One of my great privileges as Secretary of the Navy is to name ships and appoint sponsors of those ships. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. I chose a very special lady to be the sponsor of this most special ship.
Let me give an example of what kind of sponsor Margaret will be. She knew that today would be filled with such activity that she wouldn’t be able to meet every member of the crew, and she wanted to know every member of the SEA WOLF crew.
So last week she got up in the middle of the night and caught the 4:30 AM train to Groton and spent the day and evening with the sailors of this ship. She will be your sponsor and champion for the life of this ship over the next 35 years.
It is said that a ship is imbued with the spirit of its sponsor and that indeed is a blessing for SEA WOLF. Through the course of its life, this ship will have many fine commanding officers and many outstanding sailors in its crew. But throughout the life of this ship, there will be but one sponsor. SEA WOLF and the United States Navy are very fortunate to have Margaret.
This is indeed a historic day, and I want to thank everyone who is here; I am told there are some 12,000-13,000 strong in number. And, I would like to make each and every one of you an honorary SEA WOLF sailor.
Obviously, Margaret and I are very proud to be here. But not simply because of the honor of participating in the christening of this submarine-the finest submarine in the world. Not simply to applaud the men and women of the shipbuilding trades here at Electric Boat and the many contractors who contribute to the building of this ship. Not just to honor the brave officers and sailors who will serve through the life of this vessel. But also to take an opportunity to recognize why we are building this submarine and why we need to build more.
A number of years ago, a public official, entrusted with the best interests of the citizens of his nation, reflected his personal judgment and the common wisdom with the following words:
“There are no excuse for [building] submarines … So far as naval armament is concerned, it will not be long until [we] recognize that the torpedo is obsolescent; the submarine out of date; and the seaplane of so limited utility that expenditure [should] not be enlarged by any useless absurdities as aircraft carriers … ”
Historians record that quite a few people applauded that particular speech. In fact, it was published in the most prestigious journal of the day. And why shouldn’t those words have been applauded and accepted? Most nations of the world were at peace. An evil empire had been previously defeated. There was no apparent threat. The government was moving to reduce its challenges. Freedom was a given.
Ten years later, a crisis threatened that nation and the entire world. A crisis of such magnitude that many apparently wise men chose to sacrifice their very principles to avoid war-a a war they were unprepared to fight.
Well, war came anyway-perhaps even sooner because of their lack of readiness-their lack of such absurdities as enough capable submarines or aircraft carriers. The war broke with a fury that destroyed their budget plans, their economic strength, their position of world leadership, and the very lives of a great many of the citizens of that democratic nation whose freedom was ultimately saved through the intervention of its Allies.
When that war ended, 50 years ago this year, the men and women of that nation, and many nations, would somberly ask themselves: “Why were we so unprepared?”
I am talking, of course, about World War Two-the war our parents or grandparents had to fight. The public official who made those unfortunate remarks belonged to one of our Allies. But there were many in the United States who had echoed the same sentiments for the same reasons. The irony is that the submarine and the aircraft carrier, absurd and expensive in the perspective of their critics, were the two weapons that proved most effective in winning the naval war.
Today, we face a situation not too much unlike the past. A few years ago we won a war, a Cold War to be sure, but one that nevertheless required a great deal of military expenditure. We are now in the process of reducing our budget deficit and tackling many challenges, economic and social, that are very worthy of our attention. There is no longer a threat of global war. Many nations, though not all, are at peace. Freedom seems secure. And like their predecessors, some people think they can predict the future.
I don’t claim to predict the future. And I am not, by training, a professional historian. But I do know what history teaches. I do know that freedom is not free-it is purchased by heroism and sacrifice in war, and by good judgment and preparedness in peace. In a high-tech world, the world of today, it is purchased by remaining first-rate in technology and innovation.
Having served as a naval officer and a submarine, I know what it is like to go down to the sea, to face potential enemies, in the most capable ship, and what it is like to go down to that sea in a ship that would be considered the second rate.
As Secretary of the Navy, I am committed to ensuring that the tools we give our sailors and Marines-that their lives depend on on-remain first-rate.
As a businessman, I know false economy when I see it.
And as a citizen, with two fine sons, maybe to be blessed someday with grandchildren, I am not willing to gamble their future, their freedom on the chance that there will be no war, or that, if it comes, we will be suddenly able to build tomorrow what some propose to throw away today.
How do you preserve freedom? Do you preserve it by letting an entire industry go out of business in the name of a false economy? Do you preserve it by allowing partisan politics to blind your judgment? Do you do it by giving a pink slip to men and women who have labored for many years to produce the finest tools for our defense? Do you do it by creating monopolies in the name of competition? Do you do it by declaring new technology unnecessary, and the status quo good enough?
You know that’s not how you preserve freedom. We all know that. So why are some ready to sacrifice an entire defense industry and are willing to throw away hundreds of millions of dollars to stop building capable submarines? How much would we pay to start building them again when the next crisis comes?
The SEAWOLF is the finest submarine in the world. It will regain the American lead in quietness and stealth. The second Seawolf will be better still. And the third Seawolf which we need will be the bridge that preserves this industry to build a more affordable, littoral warfare-oriented New Attack Submarine.
You can’t get across a chasm without a bridge. There is a chasm in our defense industrial strength. If Congress does not authorize and fund the third Seawolf, the depth of this chasm will not simply be measured in lost jobs, or dollars wasted in higher overhead and contracting fees, but in the potential breakup of a defense industry that has always served our best interest in preserving the peace. I shudder at the thought that someday historians will say: the United States was once the best builder of submarines.
I do not predict that a global crisis is coming. I do not claim that we are in danger today. I hate war. Every night before I sleep, I pray that war never again occurs. I pray that throughout their lifetimes, my sons will be blessed with the gift of peace. But I know that to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, God’s work on earth must truly be our own. We are the ones who are responsible for peace. We are the ones who are responsible for freedom. The steps that we take today will be the ones that may determine the freedom of our children.
The builders of this submarine, this mighty SEA WOLF, are a national treasure in knowledge and skills. The nuclear submarine building industry represents an investment we have spent over 40 years developing. We are gambling with a national treasure if we do not take steps to preserve it. That’s why I want to take this opportunity to ask each one of you in the audience, and all Americans, to urge Congress to fund the third and final Seawolf as a bridge to the submarine capabilities we will need in the future.
Just before I left Washington to come to this ceremony, I received a letter that I would like to read to you. The letter is dated 22 June. [Editor’s Note: Secretary Dalton then read the President’s letter which appears as the leading feature in this issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW.]
This is a wonderful occasion-this christening of a Seawolf-class submarine. This is a great day for Margaret and me, for the United States Navy, for all of America. But as President Clinton says, we need to do it twice more, not once more, if we are to guarantee that, as concerns the deterrence of global war, as concerns war undersea or elsewhere, there will always be great days of peace, and freedom from fear, for our children.
No one can predict the future. But we can prepare. To stay prepared, America requires a healthy nuclear submarine building industry. Our Commander-in-Chief knows that. And Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the CNO, these distinguished members of Congress, and I are convinced of that. We are convinced that we need to build the third Seawolf to preserve this industry’s health. And to preserve this vital resource-to let everyone know the real risks we take by gambling it away for the false economy. To reply to those who say a third Seawolf is not necessary, to those who oppose our submarine program, my response is the words of our founding father, John Paul Jones, “We have not yet begun to fight.”
Thank you very much. God bless you.
ANNUAL TIDEWATER OPEN MODEL CONTEST
The Fourth Annual Tidewater Open Model Contest will
be held at the Little Creek Road Bingo Parlor, 1760 East
Little Creek Road, Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday, November
18, 1995. The one-day event features 50 categories.
Special prizes will be awarded to models representing the
contest’s theme, “Vietnam: A Country Divided”. For a
contest information package contact:
601 Bond Avenue
Chesapeake, VA 23323
(804) 487-3951 after 5PM