We live today as a super power and some would rightly say, the world’s only super power. We have economic strength, political stability and military capability. The former Soviet Union was a super power-it certainly had the military might and it had enforced military stability but it had a declining economy which led to its collapse as a union and to its fragmentation into a series of states. Its economy has not gotten any better-its political stability is still at risk-its military capability is considerable. Which leads one to think that we as a nation, as a superpower, have the role of being the world’s policeman because there are no others. With the role of being, or having been, the world’s major political leader because of our capabilities, we might wonder whether we are going to retain that capability. I say that because our economy is strong; political stability in this country in the current era is a given. Our military capability is very considerable.
Where are we going? In my view we are and continue to cut military capability in the country too rapidly and too deeply. I’m not just talking about the Submarine Force. I’m not talking about the validity of a decreasing threat. I am talking about a very, very unstable world which isn’t getting any better. I’m talking about U.S. national interest including the ability to have free access to the seas to maintain a strong economy which is vital to this country’s future.
Our ability to project influence, our ability to protect our own economic interest, our ability to interface with the world community, our ability to continue to be a superpower-a winner; is at risk in my judgement. Why do I say that? I’ve said we’ve cut too far too fast. I really believe that. I listen to statements that say military readiness is our key objective. But facts don’t bear that out. Military readiness is two things. It’s a readiness of its platform and its people to do the job and it’s adequate numbers of platforms to do the job at a risk that is acceptable to the country.
We’re in a country that”s no risk. Every time something happens, even if we personally screw it up, we want to sue somebody and solve the problem. We found that during Desert Shield/Desert Storm Operation just 4 years ago that we have a country that is totally averse to the thought of losing any military personnel in a combat operation. Fortunately the casualties were low and there wasn’t a great outcry.
We also have shown a political propensity to want to get involved in military activity in various parts of the world. And right now we probably still have the capability to do so. What about the future? What about the readiness? We are throwing away, and I use the term knowingly, a lot of talented people who represent a tremendous investment of time, effort, and money over the last decade. They are not gone from our society, but they are productive people gone from the military with the resultant detrimental impact of morale of those who remain. We are getting rid of very good ships. We are decommissioning submarines rather than refueling them, accepting the fact that we will have them for only half of their initially designed life. We are saving money now but what about the future?
We are trying to understand what it means to have the necessary industrial capacity to support our needs . We say readiness is priority number one. OK, we’re getting rid of the people but we have enough left to man the ships because we are getting rid of ships at an even faster rate. But when I talk to people about readiness they say that we are underfunded .
Now you’re always underfunded somewhat if you are the at-home Fleet Commander supporting the deployed units operating at a higher op tempo. But we are underfunded for other reasons. We are underfunded because the Navy gave up several hundred million dollars out of its base closure set-aside to rebuild earth-quake-ravaged portions of California. Certainly a worthy endeavor; but out of the Navy budget not in my view.
We have a base realignment and closure procedure which is being challenged at every tum because nobody wants to lose facilities. And yet the military is forced to sustain and support the facilities that are in excess of requirement and that money comes out of the readiness hide. ICs operations and maintenance funding that comes out of the hide of the Fleet Commander who has to maintain that fleet. And when he also has additional bases that he has to pay for that’s another drain on his dollars. So are we really supporting readiness in this country. I don’t think so.
I think as Richard Compton-Hall said yesterday this country is in great need of a history lesson. Maybe a rather in depth history seminar. We seem to forget that every time we get weaker something happens that we don’t like. And then we pay a very high price to recover and to get back to where we want to be. Do you think that the North Koreans, for example, aren’t aware of the decline of our military capability. I think they are fully aware of it. I think it plays right into their hands. Those who we bluff say “Can they carry it out?” Maybe they can but they don’t seem to follow up on their comments. They might say let’s look to the future because we see a decline and we see that things are going down and all we have to do is wait our time. After, all most people in the world have far greater patience than the people in this country, especially our national leaders. I think perhaps it is time to have some emphasis on lessons of the past to recognize that the threat we are preparing for is not necessarily that conven-tional threat that we’ve been so accustomed to but the threat of capabilities which could be used against us should there become obvious a hostile political attempt.
So I guess it’s time to get smart, and what that says to me for the Submarine League and its constituents, both corporate and individual members, is that we have to be part of this effort to be prepared to speak out, to influence those in positions of leadership to recognize that we do need a strong military. We need a strong viable Submarine Force. We need the industrial capability to sustain it. We also need aircraft carriers and airplanes. The Navy is not producing or developing a single new model aircraft today. We need surface combatants; we need some amount of amphibious lift. Above all, from the Navy’s perspective, we need to be able to influence what happens at sea when we want it to happen. We can’t do that if we become a second rate Navy. The country needs a strong military across the board with a balance that’s determined by the likely employment of that military. That balance could be interpreted in many different ways depending on whether you support a stronger Navy, Army or Air Force; I know that. But there is a right and logical answer that could be derived by people who look carefully at where we’re headed.
My purpose in all this is to say that we in the submarine community have to continue to be active. We, you out there, have been staunch supporters of the need for a strong Submarine Force and the need for a strong military and we have to continue that effort if we are to do our job as members of this League. If we are to do our job, those of us who have been associated with the military. in ensuring that what we have learned is passed on to those who now have the responsibility to ensure a viable United States as we now know it.