Today is another great day for the United States Navy and our Submarine Force, and I would like to begin by thank-ing all our distinguished guests for their presence and support. We all appreciate the presence of Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Mayor John McHugh, representing the 9th District of Ohio and Toledo, that fine city and soon-to-be-namesake for this submarine. Congressman Bobby Scott, representing the 3rd District of Virginia, is no stranger to the Navy. We certainly appreciate his support for shipbuilding here at Newport News. Of course, our special thanks go to Mrs. Sabra Smith1, TOLEDO’s sponsor, and to the Smiths’ daughter Evangeline, the Maid of Honor. Their enthusiasm in supporting this christening ceremony is very evident.
In considering the future of our Submarine Force, I note that it has always far exceeded the expectations of skeptics . Even the first President to get underway and dive in a submarine-Theodore Roosevelt in the submarine PLUNGER in 1905-was quite cautious in writing that while “a good deal can be done with these submarines … there is always the danger of people getting carried away with the idea and thinking they can be of more use than they possibly can be.” Well , President Roosevelt did not foresee the role of submarines in destroying Japanese commerce in World War Two, or preserving peace through deterrence throughout the Cold War, or firing Tomahawks against the forces of Saddam Hussein.
In any event, I don’t think I’m getting carried away when I describe the significance of this ceremony. And I know our Commander-in-Chief, President Bill Clinton, is committed to a strong America and Armed Forces that are second to none, as he affirmed during his visit to aircraft carrier THEODORE ROOSEVELT, and more recently aboard the CARL VINSON-which were both built well here in Newport News.
As a former submariner, this ceremony is more than a symbolic ritual in the building of a powerful warship. It has a deep personal meaning for me as well. It represents a sense of renewal within the Submarine Force-and indeed the entire Navy-as we chart the waters of a new, but uncertain world .
In building the future Submarine Force, we are not merely replacing older submarines with new hulls; we are replacing them with whole new capabilities. Our intent is to harness new technologies, new methods of construction, and new processes in order to build greater naval power and quality into a smaller fleet. This effort is the critical element behind our plan to right-size our Armed Forces in the post-Cold War environment. The christening of TOLEDO represents this effort, and represents the continuing upgrade that maintains our dominance in submarine warfare.
A month ago, prior to my confirmation as Secretary, I attended the decommissioning ceremony for one of the boats I served on, USS JOHN C. CALHOUN. That event gave me a chance to retlect on the challenges and sacrifices required of our submarin-ers; the challenges and sacritices that will undoubtedly face the future crew of TOLEDO. It also allowed me to think about the great advances that have occurred in the Submarine Force since the days of my service. As saddened as I was by the thought of JOHN C. CALHOUN’s retirement after almost 30 years in commission, I realized, too, how proud I was of our Navy, our Submarine Force, and our sailors. I also realized how much all three have continuously improved in quality, so that today we are constructing not only the finest submarines, but we also have the finest submariners. TOLEDO is on the cutting edge of this continuous improvement.
We must always remember that as magnificent as the hull and systems of TOLEDO may be-and it is truly a marvel of technolo-gy-her success will be determined by her motivated, highly-trained crew, the men Commander Loye and his successors will lead, and by all the men and women of the Naval service who will support that crew’s requirements. Our people will form the beating heart of this submarine, bringing her vital, powerful systems to Iife.
And what people! When President Clinton offered me the job of Secretary of the Navy he said, “John, you will inherit the finest Navy and Marine Corps in our history in quality of people. ” I knew he was right, of course. But since my confirmation, I have had the opportunity to go out and visit the fleet-and let me tell you, they are the finest men and women I have ever seen. As an American and as a taxpayer, I am very, very proud of them. I considered my shipmates on JOHN C. CALHOUN well trained, dedicated and skilled, but I must admit to you that the saiJors that I have met in my recent travels are even better. This fact reinforced in my mind that my job as Secretary is to ensure that our sailors and Marines continue to be as well trained and motivat-ed, are treated with dignity and respect, and are given the best tools possible-such as the soon-to-be TOLEDO-so that they can continue their mission of protecting freedom .
This is the personal meaning that the christening today holds for me: I have had the pleasure to see the change from the Cold War era Navy in which I served, focussed as we were on the ominous and powerful Soviet threat with its huge Submarine Force. It was the contribution of submariners such as the men of JOHN C . CALHOUN that brought victory in the Cold War, deterring the expansion of communism while the internal contra-dictions in that system caused its collapse. And now I have the privilege, as Secretary of the Navy to greet the new era with the launching of TOLEDO, a submarine capable of performing the missions of our new strategy … From the Sea . It is the privilege of seeing the finest submarines of our history being manned by the finest sailors in our history, continuing America’s defense into the future.
To me, there is no question about what submarines can do now or in the future. The role of the 688 class submarine in Operation Desert Storm-destroying targets with Tomahawk missiles and deterring potential hostile actions by other radical nations-has proved that TOLEDO and her sister ships can handle the diverse threats facing our country today. Our Submarine Force remains our trump card in retaining command of the seas-an absolute necessity for the defense of our maritime nation and the bedrock prerequisite for being able to carry out our … From the Sea strategy. Our Submarine Force is critical in ensuring that no other nation can challenge us at sea. And indeed , our submarines can perform missions in support of alI future operations that are only limited by imagination.
In providing these tools with which to defend freedom , let there be no mistake about our commitment towards preserving our industrial base for constructing submarines such as TOLEDO. As I said at my confirmation hearing, my preference is to maintain a slow rate of submarine production that will ensure the survival of our nation’s submarine shipbuilding capability. We must ensure that our right-sizing process does not allow the decay of the absolutely superb engineering and construction skills that are constantly demonstrated by such men and women as are here at Newport News Shipbuilding. The skills of the men and women of Newport News, along with our other civilian shipyards, are vital assets to our nation. While I can neither guarantee nor predict the future, I intend to use every opportunity to ensure that preservation of the submarine industrial base remains a key element in our planning for future defense requirements.
During his speech at my swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Perry spoke of the need for the United States military to maintain, as he called it, “an unfair competitive advantage” over all potentially hostile opponents. In my mind, it is our superb nuclear Submarine Force-built by our superior technology, submarine construction capabilities and shipyard personnel-that provides one of our key unfair comparative advantages at sea.
And this has been true since the commissioning of USS NAUTILUS in 1954. As I said, I feel the pride in what the officers and crew of the Submarine Force, both ballistic missile and attack boats, have accomplished for almost 40 years: the deterrence of nuclear and global war. In this they have achieved the greatest of victories. When the Cold War was at its height, our subs were always on the front lines-training, preparing, gathering information and deterring. That was our policy and it succeeded.
In welcoming the new TOLEDO, we should pause to remem-ber, and take pride in, the patrols, the “preparations, the personal sacrifices, and the separations from loved ones that were required to preserve the peace. We should even remember the arduous safety inspections, which were critical and highly successful in ensuring the safety of our environment. It was the hard work of crews like that of NAUTILUS, JOHN C. CALHOUN, and every other submarine that made our era of superpower deterrence a reality. The freedom of Americans and our friends and allies was safeguarded by the actions of these sailors thousands of miles from their homes. They stood watch, not for themselves, but for their loved ones, friends and neighbors in cities across America, cities with names such as Los Angeles, Newport News, and Toledo.
As we enter this era of national renewal, it is appropriate that SSN 769, like all the submarines of the LOS ANGELES class, bear the name of one of our proud cities. Toledo, Ohio, represented here today by Congresswoman Kaptur and Mayor McHugh, is an industrial powerhouse in the heartland of America; a place where the American dream bas been built and renewed across generations. Toledo, on the banks of the Maumee River and the west tip of Lake Erie, is no stranger to the ways of ships, having a fine international port. But what is most important about SSN 769’s christening as TOLEDO is that it underscores the true mission of each and every Naval vessel: to defend the blessings of American liberty. And to do it day in and day out in the far reaches of the deep oceans and off the coasts of troubled lands.
Christening this submarine TOLEDO symbolizes the link between a dedicated, courageous crew with the people of the city of Toledo and all the American people who entrust the mission of safeguarding our freedom to the United States Navy. The Navy is very proud to have the opportunity to christen this submarine in the name of TOLEDO. It is our hope that the people of Toledo will always be proud of us. It is our responsibility to uphold those traditional core values of the Naval service-values dating back to the founding of our Navy. The values are simple: honor, courage, commitment, and leadership. They are the values upon which both our military and our society were founded, and they are the basis of our pride. They are the values that the first USS TOLEDO, a heavy cruiser, carried into battle at the landing at Inchon, Korea during the Korean War. It was the battle that won the independence of the modern nation of South Korea.
It is my prayer that the new TOLEDO will never have to go to battle, but will spend her days in the deterrence of war and preservation of peace. But if fate and injustice and the tyrants of this world challenge us, I know she will bring honor to her crew, the Naval service and the citizens of Toledo. The spirit that built that proud city will sail on in this submarine. Its true course will be within our hearts and our resolve; its deeds will become part of our legacy as Americans.
Freedom remains our mission; TOLEDO will be the means. It is fitting she will bear the name of the home of proud, independent and caring people.
Thank you all. God bless our Nation, Newport News, the Navy and Marine Corps, and the city and ship called TOLEDO .