We’ve had an absolutely wonderful Centennial Year. The Smithsonian Exhibit, Prestige Stamps, gala events and press exposure have done a great deal of good in helping submariners celebrate an important event. These efforts have also helped remind us of our history and rich heritage; a reminder that I hope is permanent. Moreover, this historical perspective is important to retain and reflect upon as we think about the future.
Centennial Year events have also helped remind many in the nation of what their submarines have done in the past, and continue to do now on behalf of the people of the United States. A fortuitous event, the release of the movie U-571, and a tragic one, the loss of the Russian Submarine KURSK, have raised the public consciousness of submarine related matters.
This year has also been a significant one in terms of public discussion of some truths and non-truths about classified submarine operations. This exposure in the public domain has led some with knowledge of these operations to wrongfully assume that information to which they were privy had been declassified and their pledge to protect its security abrogated. Admiral McKee, a former Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion, used to describe classified submarine operations as “Putting your head in the tiger’s mouth … We alt need to remember that revealing specific information on when, where, how, and how well these operations can be conducted simply serves to sharpen today’s, or a future, tiger’s teeth. It has been necessary to publicly address Cold War submarine intelligence collection, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in generic terms. I don’t think we need to go further.
Some of you were able to attend the Naval Submarine League’s Annual Symposium in June. Among the many fine presentations was Admiral Tom Fargo’s (Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific
Fleet) discussion of the current security situation in the Pacific. What I heard Admiral Fargo say in the course of his remarks was that the enemy in his Area Of Responsibility is instability, and he gave us good examples of that instability’s sources: North Korea’s conventional and unconventional military capability and national goals; China’s view of the future of Taiwan; ethnic strife in Indonesia; Indian and Pakistani differences that were forged during the birth of those two nations; economic potential in Asia, Southeast Asia, India, and the growth of military muscle and national assertiveness that accompanies realization of that economic potential. These are very real and proximate sources of instability. Admiral Fargo’s Pacific Fleet is focused on doing what military power can do to influence these and other sources of instability. They’re also keeping themselves prepared to deal with instability’s undesirable and sometimes unpredictable manifestations when that influence is incomplete or unobtainable.
The challenges posed by instability are not confined to the Pacific. In fact, I suggest that the economic potential of Asia mitigates some of instability’s uncertainties in that region. The Central, European and Southern Command Areas Of Responsibility are also well sown with the seeds of instability. Competition for resources-oil in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea-water in the Middle East, the proliferation of advanced weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction-related technologies, deep rooted, long standing and violent hatreds anchored in historical relationships and religious differences between ethnic groups in the Middle East, Balkans and Caucasus, absolute economic hopelessness in former Soviet countries and Africa, the inexperience and immaturity of peoples and leaders attempting to make enormous political and economic changes when faced with market economy forces and representative governments for the first time in their history, an AIDS epidemic of terrible proportions in Africa, environmental damage of significant scale in Russia, narco-trafficking in Central and South America, large scale international organized crime and terrorism as a way of war. These sources of instability will likely manifest themselves in ways like large refugee flows, like dissatisfaction with the political and economic status quo and will manifest themselves too in peoples’ susceptibility to the promises of demagogues in whatever form or of whatever political persuasion.
This instability is the enemy of the peace, economic growth, free trade and continuing development of personal freedom that is our national leaders’ vision for the desirable world future. That vision drives American policies, the implementation of which we in the military inherit responsibility for when we become the Other Means to be used when diplomacy fails. The collapse of the Soviet Empire both unleashed pre-existing forces of instability and created new ones. Many of these forces are difficult at best for America to influence. Difficult even if we skillfully apply all of the tools of our political and economic power with military strength underpinning them in well-coordinated acts of diplomacy. Some of the undesirable and unpredictable manifestations of that instability will almost certainly require the use of military force. Dealing with these manifestations and consequences, whatever and wherever they are, must be the focus for our military capability in both the near and longer terms.
For those whose business is in or supporting the military, I think these circumstances tell us two things, neither of which is profound, but both of which are important nonetheless. First and foremost, despite mitigating factors like the recent trend toward the spread of liberal democracy, the growth of global economic interests, and the humanizing impact of worldwide mass communications, the world remains an uncertain and potentially dangerous place. We in the military are likely to be needed. We’ve yet to reach the end of history. Our nation will want and need military power to deal with the byproducts of instability. Second, the precise capabilities and quantity of those capabilities we will need are difficult to know, much more difficult to know than during the days of the Cold War. It is difficult to judge the form that the modem strain of instability’s seeds will take when they sprout on tomorrow’s battlefield. Kosovo, East Timor, the war on drugs, the World Trade Center bombing-these may or may not be good indicators. Is more capability akin to law enforcement, intrusive intelligence collection, non·lethal weapons, and the ability to strike non·state entities preemptively what we’ll need more of? These are not unreasonable questions for us to be pondering.
Additionally, although the opportunities presented by rapidly evolving information technologies are familiar to us all, they are challenging nonetheless. And it seems we will not be permitted the luxury of either concentrating on one particular region of the world or of having an evil empire to plan for and measure ourselves against. Instability is a more insidious enemy than an evil empire. Flexibility and adaptability anchored in a foundation of capability whose characteristics we think will endure seem to be the order of the day.
For those of us in the submarine business I think this puts a premium on the global reach our submarines provide and the global power of our Navy’s stealthiest warships, our submarines. America’s SSBNs remain the foundation of National Missile Defense and the cornerstone of a vital new 21st Century deterrence that is still evolving. The stealth, agility, endurance and multimission flexibility of our SSNs allows them to deliver access to the vital littorals of the world and also allows them to deliver military capability promptly and by surprise.
Strategically I think our Navy’s submarine programs and our submarine community are well poised to deal with the uncertainties of a world where instability is the now and foreseeable enemy. To the credit of our community’s military, scientific, industrial and engineering leadership, I think we’ve gotten it right. I’m assuming that most of you have heard the Submarine Force’s Strategic Concepts-Gain and sustain battlespace access, Be a keystone in developing dominant knowledge, Strike with surprise from close in and Deter weapons of mass destruction. These concepts have been expressed by Admiral Bowman and others in our leadership, so I won’t dwell on them. I believe they align well with the challenges that we are now, and will continue to face. I’m equally convinced that our technical goals are well founded.
Get payload: We must continue to work to get more, new and different types of payload. For example, we need to continue to place emphasis on adjuvant undersea and air vehicles to facilitate a clearer picture of the battlespace, go where we cannot go, and provide us with tactical advantage versus mines and diesel-electric submarines, particularly when we’re compelled to engage these adversary capabilities on their terms.
Get Connected: We’re leveraging the explosion in information systems technology to collect more, fuse more and convert more information to knowledge, as well as more readily share that information and knowledge with other naval and joint forces. Again, the goal of all this is to develop real-time dominant knowledge at the beginning, during initial action, and as needed throughout an operation or campaign.
Get Modular: Advanced submarine designs incorporating modularity will allow us to increase payload capacity, adapt, improvise and respond to change.
And we’re developing Electric Drive to achieve important improvements in acoustic stealth while providing the power and flexibility for potentially revolutionary advances in sensors and weapons technology.
Both these strategic concepts and technical goals should, I think, lead us in the right direction, and facilitate the flexibility and adaptability we must have to help us hedge. By hedge I mean to invest enough of our intellectual and other capital in a range of ideas and technologies so we don’t foreclose future options in what we put into our submarines and submariners. Hedging will allow us to develop options which may not seem attractive or high priority today but gain importance and become imperatives quickly in the future. Hedging, while protecting the core capabilities and enduring characteristics our experience and collective wisdom tell us will remain important, is a challenge to the discipline and clear headedness of all our choice malting processes-particularly those involving resource allocations and most particularly the Sub-tech process. It is a challenge I think we’re being compelled to face.
Given that we’ve probably got the strategy and technical goals at least reasonably correct, what challenges below the strategic level do we need to take on? At this point it would be easy for me to give you a briefing on how well our Submarine Force is doing today, but I won’t. Let me summarize my view succinctly: Our Submarine Force is in great shape. We have enormously talented people supported by staffs, maintenance organizations, engineers, technical experts and a civilian industrial base that have combined their efforts to field the best Submarine Force in the world. Having said that, we need a healthy diet of introspection, self-criticism and listening to responsible observers and critics to stay the best. So, the following is a laundry list of the issues that most concern me based on my judgment as to where we are now, and the uncertainties of the present and near future as best we can understand them.
People: We are in a war for people! Attracting and retaining quality people is our single biggest challenge. We simply must get this right because it underpins all of our other readiness and capability issues. My sense is we face a similar challenge in our civilian industrial base, but the magnitude and seriousness of that challenge is not as clear to me as it is with our uniformed submariners.
Force structure: We don’t have enough submarines. Although we’re answering the nation’s call, and meeting most of our deployed commitments, our warfighting commanders are becoming accustomed to doing without all the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance they think they need. Additionally, we cannot support the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle demand for training services and other important near-home uses of our submarines. Refueling the seven remaining 688 class submarines that can be refueled and converting up to four Tridents to SSGNs would help in the near term, but eventually we will need to build more faster. The Trident SSGN conversion would also give us a new capability whose dimensions have yet to be explored.
Depot maintenance: A significant portion of our Force will soon enter major maintenance availabilities. This will only exacerbate our force structure shortfall. Moreover, the impact on force retention, training, and proficiency of having a significant percentage of our crews in the industrial environment must be assessed and dealt with-perhaps differently than we have done in the past.
Efficiency: Efficiency from a global force employment perspective is much more important than worrying about how submarines are allocated between SUBLANT and SUBPAC. We need to operate our force like the worldwide capability that it is, and maximize the efficiency of its employment in terms of transit times, fuel usage, and minimizing homeport changes for our crews. In doing so we need to be mindful of the necessity to maintain a reserve capacity for the force. The ability to stretch ourselves beyond our peacetime plans will almost certainly be necessary at some point in the future and we cannot give that flexibility away in our search for efficiency and sharpened pencil planning. Aboard ship we need to vigorously and purposefully attack training and administrative practice inefficiencies. Our crews work hard, very hard. Theirs is a tough, unforgiving business. High standards, high performance and high morale are required. We need to apply all our organizational and technological tools to make the training and administration for our average ship less time consuming than it is today. We need to be smarter in how we are spending our crews’ time. Our people need to use the time we’ll give them on new, more complex multi-mission skills, while developing the confidence required for flexibility and adaptability. They need more time to think about what they’ re doing and how they’ re doing it. They need it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is so that they are able to tell us what we need to do to better support them.
Mines: The presence of mines in the water today translates into a submarine exclusion zone, and that does not assure access! In my view there simply isn’t enough adrenaline flowing on this issue. We need to make it a front and center concern for our crews in their training and proficiency now. There is effort and investment on the technology side that promises to help, but our crews need to be actively working the problem with the tools available today to make themselves and all of us smarter and keep us focused on its realities. We need to mainstream the mission of mine warfare in the Submarine Force so we can adapt to what technology does and doesn’t deliver. We will also need to adapt to the successes and failures of current Navy-wide plans to develop organic Mine Warfare capability for our battlegroups.
Diesel Electric Submarines: Like mines, diesels threaten our ability to deliver access. The development and deployment of Air Independent Propulsion systems further exacerbates this challenge. Fortunately, Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) diesels are less immediate a problem than mines. Nevertheless, we must be proficient and confident in fighting this formidable adversary on his
terms, and such proficiency and confidence neither come easily, nor overnight.
Acoustic security: Masking our acoustic signatures is vital to enabling us to train in a realistic fashion against our allies who operate modern diesel submarines. It also enables us to utilize SSBNs to do more of the types of things our SSNs do during the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle. We need the flexibility to do more of both of these. We also need to look hard at the limitations associated with our current approach to acoustic security.
Weapon system reliability: Whether it’s Tomahawks or torpedoes, when submarines are shooting because they are delivering surprise or access, they are Silver Bullet Shooters. We must rigorously test our weapons and weapons systems so that we will have a very high level of confidence in their performance, confidence in all expected environments, and confidence throughout whatever we expect the length of a War Patrol to be.
Process and human engineering of combat systems: We are to a large extent still applying digital technology to analog processes in our combat systems. I suggest that more process and human engineering is required in our hardware and software development to help submarine Captains integrate information and make the informed value judgments that are fundamental to their warfighting success. This isn’t just a matter of convenience. Our submarine Captains only have so much capacity to integrate, sort and prioritize in dynamic conditions. In addition, the combat systems we give our crews must enable them to execute multiple missions at a battle rhythm that is faster than we can currently deal with.
Build-Test-Build: Much of our success in applying technology in the submarine business has been due to the rigorous discipline that comes from a first principles approach-Get the math and science right, do the engineering very well, and test and verify performance. This approach is fundamental to success in the dangerous and demanding business of submarining and shouldn’t change. However, the pace of change in information technologies as well as the imperative to adapt, be flexible, and hedge demands that we incorporate the Build-Test-Build approach to technology application where it makes sense to do so.
Stand and fight capability: Fighting in the littorals will, on occasion, necessitate actions that compromise our stealth and may not permit us to retreat behind its protective cloak. We may, for example, have to shoot down incoming torpedoes and develop defensive capabilities because we purposely compromise our stealth and make the conscious decision to stand and fight. In my view this is an important area where we must hedge our bets.
Law Enforcement-Like Capability: Our submarines may need the tools required for law enforcement type functions. I don’t think we can dismiss the potential for needing non-lethal weapons on our ships.
Undersea Battlespace Picture: Our battlegroups and Joint Task Force Commanders need an easily interpretable undersea battlespace picture that depicts bathymetry, environmental effects on weapon and sonar performance as well as mine and undersea vehicle threats. Once they have a tool that they are as comfortable with as the air and surface pictures they have today then we will have been successful in giving them the undersea battlespace awareness they need.
That’s my laundry list. I don’t expect everyone to agree with it, nor have I covered all of my concerns. Our future challenges are significant, but if it were easy we wouldn’t need all of the talent, intellect and energy present in the Force today-nor would it be much fun! I hope my list stimulates discussion and thought, study, and the work I think we need to continue doing in order to maintain America’s preeminence in Undersea Warfare-A preeminence we should be able to demonstrate Anywhere, Anytime.