Mr. Charlie Green
Editor, National Journal Magazine
National Journal Group Inc.
1501 M St., NW #300
Washington, DC 20005
I applaud Mr. Wilson’s effort to stimulate debate on the future direction of our armed forces (Spend Now, Ask Questions Later, 5 February 2000). He asks some excellent hardball questions, and I’d like to respond to two of them from my perspective as the U.S. Navy’s senior submarine operational commander.
First, we are not ignoring our board of wise men. The Defense Science Board and the Joint Staff have studied future defense trends exhaustively and have come to the same conclusion-we need more, and better submarines. Although I agree with the “global military technological leveling” of which he speaks, few nations will ever possess the technologies required to detect or track our submarines. This affords unfettered access to contested battlespace twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for as long as required. Once there, submarines can clandestinely surveil new or emerging adversaries and provide timely insight on their intentions and capabilities to policy makers without risk of political escalation-particularly valuable since many bad actors understand their vulnerability to satellite reconnaissance, and often employ deceptive methods to defeat it. If in fact submarines were simply Cold War weapons which had outlived their usefulness, why then have national Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) tasking requirements doubled over the last ten years while Submarine Force levels have been reduced by forty percent? Should tensions escalate, submarines can also execute Tomahawk strikes from undisclosed locations without warning, often from inside an adversary’s defensive umbrella.
Second, we are investing the research and development dollars necessary to equip our submarines with new and dominant technologies. For example, we are developing offboard sensors like unmanned undersea vehicles to facilitate a clearer picture of the battlespace, and we’re leveraging the explosion in information systems technology to more readily share this insight with other naval and joint forces in a timely and useful manner. We are also redesigning our submarines to increase payload capacity and enhance multi-mission flexibility. These technologies will be integrated into Virginia class submarines as they are built, and backfit into 688 class submarines where appropriate. We are also pursuing electric drive technology to dramatically improve our acoustic stealth and provide the power density required for revolutionary advances in sensors and weapons.
Finally, the Joint Staff, in conjunction with the Unified CINCs, recently completed an exhaustive 18 month study of attack submarine missions and force structure. The study reconfirmed that submarines are far from being Cold War relics. They provide unprecedented multi-mission capability and will continue to be of significant value as we execute the National Security strategy in the challenging decades of the 21st century. We are working hard to ensure the Joint Force Commander can more readily employ them as Plug and Fight as well as Real-Time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets.
E. P. Giambastiani
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy