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ADDRESS to the SUBMARINE TECHNOLOGY SYMPOSIUM – Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro, USN(Ret.)

Fonmer Director of Naval Intelligence
[Ed. Note: Emphasis added]




Oh, for the good old days — when we knew who the bad guys were, what they could do to us, assumed that they would do it, and we prepared and positioned ourselves to deter or counter them. Articulating and selling the threat was fairly simple then. As a result, we were successful in gaining both Government and Public support for the platforms and weapons systems needed to meet the challenge.

It’s a whole new set of rules today. There seems to be no great interest in the threat per se, certainly not among the guys with the keys to the money locker — and particularly not during an election year, in the midst of a recession, with all the other domestic problems we face. In fact, it is hard to find anyone in town who will acknowledge that a threat to our national security could exist at any time in the foreseeable future– not now, now that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact have collapsed. We won the Cold War, and everyone is looking for that peace dividend. The fact is, though, that we could be facing equally daunting and even more complex challenges as a result or having won the Cold War. Instead of the well-defined bi-polar world of the past, we look out on a multi-polar world of conflicting interests. Threat scenarios in that environment could run the gamut from hostage rescue to regional conflict on the order and scale of Desert Storm. It is a constantly changing world where alliances and coalitions abound, and we can find ourselves in with some very strange bed-fellows. Under these conditions, it is hard to tell when or from where the threat will come. It is also hard to tell who our friends or enemies are today. It’s even harder to fathom who they might be tomorrow.

At the risk of being tagged as an unreconstructed relic from the Cold War, I submit that the situation I describe has the potential of constituting a significant threat to our national well-being. True, the threat to the continental U.S. posed by the strategic nuclear forces of the Soviet Union has diminished. But this depends to a significant degree on the continuing peaceful intentions of Russia – guardian of all sea-based and most land-based strategic weapons of the Former Soviet Union. I, for one, have some difficulty banking on the peaceful intentions of anyone else, particularly the Russians. I certainly am not prepared to bet the lives of my children and grand-children on that. I am also not encouraged by the fact that the basic capabilities of that strategic nuclear force remain, and continue to improve. This is particularly so In the case or the Russian sea-based component, a thoroughly modern force which will be operational well into the 21st century.

This is recognized in our national security policy and defense strategy. We fully intend to maintain our deterrent posture, but at a significantly reduced level. The assumption is that we will have adequate warning to reconstitute our forces in order to meet a renewed global threat. At first they were talking about two to three years warning – as opposed to 14 days at the height of the Cold War. Now they’re talking about having 8 to 10 years warning. I hope they are right.

In the meantime, I submit that we would be well advised to monitor most carefully all developments in the Former Soviet Union. I find quite disturbing the instability and uncertainties that I see there — resurgent nationalism, ethnic problems, Islamic fundamentalism in the Central Asian countries, regional rivalries — especially between Russia and Ukraine who cannot reach agreement on control of nuclear weapons and the disposition of the Black Sea Fleet. I worry about loose nukes tactical weapons unaccounted for, and four sets of national command authorities (instead of one) with a finger on the button. Of great concern, too, is a restive military establish-ment, suffering the loss of its privileged position, threatened with massive reductions in force, and facing overwhelming problems of grossly inadequate housing and severe shortages of food and consumer goods. Most worrisome, in the long term, is the continued R&D in the defense sector — despite cutbaclcs in other areas.

Some will argue that the former Soviet Union is an economic basket-case today, unable to feed itself much less be a threat to anyone. I recall that post World War I Germany was also an economic basket-case, as was the U.S. and most of the world,including the U.S.S.R They managed to recover from that to wage the most destructive war in history. Nations have an interesting way of solving or finessing domestic problems. They look inward to find a scapegoat, but if that doesn’t work, they turn outward for some pretext to get the population’s mind off the problems at home. War bas often provided that pretext. The point is that there are parallels between the picture today and that existing before World War IT. I don’t suggest that we are on the threshold of World War ill, but only a fool would dismiss entirely the possibility of history repeating itself. We have to be on the alert for warning signs. We should take full advantage of glasnost and other conditions that now exist which permit us to gain access to all aspects of the Russian society, and especially the scientific and technical community, which could provide some of the earliest indicators of a resurgent global threat.

As for the threat — or in the current lexicon, the challenge which may confront us from the rest of the world, this presents us with a problem which can be more complex and harder to forecast. Even the terminology tends to be different:

Threat – Because of the multi-polar character of the world, and the constantly changing political environment, a specific threat {or challenge) tends to be ill-defined, and often is not recognized as such until very late in the game. As a result, we are forced to look in many directions at once – something we are historically not very adept at doing. It is not always possible to anticipate where the next crisis will arise. This requires us to be very flexible and prepared to respond quickly and decisively as a situation develops. Thus, the emphasis on fotward presence and crisis response in our next national security policy. Ron O’Rourke addressed this in his address (reprinted in this issue of the SUBMARINE REVIEW), emphasizing the role that the submarine force could and should play in support of this mission. I am in complete agreement with him, and in parti-cular, with the statements he made concerning the intelligence role of the submarine in the forward areas. Intelligence collection is one of the best things submarines do. Under many circumstances and for certain types of collection, nobody does it better.

Enemy – Any state, group or individual who is not my friend today, or who might not be my friend tomorrow. Something of an overstatement perhaps, but not too far afield, considering the shifts in alliances we have witnessed in the brief post Cold War period. Today’s friend can easily become tomorrow’s enemy. That calls for a whole new set of rules, and new M.O.’s (modus operandi) for collecting, analyzing and reporting intelligence.

Foreign Technology — Anything in the hands of any non-American which could be used against me. Keeping tabs on foreign technology, always a problem, is made all the more difficult today by the ease with which it migrates from one country to another. It can and frequently does include technol-ogy developed by our erstwhile allies, or by U.S. industry as well. Of major concern is technology which migrates from the Former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. This is not only hardware and documentation, but expertise as well — technical and operational. It is an extremely serious problem. The bottom line is that virtually anything or anyone can be bought these days — and at bargain prices to boot. Anybody with the money – or a friendly banker — can play. Keeping tabs on foreign technology is thus an extremely difficult problem. Proliferation – not only weapons of mass destruction, but all manner of technology with potential military application is probably the biggest challenge facing the Intelligence Community today.

Of most immediate concern to the Submarine Community, of course, is undersea warfare technology under development by, or potentially in the hands of, foreigners which could pose a threat to U.S. naval forces. Given the criticality of sea lines of communications in most foreseeable scenarios, I would place logistics support ships high on the target list of a prospective enemy. The merchant ship could replace the carrier as the high value platform in regional conflict. I would also point out once again that the enemy does not necessarily have to be a well-established hostile government, but could be an erstwhile ally gone sour, a disaffected group, or an individual with his own agenda.

Finally; some basic observations to consider when assessing the state of foreign technology and how it might impact undersea warfare:

  • The U.S. no longer has a corner on the technology market, or the  world’s  technology smarts.   It is  fallacious  (even dangerous) to bide behind the old NIH (Not Invented Here) banner as we Americans are wont to do.
  • After concentrating on Soviet developments for over forty years, the Intelligence Community now faces a formidable challenge in shifting its attention in order to stay abreast of foreign technology developments throughout the rest of the world.
  • Some of the best sources of infonnation on foreign technol-ogy are to be found within the academic and scientific communities, our R&D establishments, and industry.
  • Many advanced concepts and materials developed for other purposes are directly applicable or can be adapted to undersea warfare. This is particularly true in the non-acoustic realm.
  • Such developments, and relevant infonnation on the state-of-the-art, will most often be resident in other than Navy institutions and Navy-related industry.


A few comments by way of summary. First, I reiterate that as unpopular as the thought may be in some circles these days, there is a threat out there. It is different from the threat we faced the past several decades, but it is a threat all the same. It is much more difficult to articulate, and more complex and demanding than before in many respects.

It is hard to know where the threat will come from, or who the enemy will be. This calls for the greatest degree of Oexibility and responsiveness on our part. Fonmrd presence and crisis response are thus key tenets of U.S. national security policy and defense strategy. The Submarine Force can and should have a mojor stake In those missions.

In this uncertain world, maintaining our technological advantage was never more Important than it is today. And maintaining our technological advantage was never more difficult than it is today. The U.S. no longer has a comer on the technological market. Technology migrates all too easily these days, including technology developed by our erstwhile allies, and from U.S. industry as well. Of major concern is the transfer of technology and the brain drain from the Former Soviet Union. For the moment, the U.S. has what might be considered first right of refusal, but some of our allies (most notably Japan) are actively exploiting that market, and we could find ourselves in some disadvantageous bidding wars. Technol-ogy and expertise are also available to the highest bidder in the Third World, and we are already witnessing some unsettling movements in that direction.

Keeping tabs on foreign technology developments is becom-ing increasingly difficult. The Intelligence Community faces major problems in coping with the entire non-proliferation issue. They must rely on what is to them non-traditional sources and methods of collection. They will be turning to academia, the scientific and technical world, the R&D com-munity, and to industry for help. Industry can play a significant role in this regard. Who better to keep tabs on the competi-tion?

Finally, to restate my views on the intelligence role of the submarine in the forward areas. I am in agreement with Ron O’Rourke in that regard. It is safe to assume that in crisis situations of the future, the President will continue to ask “Where are the carriers?” I would like to believe that on appropriate occasion, he will also ask “Where are the subs?” I hope that the answer will be: “On station as before, Mr. President, collecting and reporting critical intelligence, and ready immediately to respond to your further orders.”

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