Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be here in such a distinguished company. I’m happy to see so many of our active and retired submariners and so many good friends of the Submarine Force.
I was last privileged to address you at the 1991 symposium when I was the head submarine detailer. That was only four years ago, but clearly, our Navy and our world have changed a lot since then. The new world order didn’t turn out to be very orderly at all, so the peace that followed the end of the Cold War has turned out to be a very restless one.
In the world today, there are 20 active wars and 12 hot spots we’re keeping an eye on, and there are now over 40 nations with submarines.
Russia has replaced the Soviet Union and Russians routinely visit our SSBN homeports for treaty verification. Boy, talk about things we thought we’d never see that will teach me to never say never again
SEA WOLF will be christened later this month, sporting capabilities I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was skipper of the CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI, and the New Attack Sub will expand our capability even further.
And the 80 SSN and 18 Trident Navy I was lamenting in ’91 have grown even smaller; now we’re looking at 45 to 55 SSNs and 14 Tridents-makes I wonder what I’ll be saying when you invite me back in 1999! But I think I’ll take the advice here of that sage philosopher, Yogi Berra, who said “try to say out of the business of making predictions, especially about the future.”
We began this period of downsizing in 1989 with around 600,000 active duty Navy people, from building towards the 600 ship dream of the mid-’80s.
Our downsized goal reflected a one-third reduction, down to some 400,000 active duty enlisted and officers by 1999. We’ll be roughly three-quarters of the way through the drawdown by the end of this fiscal year with just over 44,000 more unreplaced losses to accommodate over the remaining four years-until we reach our projected steady state near the turn of the century.
Throughout this major force reduction, we have remained true to the plan generated by Admiral Boorda when he was Chief of Naval Personnel in 1989:
- First, reduce accessions to absorb as much of the reduction as possible, without creating hollow year groups
- Second, encourage the retirement of those eligible to do so within communities whose requirements were disappearing
- Third, reduce the number of personnel entering the career force in those same downsizing communities, and
- Fourth, only if the top three methods failed to generate sufficient losses would we RIF our career force personnel. I am delighted to report that we will complete our downsizing without ever having to resort to this most distasteful of tools to achieve reductions.
Congress helped a lot. Our oversight committees have been totally sympathetic in working with the deputy chiefs for personnel, and in supporting new plans to soften the transition from military to civilian life for our great people.
Our own BUPERS team under Admirals Boorda and Zlatoper did a truly magnificent job in steering our Navy through these minefields. So good a job, in fact, that when I relieved Zap last July, I became concerned that people were starting to think of BUPERS as the place to call for information about how to get out of the Navy. And I worried that if we kept talking downsizing and didn’t begin to pull back on the stick, we’d punch right through the bottom of the envelope.
So in my travels to the fleet, I’ve been telling sailors that we’ve traded in the meat axe of the hardest years of the drawdown for the scalpel of force-shaping, and the bottom line throughout is recruiting and retaining the best of the best for our Navy team.
Then I usually give them some proof that we’ve moved from downsizing to rightsizing. We’re beginning to move money away from separation programs, such as VSI/SSB and early retirement, and into retention programs like SRB, and recruiting programs like re-enlistment bonuses; we’re approving more re-enlistment requests to allow more sailors to flow into the career force, we’re recruiting a limited number of Navy veterans and we’re increasing advancement opportunity.
For instance, for the E7 selection board that convened this morning, we’re looking at a selection rate of 16 percent, up from 11 percent last year. That translates to 4,500 new chief petty officers!
These are just a few examples of what we’re doing to keep recruit quality and retention rates high as we head toward the steady-state of 1999.
But the drawdown has been so carefully managed that even if we took no force-shaping action-assumed a hands-off posture-we’d still be in pretty good shape. We’d see some shortages in sailors with five to ten years of experience, but there would be adequate numbers of those with 10 to 20 years of experience to fill in the gaps.
Of course, that’s exactly opposite the situation during the so-called hollow force of the ’70s, when we had very junior seamen and petty officers trying to do the work of E6s and chiefs.
So I tell our sailors we’ve changed our BUPERS marquee to read: “‘We’re back in the career planning business and we want you to stay Navy!”
And I think the message is starting to stick. I’m getting a lot more questions on the road about advancement and commissioning opportunities, tuition assistance, and quality of life programs-and far fewer about separation programs. CNO and the MCPON are hearing the same kinds of questions during their visits.
I’m comfortable telling you that most of the turbulence that resulted from downsizing is in our wake and that the hardest decisions and cuts are behind us.
officers! These are just a few examples of what we’re doing to keep recruit quality and retention rates high as we head toward the steady-state of 1999. But the drawdown has been so carefully managed that even if we took no force-shaping action-assumed a hands-off posture-we’d still be in pretty good shape. We’d see some shortages in sailors with five to ten years of experience, but there would be adequate numbers of those with 10 to 20 years of experience to fill in the gaps. Of course, that’s exactly opposite the situation during the so-called hollow force of the ’70s, when we had very junior seamen and petty officers trying to do the work of E6s and chiefs. So I tell our sailors we’ve changed our BUPERS marquee to read: “‘We’re back in the career planning business and we want you to stay Na~I” And I think the message is starting to stick. I’m getting a lot more questions on the road about advancement and commissioning opportunities, tuition assistance, and quality of life programs-and far fewer about separation programs. CNO and the MCPON are hearing the same kinds of questions during their visits. I’m comfortable telling you that most of the turbulence that resulted from downsizing is in our wake and that the hardest decisions and cuts are behind us.
But you know, through all this change, one thing remained constant and that is the tremendously high quality of the skilled professionals in our Navy and particularly in our Submarine Force. Whether 50 years ago in World War II, 10 years ago during the Cold War, or 5 years ago in Desert Storm, people have remained our most precious resource.
That’s what I want to talk most about this afternoon-that most precious resource, our submarine family. And instead of giving you more data and lots of retention and command screening figures, I want to paint with a little broader brush and talk quickly about some of the unique things submariners are doing today, and then share with you some thoughts I’ve had about our submarine heritage and why I believe, with all the changes, that our Sub Force remains strong.
When I was here four years ago, I talked a lot about the fact that people are the most significant factor in the success of the Sub Force and the entire Navy; being CNP has only reinforced that opinion.
rm proud to report that the men and women who man our submarines, tenders, and bases today are the best-educated, most motivated, and most well-rounded in our 95-year history. And to my amazement, they just seem to keep getting better all the time.
Just look at the achievements of the men who will be honored during tomorrow’s Naval Submarine League Fleet Awards ceremony and you’ll see what I mean. Though the awards will be made to individual officers and sailors, each nomination represents the teamwork, professionalism, and dedication that are the hallmarks of our Submarine Force, and which have earned our community the outstanding reputation it has in our Navy and country today.
That reputation grows more every day as we assign submarine officers and enlisted to what used to be non-traditional billets on the Joint Staff, with unified CINCs, and to more and more strategic policy fellowships.
Submariners are in a number of key defense billets. Just to name a few: Captain Jim Metzger, the prospective EA to SEC-NAV; Captain Fred Dohse, the Deputy Executive Secretary to the National Security Council; and Commander (see) John Richardson, the prospective Naval Aide to the President.
And we have 36 officers in Joint Staff billets including, of course, Admiral Bill Owens, the Vice-Chairman.
This is the flip side of decommissioning the number of subs we have recently-our submariners are serving outside our community and are in great demand. This trend was just starting when I was here before and is in full swing now. For example, nearly a third of our captains have served, or are serving, in joint duty assignments and submariners are at sea with all our major battlegroups staff.
Eighty submarine officers are currently at Monterey or civilian universities pursuing graduate degrees and several are in Executive Fellowship Programs at places like Harvard and Stanford. Ninety-one junior officers are serving at the Academy, at NROTC units, and on recruiting duty.
And, in the main, they have such bright futures! We’ve weathered the worst of the drawdown. The larger year groups accessed for the 600 ship Navy have passed through the toughest screening gates, and those who follow can look forward to CO/XO screening opportunity that we struggled for years to attain.
We’ve turned the corner. Although junior officer retention is low and bothersome, we’re beginning to see retention stabilize, along with deck plate attitudes for career service.
So I’m excited about the futures of the young men and women who will soon be running our Submarine Force. They really are better than we were at their stage.
And I say that with due regard for you, the many veterans and Cold Warriors here today-not to minimize your service but to remind you of the great example you set, so you can take pride in the living legacy you left to our Submarine Force
A great truth, and the great irony of our profession, is that we keep the peace by always being ready for war. No one knows that better than the people in this room. As Colin Powell said at the King’s Bay ceremony honoring 3,000 patrols by our SSBN fleet, “no one has done more to prevent conflict or made a greater sacrifice for the cause of peace than America’s proud submarine family.”
But we must remember that our privileged role as peacekeepers was made possible by the bravery and sacrifice of the determined peacemakers who sailed before us, most especially the gallant officers and men of World War II.
Because 1995 marks the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, this is a special year for anyone who’s worn or wears a uniform. This is especially true for submariners because, although we count Submarine Force birthdays from the day when USS HOLLAND (SS 1) was launched in 1900, what we all think of as the submarine Navy really didn’t come of age until the Second World War. It was then that we learned our trade and developed many of the strategies and tactics we still use today.
And, though I think today’s submariners are the best qualified we’ve ever had, I’m convinced the lessons learned 50 years ago are still worth knowing today, as we work to adapt our modern Submarine Force to new foes and changing missions.
I worry sometimes that my generation has failed to keep our proud submarine history alive. That maybe we’ve been too busy taking turbidities and back-ups to admit that our success, and the whole way we do business, is based on the earlier successes of men who knew nothing about turbidities or neutrons.
We all know that submariners represented less than two percent of navy personnel during World War II, but their actions account-ed for more than 55 percent of our enemies’ maritime losses. Postwar records show they sank 214 naval vessels and 1,178 merchant ships-that equates to destroying roughly 5.5 million tons of shipping.
Of course, our submariners paid a heavy price for their success against the enemy. They bore the brunt of our own naval losses. Fifty-two of 288 American submarines were lost; 3,505 men remain on eternal patrol.
I know many of you have heard those figures before but I wonder if you still find them as astonishing as I do? I think they’re still so moving because in our hearts we know that behind every one of those numbers stands a man or a crew not very different from each of us.
Men proud to be sailors but prouder still to wear the dolphins of a qualified submariner. Men who loved their country, their work, and their ships, and whose homes and families were never very far from their thoughts, wherever they were in the world.
Men who grew bored sometimes underway, as we do; and lonely sometimes, like we do; and who got frustrated by the lack of showers and the lack of privacy and the endless drilling and training, just like we do.
And they were men who understood that when things got rough and there was nowhere else to turn, they could turn to each other.
As the saying goes, they were “ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances”, whose courage and ingenuity enabled them to win the war.
Men like Mush Morton, Red Ramage, and Sam Dealey, whose stories we all need to keep re-telling, again and again. Their sorties speak volumes about why our silent service was so critical in World War II and why we still are today.
Their stories show that caring leaders who live our Navy core values of honor, courage, and commitment inspire those same values in their crews. And their stories teach the value of teamwork-teamwork built on a foundation of training and trust that we reinforce through shared experience.
But I think the most interesting lesson in the stories of these heroes lies in their willingness to take a risk. I sometimes worry that intelligent risk-takers are becoming an endangered species in our downsized, more competitive Navy-that there’s a mentality that in order to survive you should just keep your head down, maintain a low profile and not get out of the box.
There are those who might consider risk-taking nuclear submariners to be a contradiction in terms, but I’m convinced that the risk-taking legacy we inherited will be key to our future readiness.
Morton and Dealey and Ramage could take intelligent risks because they’d also prepared their crews to take them. Every man knew every job and every plan had a backup. It’s hard to explain to non-submariners, all these checks and balances and backups that are our legacy.
Today, those who don’t know our history put it down to the obsessiveness of nukes. But I assure them it’s a tradition much older than SSNs and SSBNs, one that grew out of the double checks of rigging for dive and prepping torpedoes in WWII.
Many of those procedures have carried over to our 2-man rule in dealing with nuclear reactors and weapons today. We need to remember this. But more importantly, we need to explain it to our young submariners, officers, and enlisted.
Our procedures did not spring from some new behavior taught by Admiral Rickover, but from the lessons, often written in blood, of the Second World War. Lessons were then correctly reinforced and further championed by Admiral Rickover.
Our submarine heritage is a heritage of mutual trust and mutual obligation that keeps us safe and strong and lets us take risks when it makes sense to.
We must never abandon this legacy, because to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we will need innovators, not robots. Innovators like the winners of this year’s Naval Submarine League Fleet Awards-Commander Dave Thieman, Lieutenant Commander Jamie Foggo, Lieutenant Commander Lindsay Hankins, and Lieutenant Paul Fabish-and innovative sailors like Chief Torpedoman Pat Henderson and Machinist’s Mate First Class Chris Soder.
As we continue operations forward .. from the sea in support of our nation’s interests and in support of joint task force operations well inland, we will find ourselves spending less time in the open ocean and more time in shallow water, along congested coast-lines-operations which require quick decisions, backed up by expert periscope work and ship handling.
As I mentioned earlier, today’s world includes over 40 countries with growing submarine capability. Our resolve and our adaptability will be tested by navies new to submarining-North Korea, China, and Iran, to name a few. And we must make ready for a new Russian attack boat that will be very capable, very fast, and very, very quiet.
These are examples of the kinds of real challenges facing today’s skippers, like Commanders Jay Donnelly and Mike Tracey, two of our finest who’ll be talking to you in a few minutes.
Just as SEA WOLF and the New Attack Submarine are transitioning to true multi-capable missions, so our people must be encouraged to think out of the box and act with intelligent daring.
Our rich submarine heritage, yours and mine, has prepared us to meet these challenges head-on. As we continue to hold the line, it is our duty to preserve and enrich our proud traditions-traditions forged for us in battle by those who sailed before.
To our retired submariners: thank you for your sacrifices and the glorious heritage we honor this anniversary year. To you of my generation: work hard to keep our heritage alive. Through your effort and your example, make the lessons of 50 years ago meaningful today.
And to you who will take submarining into the 21st century: take time to listen, to read, and to remember. Make our glorious history your own. Be adaptable, take intelligent risks and be proud of who you are and what we’ve done every one of you is a part of this great legacy!
In closing, let me quote (as I did in 1991) Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, a fellow submariner and former Chief of Navigation (now BUPERS), who wrote: “We who survived World War II, and were privileged to rejoin our loved ones at home, salute those gallant officers and men of our Submarine Force, who lost their lives in that long struggle. We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleet replaced losses and repaired wounds.”
As Admiral Boorda noted recently, we haven’t experienced a 20 year period of uninterrupted peace since our country was founded. Put another way, no sailor, Marine, soldier, or airman in this country’s history has ever completed a military career during which our nation did not engage in armed conflict at least once.
We hope that the record wilt is broken and that today’s submariners will not be involved in hostile action. But if history continues to repeat itself, I dare say it will once again be our submariners who must hold the lines against the enemy. I’m convinced today’s and tomorrow’s submariners can do that.