As we stand on the brink of a new millennium, I think it’s fitting that we stop and candidly share some thoughts regarding our nation’s preparations to maintain our superpower status in the challenging environment of the next century. What I’d like to do this evening is to contribute to the specific theme for this conference, to be sure: submarine roles in prosecuting mobile targets ashore. However, there are a lot of real experts here in the details of that business.
So, what I’ll do is share with you some thoughts this evening about how submarines stand to fit preeminently in our overall 21st century national security-certainly with precision strike, but with more-much more. And in the process, I’ll address this focused, and very important, sub-topic of mobile land target prosecution as a significant component of our submarines’ unique contribution to national security and the military game plan.
My discussion regarding how submarines stand to figure so prominently in the future revolves, of course, around a central proposition-that the submarine fills a critical role of irreplaceable value, and will continue to be a necessary, although not sufficient, element of our nation’s military force structure. Yesterday, today and far into the future. So what I’ll do is develop and discuss this central proposition, undergirded by five supporting arguments:
- The Historical Need for Submarines and the Submarine Force’s Legacy of Adaptation (the yesterday);
- The Current Operational Relevance (the today);
- Future Challenges (the tomorrow);
- The Enduring, Inherent Characteristics Submarines Possess (the always);
- And, how we’re racing forward Technically, to develop the tools for tomorrow (the revolutionary).
Then, having all agreed on that central proposition of the submarine’s continuing necessity, I’ll conclude by discussing a strategic plan being developed, to map the way ahead, to ensure our submarines and submariners continue to meet the need for this crown jewel in our nation’s arsenal.
So, let me begin with yesterday and my
First Supporting Argument. The Historical Need and Legacy or Adaption
We’re observing the U.S. Submarine Force’s Centennial Celebration in the coming year-100 years or continuing service to the nation. It’s remarkable in a rapidly evolving century like this one has been, for any war-fighting platform to be as vitally relevant as the submarine has been throughout this century.
And there’s no end in sight to the collective demands of our national, regional and battlegroup customers-we’ve seen in fact, a continual increase in the missions requiring these large multi-mission nuclear submarines and their special capabilities.
Let’s review this first 100 years, and recognize the U.S. Submarine Force legacy or adaptation through technological, strategic and tactical innovation.
- We came into this century with a limited submarine and a limited vision-of short-range submarines as harbor protection and picket ships.
- Learning from our own first, limited wartime employment of submarines in WWI, we adapted them to become longer range, offensively oriented-to capitalize on their stealth to gain access, and to take the fight to an enemy. We gave them new, more reliable, lightweight diesel engines, more fuel, more volume-making them stealthy, self-sustaining instruments of war. Those new, long-range fleet boats appeared in the late ’30s.
- In the nick of time to step up to a WWII ASUW mission that surpassed anything anyone expected-when our heroic submarines held the line-in Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s words, ” … the only units of the fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months … “. Submariners represented less than two percent of Navy personnel during WWII, but accounted for more than 55 percent of our enemy’s maritime losses.
- Our submariners were also employed effectively in that war as tactical sensors, as our periscopes, our radars, and our endurance improved.
- The boats that took the war to the enemy sustained a terrific pounding by the Japanese. Many ships survived because of the innovation of the crew and the fact that those responsible for the design and construction of those submarines recognized that to survive under the seas, even in peace, submarines must be superior to the threats they face.
- After WWII, we added the snorkel and then, nuclear propulsion-finally evolving from submersible ships to true submarines-which allowed the unfettered execution of a broad spectrum of missions.
- In this aftermath of WWII, the Cold War presented us with yet another new mission-Blind Man’s Bluff ASW mission-locked-in with their SSBNs. On the outcome of which, once again, our submarines were the only units that could come to grips with (and yes, threaten) the adversary.
- And the tactical sensor collateral duty of WWII evolved into the early warning mission of the Cold War … the so-called Indications and Warning mission that became so crucial to our response posture. Success here then spawned the blood and guts Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance mission.
- Another radical adaption-the submarine launched ballistic missiles of our SSBN force-provided the nation’s only truly survivable deterrence, playing a key role in coming to grips with that grave threat to our national security.
- To a significant degree, the Cold War was won under the seas. Submarine superiority and innovation were key elements in that victory.
- In the Cold War, the superior quality of our engineering, our tactics, our people, and yes, our submarine culture, overwhelmed the Soviets’ simple calculus of numerical superiority.
So, over this first century of existence, time and time again our nation has relied on our Submarine Force’s technological foresight, along with our continuing ability and willingness to adapt to new mission requirements. From yesterday’s harbor protection to picket ship, to plane guard, to ASUW, to ASW to I&W to ISR to Strategic Deterrence,. .. to tomorrow.
In retrospect, it is this ability, this willingness, indeed this enthusiasm, to embrace change-to evolve and leverage the submarine’s inherent strengths with new technology to meet rising new challenges-which has emerged as one of the Submarine Force’s strongest suits over our first century-and we’re ready to do it again.
This legacy leads to today and my
Second Supporting Argument: The Current Operational Relevance
What are we doing today? Well, we’ve been called once again to come to grips with an unexpected adversary. This time, it’s harder to even identify the adversary, because the monolithic enemy days are over-it’s not one guy, one place, one threat. Instead, they’re the multiple threats in an increasingly dynamic global security environment.
The Submarine Force has adapted, out of necessity once again, to respond to the nation’s need-this time, to cope with the stress and strain of increasing demands on a shrinking U.S. Navy fleet.
It has adapted to accommodate a volume of nationally tasked worldwide Intelligence/Surveillance/Reconnaissance (ISR) missions that have doubled, over the same decade in which our SSN numbers have dwindled by almost half. And in that same decade,
- We’ve added precision land attack to our repertoire-and more importantly, to the repertoire of the Theater Commander.
- We’ve added operations under direct Battle Group and Joint Task Force Tactical Command (TACOM) to our long standing proficiency in independent operations-re-honing the WWI scout mission.
- We’ve enhanced the multi-mission flexibility of today’s submarines and submariners to the point that they’re often engaged in multiple missions and taskings simultaneously … both to execute submarine-unique tasking and to plug gaps left by our other forces, who are similarly over-burdened-or in some cases haven’t adapted to the new world. Witness in this category, the abject failure of overhead assets to detect the nuclear happenings in India and Pakistan.
Our Navy’s fleet commanders have consistently called for around 72 SSNs to execute their post Cold War requirements. Recent operational experience and studies have revalidated this number.
So much for the arm-chair pundits who continue, somehow, to slate submarines don’t currently have a mission! … which leads to the future and the
Third Supporting Argument: Challenges of the Next Millennium
All that I’ve said notwithstanding, about the historic and current need for submarines; it doesn’t necessarily argue for their continuing necessity. So let’s look at the best predictions of this future millennium.
A growing chorus advises us to prepare for a very different set of national security challenges than we’ve seen throughout this century-much less about massing firepower and focusing strength at the Fulda Gap than about countering challenges that are, frankly, tough to perceive, much less to engage.
Examples of this future thinking include:
- Last year’s Defense Science Board Study on Submarines of the Future which looked at the predicted set of future threats and validated the virtues of this “Crown Jewel of America’s Arsenal”-the nuclear submarine. They also enumerated its present limitations, in the context of that future environment, and challenged the Navy and DARPA to do better “with the front end of the ship”-specifically with payload and sensors.
- Another good example is George and Meredith Friedman’s book The Future of War. They correctly rail against “senile” weapons systems and the coming preeminence of the synergy between space, precision-guided munitions and information technology-and they encourage stealth, mobility, self sufficiency
- And there’s also Rick Newman’s factual U.S. News and World Report article last month, The New Space Race--a-bout the increasing access to space-based surveillance capability.
- Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig in a 24 November Jane’s Defense interview reiterated his view of a future Navy force structure with greater reliance on the (attack) submarine-noting the relative invulnerability of submarines to satellite detection and land-launched missiles.
Such future thinkers talk about:
- Multi-polar conflicts … of enemies within, across, and without borders. And even the eventual emergence of a peer competitor.
- Multidimensional demands … across the entire spectrum of engagement, from peace through wartime missions.
- Global interdependencies
- Prolirerations … of WMD and means of disruption, in an age of ready and affordable access. And,
- Asymmetry … in an age where weapons systems which are stealthy, fast, numerous, smart, cheap and networked … will become the bane of those which are detectable, slow, few, dumb, expensive, and stand-alone-solitary.
In response to this projected future, and moving from theory to practice, CNO Admiral Jay Johnson, delivered in Newport last month, the Navy’s strategy for the 21st century-he called it a “naval century”.
- He resolved that the next century’s U.S. Navy would truly be able to directly and decisively influence events inland.
- Our capabilities to do so, he said, are to be significantly enhanced by our purposeful leverage of Information Technology,
- both to rapidly obtain and disseminate information and knowledge.
- and, in turn, to coordinate forces and “create rapid, overwhelming victory.”
- He articulated the concept of operations for this 21st century vision as a “capstone concept” called Network-Centric Operations. It’s supported by four pillars he defined, all of which describe an environment in which submarines will be even more critical to our Navy’s success.
- 1st Pillar, information and knowledge superiority-CNO’s information and Knowledge Superiority” goes beyond trading e-mails-he includes the ability to maneuver a network of smart sensors at the tactical level, interrogate those sensors, then distribute the product. Parenthetically, I note that submarines are doing this-albeit in a rudimentary fashion today.
- 2nd Pillar, assured access-from over the horizon to the beach and beyond. Especially in a future environment that is likely to include broad area denial capabilities, nuclear submarines can bring assured access-first-in, sustained and last-out. Imagine any of our favorite littoral areas defended by a combination of mines, diesel submarines, chem/bio, and space-based surveillance/targeting/delivery systems … Who’s going to get in?
- 3rd Pillar, what Jay called the speed of effects-responding to threats and indications of threats, rapidly and decisively, from a forward posture, in such a manner as to alter an enemy’s strategy-limit his available options-stop something before it starts-by knocking down key nodes, including mobile nodes. We will have to work, not merely to manage consequences, but to prevent them-deployed submarines will be key players in satisfying this objective.
- 4th Pillar, sea basing-the U.S. Navy, operating from our ship’s borderless domain in our sovereign interest, without having to ask permission. We’re talking about total war-fighting capability based at sea: the ability to sense targets and activities from the sea, coupled with the ability then, to decisively. influence those events and activities ashore (and even inland). That’s on the mark and it’s what nuclear submarines do.
These pillars of Network-Centric Operations for sure must include submarines-in fact, referring to my central proposition again, I’d say submarines are a necessary (although not sufficient) part of each pillar.
I’m tempted to thank Jay Johnson for introducing my discussion tonight.
Now, the always, and the
Fourth support Argument: The U.S. Nuclear Submarine’s Inherent Characteristics
Our large nuclear submarines possess a unique blend of warfighting characteristics that will enable them to be lethal, asymmetric weapons well into the future. They include:
- Stealth and Seller-Sufficient Survivability
- Submarines just don’t require a defensive protection force.
- Self sufficiency accrues to the true stealth that is the submarine, along with a combination of other factors: including our edge in propulsion plant technology and the acoustic health superiority that comes with that edge, coupled with the continuing advantages realized from our evolving sensors and weapons and relative immunity to chem/bio threats.
- Stealth is expensive and worth every dollar. To be superior under the sea, you must be better than the adversary-parity is not enough.
- Our People
- While I know it may not conform to a strict definition of inherence, I have to include another U.S. nuclear submarine inherent characteristic here-our top-notch people-our culture really. What we’ve learned in 100 years of operating submarines can’t just be put in place overnight (or in a decade, or even in a generation) by a would-be competitor. It’s arguably one of the greatest inherent advantages possessed by the United States Submarine Force.
- Then there’s Endurance and Mobility … again, inherent characteristics in our nuclear submarines.
- What other fighting machine carries a life-of-the-platform gas tank (along with its own atmosphere, supply train and chow hall), which allows it to go where and when our country needs it?
- Requiring no negotiations with finicky allies or neutral parties for forward basing … it all goes with us.
- Borrowing a slogan from one of our key shipyards, There’s No Substitute for Nuclear Power in the Power Projection Business.
- And our Multi-Mission Flexibility … (the yesterday and today we’ve already discussed)
- …Will be especially important to a Navy with reduced fleet numbers.
- And along with that thought, this attribute of multimission flexibility and self-sufficiency will continue to be important to a Navy with thinly stretched logistics trains, which are themselves becoming increasingly vulnerable to the pro! operating tools of the space, information and missile age.
Fifth Supporting Argument
My last supporting argument for the submarine into the future-is how we’re moving out .. not resting on laurels … embracing the culture of adapting to the new environment, by exploiting technical opportunities…
We recognize that since there’s a new world beyond … and since that new world will bring new demands, then just like our earlier transitions … from picket ships to ASUW. to ASW, strategic deterrence, I and W, to today … some key investments must be made, to even more fully exploit the submarine’s inherent characteristics I talked about.
And this time, we’re doing it even smarter than in the past-rather than waiting until 2020 and harvesting what technology might be available, we’re purposefully planting the technology we’ll need.
So we’re off to get connected, get payload, get electric, get modular …
- Get (better) connected
- Getting connected is about many things-but they’re all in synch with that 21st century Navy network-centric vision CNO talks about.
- Getting connected is about access, relevance, timeliness, utility, man-machine interfaces and potential vulnerabilities.
- But in the end, getting connected is about the power of knowledge …
- And when industry delivers the capabilities we need …
our submarines will fill two niches:
- First, to fulfill the CNO’s requirement for “tactical control of sensors”, submarines will be prominent-as uniquely capable, fully interoperable teammates. In fact, they’ll be the first-in/last-out teammate-in tomorrow’s capstone concept of network-centric operations….
- But also, when needed, by employing our unique capabilities to conduct extended, covert, self-sufficient operations the old-fashioned way by ourselves.
- We’re also off to Get (more and varied) payload
- To more fully realize the potential of submarine platform capabilities … this group is working to eliminate the tyranny of the 21 inch torpedo tube and bring aboard the ocean interface.
- Too often, we find ourselves with a seat at the table, because of the access our stealth and our endurance bring-then find we have little to say, because we don’t bring enough, or the right, payload to make a difference
- And of course, payload here means more than just things that go boom … it’s also sensors, and transmitters, and decoys, onboard processing power …
- which can in turn, employ and/or deploy other payloads … payloads that don’t just see-but hear, taste, and smell too … even attack …
- Anyone who doubts our commitment to improving submarine payload need only look as far as:
- USS JIMMY CARTER
- The SSGN concept
- Our serious work in UUVs and UAVs
- And your presence here today.
- We must think much farther outside the box:
- About such concepts as effectively achieving increased payload through covert pre-positioning of caches of weapons and sensors, which can be remotely activated after the host submarine is long gone.
- Or about achieving effective increases in payload through miniaturization, or by elimination of stored propellant.
- About covertly deploying and tactically controlling (as the CNO said in Newport) networks of small, smart sensors blanketing urban or rural terrain, which emulate biological systems in form, function, and efficiency.
- For example, Frank Fernandez at DARPA is working hard on developing the robotic analogs of small geckos-devices that can scale walls and ceilings; lobsters and crabs that can negotiate tough littoral surf zones; and moths that can sense and localize trace quantities of highly specific chemicals in turbulent air.
- Some of that sounds a little far-fetched today, but the expected merging of nanoscale biological and information systems in the 21st century is likely to thrust such fanciful concepts out of the realm of science fiction and into the realm of engineering fact.
- It probably would have seemed far-fetched not long ago, to suggest launching a precision missile attack into a terrorist’s training camp, situated far inland in a land-locked country-from undetectable submarines in distant waters. We must seize the relevant opportunities presented here.
- We must Get (totally) electric
- Who said if you want a new idea, read an old book?
- I guess Jules Verne had it about right in his prophecy of an all-electric submarine some 130 years ago.
- Pick your all-electric raison d’etre from:
- Power distribution which allows the commanding officer to, in situ, apportion nil usable rector power to propulsion or payload.
- Increased and more efficient use of space for payload volume and architectural flexibility.
- Reduced logistics requirements.
- Technology growth potential-greater electric power margins for new, power-intensive developments.
- Opportunities for dramatic new weapons such as rail guns (to greatly increase firepower and payload) or directed energy weapons.
- And last, but certainly not least … achieving the next level of acoustic stealth, in an era when technologies which sense and analyze noise on the front end (and off ship) are likely to mature (and proliferate) at rates which far exceed the rates of those technologies which produce and mitigate noise on the back end.
- Next, Get (truly) modular
- We have a good start, in the form of VIRGINIA’s modular design features. modular construction technologies and modular testing.
- However, we have to take this to its logical conclusion … analogous to the mission module approach taken by the Space Shuttle-or by the Air Force’s B-52, for those of you familiar with how that venerable platform has been modified for varied applications. We need to develop the option to configure our submarines with specific mission capability like we configure the Space Shuttle … vice the Noah’s Ark approach we currently use with a couple of everything onboard.
- If we do it right, this concept offers the best prospect of achieving rapid re-configurability, for tailoring our submarines to optimize their application to operational fleet commanders’ requirements.
Well now, I’ve stated the case for my central proposition about the submarine’s continuing necessity.
So, given that we’ve all signed the agreement that submarines are necessary for our future: Where do we go from here? Where’s the roadmap? And how are we making sure we fit best into that Network-Centric Concept?
The Submarine Force’s Future Studies Group has reviewed our Unified Commander’s projected strategic plans, missions and tasks and where the submarine fits. They have derived four principal strategic objectives from those plans, which coldly define the path ahead.
- Gaining and Sustaining Access … in militarily contested and (yes) otherwise politically denied areas.
- Being there and staying there (in the restricted geography of the littoral) is already hard, and it’s going to get harder fast, based on the emerging technologies I’ve already discussed.
- Even getting there (via open ocean and regional choke points) isn’t going to get any easier … yet this capability is assumed today …
- The submarine can do this.
- Developing Dominant Knowledge. .. for our own real-time use and for sharing with other joint, combined, NCA and Battle Group customers.
- Collecting, developing and rapidly disseminating knowledge… for use by all of our forces and our national authorities.
- The very essence of the CNO’s words about information and knowledge superiority,..
- Time and knowledge are the critical commodities in the Information Age. .. it’s not simply about massing stuff and bludgeoning your enemy to death.
- Not everything can be seen from satellites or gleaned from HUMINT, etc. There’s nothing like camping out unseen, for weeks, in his front yard.
- Getting into the heart, mind, and conscience of the enemy is key to his undoing and to causing the paralysis we desire…
- More than the battle-space awareness people like to talk about-it’s battle-space understanding. Not just the who, what, where, when, how,. .. but the why.
- Dominant knowledge enabled by information superiority can provide the leverage to control the pace of negotiations and engagements. It can allow us to maneuver, engage and protect our forces in a manner that keeps the would-be aggressor on the defensive.
- Projecting Power … when surprise, suddenness and survivability are paramount.
- And when other assets can’t be there!
- You are here today and tomorrow to examine this role.
- Our presence can and will cause a disproportionate measure of agony on the part of an adversary who’s getting smacked from a platform he can’t locate, track or anticipate.
- And even if we’re not there at the time, he can never be sure …
- I’m not going to claim that we can or should do it all. But, often we’ll be the only ones who can execute …
- Deterring and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction … when an asymmetric offensive approach is necessary.
- Most of what we see and hear today on this topic is the angst over how to deal with the aftermath of a WMD or information warfare strike against the U.S. homeland. There’s an implicit resignation to the inevitability of such an attack.
- Nuts! I say we must make them petrified that we can find them and kill them first, no matter where their offices, factories, storage facilities and launching platforms are located.
- And the ultra stealthy, well-connected, SOF-carrying, sensor deploying, organic targeting, missile shooting, nuclear powered submarine is a key element in our arsenal-for disclosing, rotting out and terrorizing the would-be terrorists. This is all about the “speed of effects” the CNO talked about in Newport.
I’ll stop. But, please pass forward for me the signed charter that screams the submarine… the superior submarine .. is, and will continue to be, a necessary, although not sufficient, element of our nation’s military force structure.
I applaud your efforts. Your innovative ideas are important to our national security. I hope I’ve been able to add something useful to the discussion this evening.