(at the Naval Submarine League Symposium, 10 July, 1986)
I want to speak about a number of things. And also I want to pass on to you a comment made by a former shipmate of mine out there in the audience as I was coming in a little earlier, who said, “How’s the pace?” Now, when you are in your second week of a new job, the pace is always fast. The pace in this job is faster than anything I’ve had for some time. But I was also reminded by his question that I’m probably well prepared for the pace because Shannon Cramer told us in SIRAGO that there were two orders which must ·immediately follow the order to surface. The minute you hit the bridge the first thing was, “Answer bells on rour engines”, and immediately following that, “All ahead full.” Now, that all sounds good, but the real reason was obvious — it was to get into port before Bob Long hogged the best berth!
I believe I was originally to speak here as Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, and I was going to share with you my perspectives of the fleet and especially those of the Submarine Force — that very important component of not only the Atlantic but also the Pacific Fleet. I want to do that. But I also want to share with you some thoughts as to where we are going, what the problems are in the Navy at large, and what I would like you to do. I was told when I accepted this invitation that I’d be speaking to the choir, and that’s certainly true. It’s tun to speak to the choir once in a while because it’s nice to know that there ~ people out there who agree with you, and hopefully will say that they do. When you speak to the choir you don’t pass the plate in their direction. But I do intend to pass the plate in a sense anyway.
I want to start by complimenting all the officers of the Submarine League for the tremendous job you’ve done in recent years gaining this level of attendance. Its absolutely superb. And I’m delighted to see it at a time when the importance of the Submarine Force needs to be bett~r recognized. We need this so sorely that it is ~specially gratifying today to see a group like this out there giving us support.
I’m reminded by my old staff down in the Atlantic Fleet that the half-life of sea water is about six months. So, before I forget all about the fleet, let me tell you about it. Bud Kauderer kept me informed over the last nine months of what the Submarine Force was doing. But be didn’t have to — because I told people repeatedly that the one organization under my command that could operate totally without my attention was the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force. Why? Because they do things well. They do things professionally. They do things without reminder. Or as Admiral Joe Metcalf would say, “They scoot ahead of the rabbit, instead of trying to catch up with it.” And that’s pretty important. I have to tell you that in the entire time I’ve been a naval officer, I’ve never felt better about the Fleet, about the Navy, about the Navy’s readiness, and especially about the caliber of people we have serving in the Navy. That applies across the board. We in the submarine force have always prided ourselves on the caliber of our people. Let me tell you, it’s there across the board. It’s been said that we can look back on 185 and •86 as the good old days. because it will never be like this again. Well, one or my jobs is to make sure that that’s not true. But things have really been superb. You’ve read a lot about the battle groups in the Mediterranean, in the Gulf of Sidra, off Libya, intercepting airplanes in the dead of night. I saw an interesting article the other day that said, “Gee, this was a piece of cake, anybody could have done it.” Well. let me tell you, those guys launched airplanes, F-14 1s, A-6•s for tankers, and E-2C’s• in a period of sixty to ninety minutes after getting the “Go” from the President of the United States. They went out and round a single airplane in a twelve hundred mile lane. They had to sort that airplane out of hundreds of others in order to intercept it, and then they bad to be really “heads up” to get it where they wanted it to go. That’s good airplanes, that’s good aviators, that’s good navy personnel.
That kind of performance got the headlines, but so bas the picture of the three submarines surfacing at the North Pole. Be assured the Soviet submariners watched that one very. very carefully; they are probably still studying those pictures and wondering how many more are going to pop up and where and when. And that’s something we are going to keep doing. Most of what the Submarine Force does, you don’t read about. You don’t read about it because we’re not talking about it or we don’t want you to read about it. But it’s there nonetheless. The Submarine Foroa bas operated in every area of the world’s oceans — independently, carrying out some very, very key missions; as an element of battle groups; providing an increasing contribution to integrated training as we work up our battle groups for deployment; and providing an increasing role in ASW and ~proving our ASW capability. Bud Kauderer has been working with all the LANTFLT TYCOMS for over a year to get better coordination among all forces providing our ASW capability. Many of you would, I think, be astounded at the fervor with which P-3 pilots strive to ride submarines, to find out what they’re like and what is go~ng on down there. You would be surprised at the coordination of anti-submarine warfare operations themselves in the Atlantic and the Pacific. You would be surprised at the strides we are making. I suspect you’d even be surprised by the attitude and caliber or the people you’d encounter if you went aboard ship. We were talking a bit ago about the many groups of senior businessmen who visit our ships. We literally run the socks off of those folks and they come out in the evening smiling and talking about all they’ve seen. But what they talk about the most is the amazing group of people they have run into. Just before I left the Atlantic Fleet I received a letter from one group of fifty-two gentlemen who were with us in June — businessmen from all over the country — and the comments focused on the quality of persons that they had seen. One gentleman said, “You know, I figured there would be a couple of nice looking guys out there in uniform to be the front men for every ship. So onboard USS RICKOVER I quietly talked to two guys, and got the same answers. And then I saw some guy over in the corner who didn’t appear to have anything to do with the tour, and I talked with h~, and be was just as sharp. I’m not sure how you guys do it, but it sure is great.”
I can tell you how we do it, and we’ve been doing it in the Navy for the last five qr six years: We’ve been recruiting some very, very fine people, and more importantly we’ve been retaining them.
In one of my confirmation bearings about a month ago, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said to me, “I don’t know what you guys are worried about budget-wise, because if we did nothing right now, there is so much money out there unspent, some even unobligated, that you guys could coast for the next couple of years; and if we did nothing until the next presidential election we’d still look pretty good.” And the answer to that is, O.K., that’s true. We could ignore the personnel situation for a short time, We’d still get the hard work, and we’d probably still have most of the people, but we’d be right out there at the edge of the cliff ready to drop off because there wouldn’t be anything left coming downstream. It is a fact that right now the submarine force is in pretty good shape. Support for programs in recent years has been strong. Support for the SSN-21, for example, on the Hill is very, very solid. The need is recognized, and so is the value of the sound judgement that designed the ship. In fact most of the systems in the SSN-21 are out there being tested in bits and pieces right now. I hope we get the ship in great numbers because we certainly need it.
My big concern is what is going to happen next. In the current fiscal year the Navy suffered about a six percent cut in real program growth. We can probably do that once. We’ll have to wait and see whether we will do it twice depending on the outcome of this year’s budget negotiations. But you can’t do it for very long. It is valid to say that we’ve seen steeply increasing budgets over the last five years. That’s absolutely true. But when you’re in the hole and trying to get out, once you get your forces, get your good quality people, get sustainability, torpedoes, spare parts, and things or that nature, all of which ·has made us the ready force that we are today, then you’ve got something. We’re almost there, but not quite there in the Navy. There is also criticism that the Navy has gotten the lion’s share of the budget over the last several years. Again, it’s relative. The lion’s share has in ract gone to the entire Department or the Navy, which includes our Marine Corps, at a proportion close to one-third or the defense appropriation over the last five years. It’s also been a decreasing share by about a fraction of a percent a year. Not that anybody’s going to notice much. It has been going up in real dollars, and that’s where we need support. But if you went back, as I’ve done, to look at the budget starting in 1949, and if you look at a constant dollar chart adjusted for inflation — we’ve had tremendous peaks and valleys ever since that time. Twenty-seven years or peaks and valleys in the budget. Peaks come when there is a war, and valleys come immediately thereafter and immediately after every opportunity to rebuild our strength.
So where are we headed? If we continue to play this yo-yo game, within a couple or years of serious budget decline we are going to see the biggest fraud, waste, and abuse this country has ever known. Because we are going to throw away not only the dollars we’ve spent but the quality or the men and women we’ve brought into the Navy, and that’s even sadder. Congressmen find it bard to understand when I tell them that my rirst and roremost priority is people, and that they, members of Congress, have no credibility with Navy people. They are astounded. They shouldn’t be. We have no constancy in the direction or support for our defense effort. The Russians don’t worry about such problems. There’s no GramskiRudmanovich Bill in Moscow to out back on funding and solve the national dericit. In our country all of us in uniform recognize the need to cut the deficit. We recognize that that’s one or the President’s principal priorities, and we don’t challenge that because we think he’s right. What we do challenge is the assertion that somehow or other defense is something other than the absolute necessary underpinning of every other national program. It is the first program to support our nation, not the one from which you pay tbe price for all others.
As I said, I’m not sure where we’re going. I do know that I will try to influence where we are going because I don’t think we have two months to waste. All of us on my staff are firmly committed to spending a lot of time talking to members of Congress. We will make sure that we do everything we can to help them support our strong Navy which we so badly need.
But we need understanding not only by Congress but by all of you. I’ve had a chance to do a lot of speaking in the last nine months to audiences in various parts of the country. One of the things that I told members of Congress when I was called for my confirmation hearings is, I have yet to go to a part of the country and speak to people who don’t believe that defense is necessary.
People have pointed to waste in the defense budgeting, and there has been some. What has been reported in the papers is what we ourselves have found. I think all of you know that we have no tolerance whatsoever for people who are fraudulent in their activities or people who are wasting money. We can’t afford that. What we in the Navy are going to do is keep working hard to root out waste and excess spending even though we recognize that it is a minuscule segment or -the money allocated to us. For those of you who contract with us, we are going to continue to do our best to make you compete and make you carry your bottom line down to the point where although you are profitable, your profit is fair and reasonable and not excessive. I would add that it has been in most cases.
We are also going to look at ourselves. We are going to pick up every rook, turn it over, and say, is this really the right way to do things? There is a tendency for us to become complacent and looked into a way or doing business, to say to ourselves, “We’ve always done it this way, this is time proven,” and all the other old saws. I can tell you that having just come from a Fleet whose operations in steaming hours and flight hours were under funded by a combination of budget outs and Gramm-Rudman reductions this past year — underfunded to a tune or 14 percent — when you get cut a little here and a little there, you start looking hard at everything you are doing and asking yourself if what you are doing is really the right way or doing it. I know Admiral Kauderer constantly shared with me a feeling that what we were doing in the Atlantic Fleet was the right thing to do. We simply threw it on the wall and started over and said let’s look at bow we are operating. Let’s look at what we are doing. Let’s re-sort our priorities and let’s look at bow we can continue to deploy very ready battle groups, very ready submarines, very ready support ships, and do it at a total cost that is probably about 10 to 12 percent below what anybody would have anticipated at the start or the year. And that’s the kind or thing we will have to do Navywide, because the money is not going to be there. The budget is going to be tight, and that’s a fact of life. That’s not a bad fact of life either, because it tells us that maybe we can contribute to reduced budgets and a declining national deficit without at the same time giving up the readiness that is so important.
And that’s where I need help and understanding. I can’t stand here and pass the plate and say, woo out and lobby for the Navy.w That would be inappropriate. But what I can tell you is that there is a tremendous need in this country for people who are knowledgeable not only about our achievements, but about the problems we race in the future. Those problems are first and foremost the budget, and within the budget, people programs. Since 1983 we have gained anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the personnel end-strength increases we needed to man today’s Navy. When Congress appropriates funds and authorizes the construction of new ships and aircraft. they do so several years ahead of the manning requirement. Unfortunately, by the time the manning requirement comes along they have forgotten what they did previously. So, we have never gotten all the people that we needed. We did pretty well last year. They only cut 5,000 from a request of 15,500 people. This year our new requirement, taking into account the deficit in prior years, and the need still to come from the ships under construction, is about 11,400. The Senate lopped that in half. The House then said, “We’ll give you 2,000.” That kind of thing has resulted in Fleet support being narrowed down to the point where the guy who says to you, “we see no impact on the Fleet side” is right. He hasn’t seen it. But the sailor on shore duty who used to work forty-eight hours a week is now working seventy hours a week. He isn’t complaining yet. He’ll have his opportunity the next time somebody sticks a reenlistment contract under his face. We are being told that the way to save money on defense budgets is simply to freeze pay. The troops are saying, “Hey, why me Lord, why always me?” Congress is going to have to understand that that’s not the answer. People ~ challenged. They ~ satisfied with what they are doing. And we owe them support, in the areas of decent compensation, and from my point of view, good back-up services in the kind of help they need when they’re deployed, where dependents who need understanding can come for help. That’s why I ask you all to weigh in. Understand us — and most of you do — understand our requirements — at least keep up with what is going on — and whenever you get the opportunity to speak up in our behalf we would appreciate it.
Admiral Carlise A. H. Trost, USN
Chief of Naval Operations