The title and theme of our symposium is Submarines: Enhancing Performance Through Technology Refresh … The Future is Now! This emphasis occurs at a time when our national security leadership is only beginning to realize that the submarine attributes of stealth, mobility, and endurance-long espoused by the leadership of the submarine community are clearly emerging as critical enablers of needed national security capabilities for the not-so-distant future. And, fortuitously, this emphasis occurs almost simultaneously with a period when new concepts and programs are emerging on the scene-programs that vividly sharpen a heretofore somewhat-hazy vision of the Submarine Force of the future. Undoubtedly, we’ll continue to be constrained by available resources, and we’ll continue to be perceived as a threat to the traditional roles and missions turf of others. The submarine community will continue to be faced with a never-ending battle to move forward, to make inroads in the system-indeed, for acceptance … but, perhaps, the task will become somewhat easier if we can aggressively seize new opportunities and collectively move forward with vigor and determination.
The initial session of The SubTech Symposium is entitled Mission Requirements: The Pull-on Technology. The objective is to sharpen views and understanding of those fleet needs for which solutions are sought in the near- to mid-term. In addition, it is possible to define a framework of opportunity for the further distant future shaped by military requirements and influenced by emerg-ing new technology and operational concepts-and tempered somewhat by reflections on a few lessons from the past.
In this context, it is appropriate to insert a few words about the process of maturing technologies, especially technologies desired for near- to mid-teen applications. By and large, technology programs will and do mature efficiently only when adequate and sustained funding, and good people, are committed to achieving the desired goal. Technology programs that lack either adequate or sustained funding, or that lack a motivated team of good people, generally will not succeed very far beyond the advanced viewgraph stage-with the result that resources have, in effect, been squandered! Deep-down, these principles are well known and understood. However, too often institutional bureaucracies that manage and oversee these efforts do not require disciplined implementation of such principles, apparently, one might conclude-being satisfied simply with having an impressive number of programs ongoing. The clear message is, therefore, that in order to mature and efficiently field new technologies in the operating forces, especially in a near- or mid-term timeframe, the institutional bureaucracy must commit and be held accountable to the goal, and adequate resources, both fiscal and human, must be diligently applied.
There are examples of doing it right. The Advanced Rapid COTS Insertion (ARCI) program conducted within the submarine sonar community is a great example. This program, today producing tremendous improvements in submarine sonar performance at sea, was motivated by real-world operational experiences which suggested that our sonars were not performing up to expectations. Initiated by strongly expressed concern, followed by strong support (and direction) from senior submarine leadership, a broad-based data gathering, analysis, and new technology (COTS) development and implementation program was rapidly put in place, overcoming all bureaucratic obstacles. In addition to sustained support and direction from the top, the increased attention paid to the first-principles understanding of sonar and validations through testing with real data was a key factor in the process. The model for changing embedded bureaucratic processes to achieve important and timely results provided by the ARCI experience, in my judgment, merits broader application. In principle, the model is applicable to most submarine R&D endeavors, including truly long-term efforts, and should be seriously considered.
Now, what are some of this new opportunities-and from where are they coming? They are emerging with increasing frequency, both from within the submarine community and from outside, often unexpected, sources.
- Certainly the 1998 Defense Science Board report on the submarine of the future provided a fundamental new opportunity-an impetus of strong support from OSD with a clear endorsement for change.
- The ensuing DARPA Submarine Payload and Sensors Program harnessed the talents of two large industry teams. They will be reponing their results to DARPA and the Navy later this year, providing a well-conceived and scrubbed, innovative set of new systems and concepts-opportunities ready for further development. (It’s worthy to note that, within these teams, there’s a refreshing groundswell of innovative ideas and momentum in support of future submarine concepts and capabilities generated by many new and different groups of people than in the past! There’s notable enthusiasm for these submarine concepts in the trenches-enthusiasm that we need to maintain and nurture, and that we must spread to higher levels within the government, and to the taxpayers, as well!)
- The recently completed study of Submarine Force structure, conducted by the Unified Commanders-in-Chief and the Joint Staff, strengthened this new environment of opportunity when it clearly recognized the value of and endorsed the need for the submarine platform in tomorrow’s national security environment.
- The tone and spirit of the submarine community itself, through visionary writings and clear, well-articulated messages from its leadership, are creating a renewal in awareness of the importance of submarines-thus providing the foundation for future opportunity.
- The consistently stated theme of commitment to payload, connectivity, modularity, all-electric, and affordability sends a clear message of the vision and determination of the community and, in my view, is having a positive effect.
- The most recent issue of Undersea Warfare, in an article by Rear Admiral Rich Terpstra entitled Oh, How Offensive!, captures the understanding and spirit of a submarine community ready to take on the challenge of opportunities formerly considered the turf domain of others.
- The recent article in THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, The Submarine Century, by Admiral Bill Smith cites clearly the linkage of payload to the long-term future of the submarine and makes the case for an aggressive R&D effort-starting now!
- Very recently, the national press discussed the real results of the air war in Kosovo, citing the very poor return on investment in vehicles killed (and claimed killed) when compared to the very extensive and highly publicized effort expended by NATO attack aircraft-notably flying above 15,000 feet to prevent losses. Does this not further strengthen another argument for a submarine strikes? Or, at least, a clearer indication that one must go into harm’s way to effectively take out targets, and maybe a submarine strike for air defense suppression might improve the TACAIR performance while preserving their survivability? An opportunity? And,
- In the 8 May 2000 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Admiral Hal Gehman, Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command, called into the question the level of investment being made in national intelligence gathering and reconnaissance systems. Gehman’s view is that it’s just not working and appears to support consideration of an alternative approach that we should try. whenever possible, to empower the tactical operator with the ability to collect his own tactical intelligence, and thus be able to sense, process, and act without a principal reliance on systems beyond his control. Sounds almost like a system concept made to order for a submarine strike payload! Another opportunity?
- As an institution, are we really willing to commit and to invest adequate and stable funding for important technology development and intention enterprises? (In my view, it’s not sufficient to seek DARPA [or other] funding, but then not be committed to share funding through transition, and then sustain the program going forward. Our past track record in this area is poor!)
- Is the industry truly motivated to invest in our future? Have we really done all we can to improve their motivation in this regard? (Except for certain, very specialized areas, we should diligently try to involve and give substantially more latitude and control to industry for technology exploration and development-far more than today. The industry is the system engineer and the systems integrator in our enterprise, and the enterprise being envisioned will require substantial and virtually continuous systems engineering to be successful.) We’ll certainly continue to need in-house capabilities, but not so much that we inhibit progress, and not so much that industry is excluded as a major player-too often the reality today!
- Are we willing to accept, indeed demand, that our programs include reasonably prudent technical risk, and then to manage that risk? Arguably, if one selects a program with zero risk, it may be the wrong program.
- For truly major potential gains in capability, are we sufficiently aggressive and disciplined in fostering parallel, perhaps competing for concepts and technical approaches to a reasonable point of common maturity and demonstration before down selecting and committing to the single, final solution?
- Are we sufficiently diligent in maintaining a systems view of the efforts within our technology development enterprise? (However neat a specific technology may appear, whether HM&E, sensors, payload [including weapons], or ISR, it should be evaluated and developed in the context of the total system in which it will ultimately reside-the submarine!
- One final question: Are we putting enough energy into educating and motivating our Na-ey civilian workforce to become enthusiastic evangelists for submarines? Perhaps not as silly as it may sound. Considering the size of the S&T budget and the number of scientists and engineers working on potential submarine-relevant technologies in S&T, it’s perhaps prudent to ensure they feel members of the team and up-to-speed on where we’re going and when we want to get there. Today, many are evangelists for the process; but not necessarily for the product. We can do better here, and probably reap real benefit from a small amount of effort!
And there are additional opportunities that sometimes emerge subtly and unpredictably from unexpected quarters. Witness these:
It seems, then, very likely that the Submarine Force will have plenty of opportunities from which to choose to shape its future. Lacking a clear threat today, the initial challenge will be in the selection of which opportunities to grasp, and in choosing the right developments to enable rapid evolution of new concepts of operation and capabilities for the future in a manner that is marketable; supportable; in a DOD context, affordable; and inevitable! Initially, the selection can be facilitated by a high-quality output from the DARPA Payload & Sensors study. We just cannot fail to harness and continue the momentum generated by that program! Choice of correct developments to enable new concepts of operations and capabilities to evolve can, and probably should, be guided, over time, by a supporting program of systems and operations analyses, wargames, and a continuum of structured at-sea exercises. (It’s worth remembering that the evolution of our submarine Cold War operational concepts and tactics development, as well as OSD and Congressional support for submarines, was shaped by the convincing results obtained from a continuum of at-sea exercises such as PERMIT PACFLT Class Eval, Big Daddy, RANGES, SECEXs, and many others. Adoption of a similar methodology could be helpful as we go forward.)
Given that turf and other cultural issues can be adequately resolved, the next-the real challenge will be in execution! To assure success in incorporating new technologies and new mission capabilities into our submarines, I pose a few serious questions for your consideration. While the comment is offered on a few, answers are not. Thoughtful and practical answers are left to you, the community, for further discussion and serious consideration:
This 225th year in the history of the United States Navy-the Centennial anniversary year for our Navy’s Submarine Force-is the opening year in the history book of a new century-a century which offers clear opportunity and a real potential to realize, if we do our job right, even greater growth in submarine platform capability and resulting maritime dominance than the world has seen during the past 100 years. In the context of the preceding, then, perhaps the appropriate imperative in this symposium’s title could be The Beginning is Now! Indeed, how well we select, resource, and manage our research and development programs, both ongoing and new, and how well we efficiently carry them forward to timely (read: early) implementation in our force, will strongly influence the position of submarines as indispensable providers to national security capabilities in the future, and will determine whether we, the submarine community, have truly succeeded-or have failed-to capture the opportunity and potential we have before us today!