The first quarter of 1992 has been a very significant period for the U.S. Submarine Community. In his State of the Union message, President Bush proclaimed the Cold War victory for which we bad all worked, both ashore and at sea, for so long. Submarines and the people who built and sailed them for the more than forty years between Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech and the breakup of the Soviet Union are in for a large share of the credit for that victory. Even more importantly, perhaps we were the reason that the Big Hot War never did get started. That victory is commemorated in some small way in these pages with several remembrances of ships, crews and places.
This period also marks the fiftieth anniversary of that time in World War II when Americans realized that we were in a very tough fight and not doing very well. The submarine war in the Mediterranean is covered by two books reviewed in this issue and one book recounting an early-war submarine rescue from a Japanese-held island is reviewed by one of the rescuers. John Alden contributes a very interesting piece on our torpedo success in that war with lots of implicit lessons for the active submariners of today. The patrol report selected for this period is NAUTILUS’ first war patrol. Their baptism of fire was to be in the middle of the Battle of Midway.
In terms of current concerns for the Submarine Community, however, perhaps the most significant aspect of the first part of 1992 is the cancellation of the SEA WOLF follow-on building program. As has been noted both in the REVIEW and in many other places, the consequences for the submarine industrial base are serious and far-reaching. In addition, that action has highlighted the SSN force level issue. A simple accounting shows that the number of attack submarines that we can expect to have for the middle of the next decade appears to be on the order of half of what was planned just a year or two ago. The question of sufficiency has to be raised. The real problem, of course, is in the combination of those two concerns. That is, if we let this fairly fragile industrial base dissipate in the 90s, how can we recover from too low a force level when we have to face any kind of significant emergent global threat ten or fifteen years from now?
Two phrases seldom heard in all of the debates about national purpose in the post-Cold War world and forces needed for regional conflict are Deterrence of Conventional War and Attack Submarine Presence. It has been suggested that the general public and policy makers alike do not have an appreciation for the low-risk potential of the SSN in the Uncertain Future. To the end of that education, several pieces are offered here to address both the problems facing the nation and the Navy and the benefits to be realized from a strong (enough) Submarine Force.
FROM THE PRESIDENT
As you are aware, coincident with the delivery of the FY ’93 budget, the Administration proposed to terminate the SEA WOLF submarine program (i.e. complete SSN-21; cancel SSN-22 and SSN-23) and to rescind (recapture and redistribute) the previously authorized and appropriated funds. The potential consequences for the future Submarine Force and for our unique and fragile industrial base are matters of great concern.
During the next several months, decision makers have a wide range of options from which to choose, any one or combination of which would have some long term impact on the Force.
Select from the following menu:
- Reject the proposed rescision and continue construction of the three SEA WOLF Class SSNs as previously authorized.
- Reject the rescision; direct that SSN-21 and SSN-22 be completed; cancel SSN-23 (not yet under contract).
- Approve the rescision; complete SSN-21; cancel SSN-22 and SSN-23.
- Cancel the scheduled refueling overhauls of the early flights of the SSN-688 Oass; apply the savings toward the construction of additional Improved SSN-688 Class as gap fillers until the arrival of the CENTURION New SSN.
- Accelerate the design phase of the CENTURION New SSN to improve on the current FY ’98 authorization goal.
- All of the above. g. None of the above.
You now know about as much an any Inside the Beltway mavin. The outcome is uncertain. We are taking advantage of every opportunity to educate, to ensure that all involved in the process are aware of the value to our nation of a strong and ready Submarine Force. Stay tuned. Film at eleven!
Our May Submarine Technology Symposium at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the fifth in the series, will be once again a sell-oul This year, we will examine those technologies which have the potential to enhance the performance of future submarines in regional conflicts.
Planning for our annual June Symposium at the Radisson Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, is complete. We start with an exclusive preview of a filming on board a Russian TYPHOON SSBN, and conclude with a briefing by Ambassador Linton Brooks on the implications of START, for which he was a negotiator. In between, we will hear from OP-02, Vice Admiral Roger Bacon, the two Force Commanders, and others of note. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Frank Kelso, will speak to us at our awards luncheon, and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney will be our banquet speaker. This should be your year to attend!
Hope to see you in June.