ADDRESS BY THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
Thank you Admiral Trost. I have to admit that when I learned that the Admiral would be introducing me this evening I was a little apprehensive about coming here. It occurred to me that a Chief of Naval Operations with only two weeks to go until his retirement might be tempted to stand up and say what he really thinks about the Secretary of the Navy. That he said nice things about me even though he didn’t have to not only eases my mind but touches me deeply. Thank you, Carl.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here tonight. It’s always a privilege for me to meet with, and speak to, a group of people who care about the Navy, who share an interest in the submarine community, and who contribute so much to the vigor of our undersea forces.
In the course of my career I have been an aviator, a lawyer, a quasi-businessman, and now an administrator. But my heart has never left the deckplates of the diesel boat, USS SEA POACHER, where I began my career as a machinist mate in the early 60’s. No job in Washington can ever compare with being a part of an operational submarine crew; but even if I can’t actually be out there on the pointy end of the spear anymore, I derive the greatest possible satisfaction from working for the people who are out there.
Over the last two days you have heard much about the state of the Navy’s submarine fleet from a program of distinguished and knowledgeable speakers. You have heard talk about plans and policies, about new technologies, and about money and how little of it there will be for a while.
I don’t intend to take you back over that well-traveled ground this evening. Instead, I would like to take a step back and share with you, for a few minutes, what I think it all means in the larger scheme of things.
As I see it, our agenda for the next decade or two is going to driven by three wide-open questions.
First, where is the world going? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question, but I’m pretty certain I know where it’s not going. History, if it tells me anything, says that we will not find ourselves anytime soon in a global congregation of polite and peaceful governments. The Warsaw Pact is in shambles, true, and Marxist philosophy has publicly declared itself bankrupt. The threat of a Soviet conventional invasion across Europe’s central plains, the World War m for which we have girded ourselves since 1945, seems comfortably remote.
But, although a few giddy intellectuals have declared the “end of history: I simply cannot buy the notion that all the sweeping questions of man’s political existence are finally settled.
I’m not convinced that force as an instrument of policy is obsolete. I don’t believe that we can cancel our investment in defense and cash in on something called a “Peace Dividend ” Yes, I’m excited by what I see in Eastern Europe. But I’m also conscious of the fact that one of the most stable, predictable eras in the history of the western world is coming to an end. Societies are throwing off their chains all over the Communist world, and we can be happy about that; but the West faces both old and new dangers – from assertive nationalist sentiments, from political radicalism, from religious fundamentalism, and from the timeless inclination of powerful and unscrupulous governments to take advantage of wlnerable neighbors. In short, the oppressive but predictable stability of the Cold War era is being replaced with the exciting, but dangerously unpredictable, challenges of the post-Cold War era. What we don’t know about that era can hurt us, especially if we don’t use some prudent common sense.
We don’t know, for example, how the liberated nations of Central and Eastern Europe will resolve, if they can, their ancient border disputes. We don’t know if and when Moscow will suddenly lose its reformist nerve. And we don’t know if China will make a violent, last ditch stand for world Communism. We don’t know which Middle Eastern fanatic will next start launching missiles and terror at the West. The 1990 map of the political world is covered with question marks; in Europe, in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in the Middle East, on the Indian subcontinent. The enticing prophecies of world peace might seduce us, but they sure as hell won’t respect us in the morning. That brings us to the second question: where is America going?
In an article for The Atlantic Monthly last month John Lewis Gaddis wrote about the “dog-and-car syndrome.” “‘The name,” he said, “refers to the fact that dogs spend a great deal of time chasing cars but very little time thinking about what they would actually do with a car if they were ever to catch one. Our leaders are not all that different: they pour their energy vigorously into the pursuit of victory .. but when victory actually arrives, they treat it as if it were an astonishing and wholly unforeseen development.”
Gaddis is wrong, of course. Most of the Country’s leaders know exactly what they want to do with that victory. The problem is that they don’t always agree on it, and the rather sordid process that has evolved for reaching compromise reflects, now and then, something less than great credit on the business of politics in Washington.
Nevertheless, in my opinion the United States is, and has been for almost fifty years, the world’s one and only superpower. Russia has tried to share that crown, but the events of the last two years plainly expose its great Orwellian edifice of arms and bluster as a fraud; dangerous, yes, but entitled to no claim of political legitimacy or economic viability.
With American power, however, comes global responsibility. Our citizens and our economic interest are scattered around the word. We have made moral commitments, both formal and implied, to scores of friends and allies. The price of our wealth and influence is the obligation to use them in the support of justice and human decency. While our problems at home are compelling, we cannot use them as an excuse to abdicate our vital interests or our responsibilities abroad.
Marxist doctrine may have exhausted itself in the bread lines of Moscow, but an ever-larger free world still expects us to counter the threat of Soviet arms, to offer stability in Europe and Asia, to stave off anarchy in the Middle East, and to defend vital lines of trade and communication from extortionists of any stripe.
None of that will happen by the force of law or diplomacy alone. Until that unlikely day when all the world’s nations submit their sovereignty to common laws and the judgement of their peers, we cannot be reluctant to carry a big stick.
Which brings us to question number three: where is the Navy going? Yes, it is going to be smaller, you can count on that. The budget..cutters are sharpening their knives, even as we speak. The challenge for us will be to shape a more compact force that still meets the needs of the 90s and beyond.
We can live with a leaner, tougher Navy; but we can’t live with an eviscerated one; for the security of the United States depends ultimately on its maritime power. Our borders are sea borders, our lines of communication are sea lines of communication, the forward edge of our defensive lines are where international seas begin.
The submarine force plays a critical role in that maritime power, and it always will. The notion that Perestroika obviates the need for strong and modem subs, attack boats as well as boomers, is plain wrong.
The logic of nuclear deterrence has not changed just because the Soviet leader routinely presses the flesh on Pennsylvania Avenue. American SSBNs have been a continuous and obvious reminder to the Kremlin that war with the United States or her allies, because it would call down unthinkable destruction, serves no rational purpose. Our candid determination to use those weapons has guaranteed that they would not be used, and it has thwarted the Kremlin’s ambitions to achieve its goals by force of arms. Winston Churchill, as usual, said it best almost thirty years ago:
The annihilating character of these agencies may bring an utterly unforeseeable securily to mankind… It may be that when the advance of destructive weapons enables everyone to ldll everybody else no one will want to kill anyone at alL In short, as long as a nuclear threat exists anywhere in the world, our ability, best represented by state-of-the art strategic submarines, to deter their use is critical to our basic national survival.
Our fleet of attack submarines give us the extraordinary and economical flexibility to conduct a range of operations, from full-scale conventional warfare to low intensity conflict. As a platform for ASW, the Navfs number one warfighting priority, it is unexcelled, but it can just as effectively prosecute surface targets, launch strikes ashore, lay mines, insert special operations forces, and gather intelligence. The emphasis for naval forces of the future will be on flexible and efficient platforms that can assert themselves in virtually any combat regime; and attack subs have already demonstrated their continuing ability to fill the bill.
This Country must have a submarine fleet that is strong, ready and capable, and I’m counting on the Naval Submarine League and its members to continue its eight-year-long success in helping to put that word out to the public.
Know that the submarine fleet, like the rest of the Navy, is going to be smaller. But know also that we’re going to fight for the R&D money to keep it modem, and we’re going to fight for the personnel programs to keep it properly manned. Finally we’re going to encourage the kind of inspired, creative and intelligent leadership that makes the difference in any theater of combat. Francis Bacon once commented that the size of an army is not much important where the Nation is of weak courage; for, as Virgil said, It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be.
The post-Cold War world is depending on American strength, courage, and wisdom; and America in tum depends on the professionals who go under the sea in ships
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for having me here tonight. Godspeed, and keep up the great work.