As leadoff hiuer, I’d like to set the stage for discussions to follow today and tomorrow by providing a tour of the Submarine Force horizon”-from my perspective. After a somewhat prolonged scene-setter, I’ll summarize briefly what I see as the current state of play in five areas: people, platforms, payload, propulsion, and prognosis.
You undoubtedly notice an uncharacteristic gimmick-the five p’s. This partial alliterative approach was selected as I searched for a way to help Admiral Padgett remember what I’ve said. (John, there will be a quiz.)
But before jumping into the five p ‘s, let’s review the bidding for a moment, to help set the scene. We meet today in the wake of last year’s resounding centennial celebration. That euphoric year, to me, continues to reverberate and fuel a sense of excitement for the next 100 years of submarining.
I’d argue that, together, this organization and the active Submarine Force have turned the comer. After 10 years of post-Cold War, ad nauseum study deliberating the requirement for the attack submarine in this so-called new age, it seems to me that we’ve emerged stronger than ever-widely accepted as a necessary, although not independently sufficient, pan of the Nation’s 21 11-century arsenal for peacetime deterrence and wartime muscle.
The persistent and consistent 10-year call for 68-72 attack submarines from our Navy’s Fleet CINCs has been validated-in spades-by the Joint Staff Study that canvassed the Unified Commanders for the minimum required attack submarine mission days on station in their theaters. They’ll need 68 SSNs through 2015, building to 76 SSNs by 2025, just to execute the top-priority peacetime missions in their theaters.
We’ve turned the inactivation ride and have leveled out at around 55 SSNs today. I continue to argue that we must refuel the remaining five Los Angeles class SSNs slated for early inactivation. Although there is universal support for keeping these submarines in the inventory, I do not yet have a clear signal on the 688-class refueling program.
But to begin moving toward the proper number requires more. We should refuel and conven to SSGNs the four Trident submarines coming out of strategic service over the next two years. That action would not only add four submarines to our numbers , but would represent the kind of transformational capability that we’ve all been reading about. I believe we’ll see funding for this initiative this year.
As the only long-term solution, we must begin building more than one new SSN a year soon. I believe we’ll see plans for this acceleration this year.
“Whence this optimism?” I see some asking. Well, there are signals in the air. What little has been leaked from the various ongoing studies invariably places great value on platform stealth, mobility, and endurance-our hallmarks. Many of the leaks have explicitly named the submarine as the platform of choice, and several have referred to the transformational SSGN.
In fact, in his Naval Academy graduation speech, President Bush noted that many of the class of2001, as they approached command, could hear a future President describe a far different range of naval deployments: to include modified Trident submarines carrying hundreds of next-generation smart conventional cruise missiles.
At our Submarine Technology Symposium last month, a high-ranking Pentagon official predicted rewards for the Submarine Force for having been the only community to radically shift gears in the early 1990s: that is, to design a submarine specifically suited for littoral warfare at a cheaper life-cycle cost. To focus R&D efforts toward an end that supports a 21 “-century vision of employment. To develop transformational concepts-even before the word was popular. And to have done so despite arguably being at the top of its game. To have been constructively dissatisfied with the status quo and to have moved forward with real change.
This official hinted that the rewards would take the form of support for SSGN conversion and accelerating the new SSN build The SSBN has not been challenged throughout this period. There remains strong bipartisan support for the boomer as the only guaranteed survivable element of our strategic deterrence.
We’re almost to the jive p’s but I need to make one last digression-this one, more somber. .. this one, more sobering … this one, definitely not upbeat. I refer, of course, to the GREENVILLE tragedy. As a community, we must discuss what we learned-what grave errors were made that sent nine Japanese to their deaths.
Speaking from my position, but with unanimous agreement from the Submarine Force leadership, we are, put simply, embarrassed by our failure. Shame is another word that comes to mind, and I could probably stop there. But the discussion would be incomplete.
There are no heroes to emerge from this tragedy. We do take some moral solace from the acceptance of accountability and responsibility that was displayed. We are at ease with the rigor of the investigation and the full public disclosure of the proceedings. We who have been there, who have been in Teddy Roosevelt’s arena, may even feel sympathetic to some of the compounding aspects of the tragedy.
But there are no heroes.
Admiral Tom Fargo had it right at Rear Admiral Al Konetzni’s change of command, when he said: “We don’t expect these kinds of mistakes to be made … and we have a hard time believing they could have been made … But clearly, mistakes were made … We are better than this. We train to a higher standard.”
To that end, we are continuing to train to our standards right now.
After the facts were known (and some letter- and editorial-writers might want to take note of this radical thought), Admiral Fargo, Rear Admiral John Padgett, Vice Admiral John Grossenba-cher, and I huddled by telephone. We reviewed the factual lessons learned, mostly revolving around the submarine fundamental, written in too much blood, that submarining must be a team business.
We all need the trusted backup, the minority opinion, the junior officer or petty officer willing to cry out-before the fact-that the captain has no clothes.
Rear Admiral Padgett and Vice Admiral Grossenbacher listed the lessons we saw in a Joint Submarine Force Personal for Commanders. They directed immediate action for wholesome discussions between the Force Commanders and their Group and Squadron Commanders; followed by Squadron Commanders with their ship skippers; and further followed by those skippers with their wardrooms and senior enlisted.
These training discussions were ordered to evaluate other lessons that might be learned-up and down the chain of command. But their fundamental purpose, in the Captain’s Call phase, was to ask, “Why could this never happen on our ship?” and “How will we not allow this to happen on our ship?”
There were no heroes. We must not let this happen again. Now, at last, the jive p’s. Let’s start with the best of the news-people.
On the officer side: As you know, I meet our new crop of submarine officers-our future Carl Trusts, Frank Kelsos, Jim Watkinses-long before they order their first dive. The quality, energy, and intelligence of these young men and women today are eye watering. They are as good as we remember we were.
That Centennial year euphoria I spoke of has spread and is spreading. Here’s proof: after nine years of failing to achieve officer recruiting numbers, we brought into the fold 102 percent of goal in 2000. Even better, this year’s graduates are really banging on our topside hatches-we’re sitting at 111 percent of the 2001 goal!
Let me break that 111 percent out:
- Last month’s graduating Naval Academy class of 2001 volunteered 150 midshipmen against a goal of 130.
- Our NROTC future dolphin-wearers are 129 this year, exceeding their goal of 120.
- Rear Admiral George Voelker’s guys made our NUPOC numbers with another 116 terrific young people from across the country s finest colleges.
Of these YG 2001 submariners, 68 come from minority populations. We did listen to Secretary Danzig two years ago, and have made remarkable progress. I’d ask this Naval Submarine League and each of you to keep talking it up-the ball is rolling our way.
And by the way: Yes, we already hedged our bets by assuming that the SSGN conversion, the Los Angeles class refueling, and the accelerated Virginia class build rate would be approved. For several years, we’ve recruited our officers under this assumption that our vision would take.
We’re not where we want to be in officer retention yet, but we have a lead angle on that duck. One satisfying statistic is that nearly 84 percent of our JOs go ashore after their first sea tour. This is the highest percentage in 16 years. Great news!! We all need to work to get them swept up in the excitement and get them back out to sea as department beads.
With four officers (who left for what they saw as greener pastures) coming back into the fold already this year, we are also emphasizing to our JOs the importance of making stay/leave decisions intelligently when the time comes.
On the enlisted side, there’s more good news: After we took around tum on unnecessary attrition in our nuclear pipeline three years ago, Rear Admiral Voelker is having no problem filling our requirements with top-quality nucs. But we have struggled somewhat over the past few years to make numbers on the non-nuc side. The successful lowering of nuclear training attrition dried up one source of non-nuclear accessions, and so the Recruiting Command had to step on the gas a little harder. Last year, they were short (267 Sailors) of their goal of over 2,600.
But this year, CRUITCOM is on track to make its non-nuc goal for the first time in several years.
On the retention side, we’re pounding the ball out of the park! Our first-term all-submarine reenlistment rate is 72 percent, and we have three boomer crews with first-term retention in excess of 90 percent!
Rear Admiral Kontezni’s assault on first-tour enlisted attrition has been adopted as the Navy-wide plan dujour. Because of this initiative (which is simply to exhaust all means to find square holes for our square pegs, and round holes for our round pegs), our overall Submarine Force attrition is at an all-time low of under 9 percent-down from 18 percent in 1998.
If you’ve been keeping track and realize I’m only on the second p, you’ll be happy to hear that we did most of the platform discussion in the scene-setter. So all that’s needed is a quick status report on VIRGINIA and SEA WOLF.
As you all know, VIRGINIA-the submarine for tomorrow was designed by Electric Boat (EB) and is being co-produced under the truly unique teaming arrangement with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS). The first three Virginia class submarines have already been authorized, with the fourth to be authorized in FY02.
Detailed construction drawings for VIRGINIA are 97 percent complete, and ship construction is 50 percent complete. The first increment of the new construction crew is aboard, and propulsion plant testing is now in progress.
It’s important to note that in October 1994, we laid out a tentative schedule for reactor plant fill in December 2000. Actual plant fill occurred in February 2001-only two months off the tentative schedule made more than six years earlier, before the ship was authorized or construction started! I’d say that’s a pretty tightly disciplined program.
The second submarine of the class, TEXAS, is already 38 percent complete. Her new construction crew reports aboard in six months.
It is happening-:-right on schedule.
With regard to funding of the Virginia class, there have been three partially accurate stories (with less accurate headlines) in recent weeks. Here’s the truth: The Virginia class rolling account is short about $1.28 for the first four ships and the one-time design contract.
I call this a rolling account because the last dollar of the $1.28 needs to be coughed up by the time the last of the first four ships delivers in FY08. Over the 30-ship class, there will be near-continuous puts and takes-and even borrows to pay Paul. Indeed, $339M of the account shortage has been taken off the top for other Navy and DOD programs.
So let’s look at the real $860M shortfall over these four ships and the one-time design contract that must be funded before FY08. The majority of the shortage, $596M, is due in large part to higher than expected costs of material, equipment, labor, and overhead. Inflation and escalation in these areas have exceeded what Rear Admiral Davis was allowed to plan for. Fact of life. Plus, we are feeling the real affects of an inefficient submarine production rate.
There’s another $88M projected shortfall on that one-time $1.45B design contract (due primarily to increased cost of computer services). And a $55M accounting charge that used to be paid by NAVSEA, but is now charged to each project. And a $32 .5M increase to apply hull treatment for each of the four ships, based on actual SEA WOLF experience.
So now that leaves $26M-or 0.3 percent of the construction contract-for what is rightfully called requirements growth. And this is mostly for crew berthing at the construction yards and new life-of-the-ship training curriculums. In addition, a smaller portion of this $26M is for a shipboard LAN.
My point is obvious: only a portion of $26M on a $10.7B contract is for shipboard requirements growth-a portion of 0.3 percent. Yet you’ll notice that the entire account shortfall has been unfairly characterized as overrun or growth. In fact, the Virginia class funding program has reportedly been acknowledged by key staff of congressional oversight committees as the most disciplined in the Pentagon. And we aim to keep it that way.
SEA WOLF and CONNECTICUT are operational today as 2 of our force of 55 attack submarines. CONNECTICUT is deployed, and SEA WOLF will deploy later this month. We stressed our best state-of-the-art technologies and now have at sea submarines that will have unmatched tactical superiority into the foreseeable future.
The third submarine of the class, JIMMY CARTER, is living evidence of vision made good. The 100-foot multimission, special operations plug will be operational evidence that we heard our critics loud and clear. This new section, about 17 percent complete today, will provide the so-called flexible interface with the ocean environment” that the 1998 Defense Science Board challenged us with. And large, innovative, futuristic payload will be deployable from the modular bay-freed from the tyranny of the 21-inch torpedo tube.
Which naturally brings us to the third p – payload. And to a discussion of revolutionary sensors and badly needed Joint Task Force connectivity. And of a payload that includes unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), just around the corner.
You’ll hear a lot about this area in the sessions ahead, so I won’t steal any thunder. But I want you to hear this from me-we’re seriously committed. We started five years ago corralling our R&D efforts to this end. Remember gel payload, gel connec1ed, gel modular, and gel electric as our goals?
Well, last year’s DARPA I N77 I Industry partnership brought us another huge step closer to them. And now there’s JIMMY CARTER-and our advertised goal of installing these submarine force multipliers on VIRGINIA beginning in 2006-bringing us closer still.
Now to the found p – propulsion. To you 594 / 637 I 5981 640 / 688 vets out there: You wouldn’t recognize today’s boats aft of the reactor compartment bulkhead. Today’s submarines are being outfitted with microprocessors, propulsion plant LANs, automated chemical analysis equipment, solid-state electronics, automated log-talcing, plasma displays, and whisper-quiet high-capacity deck mounts, to mention a few.
And if you could walk onboard tomorrow’s VIRGINIA, you’d wonder where you were: There are fewer components-fewer primary components. Systems you worked long and hard to qualify on, are not even installed. There are fewer watchstanders. Someone is missing from maneuvering and authorized to be missing by the EDM.
All that? Just a baby step to where we’re headed. Electric drive, currently being aimed for the 2010-authorized Virginia, will bring the next-generation acoustic health and provide needed power for all the sensors, and payload, and then-year weapons. Next, the fully electric-all-electric-submarine, without air or hydraulics to move things, will be quieter and quieter, need less and less maintenance, require fewer and fewer watchstanders, and cost less and less money.
And then the direct conversion of the heat energy of the reactor to electricity to do all this. How stealthy could a submarine be, do you think, with no steam cycle, no coolant pumps?
Then, finally, I can retire!
And the last of the p’s is – prognosis. How is all this tied together-or is it? Obviously, the answer is yes.
Several years ago, Vice Admiral Ed Giambastiani pulled together a Future Studies Group composed of a handful of really bright submariners and career technologists. This group sometimes futuristically drove, and sometimes synergistically supported, the concepts and developments I’ve been describing.
But over the years, their work evolved into the so-called Submarine Force Strategic Employment Vision that feeds off-and employs the wonderful people, the dynamic platforms, the revolutionary payload, and the supporting propulsion that I’ve just discussed.
This vision … this strategy … is at once wonderfully simplistic and overwhelmingly crucial to the country’s future. It’s about four elements that indeed undergird the absolute necessity for submarines tomorrow:
- First: To gain and sustain access-anywhere, anytime, all the time.
- Second: To develop and share with the Joint Commander dominant knowledge of the battlespace by linking the sensors and payload, and connecting back over the horizon.
- Third: If required, to project power ashore and in the littoral waters while underneath the enemy’s defensive umbrella.
- Fourth: But hopefully, to deter conflict by leveraging this knowledge and powerful capability at the diplomatic table.
This team-the Naval Submarine League and our active-duty submariners around the globe-this great team is more than ever before recognized for what we have brought-and now will bring to the country’s security table. But we can’t relax. There are probably people out there, even now preparing impassioned rebuttals to all I’ve said.
Well, let them rebut! I fully believe, just as it has over the past 10 years, that truth will prevail … and especially among those who count: those in the arena.
I therefore look forward to working with you to move all this down the road for another 100 years.