Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Thank you very much, it’s good to see so many people here. Where are we going in our Submarine Foru is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. If I bad to do some sort of a chronogram of my time, in the 205 days that I’ve been in the Pentagon, it is probably the single biggest issue I’ve bad to attend. I’m going to try to share with you a little bit of my views, not only where I think we’re going, but just to let you know where we’ve been; to hopefully set some context for this symposium that you’re having because we really do need everyone in this room to apply their best thinking to what our country should be doing in this critical area.

I have a much longer talk that I give when I appear before groups that are primarily interested in the defense environment in general. It’s called my Paradigm. Lost speech. It’s built around a paper that I wrote back around 1992 when I was retiring from the Air Force and I was the number two U .S flag officer over at NATO headquarters. It was an attempt to explain how I saw the shifting paradigms for national security that were developing in the United States and in the Western democracies at the end of the Cold War. In that paper I recount an example that happened to me. In 1989 I happened to be privileged to be in Berlin for the New Year’s Eve celebration of 1989 to 1990. The Russians invited me up on the Brandenburg Gate in order to have a good view of the New Year’s celebrations. This was an absolutely magic period of time for Germans. If any of you have ever visited Germany, or lived there, you probably have some feel for the kind of emotion that was in the air, the emotionally charged atmosphere that was happening that Christmas and New Year’s season when, after 45 years, these two parts of Germany were being reunited. There was a tremendous celebration going on in the central part of Berlin. Somewhere over a million people were crammed into that central plaza. As the clock struck midnight it was one of these really electric moments because there was very light snowfall coming down, but somehow the moon was out that
night too. It wasn’t as though it was all clouded over so that there was sort of a magical air to everything. The crowd grew absolutely quiet and you could hear this big cathedral clock tolling the final moments of 1989 and we were beginning this last decade of this century. All of sudden on both sides of the wall the crowd began to sing Duetchland my Duetchland. It was so emotional. It wasn’t like we often see in the United States where you go to the ball game and we sing the national anthem and everybody sort of half-heartedly sings it. This was a million people gripped by the emotion of the times, singing their national anthem together for the first time in 45 years. It sent goose bumps down all of our necks. The Russian General turned to me and said, “See General, it’s happening again and you Americans caused it.” That was the view the Russians had in 1989.

I tell this story because the Russian view of what lay ahead from that point, the beginning of this decade, was not on the mark. Germany has resumed it’s place in our western alliance. They have incorporated Eastern Germany into the Western part. They’ve had their economic problems, but that country is off onto a course of democracy which is certainly meeting the expectations of the West in every way. Those old Russian fears were very far off the mark. I tell this story because we were off the mark in 1989, equally as far as the Russians. If you would have told me in 1989 that we would have sent troops to Somalia; started out to help with famine, turned into nation building, then it turned into get Ahdid, then we bad to leave with our tail between our legs; I would have never believed it. If you would have told me that we would have done Desert Storm with 500 thousand American troops in the Mid-East, I would have found that hard to believe. If you would have talked about Haiti, I would have found that hard and certainly I would have found it very, very difficult to believe that we would have as many troops as we do today in a place called Bosnia. Frankly in 1989 I didn’t know where Bosnia was. I bad been to Yugoslavia, but I had never really focused on what the names of the several republics were, and I didn’t even know there was such a place as Bosnia. So my point is, the Russians missed the mark very widely at the beginning of the end of the Cold War, but so did we.

We are still gripping and groping our way into a future that is very, very difficult to project into. In the National Security environment though, we have finally begun to face up to the fact that the old models and the old approaches to the way we structured our national security during the Cold War, no longer apply. Nowadays, when I am being briefed on a new weapon system, for example the arsenal ship is one that is very new in the Navy inventory, people do not come to me with an end-of-the-world scenario of what we call The Threat. In the Cold War, every briefing on every new system started with this gigantic estimate of bow bad the other side was, and what we had to do, and how we were going to find an exact point design that would get there sooner and be better than what the other side bad to do. That old threat-driven paradigm is breaking down; except in one place, and that seems to be in submarines. I’ll come back to that point in a minute.

I want to remind you of a little historical perspective about his idea of the threat. If you just go back and look at our national history, from 1776 to 1816 we had three primary threats in our country. It started out with the British, who have probably been our best ally since those early years; France who is another one of our best allies; and the group that we wrote songs about that disappeared into the dust bins of history, called the Barbary Pirates. But they were a number one threat in those early years of our nation. From 1819 to 1831 we gave up on the Barbary Pirates and we focused on the Caribbean Pirates-they were our big threat. From 1835 to 1842 the threat became what was called in those days the Mosquito Fleet. This was a bunch of gun runners that were getting guns to runaway slaves and Indians. From 1846 to 1848 the threat was Mexico. From 1861 to 1865 the threat was ourselves. If you’re a Yankee it was the Southerners and if you’re a Southerner like me it was the Yankees. Happily that period is behind us. By 1898 the number one threat was the Spanish. If you want to learn about propaganda I would invite you to read some of the books written around the tum of the century about the Spanish, which sound very much like some of the stuff in the press today about the atrocities in Bosnia.

From 1917 to 1919 the threat was Germany and from 1941 to 1945 it was German and Japan together with the Italians sort of in there for awhile and then out. From 1950 to 1989, as we all know it was the former Soviet Union. Now the lesson that you should learn is that focusing on a single country and a single threat is a dangerous thing to do in terms of technology. Because if you go back and look at the things that allowed us to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific in World War II, there were things developed in the ’20s and ’30s, principally the innovations of Naval aviation, and in those days the Japanese were not considered to be a threat. We were much more concerned about some hypothetical threat that would arise in Europe. So we find ourselves today with some very, very interesting dichotomies in looking at technology. Specifically we find ourselves in a situation where in almost every other sector of technology we are stretching and looking into the fog of the future and not focusing directly on the former Soviet Union except back to submarines again. The reason why we are doing that is because the former Soviet Union, now Russia, is the only country that produces submarine technology that can be a threat to us. So there is a kind of well it’s there, so we better focus on it. I don’t mean to in any way mitigate the fact that we may have to deal with that threat at some point in time. I’m just point out that it brings us to a focus that is so different than what is going on in all of the other sectors of our industrial base, as to stick out like a sore thumb.

Now in order for us to cope with the world where we really think Naval forces are going to be applied, in other words, future Haitis, Somalias, Desert Storms and Bosnias, we have to design a Navy and Marine Corps force structure that applies to that challenge that we are going to be seeing in the future. This is why the Navy is redefining it’s doctrine in Forward from the Sea, focusing not on the deep ocean problem, but on the littorals. But here again, when you think of submarines fitting into this and you look at our attempts to focus our Submarine Force in the future as a part of a force structure which bas to deal with warfare in the littorals, we are continually being drawn back to this old comparison between us and the Soviet Union in the deep ocean environment; something we have to pay attention to, something that is vastly important, but again something that is a dichotomy for us.

Now in facing this dichotomy, it seems to me that you can boil down all the travail that I’ve seen and had to struggle with in the 205 days that I’ve been over there into three main issues. The first one is, what is it we should buy for the future for the Submarine Force? Second issue is, how should we buy ir?And the third one is, who should manage It and who should pay for it? Those are the issues that I am confronted with on an almost daily basis with various factions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the Congress. Starting with what should we buy, I think it’s safe to say that the issue that we are struggling with is how good does this thing have to be? That seems to be the focus that we have to deal with and we have a spectrum of views on that from those who feel the New Attack Submarine is not good enough to those who feel fairly passionately that it is good enough. In fact it’s probably more expensive that we can afford.

The second big issue is: how should we buy ill Left to it’s own devices the Navy would have gone down an approach that allowed us to single up in one submarine builder for the future. The reason for that was affordability; not because we don’t like competition and not because we don’t worry about the industrial base. We did not see how we could proceed into the future with the enormous shipbuilding bow wave that we have, with this big problem of refocusing the Navy into warfare in the littorals while keeping our Marine Corps equipment up-to-date, and still be able to carry two major manufacturers in the submarine industrial base.

I would remind everyone that the submarine industrial base is unique, and separate, from all of the other sectors of our industrial base. Many sectors are carried in large degree by commercial work that can be shared. Surface ships have some commercial production that they can share the overhead with (not enough and I’m working on that, it’s one of the big concentrations that I’m trying to apply my time to, but that’s not the subject of the speech today). Certainly for airplanes we have a very viable commercial airplane business and then you can similarly go through the various other sectors of technology. Even tanks are supported in a large degree by research and other activities that have to do with very heavy construction equipment, farm equipment and things of that nature. But submarines are quite an entity unto themselves. It raises the issue about how much we can afford to invest to keep this national capability alive. There is consensus I think in almost everybody’s point of view that we do need to keep it alive. The issue is how robust and how much we do spend on it.

If you listened to some factions in Congress, primarily I would say in the Senate, they believe we need competition. This is, of course, led by the Virginia delegation who would like to see Newport New brought into the equation. They have been successful in bringing that before Congress to the point where the Navy has been required to produce plans to build submarines in two shipyards.

The third issue is: who should manage it, and who is going to
pay for if? One of the disturbing things that Congress has been doing in the last few years (and I have to say when I was a staff member on the Armed Services Committee I saw it happen a lot, and I must admit I participated in this a little bit), is that when we got into a situation where they really want to threaten a service to do something, one of the threats that they make is to write it into the law that if this, that and the other isn’t done, we’ll take this mission away from you and we’ll give it to someone else. Sometimes in the aviation area where the three services very, very zealously guard what they do, this is an enormous threat. Sometimes it’s more of just a nuisance type of thing. In our case, in the world of submarines, the threat has been made to us. If we don’t do this submarine thing right, they’re going to take it away from us and give it to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to manage. Most of the people in this room know that, as good as the Office of the Secretary of Defense is, and it’s one of the best that we’ve had, and very ably run by two of my very best friends, they don’t have a large capacity to manage a program like this. So that kind of a threat is somewhat idle, but it causes lots of mischief within the Pentagon. We have to compensate for that by coming up with ways to convince the Congress that the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy are working together to solve the issues of how much technology we should put into the new submarine programs, and how robust those designs will be, or we’ll have a problem with the Congress about where it should be managed.

Now the problems that we have within the building are not so much about where the expertise resides; the Office of the Secretary of Defense knows the expertise for managing the submarine programs is in the Navy. The problems that we have are about paying for what some people believe is an extraordinary amount of technology. For those who want to drive this weapons system to a very, very high state of capability, the issue is where does the money come from? Those are the principal issues that we have to deal with, are still with, are still having to deal with, and are likely to be dealing with for the next three, four, or five years. Because if we stay on the path that we’re on, and we build a boat in 1998 and 2000 at Electric Boat and 1999 and 2001 at Newport News, we’re likely to be debating this issue all the way up until the year 2001. This is likely to be a debate that is not going to go away and is going to continue to give us management problems.

Having said that, I think that there has been some convergence in the Congress. If you look at the marks that have been produced by the Armed Services Committees and the two Houses of Congress, they are much closer together this year than they were last year, and I think that is a testimony to the emphasis that the Navy has put into working with the Congress to build consensus on the future for this program. I think a lot of it has to do with some of the excellent work that has been done by people like Vice Admiral Al Baciocco. He’s been a tremendous advisor to me in helping me figure out how much technology should go into this program in the future. So there is some hope that we are converging, but we’re not there yet. One of the things that you as a group can do is help us see where technology fits into the equation. How much we need, bow much it is going to cost, the advantages and disadvantages, how it fits into Navy doctrine and also what management schemes make sense.

Clearly there is an enormous difference of opinion between the Senate, the House and the Navy on the final structure of the program. There are many people in the House that still have this idea that we can just build prototypes very inexpensively, get them to sea very quickly and somehow glean some information from this and make a decision by 2001 about what design we want. We in the Navy have not yet seen how to do that. I have sat down with my good friend from Electric Boat, and my good friends from Newport News and asked them bow they see that unfolding. And both of them have said to me that they support the Navy program. When I go back and testify to the House, the House tells me that someone out there in those shipyards is coming to them, telling them that they can build ships such that instead of taking three or four years to build a submarine. they can build one in 18 months; and instead of taking a $1B to design it, it can be designed for a couple of hundred million. These kinds of stories and time-lines still are reverberating around in Washington in spite of all of the attempts that I have made, and others in the Navy have made, to look at this from an orderly and scholastic point of view. So any positive structure that you can help us put onto this debate will be greatly appreciated by me.

I applaud you for what you are doing here. I hope that the dialogue that is going on is good; I think we’re going to be in this debate for a couple more years so you’re likely to be back here again next year debating it again. But the message that I want to leave with you is to open your minds, it is a new world. The Navy is trying to change its force structure to deal with the kinds of problems we see in the future.

We have to take into account the capabilities that the Russians have. But folks, the Cold War is over. It’s over. We’ve got to look forward. One of the most remarkable things about the time period that we’re in right now, is that we don’t even have a name for where we are. What do we call this era that we’re in? We call it the post Cold War era. Now think about American history and ask yourself when before did we define ourselves in terms of where we were. Even after the Civil War, we didn’t call it the post Civil War era; we called it the Reconstruction era. We have a forward orientation to our national view of ourselves. We’ve got to do that now in my view. I think it’s bad karma for us to be continually redefining ourselves by where we used to be instead of where we want to go as a nation. So our challenge as designers and manufacturers of weapon systems is to try to focus on the future, try to think of that Navy doctrine, and what those young submariners of the future need, and focus our thoughts in that way.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League