May 15, 1997
Mr. Cavaiola Is Vice President for Government Programs of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. He has held many positions of responsibility in government, most recently serving as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary.
It is indeed a privilege to address you today on the submarine of the future Submarine Force and the impact of technology on that Force. You will recall from that very fine introduction that I appear to be the duty Surface Warfare guy being served upon the luncheon menu. So as a lifelong skimmer or target as some of you might say, it’s not with just a bit of trepidation that I come before you-I’ve never known a submariner that didn’t have the obligatory periscope picture of the carrier between the crosshairs on his wall!
It’s particularly interesting to be addressing you on the day the results of the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR, are to be released to the Congress. There have already been a number of press accounts about the QDR results, so I’d like to attempt to give some perspective beyond the numbers. The QDR is the second major examination of U.S. defense strategy and budgets since the fall of the Soviet Union. The first such examination-the Bottom UP Review or BUR-conducted under the leadership of the late Defense Secretary Les Aspin, made considerable changes in end strengths, force structures, and acquisition programs that continue to have a major impact on our military establishment.
Lately there have been some who have taken to criticizing the BUR for what it supposedly didn’t do. “It wasn’t imaginative enough,” they say, or “the two MRC strategies it postulated didn’t place enough emphasis on the lesser contingencies and peacekeeping operations we so often find ourselves in.”
In considering these critiques I would ask that you take yourselves back to those thrilling days in the early part of the decade when the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact induced a euphoria in some-including many in the Congress-about reaping a peace dividend and pushing defense spending out of the way in favor of more money for domestic programs or tax cuts. The situation was such that the defense budget could have been likened to a swimmer trying desperately to find the bottom of the pool with his toe, but to no avail.
The BUR established where that bottom was, based on a rational-and, in light of the reported QDR results-surprisingly enduring set of strategic principles. It may not have been perfect in foreseeing every future contingency or in the purity of its thought processes in matching strategy with the budget projections of the time, but it certainly showed us the way ahead for a new and uncertain era.
As important as its lofty strategic pronouncements might have been, the BUR also accomplished two other things for which it should be remembered. First, it established a clear imperative for improving and maintaining the Readiness of our military forces. Based on its own strongly held beliefs and still smarting from the Hollow Army experiences of the late 1970s, the new Democratic administration in 1993 wanted to be sure our military would never again suffer the pains and humiliation of inadequate training and maintenance. The corollary to the Readiness axiom became the improvement of the Quality of Life of military people and their families, including improvements to housing, child care, and educational opportunity.
The second legacy of the BUR is its attempts at matching acquisition programs and policies with the overall strategic and budgetary course it set. Arguably, one can point to the substantial downsizing (or rightsizing) of the defense industry in recent years as a direct result of the BUR’s policies, beginning with a dinner meeting almost four years ago between defense industry CEOs and Secretary Aspin and then-Deputy Perry that many call the last supper. We are still digesting the series of Acquisition Reform initiatives begun as part of the BUR, and it will be a few more years before we can really assess their impact. But the BUR is unique in the specific programmatic directions it established for several of our major warfighting components. It made substantive and lasting changes in a number of acquisition programs, including attack and reconnaissance helicopters, ballistic missile defense, aircraft carriers, space launch, milsatcom, tactical air forces, and attack submarines. The Joint Strike Fighter program, for example, was born directly out of the BUR.
In the BUR, submarines enjoyed a particular level of scrutiny apparently unparalleled in the QDR. Virtually all aspects of the way we build and operate submarines came under the BUR’s magnifying glass. The BUR made an attempt to match the changing threat with planned force structures and industrial base considerations, at least as far as the number of submarines was concerned. And the results were quite wide-ranging:
- The number of nuclear attack submarines was to be reduced from the Cold War goal of about 1OO to somewhere between 45 to 55.
- That only one of the two nuclear capable shipyards should remain in the business of designing and building nuclear submarines.
- And that the next generation submarines, the New Attack Submarine, should proceed and displace the Seawolf as a more cost effective follow-on front line submarine.
- Later on, the companion Nuclear Posture Review determined that the number of Trident submarines should be reduced from 18 to 14 under the START II limits.
Now as we all know, some of this plan has come to pass and other parts have not. Most significantly, it was at about this same time period that the Navy became the first of the military services to articulate clearly its own vision for the post Cold War era. The 1992 publication of … From the Sea and the publication of the companion, Forward …From the Sea changed the complexion of anticipated naval operations from their heretofore blue water emphasis to a distinct preference for operations near the shore-the so-called littoral regions of the world in support of forces ashore in joint and combined operations.
No component of our naval forces has been more affected by this change than our Submarine Force arguably the bluest of the blue water forces the Navy possesses, for although nuclear attack submarines have always operated near the shore in a wide variety of missions important to the national security, their traditional emphasis has been on anti-submarine warfare for protection of shipping lanes, our ability to project power, and in support of our nuclear deterrent. So the importance of the Navy’s shift to a littoral strategy cannot be overemphasized in any discussion of the future of the Submarine Force or the technologies that support that future. More on this in a moment.
So why the discourse on the BUR and Navy vision? After all, isn’t this pretty old news? Perhaps I just have a warm spot in my heart for the early ’90s? No, the point is this: all of the reporting on the QDR points to a result that will do five basic things: first, reaffirm the BUR strategy of maintaining the capability to fight two major theater wars almost at the same time; second, give added visibility to the smaller, real-world contingencies that place high demands on certain forces; third, continue the high emphasis on Readiness and Quality of Life issues; fourth, place force modernization higher on the priority list; and fifth, in the absence of an increased DOD topline, pay for the added equipment with relatively modest force structure and personnel reductions, more efficient business operations, and cuts in the tactical aviation programs of the Navy and the Air Force.
Now all of the publicly available indicators suggest that the QDR is unlikely to change the broad outline for the future of the Submarine Force as conceived by the BUR-force structure will remain about the same (probably less a couple of attack submarines), no new earth-shattering strategic rationale will emerge for why we have a Submarine Force, the New Attack Submarine program will continue roughly as it has before, and the lingering concerns about the submarine industrial base will remain, although on this latter point the QDR appears ready to side, at least implicitly, with the Navy’s approach to letting the marketplace try to work out the solution to the problem that the BUR tried to mandate.
So what’s left to discuss if we are essentially underway as before? Well, allow me to submit that there’s plenty to talk about. Just below the surface of every one of the QDR’s decisions (or non decisions) regarding the Submarine Force lies a host of issues yet to be resolved. Some in the Congress, for example, remain unsatisfied with both the Navy’s technical approach to the New Attack Submarine and the acquisition strategy that accompanies it. Others suggest that we have reached a strategic crossroads regarding the future employment of our attack Submarine Force. Still others opine that the QDR’s apparent emphasis on modernization should mean more opportunity for the Submarine Force to get well.
We could spend hours discussing any one of these issues. But let me focus on the one issue that quickly and invariably becomes the key element of any discussion of the future of the Submarine Force: and that issue is Technology. It is truly testimony to the importance of technology in the Submarine Force that the Naval Submarine League can hold a very high quality, three day symposium on the subject every year, yet we can barely sweep the horizon on the range of topics and depth of knowledge both resident in and necessary to keeping our Submarine Force at the leading edge and preventing technological surprise.
I suspect that the Submarine Force has always been fertile ground for technological innovation, from the earliest employment of submarines during the Civil War to the present. During my professional association with submarine programs over the past decade and a half, the technology focus has remained strong and sometime contentious. As a way of illustrating this point, let me read to you some observations and see if you can tell when they were written:
(1) “[our next generation submarine] was a low-risk design that will have less capability than [its predecessor] in several key areas.”
(2) “… the same Department which proposes to build [revolutionary aircraft] proposes to build a next generation submarine which appears to be anything but next generation.”
(3) “… the Navy’s current submarine technology program is unduly restricted to issues relating to the design of its forthcoming class of attack submarines … ”
(4) “[our adversary’s] ambitious R&D program … may well produce … a [qualitatively superior] submarine unless our own R&D efforts at least match theirs in scope and productivity.”
Now the first two statements were made during congressional hearings this spring on the future of the New Attack Submarine and the extent to which it will incorporate the requisite level of technological innovation. The latter two statements were made nearly 10 years ago in a report issued by a special panel on submarine technology and ASW of the then-House Armed Services Committee, a panel that included among others Bill Perry, Paul Kaminski, and Harold Smith.
Just a few weeks ago Dr. Kaminski directed the Defense Science Board to undertake a study of the “Submarine of the Future”, citing the shrinkage of defense resources and the need to, in his words, “examine cost/capability tradeoffs in considering the design of a Submarine Force appropriate to the future environments in which naval warfare may occur.” Dr. Kaminski further directed the DSB to examine potential roles for submarines over the next two decades-including radically different roles to those played today-as well as, and I quote, “the technology improvement barriers that need to be overcome for very significant improvement of the ideal Submarine Force mix or radical I y different submarine.”
Let me go out on a limb here and speculate that when the DSB gets around to its work it will find a great deal of technical innovation has occurred in the Submarine Force over the past several years in a number of areas, including: quiet propulsion plants, even when operated at tactical speeds; long-range, highly lethal weapons; and sophisticated, complex combat systems. All of these are associated with the blue water ASW missions mentioned earlier, though each has utility in other scenarios.
But the kinds of things submarines are likely to be called upon to do in the post QDR world and, more importantly, the things they could be asked to do given the right set of capabilities, will be spawned by a different set of imperatives, including: an emergent blend of operational tactics with innovative technologies; the need for connectivity-with-stealth versus disconnected silence; and the rebalancing of our technology efforts to support the Navy’s littoral warfare focus.
As a way of summarizing these thoughts (and providing you with a more target-rich environment) let me summarize some of these ideas in four broad categories.
First, there’s still a threat, it’s still ASW-oriented, but it’s quantitatively smaller and qualitatively different. There’s no question that Russian submarines continue to get quieter, despite the difficult economic conditions faced by the rest of the Russian military. According to recent congressional testimony by the Director of Naval Intelligence, the latest Akula II and Sevorodvinsk submarines approach our own SSN 21 and New Attack Submarine classes in quiet operations, particularly in the narrowband noise spectrum. But there will be fewer of these submarines than might have been expected in the past, with the number of modern Russian nuclear attack submarines expected to be cut near1y in ha1f over the next decade. As such, their submarine force will tend to get o1der on average as time progresses, good news for our operators, though perhaps not such good news for environmenta1ists. It is a1so true that Russian submarines continue to operate out of area, sometimes along our coasts. But these operations are significantly fewer than in years past, more out of the ordinary than the routine they used to be.
Two more recent threat phenomena need to capture our imagination as we consider new submarine technologies. First, the world wide proliferation of sophisticated, non-nuclear propelled submarines continues unabated. What’s new is that there is now available a much wider variety of sensor, weapon, and combat system technology in the marketplace, meaning that an adversary focused on keeping us out of a given area could put together a reasonab1y good submarine force from sophisticated parts-and yes, there are those around the world who are willing and able to integrate it all for them. And second, there are at least three countries that concern us today and are of potentia1 concern for the future that are making considerable investments in submarines besides the Russians, and these include Iran, North Korea, and China.
The point is this: Some would suggest that if the United States sizes and shapes its Submarine Force to handle the Russian threat, then all other submarine threats wou1d be lesser included cases of that posed by the Russians. I wou1d suggest a somewhat different approach. We should use the Russian submarine force to provide the benchmark against which we measure our quieting technology for the foreseeable future. But it would be unwise to stop there; with apologies to Satchel Paige, we must look back, because others may be gaining on us, and in ways that are asymmetric to our regular thought processes. As Dr. Kaminski recently noted, “The U.S. is no longer confronted by a one-dimensiona1 threat, but by several actual and potential widely distributed regiona1 threats.” In that spirit, perhaps we should ask Hollywood to consider a remake of the movie, The Hunt for Red October to include the Iranian Kilo and Chinese Type 094 SSBN among the cast of characters.
Second, we need to have a fresh look at submarine requirements, then drive technology to help us fulfill those requirements. As the HASC panel noted several years ago, “The most fundamental issue in considering future SSNs is what their missions should be … We need to consider other roles for submarine which, with their inherent stealth, can penetrate areas denied to surface ships and aircraft.”
While acknowledging the continued importance of the ASW mission, let’s consider a couple of other areas where submarines can have a major impact.
First, of course, is support to the littoral campaign. As I noted earlier, one could argue that submarines have been doing this effectively for a number of years, and you’d be correct. But the Navy’s landward reorientation presages a whole new realm of potential activities for the Attack Submarine Force. Technology is helping this effort already, with new sensors and weapons, notably the vertical launched Tomahawk cruise missile and the possible employment of a naval version of the Army’s TACMS-Tactical Missile System. The linchpin to the submarine’s added value to the littoral campaign is going to be integration with other forces, both other naval forces and in the joint environment. Neither the Navy nor the CINC can afford to have three Navy’s show up, each trying to conduct its own version of the littoral campaign.
Some of the key technological innovations that would be useful in improving submarine operations in the littoral might include: all weather, day/night sensors that can positively identify combatants against land clutter; weapons that can defeat small, fast, shallow draft units that hug the coastlines; weapons that can defeat ASW or minelaying aircraft; better mine detection and neutralization capability; and connectivity to offboard sensors, perhaps including CEC. [ED Note: Cooperative Engagement Concept.] On this last point, our focus on readily accessible bandwidth should start to become as important as wideband (or narrowband) noise.
A second requirement calling for reexamination is attack submarine support to the battle group. A recent article in the Naval Institute Proceedings by one of our bright young SSN skippers observed that, “SSN’s no more support the CVBG than wet roads support traffic safety. No harm intended-just not a lot of help.” He went on to observe that, “no one seems to know what the submarine is supposed to do for the CVBG,” but that in order to remedy this situation the “submarine would leave behind the notion that it can only operate alone, that it is an organization defined by an aloofness … ” Perhaps this conundrum was best summarized in a recent briefing by Rear Admiral Ed Giambastiani when he posed the dichotomy for the Submarine Force, “Silent Service versus Stealthy Teammates”.
The implication of these examples is the need to at least consider a rebalancing of our technological emphases, a front of the boat versus back of the boat effort where we better match emergent needs for the Submarine Force with our current research and development programs. As the HASC panel summarized nearly a decade ago, ” … improvements in speed and depth capability, while possibly dramatic, might tum out to do less for combat effectiveness than an equal investment (dollars, space, weight) in other kinds of improvements.” This, presumably, is what the DSB will examine in its upcoming study.
Submarines cost too much. We hear this lament repeatedly in these days of constrained defense budgets. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could build a really good nuclear attack submarine for under a half billion dollars? Wouldn’t it be terrific if the 30 year life cycle cost could be reduced significantly? Now I’m sure it’s of little comfort to this audience that the same things are said about the surface Navy’s latest ships, or with some minor tinkering with the numbers of the aviators’ latest heartthrob.
I’d make a couple of observations on this phenomenon. First, it seems that up to a certain point you buy these platforms by the pound; that is, submarines, surface ships, and aircraft each seem to cost a certain amount simply because they are of a certain size. Second, we have traditionally placed performance above cost in our hierarchy of important parameters when it comes to the design and lifetime operation of these systems. Nowhere has this been more the case than for our submarines. So it appears that at some point on the displacement axis, costs continue to increase as we drive more and more capability into the boat.
Some have suggested that better sensors, both organic to the submarine and those readily accessible from offboard, can lead us down a path to smaller ships. Increased detection range, they offer, can reduce the need for speed, thereby reducing power plant size, and ultimately, the overall size of the ship. While I’m not an expert on naval architecture, it seems that there’s an inherent logic in this argument; I’m just not sure how far we can push it.
Others have suggested moving to single-mission or less capable submarines as a way out of the cost problem. They surmise that less capable means, among other things, smaller; thereby reducing overall costs. Again, the logic is interesting, but I suppose that ensuring that you have the right numbers of the right kinds of submarines in the right places at the right times could be a bit of an operational problem.
Once again, technology needs to be part of the solution to this problem. Unfortunately, in times of tight budgets and large, ongoing construction efforts we tend to give technology investments short shrift. This is shortsighted at best and dangerous at worst. Perhaps such technology investments would be better perceived if they had a somewhat different focus. That is, rather than focusing solely on performance as we have largely done in the past, we need to consider simultaneously ways of using our technology to reduce both the acquisition and life cycles costs of future submarines.
Let me also add a plug for program stability. Having a submarine R&D and procurement program that enjoys widely based support in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill goes a long way toward reducing costs in the long run.
Which brings me to my final point:
COTS is too important to the future Submarine Force to fail. It’s a well documented fact that the DOD no longer controls the technological innovation and product offerings in important sectors of its supplier base. Nowhere is this more evident and important than in the areas of computational technology, signal processing, networking, and electronics manufacturing. The design of complex and highly integrated sensor, command and control, and communications systems demands that we take advantage of what the marketplace has to offer us, both from a performance standpoint and, equally important, from a cost standpoint.
Use of both commercial off-the-shelf, so-called COTS, equipment and the accompanying Open Systems Architecture design philosophy are at least a partial solution to the cost problem noted earlier. The New Attack Submarine has the Navy’s lead position for getting this approach into the fleet as soon as possible. The New Attack Submarine’s C3I system promises tremendous savings relative to its predecessors, including a 60-70 percent reduction in the amount of software to be developed; a 70-80 percent reduction in hardware development costs; and a four to one reduction in system recurring and support costs.
The key to all of this is maintenance of the discipline on the part of both the Navy and the industry developer to truly use both commercial hardware and software directly off-the-shelf without further modification. To help in maintaining this discipline we must be sure to pick the right commercial products for our applications, we have the right overall architecture that will adapt to change gracefully over its lifetime, and that we have a solid process for managing that change, which in the commercial world comes assuredly and repeatedly. Change will be needed to maintain commercially current versions of software and hardware in the systems, as well as to refresh the technology and improve performance.
An important unknown in all of this is the ability of the government and industry acquisition and life cycle support communities to adapt to this new way of doing business. Our old ways of buying and maintaining equipment won’t allow us to reap the benefits promised by COTS, so we simultaneously need to change both the acquisition processes as well as the designs themselves. If done correctly and pursued vigorously, COTS has the potential to change for the better the daunting slope of the submarine cost/displacement curve.
Having made these few observations permit me one final point in closing. For the duration of the Cold War submarines came to be viewed as our premier fighting force, the new capital ships of the 20th century. Because the Submarine Force was so important to our national security it engendered great debates on the efficacy of the technology efforts being applied to it, debates that raged in the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, and in industry and academia. The central questions were: what kind of technology program should we have, who should be running it, and how much should we be investing in it?
Needless to say. things have changed a bit since those debates took place, but in this new world environment with new things for submarines to do, similar questions remain regarding the size and shape of our submarine technology efforts. I hope that I have given you a few perspectives here today that will help each of you in making these choices for the future.
Thank you again for the honor of allowing me to share some of my ideas with you today.