Let me start by recognizing this fraternity. The Naval Submarine League is one of the finest organizations in the country. You have build a solid reputation as a dedicated and professional organization-one that includes both retired and active duty submariners, private citizens and leaders of industry and government. You do great service with your hosting of this symposium, along with other forums such as the Submarine Technology Symposium at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. We all share a common interest in keeping our Submarine Force the premier force in the world and your role as our unofficial ombudsmen is invaluable and greatly appreciated by those of us on active duty.
In a couple of weeks, I will be relieved by Rich Mies, as he takes over the helm of the Atlantic Fleet’s Submarine Force. This is my last opportunity, at least in uniform, to address the league’s membership.
What do I say this morning about the Submarine Force that will have some lasting meaning-that will capture my feelings for a subject about which I feel so passionate. My gut feeling tells me I should spend my time wisely and leave you with a personal sense of the status of the force and the challenges the submarine community faces in the years ahead.
I don’t intend to dwell on the operations of our submarines. You were briefed yesterday by Jerry Ellis on operations in the Pacific-much of which takes on the flavor of what we do here on the East Coast. You heard from Captain Harry Sheffield, who commanded USS MARYLAND, and Commander Steve Jones, CO of USS NEWPORT NEWS. Who better to tell you of what we are doing in the Atlantic Fleet, than the commanding officers of our submarines.
I will start, however, with a few comments that summarize what has taken place since we last met. Last year at this time there were 49 SSNs in the Atlantic Fleet-today that number stands at 47; a small reduction compared to the precipitous decline ahead. Our Trident submarine numbers grew by one with the addition of USS MAINE in Kings Bay. We christened CHEYENNE, the last of the Los Angeles class, and WYOMING, the next to the last of our Tridents, and SEA WOLF. Three new attack submarines were commissioned-TUCSON, COLUMBIA and GREENEVILLE. We also said a sad farewell to WHALE, GATO, FLYING FISH and BERGALL.
Overall, our personnel numbers are down slightly-with approximately 20,000 officers, sailors and civilians assigned to our ships, staffs and shore activities.
In terms of our operational tempo. we are averaging around 42 percent underway time. That number has risen only slightly over the past few years. We have had a steady diet of submarines deployed to the Mediterranean, Eastern Atlantic, Persian Gulf and Caribbean. As the COs indicated yesterday, it’s safe to say our submarine crews have been very busy.
The best part of this job is getting a chance to roam around the waterfront and to go to sea from time to time. Every time I do, I leave refreshed and invigorated, feeling extremely proud of the dedication and professionalism of the men and women I meet. I can reaffirm Jerry Ellis’ observation that the Submarine Force is manned by a great bunch of sailors.
While these experiences are great for our subs and for our egos, what we should really be concerned with these days are more sobering issues. First, we need to keep asking ourselves the basic question, are submarines still a relevant and necessary component or our military?
I’m convinced that this question will continue to be the most important question we ask ourselves. And I’m also convinced that the answer to that question, and our ability to articulate the answer, is the number one variable in determining future support for submarine programs. A second, and lesser included two-part question we must ask ourselves is, how many submarines are needed to support the national defense and what number can this nation afford?
Let’s work on the why question first.
I would be the first to admit, that at times, it can be very difficult to be heard in Washington. There are many voices and many divergent messages. But up to this point, the submarine community has fought a pretty good battle. Navy, Joint Staff, Defense Department and Congressional leaders are aware of what submarines bring to our undersea warfare capability and have supported us well. I wish Rear Admiral Bob Natter could be here to run down for you what was overall a very successful 1996 legislative year and what appears to be a promising commitment by Congress for submarine programs in next year’s fiscal budget.
By the way, Bob Natter has been superb as Chief of our Legislative Affairs Office. He has been totally objective, professional and supportive of the Submarine Force.
There is no one person, or group, who can take credit for our success in educating key decision makers on why it is vital for this nation to maintain and modernize its Submarine Force. However, in my New Year’s message to the Force, I gave a lot of the credit to the officers and sailors of our submarines. By their hard work and their commitment to getting the job done, they continue to prove that our submarines directly contribute to the nation’s security every day of the year.
While I patted them all on the back for a job well done, I asked for their continued support and laid out three objectives-actually mandates, that I view as key to continued support for submarines and submarine programs within the Navy, the Defense Department and the Congress.
First and foremost, we must continue to remain relevant to the needs of our war fighting leadership. My job, and Rich Mies’ job soon, is to ensure that our sailors have a clear picture of what is being asked of them. Our commanding officers must be able to clearly translate war fighting objectives into realistic goals supported by an effective training program, both ashore and at sea.
Training is the number one objective by which we characterize what constitutes a good command. When we take care of training our people, all other areas fall into line.
If training is our number one objective, then the safe operation of our submarines whether at sea or in port mst be a primary goal of our training program. The confidence of the American public in our abilities to safely operate nuclear powered warships must never be shaken. Our safety record has been superb, but it only takes a lack of attention on the part of a few to destroy the enviable record we have garnered.
The highest potential impact of our training program, and the one that for the purpose of this discussion most directly answers the why question, is the training aimed at honing our war fighting ability. That’s what we get paid for. We must be a ready and able force; we must be able to execute whatever mission is assigned, at anytime, and in any of the world’s oceans. If we fall to be ready to launch our weapons or deliver special forces to the beach, even once, we risk jeopardizing our standing. Every mission that is assigned to the Submarine Force is critical and often without redundancy or flexibility of execution. We have very specific missions that we train for every day … some that only submarines are capable of doing … there is no room for error or misjudgment.
As critical as training is to our ability to successfully meet our war fighting requirements, we must also balance these demands with the very important task of ensuring that folks outside of the Submarine Force know and understand what we do for a living … which goes back again to the why question.
We work extremely bard at educating the rest of the Navy on what it is we do, and in the case of our Battle Group and Joint Task Force Commanders, we show them what the submarine can do.
As Steve Jones highlighted yesterday, visibility within the battle groups extends to assigning post SSN commanding officers and two or three submarine qualified junior officers to serve on Submarine Advisory Teams. These officers are making a real impact and are a voice at the table as the Task Force Commanders decide bow to employ their forces.
We have continued to demonstrate the potential of the submarine ashore and at sea to a large portion of our Congressional membership and their staffs, and to hundreds of business, academic and community leaders since we last met. In fact, during 1995 nearly 30,000 Americans visited Atlantic Fleet submarines; over 150 Congressional members and their staffs; over 300 folks from OSD, JCS and the Navy Secretariat, and more than 125 media representatives came aboard. But this is a new year, as will be the next year, and the year after that. We cannot rest on our laurels and ignore the demands of constantly opening up our fleet to those who will influence our destiny.
With the election cycle this fall, there may be many new faces appearing on the political front, as well as within the Defense Department. Our story will have to be re-told with equal candor and objectivity if our programs are to continue their present level of support.
Now, what about the second question: how many submarines do we need and what number will this nation be willing to invest in?
The answer to these questions are dependent on many diverse factors, such as war fighting requirements, forward presence, and shipbuilding industrial base requirements to name a few. There are no simple answers. As taxpayers, we clearly don’t want to buy any more defense than we really need.
If you ask various so-called experts, you get a wide range of answers. Part of the problem is that the missions assigned to submarines are more widely varied than ever before. Couple that fact with the increased worth of each unit in a reduced force and it becomes apparent that too few submarines may leave us unable to meet future national security requirements. Our fleet and OPNAV leadership are well aware of this issue, but the number of submarines, like the number of other Navy platforms is more influenced by current budgetary concerns than future international instabilities.
Nevertheless, working together the SUBLANT and SUBPAC staffs have put together a superb study of the impact of reduced force levels on the ability of the Submarine Force to respond to peacetime and wartime demands, and although I can •t discuss the details in this forum, I can tell you that I have taken that briefing to every level of Navy leadership including the new CNO.
Whatever sized force we have will be a busy one. The Submarine Force of the future will be involved in all that our Navy does, and therefore all that our joint forces do.
Let’s examine what the Submarine Force is doing today-the 6th of June. Of the 47 fast attack submarines assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, 17 are at sea-that’s 36 percent. We have five subs in the Mediterranean. We have units participating in North Atlantic operations, in Joint Task Force counter-drug operations, in exercises with UK, Norway, France, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, and several conducting battle group workup training. We are asking more and more of our submarine crews than ever before.
We want our submarines to be key tools for Joint Task Force Commanders when they execute operational warfare from the sea. We want them trained, armed and equipped to attack an adversary’s critical vulnerabilities, whatever and wherever they may be.
In addition to joint task group support, deterrence will continue to be a core requirement for the Submarine Force. It has classically been spoken of in terms such as “strategic” or “nuclear”. Call it what you will, the policy of strategic deterrence has been empirically successful in that it has indeed deterred nuclear war.
Because today and in the future, potential adversaries could still hold us at risk with considerable arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, we need to continue to deter any temptation to use those weapons to our disadvantage.
In tum, the strategic submarine will remain the backbone of our nuclear deterrence. We will commission our 17th Trident, USS WYOMING, in July. Our last Trident, USS LOUISIANA, will follow next year. Subject to ratification of START II in Russia our current plan is to transition to a force of 14 Trident during the next decade.
No decision has been made as to what role, if any, the four Ohio class submarines removed from the strategic force structure will perform. My guess is the Navy will find a conventional role that makes sense and is affordable.
Conventional strike warfare, particularly precision strike, i.e., strike without collateral damage, will become an even more important capability with which we must remain proficient. The requirement to deliver tons of ordnance on target will continue, and there is no way a submarine will replace an Air Force or Navy attack squadron in that regard, but in precision strike we can and will play a major role.
My bet is that mines and countering mines will play an expanded role in the future. These simple, deadly, yet cheap and readily available devices enable any littoral nation, even those with limited resources, to disrupt commerce as well as military operations. We must develop, and are developing, improved mine detection and avoidance systems.
The widely accepted role of the submarine as a covert surveillance platform will remain unchanged in the predictable future. Whether supporting joint operations in the Caribbean or NATO embargo operations, the submarine’s ability to provide indication and warning to combined or joint forces as their covertly positioned eyes and ears remains one of their most valued missions.
The ability to covertly insert and extract special warfare forces into hostile territory will grow in importance. Small scale operations, out of the public eye, will factor into our emerging policy of conventional deterrence.
Anti-submarine warfare remains a vital war fighting requirement for the Navy. Whether the issue is the continued Russian production of quieter nuclear submarines or the worldwide proliferation of diesel submarines-all of which you will hear a great deal more of this afternoon when Naval Intelligence discusses foreign submarine development-the submarine threat will remain a primary responsibility of the Submarine Force. We are expected to be good at it-we are the only platform fully capable of dealing with an adversarial submarine-and in the fleet, a larger share of ASW has shifted to the Submarine Force.
As Rear Admiral Ed Giambastiani articulated yesterday, the proliferation of submarines and submarine technology poses one of the greatest risks to our Navy’s ability to operate with impunity in the world’s oceans. The diesel submarine provides Third World countries with an affordable weapon to wield superpower influence. We must be the force ready and able to deal with these threats.
Last month I spoke at the League’s Submarine Technology Symposium at Johns Hopkins University. At that seminar, I said that anti-submarine warfare is really about undersea warfare. In other words, it is about undersea superiority. Dominating the undersea environment for submarines means that we must be better trained, must operate superior submarines and be more technologically advanced than our adversaries. By the end of this decade, in just four short years, we will be attempting to dominate the undersea environment with approximately half the number of submarines once envisioned-and with a number 60 percent of what it is today.
The responsibility for ensuring our success in the undersea environment weighs heavily on all of us as we plan for that eventuality.
So what are we doing?
ASW superiority is the number one focus of the attack submarine force today. There has been a tremendous amount of work done in this area in just the past 12-14 months. A great deal of promising research has actually made it to the fleet and the results are promising. Let me share one example with you.
A little over a year ago, we began to address bow we were going to recover ASW superiority. An ASW panel made of representatives from N87, SUBPAC, SUBLANT and elsewhere got together to set the baseline of where we were and where we needed to be. We then reached out to the technical and academic communities and laid out the challenge of providing both long term and near term solutions.
In June of last year the technical community responded with the introduction of advanced development modules of two systems: the Automated Fleet Towed Array Sonar (AFTAS), and the Real Time Transient Processor (RATTRAP). Both were converted for fleet use and the first installation was completed in just six months. The first at sea evaluation, currently under way, commenced three months later. This very positive experience demonstrates that, with proper discipline, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology can be used in a broad spectrum of military applications.
AFTAS and RATTRAP moved from the concept stage, to installation on front-line submarines-a process that would normally take years, in nine short months. This is an amazing tum around and everyone involved-NAVSEA, OPNAV, fleet and industry have, I believe, been awakened by the potential of these two systems as models for program development.
The use of low cost COTS and rapidly upgradable equipment to provide rapid transition of technology to the fleet is necessary today, and will be absolutely critical in the future.
While this new found technology shows significant promise, there are several other developments underway to address passive acoustics and they look equally promising.
One outcome of AFTAS and RATTRAP is the recognition of the savings that are possible in research and development when using COTS technology. As procurement reform sweeps the entire Defense Department and as industry is asked to pick up a greater share of the cost for research and development, such savings can mean the difference in a program getting past the concept stage or dying on the vine. The competition for the Navy’s scarce R&D dollars is intense. The days of unlimited monies for submarine research are gone.
Our challenge is to define the areas that need attention most and to search for technologies that show the greatest promise. We then must work closely with academia, research scientists and industry to design and build systems that offer affordable and significant improvements. While we can no longer afford to gamble on risky, low payoff technologies, we also can’t afford to become so conservative that we limit ourselves and lose the opportunity to exploit untested technologies.
The bottom line is that the United States must maintain technological superiority over potential adversaries to give our numerically smaller force the undersea advantage.
Okay, let me climb down off that horse and leave you with some remarks about the state of the force.
I mentioned early on that the Submarine Force is in good hands. Our people programs are generally in good shape; despite the force being manned at 96 percent of authorized billets. Our senior enlisted rates (E6-9) are taking up the stack created by reduced recruiting quotas. They are manned at 116 percent and our junior rates are currently manned at 85 percent. There are some specific problem areas:
- We have a shortfall of Fire Control and Sonar Technicians due to accessions in ’93 and ’94 that were about half that required to maintain healthy communities. FT’s are currently manned at 83 percent (at sea), with the most critical shortfall in the junior rates. Sonarmen are slightly lower with 82 percent.
- We are still experiencing insufficient junior officer retention. but with plans for increased bonuses, permanent spot promotions for our engineers, and improved XO/CO opportunities,the future appears brighter.
In the material world we are also generally in good shape, but we do have problems with our towed array systems, which directly impact our ability to do our prime job. Systemic problems with our vertical launch Tomahawk tubes impact our strike capability. As a comparison, we have 156 torpedo tubes in the fleet (counting only COR SSNs) and none out of commission. On the other hand, we have 228 vertical launchers and seven are out of commission. The answer to solving this problem lies in design issues, better logistics support and improved training for our maintenance folks . We’re working the problem!
And a final material issue we need to work on is antenna reliability. We need to improve our communication and data throughput to enhance our relevance to strike warfare and task force commanders. Communications continue to be a limiting factor in our ability to fully integrate with the rest of the Navy.
Part of the good hands I spoke of earlier is with the leadership of this community. I am pleased as punch to be relieved by Rich Mies. He’ll be a great asset. And the rest of the team, Jerry Ellis at SUBPAC, Ed Giambastiani in OPNAV, Dennis Jones at STRATCOM, George Sterner at NAVSEA, Admiral DeMars followed by Skip Bowman at Naval Reactors and all the rest of the supporting cut, are alive with energy and dedicated to forging a future for the force. Give them all your support!
Last month, six former SUBLANT commanders, Admirals Bob Long, Hank Chiles, Steve White, Ken Carr, Arnie Schade and Joe Williams joined us at Headquarters in Norfolk to review a snapshot of current events, peer at our plan for restoring submarine ASW superiority, and evaluate our analysis of the impact of a future, smaller force structure and give us their thoughts.
Among the many offerings, and the crowd was not reluctant to offer their views, was the thoughtful observation that we used the term ASW a thousand times in our briefings and undersea warfare nary once! And that since there was much more at stake than ASW alone in our underwater world, we would be well advised to shed our blinders to ensure we didn’t overlook the attributes which give the submarine such a broad contribution to sea-based warfare.
We acknowledge our focus on ASW and I don’t apologize for it. It is job ONE. At the same time we are trying to keep our minds and eyes open to a 360 degrees picture. Please feel free to help us.
Thanks for all your support and all the great memories. God bless
ADM Bernard A. Clarey, USN(Ret.)
CAPT Francis T. (Bud) Cooper, USN(Ret.)
RADM Dwaine 0. Griffith, USN(Ret.)
CDR Robert H. Harris, USN(Ret.)
CAPT Eric E. Hopley, USN(Ret.)
CAPT William Rigot, USN(Ret.)
CAPT John M. Will, USN(Ret.)