Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


A dmiral Trost, Admiral Kelso, Admiral Long, Admiral Smith, Admiral Shear, Admiral Kauderer, distinguished guests, members of the Naval Submarine League, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It’s an honor to be here today speaking to this distinguished crowd.

I was told once that traditionally, in the early days of seafaring when a sailor finished his nomadic days of sea duty and was looking for a place to drop anchor for good, many an old salt would row ashore, put the oars over his shoulder, and walk inland. He would walk and walk, meeting and greeting many people along the way as he searched for his new home away from the sea.

His journey would take him further and further inland. And it wasn’t until be met someone who inquired what those long skinny wooden things he was carrying on his shoulder were, that he would drop those oars and know he had found his new home. No more sea duty for him!

As usual, however, word about the submarine proves to be especially difficult to spread. For example, take your basic submariner who is seeking a safe haven … well inland … by the classic method I just mentioned. Dress him up in his grease poopie suit, stick a periscope training handle under his arm, fit him out with a Steinke hood, and launch him on his search. The poor guy, doesn’t even get out of the building before somebody associates him with a costume party. It would be unusual for him to get out of town, despite being dressed in all of his glory, before someone questioned his get up.

You doubt me? Last week my operations officer, the legendary Captain Rocky English, retired, and he still lives in Virginia Beach! Look around you: there are a lot of other submariners in this room who didn’t get very far from the water. I rest my case.

It’s hard to believe, but even in today’s information age you don’t have to go too far to meet people who don’t understand what submariners are all about. When we fail to capitalize on the unique capabilities or our submarines, because of this lack of understanding, we hurt the Navy and the Nation.

I would be the first to admit, that we, those of us born and raised as it were in the cold war, are partly to blame for the lack of understanding and recognition of many outside the submarine community. The silent service had a necessary purpose as we squared off against the Soviet Union in the high stakes undersea arena. But today, this moniker, the silent service, hurts the Submarine Force as we vie for scarce resources with our contemporaries from more traditional and familiar military platforms.

Putting ourselves in the position of our customer, the people of the United States, as represented by the Congress, is necessary to arrive at the right answer. To put it in the right perspective, elected officials must detect the right course of action in submarine programs in an environment with very high background noise and many interfering contacts. It is our job to help them-to improve their recognition differential. The biggest issue controlling the process is the budget deficit. The Congress is committed to eliminating it and it is perfectly understandable that we are pressed hard to explain the need for ships that cost over a $1B a copy. The defense budget has become a zero-sum game and expansion in one area will lead to shrinkage in another. Educating the public on the importance of maintaining superiority in undersea warfare when few countries are pushing hard in that arena, outside Russia, a country with which we are working hard to improve relations, requires careful explanation. The best way to confront these competing requirements is with facts.

Here are the facts as I see them. The number one mission of the Department of Defense is-to defend the United States of America. Within that broad perspective that mission is shouldered primarily by submarines assigned to the operational control of CINCSTRA T, Admiral Hank Chiles. We do it with fewer ships, fewer warheads, and fewer people than any time since the early 1960s. The basic method is unchanged-we maintain an overwhelming nuclear force to deter aggr~ion. What has changed is the potential threat. The Soviet Union is gone, but the landing for the successor states of that Union, including Russia, has been a hard one. We &ope they successfully complete the transition todemocracy and capitalism. We provide a good reason for them and any other nation with weapons of mass destruction not to waste precious resources on nuclear brinkmanship.

Fact #2: The Submarine Force maintains the only ability to fight and win in the undersea SSBN bastions of the world if the need arises.

Fact #3: We maintain the only capability in the fleet to conduct tactical nuclear cruise missile strikes.

Fact #4: We have much to offer in low intensity conflict with our extremely flexible attack submarine force. We maintain observable but unlocatable forward presence. The value of this tool is becoming apparent to some for the first time only now. The ability to monitor a situation, to deploy special forces, to launch tactical strikes in a hot spot without fanning the flames by providing a force which is present on the evening news is invaluable. A submarine can be deployed to a hot spot, while the situation is still fluid, without implying anything. No political capital is expended until, and unless, the decision is made to strike.

When the situation calls for a Joint Task Force, we have much to offer. We carry the brunt of the ASW mission, a large share of the Strike Warfare mission, and a share of the ASUW, mining and special warfare missions. We can operate without logistics support or an air protection umbrella and, with the benefit of recent communications improvements, we can and do maintain continuous tactical communications with the Theater Commander, Task Force Commander, and Strike Warfare Coordinator.

How do we ensure that we will be dominant in these roles ten years from now? The answer is: we Invest now. We invest in quieter submarines with better sensors that maintain the flexibility to conduct a wide variety of submarine missions. The evolutionary nature of technology requires substantial investment in hardware to gain the next increment in performance. We still see no revolutionary change that can alter that fundamental paradigm. We continue to explore alternatives, as do other countries. But, for the foreseeable future, acoustic stealth defines submarine stealth.

However, some of the paradigms we hold sacred may have to fall in order to lower the cost of our product. As in the past we, and I mean we, the Navy, must continue to develop better ways of doing business if we are to stay in business.

The question remains whether or not we will continue to develop the submarine’s untapped potential to meet our foreseeable needs. As quieter submarines approach background noise levels, can we make a breakthrough into more fruitful detection means than acoustics to improve our anti-submarine abilities? Can the marriage of submarine stealth and ability to deliver precision munitions reduce the costs we bear to establish air superiority during power projection? Will the ability to launch the Army’s Tactical Missiles (AT ACMS) from submarines, while remaining invulnerable to shore launched cruise missiles like Seersuckers and Silkworms, relieve surface ships of part of their fire support burden?

Would conventional SLBMs allow us more rapid crisis response without paying the price to increase forward presence? Could the submarine’s ability to covertly lay a minefield be utilized to reduce the cost of embargoes and blockades? Will the combination of submarine stealth and unmanned vehicles, whether airborne or underwater, open the floodgates of battlespace information available to joint force commanders? All this and more is possible: all it takes is the right kind of commitment.

How the force of the future develops is largely related to cost. It provides no savings, for example, to obviate the need for air superiority if we are determined to establish it anyway. Likewise, the ability to use mines in situations short of war isn’t very useful when mining is considered an act of war, and so on.

National defense is expensive. Submarine warfare is expensive. But if the opposition has a detection advantage, we may be sending our crews into harms way without a fair chance to fight and win. So the first step in our future victories is to buy, as economically as possible, the right submarine, one quieter than all others, with the world’s best sensors. Call it a quality or lire. Call it a matter of readiness. But do not fail to call it the first principle of war fighting: Provide sailors with tools that allow them to fight and win!

Using the chronicles of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings as a guide, one can draw some parallels to our own times and their possible consequences. Nearly a century and a quarter ago, the Naval Institute came into being to air the concerns and correspondence of the Naval officers who took issue with the doldrums into which the Navy had drifted following the Civil War.

The great Civil War fleet that had maintained the blockade and fought the river battles had been rapidly dispersed and deactivated, and the Naval Establishment reverted to its pre-war mood and technology, weary of the burdens of war. Advances in steam propulsion came slowly, sometimes reverting to sail; and. advances in gunnery stagnated. The technological advances demonstrated in the development of the MONITOR and proliferated by the Industrial Revolution were not actively pursued in the United States. Instead, they were seized upon by European nations who subsequently passed us by.

The end of the Cold War bas brought some similar pressures. Our ability to dominate the undersea battlespace is threatened when we talk about facing the future with our only attack weapon, the Los Angeles class submarine. These wonderful ships will serve us well in the near future, but they do not dominate the fourth generation submarine technology being build by Russia today. Russia has seized the undersea initiative. The question of whether or not we should chose to build advance technology submarines like the SSN 23 and New Attack’Submarine could be asked in its more basic form: whether or not we choose to dominate the future undersea battlespace.

Do we choose to be overtaken by the rest of the world, to enter the submarine doldrums if you will? Do we choose to keep our head above water and ignore what goes on below the ocean’s surface … at our own future peril?

Things have obviously changed a bit from our post Civil War doldrums. We now see ourselves as members and leaders of the world community. We are irreversibly linked to world events by economical, political, and humanitarian concerns. The idea that we are an island nation, dependent upon the sea for sustenance is fairly well understood, as is the importance of the Navy in the execution of our national policy.

The content of that national policy will be an ongoing debate as we lead, follow, and accompany the rest of the world into the future, and what sort of Navy we need to be, in order to execute those national policies will be determined by similar debate. How will we grow, what will we develop, for what shall we train?

It is my contention that the inherent strengths of the submarine will continue to serve our country well in the future, and gain in relative importance. Stealth is our basic reason for being; it is what makes us such a powerful military tool. Our means of propulsion yields superior mobility and endurance, and certainly
enhances our stealth; and it also makes us uniquely capable of operating under the ice, hence the submarine has the widest range of operating theaters of all the Navy’s vessels. These are our basics: stealth, mobility, and endurance. No platform does it better.

To get this message out, we are not just telling people-we are showing them. In addition to well over 400 OLA briefings to staff delegations, 44 members of Congress and their staffs have been underway on submarines in the Atlantic Fleet alone in the last year. One hundred forty-two have visited a submarine in port. In May 1994 we hosted 29 groups totaling 560 people to tours of Norfolk based SSNs alone. What a difference a year can make. Last month, we hosted over 2000 visitors including several Fortune 500 CEO’s at the Norfolk piers. We have introduced ourselves as constituents within the community to the local offices of Congressional members. You have seen submarines featured on CNN and on Joan Lunden’s Behind Oosed Doors, and they have been featured on many local TV stations in places like Atlanta, Jacksonville, Toledo, Scranton, and Norfolk. We have put together an interactive CD-ROM about the Submarine Force and are circulating it nation wide. If you need a copy. come see me. We circulate a submarine newsletter to ensure that our people are able spokesmen and, as Skip Bowman described, we are detailing submariners to joint billets to broaden their experience while ensuring joint commanders are aware of the tools at their disposal.

I could not be more pleased with the way in which the Navy is working together on submarine issues. The Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations are leading the charge, making every effort to get the word out to the right folks. As you are well aware, the effort is ongoing and I’m sure Vice Admiral Lopez and Rear Admiral Natter will bring you up to speed. The role that you, the members of the Naval Submarine League, are playing in the process by spreading the word about submarines is important and I urge you all to keep up this most important work.

Today the world is radically different for me as SUBLANT than it was in an earlier day. Those changes aren’t cosmetic; they’re real. I seek your advice, your criticism, your counsel, and your support through these demanding times.

Thank you.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League