Wednesday, June 4, 1997
Congressman Bateman met over breakfast on Capital Hill with a leadership group from the Naval Submarine league before the start of the Annual Symposium.
Thank you for inviting me to speak here this morning. This is certainly as distinguished a gathering as I have enjoyed the opportunity to address on an issue so close to my heart. The downside, of course, is that a group this knowledgeable leaves no room for error. Be that as it may, I am more than happy to offer a few simple observations on an issue of tremendous importance to the nation.
The Clinton Administration recently released its long anticipated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) setting forth the strategy and force structure it believes are required to meet our national security objectives in the years ahead. There were no real surprises in the QDR. The national military strategy has been in the main well received. The glaring defect is that the force structure and budget assumptions are not compatible. Budgets and force structures have already undergone considerable transformations since the end of the Cold War. These transformations have been so significant that our ability to execute another Desert Storm is seriously in question given the myriad of contingencies for which our military forces are routinely called upon.
In the debate over force structure and requirements the issue of undersea warfare must not be neglected. Even well documented evidence of the continued importance Russia places on its submarine programs has not altered the perception of an absence of risk from that submarine force. While that is the perception, we must remain cognizant that if intentions change, the Russian undersea warfare capabilities cannot be ignored.
I am not here to argue that a Russian menace exists. It does not. What does exist, however, is a still considerable role in our national military strategy for a strong undersea warfare capability. The QDR reaffirms the Bottom-up Review·s recommendations of imposing deep cuts in the size of the U.S. Attack Submarine Force, from its Cold War high in the mid-’80s to 50. The QDR Attack Submarine Force of 50 is within the parameters of the 45 to 55 submarines enunciated in the Bottom-Up Review. By any reckoning the question, however, is will a force of 50 attack submarines be adequate to execute our national strategy. I defer to the experts in the audience, but I have my reservations.
Just as with many other areas of the military, the salami slice approach to force structure reductions pays scant attention to the actual real world requirements pressed upon those reduced forces. The threat of foreign navies, given the proliferation of advanced non-nuclear submarines in the inventory of hostile and potentially hostile regimes around the world must not be ignored. We must be careful that we are not driven by budget assumptions that ignore potential threats.
What we do need, however, is a Submarine Force at least minimally sized to the requirements set forth by the National Command Authority.
Sadly, individuals sufficiently cognizant of the number of attack submarines needed in the Force to meet minimal peacetime forward presence and special mission requirements are few, even in the Pentagon. The operators of our undersea warfare assets do not decide where they are going to sail and for what purpose; they are sent there by the service chiefs and civilian authorities who rightfully control the armed forces and articulate the national military strategy. All our Naval personnel asks is to be provided the platforms and personnel needed to carry out those missions.
Naval forward presence is at the core of our national strategy. The withdrawal of many of our ground and land based air forces from their forward positions places an absolute premium on our continued ability to forward deploy assets during peacetime capable of operating without concern for host country support and possessing a formidable capacity to deliver ordnance on target in a timely manner. That translates to our attack submarines. I don’t need to reiterate the unique and impressive capabilities the U.S. Submarine Force provides. You know that better than anyone in the country.
The United States must maintain a capable, robust Attack Submarine Force that takes into account quality of life issues as well as the simple mechanical requirements inherent in operating a Navy, such as maintenance and refueling schedules. The United States must continue to build submarines to maintain the capacity to do so as it is vital to the continuation of our ability to meet legitimate national security requirements. The battle that will be waged in Congress over the next several months will be difficult, but I am confident that common sense can prevail and the agreement meticulously negotiated between the two submarine builders and the Navy will be reflected in the defense bill that will be drafted beginning today.
The alternative is the loss of a unique and absolutely essential national asset: the finest Submarine Force in the world. That Force is needed to protect our interests overseas. It is needed both to execute numerous peacetime missions and to be ensured of defeating any threat in the sea lanes vital to our national interest. It is needed in attacking land targets without being detected. It is needed to support special operations which are receiving increased attention in the post Cold War era and for operating as part of task forces or battle groups. We must build new submarines to ensure that capability exists tomorrow. Not even the minimum QDR Submarine Force structure can be maintained unless we get about building the new attack submarine.
Few of us predicted the end of the Cold War. Few of us can predict the future 20 to 30 years out. It is for that period of time and beyond, however, that the implications of the decisions we make today will be felt. We must act responsibly and meet our national security requirements in undersea warfare.