Many of the Navy’s best and brightest officers are serving on SSN’s and SSBN’s. Duty in submarines has become almost career long. I heard one SSBN skipper say that he might retire after 30 years uninterrupted service with a TRIDENT command in submarines.
While continuity oC service certainly builds expertise much needed in such a complex service, one wonders whether the needs of the Navy and of the officers involved are best served: and whether they might be better served for the Navy and the officers.
The world outside the Nuclear Submarine program is changing with increasing rapidity, and now “jointness” is becoming a factor in promotion potential. It seems important that a program be set up to aid in bringing ideas and concepts from outside into the nuclear submarine force and perhaps aid others by providing them with what has been proven in the submarine force.
One advantage of the SSBN program is the relative schedule predictability which might make it possible to plan for a week between patrols during which officers could be provided travel and access to spend time with other service activities to develop expressed intellectual interests. Squadron training officers could make the arrangements and clearances, especially if such a program had been encouraged at the top.
In a Navy, and in a submarine force, most of the best ideas have come from the officers of that service. Most of the operational concepts and many of the technologies now being used are at least 20 years old. What the future will hold for such operational concepts as various joint operations, coordinated attack, and use of new technologies such as superconductivity, fiber optic information transfer, robotics, RPV’s, lasers, holograms, artificial intelligence, new materials, fuel cells, and many, many others, will come from officers of the submarine service.
They should be given the opportunity to develop conceptual abilities of value to themselves and their Submarine Service.In wardrooms of my commands, we were very successful in sending officers or senior petty officers off to become expert in such subjects as: mining, wire guidance, computerized management, freeze dried foods, advanced materials handling, quality control, clothing development, aircraft control, SAC missions, powder metallurgy, advanced restaurant management, inventory management, microfilm management, audio-visual training equipment, and management information systems.
In the years after WW I, battleship officers worked very hard running those capital ships of the Navy. As WW II approached, I noticed as a young officer, that the aviation officers seemed to have a broader grasp of the Navy and the technical world around them. It was not surprising to me that for many years they became dominant in the Navy. I think one of the reasons was that their inherently short flights left them more time to get around more than did the duties of the battleship officers.
Let’s make sure that the officers of what some call the capital ships of the modern Navy don’t get into the same rut.
CAPT B. B. Laning, USN(Ret.)