered teacher who instilled in his pupils a desire to strive for the highest  achievements. Countless thousands of sailors benefited from the skill and expertise of this  talented public servant. Though he worked on  tools of defense, he was a man of peace.

It is particularly poignant that his death t should occur immediately following a weekend in which we celebrated the achievements of those Americans who came to our shores as immigrants.  I Few among them have had as distinguished a  career as Admiral Rickover or contributed more  I to the maintenance of our freedom. We have lost a great American, and Nancy and I extend our deep sympathy to the Rickover family. t

Ronald Reagan 
July 7, 1986

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