Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Thank you for that introduction. I’m delighted to be here today, and especially to have the opportunity to share my perspective on some of our future security challenges.

As I was preparing my remarks, I was reminded of a story that illustrates the problems that can arise from differing perspectives. A Texan was driving through Vermont and stopped by the side of the road to ask directions from a Vermont fanner. The Vermonter helpfully gave instructions directing the Texan back to the interstate. To be polite, the Texan then asked the Vermont farmer about his farm. “Well,” said the Vermonter, “it’s pretty good size. It runs from that stone fence you see over there, to that line of trees over there. ” Not a giant farm. This amused the Texan, who owned a huge cattle ranch in Texas. “I own land of my own in Texas,” he told the farmer. “I can get up in the morning and it takes me all day to drive to the other end of my ranch.” To this, the Vermont farmer replied, “Eyup, I used to own a car like that myself …”

With that caution in mind, let me try to share with you my perspective on how recent changes in the international environment are altering our national military strategy and force posture. I’m also going to sketch out for you some problems we will have to deal with over the next 30 to 35 years — problems that, for the most part, are within our current technology planning horizons, and which will have an important effect upon the security and prosperity of the United States in the decades to come.

Let us turn first to the changes currently underway in the world, and our response to those changes. The end of the Cold War is clearly the most dramatic change to have altered the international strategic environment For over forty years, we were locked in a fierce struggle with the Soviet Union.

Today the Cold War is over, and we won. Last weekend we had a great victory parade here in Washington celebrating our victory in the Persian Gulf War. It is ironic, perhaps, that there will never be a parade or a ceremony to commemorate our triumph in the Cold War. After all, the Cold War was the longest sustained military effort in our nation’s history. In terms of dollars spent, it far outstripped even World War II as our most expensive military undertaking. The Cold War was expensive in terms of lives as well. It killed tens of thousands of Americans in Korea and Vietnam. And it claimed other Americans in hundreds of small … nearly-forgotten episodes people like Major Arthur Nicholson, gunned down without provocation by a Soviet sentry in East Germany; and Petty Officer Duane Hodges, killed by North Koreans aboard USS Pueblo in 1968.

When historians look back on the last decade of the 20th Century many years from now, they will see that our victory in the Cold War had a far more profound effect on the course of human events than did Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Victor Hugo, the great French author, once wrote that “greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.” President Bush has suggested that, with the end of the Cold War, perhaps the time has come for a New World Order based on democracy, decency and human rights. And, on the other side of the coin, the time of communism is finally past, and one need only to talk to the Hungarians or the Czechs and Slovaks as I did last night to know this is so.

What does all this mean to us in terms of our national security?

One consequence is that the end of our polarizing conflict with the Soviets facilitates international cooperation. For example, during the recent Middle East crisis, we were able to take forces out of Europe without concern that the Soviets would tum this to their military or political advantage. Many nations, some unlikely, agreed to join the coalition against Iraq because, for the first time in recent memory, they could join such an undertaking without offending one of the superpowers. Similarly, the UN promises to become a more effective forum since it is no longer stymied by superpower rivalry.

But the greatest impact caused by the end of the Cold War is the changed basis of our own national security policy. In years past, we took it for granted that the Soviets were our adversaries, and planned our defense programs accordingly. This is no longer the case. Let us be very clear about one thing: the Soviet Union has not gone away. They are still the strongest military power on the Eurasian landmass, and they are still the only nation on earth with the capability to destroy the United States. We certainly cannot ignore the Soviet Union completely. But neither can we use the Soviet “threat” as the sole yardstick against which our own strategy and force structure must be measured.

In short, we can no longer “steer by our wake,” focusing our strategy and force structure solely on the Soviet Union. That is old thinking. It is unrealistic in the context of the changed international environment; it won’t sell to the American people or on Capitol Hill; and it doesn’t serve our other important security requirements.

But even though the Cold War has ended and we no longer view the Soviet Union as our adversary, the world still remains a dangerous place. And we still have important security interests around the globe that need tending.

We are still working to control the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, and to combat terrorism.

We remain committed to a forward presence in the Pacific, where our military forces play an important stabilizing role. The world’s seven largest armies — plus many of the world’s most powerful navies — operate in Asia. And nearly every nation in the region has some sort of geographic, ethnic, religious or political dispute with one or more of its neighbors. The end of the Cold War neither diminishes our interest in the Far East nor changes the strategic equation in the Pacific theater. Our continuing military presence there reminds everyone that we ourselves are a Pacific power, and that we will remain interested in the destiny of that region.

We have no intention of severing our military ties with Europe, even though the prospect of war against the Soviet Union now seems remote. NATO is the cornerstone upon which the future security of Europe rests, and we will remain a strong and willing partner in European security matters.

In a similar fashion, our longstanding commitment to support our friends and work for peace in the Middle East has not changed.

In this post-Cold-War world, I see our security problem as being like a gladiator entering the arena. In the past, our adversary – the Soviet Union –was always waiting for us in the center of the arena, armed and dangerous. Today, the arena is temporarily empty. But around the outside of the arena is a series of doors, and behind each door is a new adversary. We do not know which door — or combination of doors — will open in the future. The only thing that is clear is that we will need capable, flexible and ready military forces to deal with whatever threat emerges.

Complicating this is the fact that our defense budget is shrinking, and our force structure is going to shrink with it. In light of the reduced threat from the Soviets, our nation simply cannot afford to keep military forces as large as we’ve had in the past. The economic health of our nation is a crucial element of our overall national strength, and we must nourish this in the years to come. The Soviet Union ignored this, and today has greatly declined as a superpower because its economy is in a shambles. Many inside and outside the United States worry that we will also stretch ourselves too thin and suffer a similar fate. We must not make that mistake.

We have already revised our national military strategy, and have sketched out to Congress the vision of our future force structure. The bottom line is that our forces are going to get much smaller. The Navy is going down to something on the order of 450 ships. We will have fewer carrier battle groups; fewer carrier air wings; fewer support and special-purpose ships; fewer VP squadrons; and, yes, fewer submarines. The other services will be cut as well. Still we want our future forces to be even more lethal and to have even more strategic mobility. But overall our forces will be less robust, and we will have Jess flexibility than we enjoy today. We will have less margin for error, and in some areas we will have to accept increased risk.

Our future force structure can be described in four force packages: an Atlantic force; a Pacific force; a contingency force based in the United States for rapid deployment to crisis areas; and a strategic force. (In fact, many of you may have seen the article in the April1991 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW explaining our new national security strategy and force structure.)

Within the strategic force, we intend to retain our nuclear triad. The TRIDENT submarine is a vital element of that triad, and will gain in relative importance as arms control negotiations reduce our land-based missiles. We will continue to rely on the TRIDENT for a secure, effective, and powerful deterrent force.

But we will see changes not only to the size and complexion of our armed forces, but also to our procurement policies. The end of the Cold War and internal economic problems and problems in both countries will relax the force competition that has existed between ourselves and the Soviets. As a result, in the future we will be far more careful to make sure we are buying what we need, and that what we’re buying actually work$ before we commit ourselves to a big production run. I think we can anticipate smaller numbers in each new ship class, for example, and each new class will serve as a “proven technology” stepping stone to future developments. The SSN-21 is a case in point. We are going ahead with production of SEA WOLF, but I anticipate the final class size may be small. Admiral Nimitz insisted on this sort of procurement strategy after World War n, and eventually saved the Navy a lot of money – and embarrassment — by making sure we got ships that could actually perform, rather than ones that just looked good on the drawing board.

Another consequence will be an increased emphasis on joint and combined operations. This was one of the major ingredients of our victory over Iraq. All our forces will have to develop improved communications procedures, tactics, and mission profiles so they can contribute in future military operations by the United States and its allies. And this includes submariners. The use of submarines in conjunction with other forces, and to provide stealthy, distributed firepower with TLAM-C — such as we did against Iraq — is more likely to be the rule in future conflicts than the exception.

Now, these may not be very comforting words. Some of you may feel threatened by these changes, and your instinctive response will be to batten down and try to ride out the storm. I think that’s the wrong approach, and in fact the wrong way to look at our situation. We’ve just won a great victory in the Cold War. And whatever changes occur in the armed forces of the United States in the years to come, I think we can expect our nation to be more secure than at any time in the last 40 years. In 1776, many colonists complained about the upheaval the American Revolution was causing. John Adams, later to be our second President, wrote this to rally their spirits: “All great changes are irksome to the human mind, especially those which are attended with great dangers and uncertain effects.”

Those are wise words, and we should keep them in mind today. We are living in the midst of a great change, and we can expect the end of the Cold War will indeed be “irksome” in many respects. But instead of seeing only the discomfort, we should rejoice in the fact that overall our nation today is safer and more secure. And we should not begrudge that change simply because it dislocates our established ways of doing business.

Now, what I’ve told you so far is the good news! The bad news is that even more profound changes are just over the horizon, and these will bring even more formidable challenges to our nation. A few months ago, I had the Joint Staff undertake a series of studies to determine what the security environment will look like for us in the year 2025. These studies consulted renowned futurists around the country. Happily, not all of the opinions we received were in agreement across the board, but there were several disturbing trends that are worthy of our attention. Let me explain.

One ticking timebomb in international affairs is demographics. By the year 2025, the world’s total population will be approaching ten billion people — nearly double the current population. Right now, about 84% of the world’s population lives in lesser developed countries. By the year 2025, that will increase to over 90% – 90% of a doubled population. We cannot predict for certain what sort of a world it will then be in which 25% of the world’s population is hungry every day. And can we expect a stable and secure planet in which 12% of the population controls over 80% of the world’s wealth? Or in which there are mass migrations, not only across national boundaries but perhaps across entire continents? If this sounds farfetched to you, consider this: the countries of central and western Europe are already wonying about the potential for tens of millions of Russians to move westward in pursuit of better economic conditions in the not-too-distant future.

Population shifts will also cause problems here at home. Right now, the United States spends about 11% of its Gross National Product on health care. A decade from now, this may rise to as much as 16% and, as our baby boomers live into old age, perhaps to 25% of our GNP by the year 2025. What sort of military forces will we be able to afford once so much of our national wealth is absorbed by health care costs?

We may be on the verge of profound changes in other areas as well. Consider technological change. Right now, we are still in the early stages of the “information revolution.” DARPA tells me that last year, the world,s transistor output was about one million transistors for every man, woman and child on the planet (He really said 20 million for every man, woman and child in the civilized world, but we couldn’t agree on what part of the world was civilized). Some futurists suggest this information revolution will eventually bring changes on a scale comparable to mankind’s shift thousands of years ago from nomadic hunters to village farmers, or to the later industrial revolution which led to the rise of modem nation states. We already know that modem weaponry, whether it is chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, or even nuclear weapons can transform a third-rate power like Iraq into a major military threat. But technological change in the coming years could transform the entire basis for national power and economic wealth in ways we cannot yet foresee.

Several futurists suggest that change as a phenomenon will speed up in the future. In that future environment of constant change, an important quality differentiating rich nations from poor ones will be the ability to adapt, quickly and efficiently, to changes. To position ourselves for success in the future, we must begin now to develop the adaptability to make these changes successfully. (No one who is familiar with the adaptability of our current acquisition process would accuse us of being well-positioned for success in the future — so there is an immediate challenge to resolve.)

The end of the Cold War is helping us to break out of habits that have been ingrained in our nation for the past forty years. But even when we’ve finished restructuring our forces over the next few years, we will not be able to settle into a new, static period. Rather … rapid change will very likely become a fact of life in the 21st Century, and the sooner we make the mental adjustments to cope with it the better for us all.

What I’ve tried to do today is give you some idea of the problems we’re dealing with as we move into the post-Cold-War era. Changes are already underway, and these are going to disrupt familiar ways of doing business for us all. But this is a healthy process for our nation, and we should not lose sight of that fact. I’ve also tried to point out that the changes we’re facing today may be insignificant in comparison to the transformations that may be waiting for us just over the horizon — and we need to develop ways of creating better understanding of that future so we have the hardware, strategy and force structure to deal with an indeterminate future.

There is an old Chinese blessing that says “May you Jive in interesting times.” In this respect, we are all blessed — we are certainly living in interesting times. And in the future, we will need all our ingenuity and imagination to take full advantage of this blessing.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you .

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League