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[Ed Note: Dr. Ackley is a League member, a retired Commander, and is Emeritus Professor of National Security at Califomia State Univmily, San Bernadino.]

Political conditions in the next decade portend serious difficulties for the acquisition of high ticket submarine plat-forms. Navy Department support, rather than just traditional DoD and congressional constituents, may need to be built to fund platforms we consider necessary for national defense. How can Navy Department-wide consensus be built? The purpose of this article is to suggest some intellectual tools to support the Submarine Force in future decades.

  • First, is to staff the submarine billets in STRATCOM with our best people. This is being done and requires no further discussion here.
  • Second, is backing for a~ and universal Navy-Marine Corps mission statement; and
  • Third, is positioning the Submarine Service as the strong-est supporter of the new Naval Doctrine Command.

Advocacy of these issues could broaden the Submarine Service’s opportunity to exhibit the generally unknown capabili-ties of our platforms and sensors. Additionally, active participa-tion in the Naval Doctrine Command provides a broad forum for innovative development of new submarine tasks.

A Case for a Mission Statement

If you measure success by the flow of money to a project, the B-2 bomber and SEAWOLF submarine were losers. We know otherwise; nevertheless, it will take creative measures to make a convincing case for future platforms. The shifts in threat, redirection of geopolitical interests, reorganization of CNO’s staff and fewer total dollars available suggest a change in the way we do business.

The Air Force jumped out ahead in the war of words by focusing attention on a united Air Force dedicated to global awareness, global reach, and global power for any purpose. Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill A McPeak suggested that, while he can’t prove it, the absence of a clear mission statement contributed to the Air Force not organizing itself properly. He goes on to say that people built intense loyalties around their commands (SAC, TAC, MAC) rather than loyalties to air and space power. This, according to General McPeak made it difficult for the Air Force to think clearly about its purposes and hence, its organization.

More to our point, General McPeak suggested that the B-2 program may have been lost by arguing at the start that it was needed to penetrate Soviet airspace and deliver nuclear weapons against strategic targets. The B-2 has a wealth of conventional capabilities that simply weren’t advertised until it was too late. The Soviet Union disappeared and so did the perceived need for the B-2. If this sounds familiar, it may be because SEAWOLF was touted early on as the follow-on SSN that would provide the technological advantage over the best Soviet submarines, forward deployed in open-ocean scenarios. SEAWOLF’s less dramatic multi-mission conventional capabili-ties seemed lost in the milieu. As with SAC, the Submarine Force may have oversold the bipolar need for SEAWOLF.

General McPeak argued that he doesn’t know whether a mission statement would have produced a larger B-2 fleet. However, it would have given the Air Force a better intellectual foundation and a more comprehensive understanding of what they were supposed to be doing. In June 1992, the Air Force got a mission statement. “To defend the United States through control and exploitntion of air and space.” The mission definition applied to the Z-axis, (air and space,) and is open to a full range of present and future activities. It is not limited by any career (union) field, type of aircraft (platform) or time. The mission statement was to draw all Air Force people into a single calling, for however long the institution exists.

Today’s naval mission (a task together with its purpose) appears to have shifted from Title 10 of the U.S. Code. That is, the Code directs the Navy to “be organized, trained and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea.” The current drift is in a new direction – From the Sea! The initial reaction to From the Sea suggests a rediscovery of the warfare arts mastered in World War II in the Pacific: Amphibious assaults by the Navy-Marine Corps team, and inshore operations. Both the storming of Pacific islands and the success of U.S. fleet submarines in shallow East and Southeast Asian waters are well documented.

From the Sea probably defines the most foreseeable of Navy-Marine Corps operations. And, its release was timely consider-ing the recent Somalia deployment. Yet, From the Sea lacks an overall clarity of task and purpose as does the USAF mission statement. It doesn’t bridge the gap between declaratory and employment policy. What is suggested here is that the Navy needs a mission statement that ties ocean space to a wide spectrum of generic maritime tasks. Such a statement could be a useful tool to support and integrate submarine capabilities into general maritime warfare requirements.

Navy Department institutional support is needed since the three navy unions – aviators, submariners, and surface sailors — lead by powerful three-star Platfonn Barons, OP-02, -03, and -05, were reduced to two-stars and subordinated to a single manager. That is, N8, the new three-star DCNO for Resources, Warfare Requirements and Assessments on the CNO staff. Future platform requirements will be debated and staffed through the N8 organization. This means decisions must survive an in-house union debate before being approved by N8, and forwarded to the Vice CNO, N9. An overall open-ended mission statement covering the entire spectrum of anticipated naval actions could be the tool for furthering new submarine rolls and missions, hence requirements.

Support for the Noval Doctrine Command.

It has been said that the new Norfolk based Naval Doctrine Command will be staffed by the Navy and Marine Corps’ best and brightest. It will “…be charged with building doctrine for expeditionary warfare and translating the concept of ‘opera-tional maneuver from the sea’ into naval doctrine.” It is likely this new command will play a role for the Navy Department similar to what TRADOC does for the Army’s Air-Land Battle. According to Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean O’Keefe’s remarks at the National War College on 7 October 1992, the Naval Doctrine Command, among other things, “…will focus our procurement process on equipment systems to support this strategy of littoral, regional warfare.” This is an obvious assignment for our best SSN C.O’s and staff officers, when rotating from sea, including operational submarine staffs, to shore.


The Submarine Force should do well in the 21st century if it is able to succeed in the following tasks.

  • Support our SSBN force by continuing to staff STRAT-COM with our best people.
  • Support the Naval Doctrine Command to create innova-tive changes from open ocean SSN operations to opera-tions in the littoral.
  • Support the creation of a naval mission statement that gives the Navy Department a better intellectual founda-tion of submarine operations, and a more comprehensive understanding of what they can do for overall national defence.

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