Admiral Smith, thanks for that very kind introduction. To everyone assembled, thank you for your kindness. I can only say that your warm welcome leads me to believe that none of you work in the Pentagon. I noticed, as I’m sure all of you have, that the naval officers outnumber the civilians on this panel. This makes me wonder why Bill Smith invited me to participate either he values the unique perspective I will offer, or, more likely, he believes I’ll make the Admirals look good.
While Admirals Fargo and Fages have spoken eloquently about preparing the future battlespace, the only battlespace that rm qualified to speak of is the Pentagon. I feel confident in saying it’s far less chivalrous than the environment my fellow panelists have discussed. And believe me, the battle that we are currently waging in the Pentagon will have a profound impact on the future of our Submarine Force and the security of our nation. The Navy, like the other Services, has begun to prepare for the next Quadrennial Defense Review.
Let me begin by giving you my personal perspective on how we got here, to a present-
But then, the statement isn’t spoken as often nor from as many different sources as we would like for such a powerful sound bite. Let me say that I’m glad Admiral Bowman emphasized it in the latest edition of Undersea Warfare. By the way, I encourage everyone to read the Admiral’s article, if you have not done so already. I assure you that it will be time well spent.
The DSB’s “more, not fewer” actually has some substance because we can quantify it. A recent employment study from the type commanders expressed a requirement for 72 boats. In this context, the QDR’s 50 should not be considered a force level we hope to achieve, but an absolute floor. Current defense plans say 50, just like the QDR. And also like the QDR, the defense plans say the number is contingent upon a re-evaluation of requirements. Dr. Hamre, Deputy Secretary of Defense, commissioned the re-evaluation study last year, led by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This difficult work continues, so it is neither possible nor appropriate for me to predict the outcome. However, simply the fact that there is such a study confirms the existence of a potential issue with Submarine Force levels. But it’s no secret that the submarine community hopes the study will draw the same conclusions as the DSB, the recent employment study that I mentioned, and the judgement of the Submarine Force leadership, all of which are calling for more than 50 boats.
If this happens-a big if, indeed-a giant hurdle will have been crossed, but don’t for a moment believe that the race is won. This is because a very, very tough dilemma is waiting to present itself: how, within available but highly constrained resources, would the country build a larger force of capable and affordable submarines? Believe me, if the country does not see a need for more submarines, then the country cannot afford more submarines. So let me discuss the two traits I mentioned, capable and affordable, in search of some answers.
As the decision-makers consider whether we need more submarines, I am concerned by the fact that other communities perennially view the Submarine Force as threatening their programs and their warfare expertise. This is very dangerous. When a threat is perceived, the Pentagon way is to seek consensus, which implies compromise, which may lead to results that are less than desirable-fewer submarines.
As an example, many people view the Trident SSGN conversion as a competitor to other sea-based power projection platforms! If SSGN is to become a program, then this misperception must be confronted and defused! The submarine community needs to develop and make the case about what SSGN will do that other, already funded forces and systems cannot.
When promoting the SSGN concept-and virtually every other submarine program-the Submarine Force must give the other warfare communities their due. In my experience with all communities’ programs, encroaching on someone else’s territory is not the way to make your case. Let me be totally candid. I firmly believe that:
- Submarines will never render surface ships obsolete. The gray hulls will always weigh in with a larger magazine, greater manpower pool to handle simultaneously so many diverse tasks, virtually perfect connectivity with C4 nodes, and a clear, real time, uninterrupted picture of the surface and air environment.
- Submarines likewise will never replace manned aircraft because aircraft have the man-in-the-loop, all the way to ordnance on target.
- But I also believe that the Defense Science Board was exactly on the mark when it called attack submarines 11a crown jewel in America’s defense arsenal”-a direct quote. How else to describe a platform with such stealth, endurance, mobility, and versatility, among other attributes?
Having said all that, I must concede that a discussion on these terms is merely academic. Let me illustrate why. As a crisis looms, our President and Secretary of Defense want to know where the carriers are. This has been the case for over half a century. Their interest is not because they are captivated by the carriers’ ability to transport a lot of airplanes at 30+ knots. Instead, carriers enthrall them because of the roles and missions they fulfill: presence, power projection, and strike. These are real missions that give a powerful mental image to national leaders-not only ours, but also the leaders of allies-and adversaries.
When I hear talk about submarines, too often we discuss only attributes like stealth and endurance, rather than roles and missions. But you won’t hear Dr. Gansler, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, say “We need more submarines because we need to have more stealth and endurance”, just like he won’t ever say, or even think, “We need to buy the next generation aircraft carrier so that a lot of sailors can drive around the ocean at 30+ knots with 80 aircraft on board.” Are stealth and endurance worth $1.5 billion, the average cost of the Virginia class? The answer is a resounding 1100.11 But I know what everyone here is thinking-an emphatic “yes.” This is because you understand what these attributes empower the submarine to do.
The challenge that must be undertaken is to help the decision-makers understand the utility, not just the unique attributes, of submarines. They need to be shown in clear and succinct terms that the attributes we have painstaking) y engineered into our submarines give them the ability to perform a very broad spectrum of essential missions in peace and conflict-making them a bargain.
More specifically, the decision-makers must be shown what every warfare community, every Service, every CINC, and our national leaders rely on submarines to do. I must acknowledge and complement the Submarine Force leadership-Admirals Bowman, Giambastiani, Konetzni, and Fages-for their impressive effort to make these very points, but otherwise I don’t think we’re doing this very well.
Let me wrap up the discussion on capabilities. Once the focus is shifted to roles and missions as the justification for submarines, then the case makes itself-it becomes self-evident-that our submarines complement, rather than compete against, other platforms and programs for scarce acquisition dollars.
Now let me talk about affordability. I think of affordability as acquisition appeal. The more affordable a program is, the more appealing it is to those who make acquisition decisions. A submarine is more appealing if it is simply better, if it can be procured more quickly, and, of course, if it costs less. Let me discuss all three.
First, making submarines better. In terms of acquisition appeal, a better submarine is one that delivers more bang for the buck.
- The Submarine Force is so far ahead in commercial off-the-shelf applications with the acoustic rapid COTS insertion, A-RCI, that other communities are asking to borrow your playbook. A-RCI offers both advanced capability and reduced cost.
- Leap-ahead technologies. These must be pursued with gusto because they present the only path that ensures our Submarine Force will remain the world’s best. We must exploit the strategic pause and accept the risk that this pursuit entails.
- The flexible interface with the water. This is the DsB’s concept for a less tyrannical way than the 21-inch torpedo tube to send weapons on their way to the target. The DSB said that we should not consider four gun barrels, or even eight, as sufficient armament for our submarines,
- Advanced weapons. The greater variety of weapons a submarine can deliver, the greater leveraging effect of its key attributes. I believe that we ought to consider strike warfare-land attack-as a submarine core mission, meaning an important reason to buy submarines, and pursue it with all vigor. By the way, the Advanced Land Attack Missile, ALAM, continues to have strong support within OSD. It is within our grasp and I hope the Submarine Force and Navy can demonstrate a commitment to it.
- Other payloads. It’s high time fur the quantum leap to occur in adjuvant payloads. The surface community proved long ago what adjuvant payloads can do when they put helicopters on frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. Adjuvant payloads aboard the ultimate stealth platform will do even more: they will put the submarine skipper in the harbor, up the river, right atop the battlefield, and many other places where no one would dream of finding a submarine sensor. This will represent a broad and complementary mission niche. DSB opened the door to this concept. I hope we go after it.
- Technologies that will enhance connectivity while preserving stealth and mobility. Connectivity is a problem that submariners must deal with because the assumption will always be that lack of connectivity is the submarine skipper’s fault. After all, submariners are the Silent Service. We must continue to pursue technology solutions, like:
-A more effective bell ringer.
-An acoustic link for very long range or network applications.
- Rapid information transfer system. Specifically, a protocol-based, asynchronous information transfer system-fancy words that describe the Internet-needs to succeed now. This will be a great enhancement for submarine operations, particularly battle group support, because it will allow the submarine skipper to get data when he can, not constrained to when the sender transmits.
The data rate we can achieve now is 106 BPS-roughly the limit imposed by a 16-inch dish antenna. While more bandwidth could be useful, some studies indicate that our submarines may not need it. Instead, we need to fully exploit what’s already available. Achieving greater bandwidth, greater data rate, is not a real technological challenge-just get a bigger antenna! But this would clearly be at the expense of stealth-a very poor trade.
What can a submarine do with 106 BPS data flow rate? Plenty! Recognize that this is approaching the data rate of a T 1 line. The boat could receive two typical TOMAHAWK Mission Data Updates every second; or receive and transmit in one second a high-resolution color photograph that the deplyed UA V may produce; or swf the SIPRNET fur the latest OTH targeting data and intelligence. These examples represent real breakthroughs in connectivity and real enhancements in acquisition appeal. Let’s go after what is within our means, rather than covet more.
The second way to improve acquisition appeal is to reduce the time it takes to procure a submarine-cycle time. This is the many. many years that never seem to end between creating the concept and its IOC. Let me offer you two extremes. At one end of the spectrum is the consumer electronics industry, which works within a cycle time of 18 months. At the other extreme are shipbuilding programs with a cycle time of 11 to 13 years, or more. Our goal, our commitment to the Vice President: reduce cycle time by 25 percent-and that’s still 8 to 10 years to IOC a class of ships!
The pitfall of such long cycle times is that cost continues to expand as one more technology is pursued so that the future platform can counter one more future threat. If we pursue this process to the logical extreme, we’ll never be quite ready to finalize the platform. And cost expands, of course, to fill the vacuum created by runaway growth of requirements and technology to meet these requirements.
One remedy that we are studying to the current cycle time is what Dr. Gansler calls evolutionary acquisition. We need to let requirements evolve just as technologies do, but after the program has been established, after the ship is designed, and even after some ships of the class are already underway. At the start of the program, requirements must be both minimal and flexible. Then we can build a few ships, attack a new increment of requirements build a little more, go after another set of requirements, and so on.
we’re off to a good start with the Virginia class. As we continue to pursue this concept, we’ll expect the last in the class to bear little resemblance to the first. Flights of 688s reflect a simpler version of this concept, such that 6881 is very different from 688. But we can do much, much better than this model. That said, I need to acknowledge that cycle time reduction is not a bottomless well of savings and could require additional resources at earlier stages of a program to realize these savings.
For instance, the time it talces the artisans and craftsman to actually build some sections of a submarine hull is not likely to improve much more than it has already. But by having lots of builds or flights in mind at the outset-when we design the class, we should make the class redesignable. And by accommodating evolutionary requirements, every build will involve less complex changes from its parent and will be less prone to complications, unplanned cost increases, and delays. All of these benefits will make the program more likely to win support on both sides of the Potomac.
The third way to improve acquisition appeal of submarines-I saved the obvious for last-is simply to make them cost less. We are already seeing the cost benefits of modularity in the Seawolf and the Virginia programs. We’ve made use of these concepts in construction, design, and plugs. We can find more savings by designing increased flexibility for introducing and updating electronics. There’s more savings to be found by simplifying designs in the propulsion plant and throughout the ship-fewer breakers, switches, pumps, and valves, for example.
I mentioned technology when I spoke of making our submarines better. We can also exploit technology to reduce cost. COTS, which I mentioned earlier, is not just for electronics. Secretary Gansler tells the story of Boeing developing a ground-based interceptor for National Missile Defense that uses a COTS rocket booster at tremendous savings over any alternative. We need to look at COTS for our manufacturing processes as well. Secretary Gansler tells another story about the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile QASSM). Lockheed-Martin uses methods developed in the commercial boating industry to make the airframe body and practices of the surfboard industry for building the wings and tail.
By the way, please don’t talce my comments out of context. If Inside the Navy reports that I want the surfboard industry to build our submarines, Admiral Bowman will kill me with his bare hands and not a jury in the land will convict him for it! Kidding aside, all of the cost-saving measures that go into JASSM have brought the projected acquisition price of each missile down by over 40 percent while the overall program costs will be reduced by 30 percent-and without compromising capabilities.
Before I wrap up my discussion of reducing costs, I need to touch on how we can benefit by changing the perception of cost. Considering the constrained-budget environment and the fact that the up-front cost of attack submarines is high it is imperative that we make lifetime O&M costs a factor in acquisition decisions, which will surely improve the acquisition appeal of submarines.
Dr. Gansler is trying mightily to tum around the age-old Washington thought process by which no one gives much credit for the many dollars we save tomorrow (in lifetime O&M) by the manner in which we spend one dollar today (in acquisition cost). The key here is to understand Total Ownership Cost (TOC) and understand the submarine’s inherent advantage. Because of Dr. Gansler’s efforts, we are finally starting to make decisions in terms of TOC. We added SO.SB to LPD 17 across the FYDP to buy TOC-a true investment. CVN 77 as a transition to CVX-an evolutionary way to introduce new technologies-is a matter of TOC. And reducing TOC was an entering argument when discussions began on DD-21, the land-attack destroyer.
This framework can only work to our benefit. We’ve known for many years that submarines are relatively inexpensive to operate, but now we have an opportunity for this to influence acquisition decisions. Let’s make sure we capitalize on this, not with philosophical discussions, but with real data. If we don’t capitalize on this concept, we’ll continue to be penalized by the obvious and painful fact that submarines cost a lot of money up front. The consequence of the penalty is that we might build fewer submarines.
I think my time is about up because Admiral Kauderer is reaching for the klaxon. And it would ruin my whole day and my suit if the boat submerged while I’m standing on the bridge. As I look out across the auditorium, I can tell that many of you are thinking, “What’s this guy trying to tell us? We’ve been doing all of these things for a long time! So what’s the big deal?” My response is, yes, you have been doing these things for a long time. But we don’t seem to be able to tell the story well enough.
Between the continuous emphasis on platform attributes on one hand and getting caught up in fine details of technical and acquisition analysis on the other, many of us-at times, myself in-cluded-miss the point that could be made by a simple, powerful image. In some unfortunate ways, the Silent Service remains all too silent. Some public relations efforts have been flattering, but not, in my view, particularly successful. For instance, a great article appeared in the Washington Post not too long ago by a journalist who journeyed under the polar ice aboard USS HA WK-BILL. He apparently had a wonderful time, because he said lots of good things about the complexity and technical marvels that are a submarine. But when I finished reading the article, I wondered how a decision-maker can find relevance in a trip under the polar ice cap that he could apply to the Kosovo crisis or to another conflict in the Gulf?
We can find some fault with our audience. They hear what they want, encouraged by Blind Man’s Bluff or the works of Tom Clancy. But these authors have done exactly what the general public pays them to do. So the fault cannot be theirs for failing to make a case that is simple, accessible, and compelling.
In the past, in the heyday that we must accept is behind us, a small group of decision-makers who understood and appreciated the versatility and utility of submarines championed the cause. But today, the size of our submarine fleet indicates that the submariners’ story-a very good story-just is not getting through. That’s the big deal.
The time has arrived for me to relinquish the floor. I’d like to conclude by telling you that I am much more than an advocate of the Submarine Force. I’m also a very admiring fan of our Submarine Force. I came to this view many years ago when I first began working with submariners, understanding submarines, and learning about the remarkable things our submariners do with their boats. In fact, a highlight of my 29 years in government service was my participation last year in the DSB Task Force on the Submarine of the Future. When the Task Force was done, I felt a great sense of pride in what we accomplished, and I was certain that our work would have influence for many years to come. Let me conclude by quoting a key passage from our report: uw e need more, not fewer SSNs.”
Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak to the Submarine Technology Symposium, and God bless.