Thank you for that introduction. It’s an honor to have a chance to speak before you once again; especially at this very critical point in time for the future of the submarine technology community and the Submarine Force.
In the year since I last spoke to you, Congress has engaged in its most significant debate on submarine technology and submarine acquisitions since the Submarine Alternatives Study of 1979, if not further back than that. Today, I want to focus most of my remarks on this new debate that had developed over the past year on the Hill. Specifically, I want to talk about three things. First, I want to make some observations about this debate, and thereby hopefully put it into some perspective. Second, I would like to discuss the current situation that has evolved out of the debate where we are now. And lastly, I would like to shift to a couple of longer-term potential issues for the submarine technology community.
I’m going to move now to the first part, which is to make some observations about the debate that began very soon after I spoke to you last year. [Editor’s Note: See THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, July 1995, p. 19.) Submarine technology and submarine acquisition emerged as one of the top two or three most controversial weapon acquisition issues last year, along with missile defense and B-2 bomber procurement. It was one of the main reasons why the conference on the fiscal 96 Defense Authorization Bill lasted so long-almost 100 days, which was really quite an extraordinary length for a conference.
The issue of submarine technology and submarine acquisition was one that featured divisions along several different dimensions. It divided the Executive Branch from the Congress, it divided the House from the Senate and it divided one shipyard and its
supporters from the other shipyard and its supporters.
Significantly, however, for the most part, the debate was a family affair-that is for the most part, it was not a debate between supporters and opponents of submarines, but rather a debate among supporters of submarines. The debate occurred, in other words, not because the message about the continued value of submarines in the post Cold War era has not gotten through, but because it had gotten through. And not because the message about the continuing Russian submarine program hadn’t registered, but because indeed it hod registered, and very strongly.
The debate focused on two primary questions. One of these was the concern about competition in submarine procurement. That was a concern that was primarily within the Senate Armed Services Committee, although the House National Security Committee was interested in it to some degree as well. This issue was very well developed by the time I spoke with you last year.
The other question was the issue of the adequacy of the New Attack Submarine design, the issue of whether it was the right boat to build. That issue was a focus within the House National Security Committee. The House Committee’s concerns on this question were apparently driven by three things. One was the Committee’s view of the comparative rates of improvement of U.S. vs. Soviet and Russian submarines in recent years. The second was the fact that there have been instances in the past of surprises involving the dates by which Soviet and Russian submarines have entered service. That, by the way, isn’t a concern limited only to the House Committee. Senator Cohen of the Senate Armed Services Sea Power Submitted also a member of the Intelligence Committee, has expressed on more than one occasion his own concerns in this area as well. The third thing that apparently drove the Committee’s concern was a sense that if there were surprises in the past, there might well be surprises in the future, but unlike in the past, where we had more room to absorb a surprise, now there is very little room to absorb any further surprises that we may encounter. So the House Committee did take up that issue after I spoke with you last year.
But you will recall that last year I was concerned that this was an issue that might eventually emerge and cause difficulty for the attack submarine program. My point at the time was that from the start of the New Attack Submarine program in the early ’90s through the spring of 1995, there had been no focussed review in Congress on the program and thus no opportunity to establish a firm foundation of understanding in Congress about the history of the program and bow the design for the boat had been developed.This, I said, would become a source of vulnerability to the program’s smooth continuation in the future.
In a sense, that chicken came home to roost last summer, not too long after I spoke with you, when the House committee turned to the issue of the adequacy of the New Attack Submarine design and did reach a judgement that the design was inadequate in terms of both capability and affordability. Now my own view, as I expressed last year, is that it would have been better to have had this focus on the adequacy of the design of the boat earlier in the history of the program. There would have been less disruption and more potential for making adjustments if this had happened earlier. But by the same token, it was better to start focussing on the issue last year, than to wait for another year or two or three and then attempt that kind of a review, because that would have led to even greater disruption and even less potential for mating adjustments.
When I first spoke to you four years ago in 1992, I discussed the need to involve Congress during the design process of the New Attack Submarine so that a repository of understanding could be built up in the Congress concerning the history of the program and bow the design was developed. Four years later we are now, in a sense, finally closing the loop on the issue. The process of closing that loop bas been difficult and messy because of the fact that it was delayed, but it would have been even more difficult and more messy if it had been put off further.
This leads to my next observation about the debate and how it has unfolded, which concerns the benefits that this difficult and messy process is producing and has the promise of producing. In a strictly legislative sense, the central result of the debate last year was a provision on submarine acquisition in the Defense Authorization Bill, Section 131. [Editor’s Note: See THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, April 1996, p. 7.] Section 131 is a very long and complicated legislative provision, and in fact, soon after the bill was enacted into law, Section 131 kind of became the proverbial elephant that was encountered by the blind men. One of them grabbed the trunk and said, “Hey, this is a snake.” The other grabbed the tail and said, “No, it’s a rope.” The third ran into a leg and said, “No, this is a tree.” The fourth one walked into its
side and said, “You’ve got it. all wrong, it’s a mountain.” There was a fair amount of that going on through the early weeks of this year. In a general sense, however, it can be said that Section 131 essentially merges the Senate Committee’s concerns regarding competition with the House Committee’s concerns regarding the adequacy of the New Attack Submarine design.
But beyond the strictly legislative result-Section 131-the debate last year on submarine technology and submarine acquisition bad five other important results and I wanted to review those with you.
The first is that in a constituent sense, the debate expanded the political base of support for the submarine program by giving a second shipyard a direct stake in that program. Second, as I just mentioned, by belatedly addressing the issue of the adequacy of the New Attack Submarine design, last year’s debate began the difficult but valuable process of building up the substantive base of support for the program that comes from understanding the history of the program and bow the design was developed.
The third benefit that came out of the debate last year was that it highlighted the issue of the need to provide a continuing workload for maintaining not just the submarine production base, but the submarine design base as well. Secretary Douglass yesterday touched on this. The Navy’s baseline submarine acquisition plan was not viewed on the Hill last year as providing a robust plan for maintaining the design base in the long run.
Fourth, and very significantly for many of you in this audience, the debate last year highlighted the issue of funding levels for submarine-related technology RDT &E work, and whether those levels are sufficiently high and, just as important, sufficiently stable. One result of this was a decision last year to increase submarine-related RDT&E funding by about one hundred million dollars.
The fifth and final benefit that came out of the debate last year, and again something that is very significant I think to many of you in the audience, is that the debate highlighted the issue of the organizational link between the submarine technology and acquisition communities and whether steps need to be taken to strengthen that link. So there were important benefits that came out of that debate last year.
I want to switch now to the second of my three topics, which is where are we now. First I would like to agree with Secretary Douglass’ observation yesterday that there are signs in this year’s mark-ups of some convergence both between the Executive Branch and Congress and between the House and Senate. We’ve gone through perhaps a dialectic process of hypothesis and antithesis and maybe we’re getting into the process now of synthesis. This process has been aided in my view by the work of the Baciocco panel, whose final report, which was submitted to the Navy and also shared with Congress in March, is helping to bridge gaps along both of these dimensional divides, between the two sides of the river and between the two sides of the Hill.
I would also like to agree with Secretary Douglass’ observations yesterday that the programmatic issues that arose out of last year’s debate and legislation will not be fully resolved this year. To the contrary, this is a process that may be drawn out over the next several years. Among the issues that need to be worked out, and which will not be fully worked out within the course of this one cycle, are the following seven.
The first is the question of whether there will be two, or three, or four, or five submarines that are built prior to the resumption of competitively awarded submarine construction contracts. Between Section 131 of last year’s bill and the Defense Department’s report to Congress from last March, all of these options have now been proposed and are, in that sense, on the table.
The second issue that remains to be worked out is whether the eventual competition that does take place should be based on price as slated in the Senate Committee’s mark or on best value as stated in the House Committee’s mark.
The third issue concerns the configurations of the precompetitive submarines that are to be procured over the next few years. What new technologies will they have? How will they differ from the baseline New Attack Submarine design and how will they differ from one another?
The fourth issue concerns the approach to acquisition reform that is to be used in future submarine acquisition. The House Committee’s mark this year would direct the Navy to apply the Air Force’s Lightning Bolt acquisition reform initiatives to submarine programs. I’ll have to go find out what those are. But in this connection you may recall that three years ago in my 1993 address, I said that in the new era of limited defense resources it would be increasingly important to show not just that you intend to make a new and better platform, but that you have a new and better way of making it-and that failure to do this, to show that you have a new and better way of making it, would put the Navy at risk of looking poor by comparison to other parts of the military, particularly the aviation community. The Navy has a story to tell about how the process for building the New Attack Submarine is going to be different from the processes that were used to build prior submarines. Differences that include the design build process, a more sophisticated use of computer-based design, fuller development of modular construction techniques, open architecture and COTS for the combat system and reduction in milspecs. I don’t know if this is the sort of reform that the House has in mind, but if it is, then this a message that needs to be emphasized more.
The fifth issue that needs to be worked out concerns how much funding should be added over the next several years for additional submarine-related RDT &E work. This is the question of whether we can afford an additional, speaking very roughly, one or two hundred million dollars per year on top of the amounts that are already programmed. Secretary Douglas was certainly correct yesterday in mentioning just how little room there is in the very tight defense budget for plus-ups of this kind. But Secretary Douglass also properly mentioned the need to shift paradigms. Perhaps this is one area where we might consider re-examining our paradigm.
When you add the 1.1 billion dollars in detailed design costs for the New Attack Submarine, and you add it to the other R&D for the boat, you wind up with a total plan to spend about 4.6 billion dollars to develop the New Attack Submarine. Now, that’s not a small piece of change. But it’s actually less than the Navy plans to spend for the development of FA-18 E/F Superhomet. Consider that for a moment: The Navy is planning to spend more R&D money to develop a major modification to an existing aircraft design that it plans to spend on developing an entirely new submarine design.
For that matter, consider the R&D budgets for entirely new combat aircraft. The Defense Department is currently planning to spend something like 18 billion dollars to develop the F-22 and another 17 billion dollars or so to develop the Joint Strike Fighter. Those two new aircraft designs, as well as the C-17 and the V-22, will all contribute to future U.S. airpower. In contrast, only one new submarine design is currently planned to contribute to future U.S. seapower, and the R&.D funding budgeted for that one submarine design will be less than the R&D budgeted for any of those four new aircraft designs. I’m not saying this is wrong, but I do think it’s a perspective worth considering when we look into the question of whether we can afford to put more money into the amount of work that we do in submarine RDT&E.
The sixth of the seven issues that needs to be worked out is whether or when there should be a completely new next generation submarine design; that is, a design beyond the New Attack Submarine. Much of the discussion on Section 131 has concerned the four submarines that the legislative provision calls for procuring between FY98 and FYO1. Less attention has been paid to the fact that Section 131 also refers to starting procurement in FY03 of a completely new next generation submarine. The issue is whether we should continue to evolve the New Attack Submarine design as we move beyond the four boats that are to be procured in FY98-0l, or whether production should shift to a completely new design in FY03, as outlined in Section 131. The funding implications of this issue alone are very significant. In it’s mark this year, the House Committee has clearly stated its intention to follow through with the idea of shifting to an entirely new design rather than procuring a further evolved version of the baseline New Attack Submarine design.
The seventh and final issue concerns whether there should be any changes in the way that DoD and the Navy are to be organized to oversee submarines and undersea warfare. On this issue there have been a number of recent developments. As you know, the CNO has expressed an interest in creating a new position to give more focus to ASW. The Navy’s March 26th report to Congress described a new submarine Technology Oversight Council that the Navy has established. The Baciocco panel report recommended establishing a single manager for attack submarine issues, and for establishing a stronger link between submarine technology and acquisition communities, and there was some legislative activity on one aspect of this issue last year. The House this year in its mark-up stated that it may address this issue in conference and the Senate Armed Services Committee whose report just became available within the past day, has stated in its mark-up that it would like to see DoD do something in this area so that Congress doesn’t then do something for DoD.
I want to shift now to the third and final section of my presentation, which concerns a couple of longer-term potential issues for the submarine technology community that I think are worth talking about at this point.
The first of these concerns the proliferation of submarine related technologies around the world, especially to Third World countries. This is a strong theme in the ONI’s recently updated survey on worldwide submarine challenges. An understanding of the issue of submarine technology proliferation is beginning to spread among policy makers. But as they learn of this proliferation and of the potential problems that it can cause in our own defense planning, some policy makers may begin to inquire about the desirability and feasibility of instituting a submarine technology control regime roughly analogous to the current missile technology control regime that is in place for ballistic missiles. They may ask whether such a regime for submarine technology is possible, if so, what technologies would be the most beneficial from the U.S. standpoint to try to control, and what the potential effect of such a control regime would be on our own submarine technology firms. These are all questions that might benefit from your input. This is something good to start thinking about now.
The second of my two longer-term issues concerns a topic that I have returned to repeatedly in my prior addresses-the topic of affordability; i.e., the size of the defense budget, the future submarine procurement rate, and the resulting implications this may have for the submarine technology community. When I spoke to you last year, I said that it did not appear that there would be much difference between the Republican and Democratic positions on defense spending. The budge resolution that was passed by Congress a month after I spoke to you last year, in June of last year, confirmed this. The new budget resolution being considered in Congress now is generally consistent with that same resolution that was passed last year. Which is to say there isn’t really too much difference in the broad scheme of things about how much money the two parties are considering spending on defense over the next several years.
There’s been a lot of attention paid to the fact that the Republican plan for the next seven years is higher than the Clinton administration top line in FY96 by about 7 billion dollars, and in FY97 the budget we are looking at now, by about 13 billion dollars. Less attention has been paid to the fact that while the Republican top line is higher than the Clinton top line in the earlier years. it’s actually several billion dollars below the Clinton administration top line in the final years of the seven year period.
Even less attention has been paid to what the Republican line looks like, taking away the comparison with the Clinton administration top line. The Republican top line last year, passed in the budget resolution, would result in a defense budget that declines in real terms by 1 or 2 percent per year. The Republican plan being considered this year does not really change that. The Republican plan does not reverse the real decline in defense spending. To the contrary, it would thus continue that decline.
Last year I think even some Republican staffers were a little bit surprised when they saw the implications for that budget resolution for real defense spending. As a consequence, there was a view that the issue would be examined next year. Well, the opportunity for examination has arrived-it is next year-and it has not resulted in any fundamental change. We are not looking at an upslope. We’re looking, in the Republican case, at a downslope. So at this point there aren’t any magical solutions to the affordability problem at the level of the DoD budget that are clearly obvious at this point. It could change. But at this point, there’s no strong evidence to indicate that it is a likelihood.
Similarly, when I spoke to you last year, awareness was only beginning to spread of the defense procurement bow wave that is out beyond the end of the current FYDP. A year later, the dimensions of this bow wave problem are much clearer and they are very daunting. In fact, Secretary Douglass has been very open in his testimony to the Hill this year in describing the situation, at least as it relates to the Navy. But it’s an issue for all the services.
Because of this bow wave problem, the affordability issue concerning the New Attack Submarine, that I’ve spoken to you about in the past can now be viewed simply as part of a much larger defense procurement affordability problem. For the New Attack Submarine that’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that New Attack: Submarine is now not as likely to stick out as an especially unaffordable platform, because affordability will be a problem facing many defense acquisition programs. The bad news is that by the same token, the New Attack Submarine will be one of only many defense acquisition programs that will be fighting for very scarce defense procurement dollars.
One way out of this issue for the Navy and for the New Attack
Submarine in particular is the onHhird/one-tbird issue that Secretary Douglass brought up yesterday. I understand the argument about why sea-based forces should perhaps receive a larger share of the defense budget than they have in the past, and it’s a good argument. But I’m not sure that I’m quite as optimistic as some people are about whether this argument will prove persuasive to others, or how much of a difference it will wind up making in the actual division of resources.
For one thing over the past few years all of the services have honed their arguments for why they are going to be relevant in the post Cold War era. For another, on the Hill today, it isn’t the Navy, but the Army that is currently more likely to be singled out as the service that is most in need of a boost in its modernization funding. There’s a recognition that modernization is low across all of the services, but there’s a feeling that the Army is the poorest of the poor, if you will, and that they most deserve the additional dollars that might become available. Indeed, if you ask the Army about the one-third/one-third issue, one of the first things that you might hear in response is that while the Navy and the Air Force shares of the defense budget are roughly equal and have been for a number of years, the Army’s share is significantly less. I’m not saying that a redistribution of resources in favor of sea-based forces won’t happen, but I don’t think it’s prudent to count on it in one’s planning.
The Defense Department hopes to increase the amount of money available for procurement across DoD to a level of about 60 billion dollars per year by FYO 1. That would represent about a 50 percent increase over the amount of money for procurement that is in the administration’s FY97 budget request. Even as we move up toward that 60 billion dollar goal however, the Defense Department has stated that increasing the submarine procurement rate during this period from the currently funded rate of about one boat every other year, to something more like one per year, as called for in Section 131, will pose affordability problems.
When you consider that, plus the dimensions of the post FYDP bow wave, the ability of the Navy to achieve its hoped-for procurement rate for the New Attack Submarine of two boats per year is open to question. I’m not predicting that the two boat per year rate won’t be achieved, but I do think that unless the cost of future submarines can be substantially reduced from current projections, it might be more prudent to anticipate that the average procurement rate could settle out at something less that two boats per year.
A consequence of such a lower procurement rate, of course, is that some number of years from now, we’ll have fewer Seawolf level stealthy boats than originally planned. That is going to pose a challenge for the submarine technology community. Namely, how do you compensate for having a smaller force than what you were planning on having?
Part of the solution might lie in technologies, such as improved equipment to support pier-side training that can lead to an increase in the percentage of a submarine’s at-sea time that is devoted to actual deployments. If you can do that, it might help the deployment multiplier for attack submarines and permit a smaller attack submarine force to do the station-keeping job of a somewhat larger one.
Another part of the solution, as mentioned by other speakers at this symposium, might lie in technologies that can improve the capabilities of the 688s that even some number of years from now will still represent a significant share of submarine force structure. I’m very happy to hear people talking about improving the 688s; I think there was a reticence to talk about the issue of modernizing the 688s for a while, perhaps out of a concern that doing so would complicate the task: of getting the New Attack Submarine program into procurement.
The third solution to the challenge posed by having a smallerthan-planned attack submarine force might lie in technologies for things like off-board systems that can multiply the effectiveness of the limited amount of attack submarines that you do have. This might include things like very smart sensor packages of some kind that a submarine can leave behind, while it needs to go somewhere else, and then come back later and pick up. Or it could include things like unmanned vehicles with even more capability than what we are currently planning and developing.
In this connection, a couple of months ago the Air Force issued a new report entitled New World vistas. I think a lot of you probably heard about this report, and some of you may have had a chance to read it. There are some fairly bold ideas in this report, including a proposal for something that the document calls Unmanned Air Combal Vehicles or UACVs, which are like UAVs, except that they are able to perform functions that we think about today only in connection with manned aircraft. I want to read to
you a short passage out of this report where it talks about these UACVs.
In the section entitled Future of Force, the report says,
“There will be a mix of inhabited and uninhabited aircraft. We use the term uninhabited rather than unpolluted or unmanned to distinguish the aircraft enabled by the new technologies from those now in operation or planned. The unmanned aircraft of the present have particular advantages such as cost or endurance, but they are either cruise missiles or reconnaissance vehicles. The uninhabited combat aircraft (UCA V) are new, high performance aircraft that are more effective for particular missions than are their inhabited counterparts. The UCA V is enabled by information technologies, but it enables the use of aircraft and weapon technologies that cannot be used in an aircraft that contains a human. There will be missions during the next three decades that will benefit from having a human present, but for many missions the uninhabited aircraft will provide capabilities far superior to those of its inhabited cousins. ”
Then it goes on to describe a little bit more in detail what those things might loot like.
If the Air Force can anticipate a future that includes things lite UACVs, then perhaps the submarine technology community can address the problem of limited numbers of attack submarines with proposals for things lite uninhabited submarines, or with other equally bold proposals. The relatively small number of attack submarines in the fleet that we may have in the future, if the hoped-for procurement rate is not achieved, may well be a central challenge facing the submarine community in the years ahead. Given the lead times involved in developing bold new technological responses this to such a challenge, this is something that the submarine technology community should be thinking about today.
Just as a final remark, eleven years ago, when I was putting together a magazine article on the then-new Seawolf submarine
program, I came across an article in Navy Times in which an unnamed proponent of the SSN 21 was quoted as saying, “If you want to gather a crowd in Washington, just say you’re designing a submarine”. I liked that quote so much that I put it at the bead of my article and have remembered it ever since. I think that quote has withstood the test of time quite well. The past year has witnessed the recent gathering of that crowd and the onset of a lively debate. This debate has been heated at times and the participants sometimes have appeared to be talking past one another. By all appearances, it has been a somewhat difficult and not very enjoyable process for the people that are most centrally involved in the debate. But as I mentioned earlier, it is a debate that is beginning to produce results of potentially significant benefit to the submarine community and the Navy. And if those benefits take hold and develop, then for all of the participants involved, but especially for the submarine community, it will
have been well worth the effort. Thank you.