Remarks at the Annual Symposium June 6. 1996
I have an opportunity this evening to recognize another one of our members and his achievements over the years. We had an opportunity earlier today to pay tribute to Admiral Mike Boorda, our recently departed CNO, for his very strong support and active interest in the submarine program before Congress these past several years. We also have a chance to recognize the fact that COMSUBLANT, Vice Admiral George Emery, is attending his last of these functions as an Active Duty Naval Officer. He will be relieved shortly and will be retiring. We hope we don’t lose you, George, as a strong and active supportive member, which you certainly have been.
My real purpose tonight is to say just a few words about Admiral Bruce Demars. Bruce will retire in October of this year after eight years of service in the NR organization. I never know exactly what the right title is, but it’s either Division of Nuclear Reactors, or Director of Nuclear Propulsion, or whatever. But he presides over the organization and he has done so, very successfully, since 1988.
Bruce, I went to the stats. When you took over, and I was still on active duty, there were five nuclear powered aircraft carriers, including one with eight reactors, there were nine nuclear powered cruisers, 97 attack submarines, and 36 missile submarines. I counted that up in my mind and that’s about 167 reactors. Now based on your most recent testimony to the Congress, we are down to only 130 operating naval nuclear plants. That doesn’t include any of those which are in the shipyard not yet commissioned or authorized and not yet built.
To put that in perspective, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, there are 109 reactors operating commercially in the United States. So the number that are under Bruce’s control, and are his responsibility, exceeds by 20 percent those in operation in commercial service in this country.
Bruce’s responsibility matches the combined total of power generating reactors in France, the United Kingdom, and Japan; the three countries who have the largest proportion of their electricity governed by nuclear power. Again putting it in perspective, during this time Bruce has seen us reach a milestone of 4600 reactor years of operation by nuclear propulsion plants owned and operated by the Navy. All of the commercial plants in the world have operated just about that amount of time. We have never bad an accident or incident in the Navy which threatened the health of the crew or the general public in this country or anywhere else in the world. Why? Because this organization, headed by Bruce for almost eight years, and by Admiral Ken McKee, one of our members, and before them beaded by that gentleman whom you’ve heard of as Hyman George Rickover for the balance of the roughly half century that we’re talking about, has always bad as its hallmark excellence . Excellence in technical design, excellence in construction, excellence in testing, excellence in operation based on excellence in training and demanding it from the people in our business. People say it’s too tough, too demanding, too expensive. This guy’s too powerful. He is responsible for all of this and be controls it. I know we have a propensity in this country to tear down things that work, but here is something that really works.
Now think of the consequences. Can you imagine bow many ports we could enter, our own or foreign, if we have a serious accident with one of our nuclear propelled ships. It would be a disaster from that perspective, or the perspective of readiness of the United States Navy to meet its requirements and its responsibilities around the world. It would also very possibly be very negative with its impact on people, whether they were within eight feet or in the vicinity, regardless of nationality, who might be affected by it. We can’t afford it, our hallmark is safety. We have to continue our demands for excellence.
Someone said in the aftermath of Mike Boorda ‘s death, and I’m sure he’d disagree with it, that we are too demanding. I would agree that zero defects has its place and there are places where you don’t want it. This is one place, ladies and gentlemen, where we want it to continue, and it has to, and it has been under Bruce’s leadership.
I have also read, over the last couple of months, several articles that annoyed me, and because I can’t write very well, I don’t write letters to the editor as often as I would like. Besides, they don’t usually print my letters. But I have seen a lot of things that said here, once again, is the time for change. I saw this once before, because rm getting to be an old man, in terms of age, and not otherwise, I saw it when Admiral Rickover was being retired. I saw it when it was time for Kin McKee, who had decided to step down, to be relieved, and we nominated Bruce. People said we have got to downgrade this organization because there is a four star who works for a three star at NAVSEA and that doesn’t make sense. Of course, he was also working for a Cabinet Member, and he also worked directly for the CNO, the Secretary of Navy, the Secretary of Defense, and Congress thinks he works for them. But, that’s not quite good enough. Some say we have to downgrade his office because it’s too independent.
A group of us yesterday morning on the Hill beard that one of the dangers is that Naval Reactors runs the submarine program. Bruce, I don’t believe thinks so. If I bad thought, while I was on active duty, he thought that, I would have slapped him down. He runs the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, but he provides the expertise from many years of operational experience to the naval submarine force, and to the CNO and the program.
I have spoken too long, so I’ll wrap it up, and say, simply, “Let’s not destroy that which has proven its capability, that which is dedicated to excellence, and that which is dedicated to the safety, today and tomorrow, of everyone in the Navy and outside.”
Bruce, a job well done-thank you.
The International Human-Powered Submarines Races (ISR) Organization announces the first engineering workshop for contestants and other students interested in participating in submarine races or learning more about them. The workshop will be held December 14-15, 1996 at Carderock, Maryland. Contact: Nancy R. Hussey, ISRIFURE, P.O. Box 1569, Solomons, MD 2068; (410) 326-6896.