Good Morning. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. This is the first Naval Submarine League Symposium I have attended and it is an honor to be among so many distinguished submariners, industry leaders, and submarine proponents. I have been in command of USS ALEXANDRIA a little over two years. In May of last year my crew and I completed a six-month Arabian Gulf and Mediterranean deployment with the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN battlegroup. During deployment ALEXANDRIA spent almost five months in the Arabian Gulf conducting a variety of battlegroup operations and exercises in addition to some independent operations.
Following deployment ALEXANDRIA conducted various local operations and in September saw homeport force protection watchstander and weapons requirements mirror those we had become used to while operating out of Bahrain. This January, ALEXANDRIA executed a homeport change to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to commence a Depot Modernization Period.
My perspective of today’s Submarine Force encompasses my nineteen years in submarines, but it is now focused and bounded by these two years in command.
Submarines today are just as important in our war against terrorism as they were in my junior officer days during the Cold War. Our mission may be different, but we still bring stealth to the table. Our ability to conduct sustained independent and undetected military operations in high risk areas is still unique within our military.
Submarine capability in multiple mission areas provides the operational commander with a variety of tools and options to achieve his aim. I saw this first hand on deployment where ALEXANDRIA‘s operations and exercises included coordinated battlegroup strike, surveillance and warning, battle space preparation, anti-submarine, and anti-surface warfare. It was not uncommon to receive short notice tasking to shift our primary mission focus.
In fact, simultaneous readiness in multiple mission areas is one of the biggest challenges facing the Submarine Force today. No longer can we focus on one or two primary mission areas as we did in the Cold War. Now we must train across the spectrum of operations and maintain competency in each, with the ability to conduct each on short notice. Over the last few years we have made great strides in both onboard and school training to help meet this challenge. Computer based training is now available in almost all mission areas.
A key element in multiple mission capability and readiness is technology. In the last two years I have seen technology advances onboard that far surpassed the advances I saw in the seventeen preceding years. ALEXANDRIA’s last deployment was conducted with an electronic control room. No paper plots were used, electronic flat panel plots took their place. Automatic inputs and plotting enabled our operators to concentrate on analyzing the data, vice just trying to get it recorded. This enhanced our ability to operate safely in the shallow, high contact density areas of the Arabian Gulf. Required data packages became essentially a computer disk, instead of a box of plots and logs with an endless inventory.
Navigation is no longer only paper charts and pencils. Electronic charts now provide a clear navigation picture in real time. While operating our primary radar we now have the ability to show radar contacts superimposed on the electronic charts providing clarity to the contact situation and integration of the navigation picture. Set and drift are continuously calculated electronically. On deployment these tools enhanced our ability to operate in unfamiliar, littoral areas where the tactical picture was driven almost as much by the navigation picture, as it was by the contact picture.
Submarine communications have also undergone a leap in capability. Gone are the days of struggling to copy required traffic at sea via a single reception path. During our last deployment it was not uncommon to be up on multiple voice and data circuits with the battlegroup, in addition to being up on one or two secure internet type chat rooms with them while copying our submarine broadcast. We now have multiple ways to receive and transmit information at vastly larger bandwidths. This capability is crucial in our ability to integrate with other sea, air, and land forces while conducting real time operations.
Probably the biggest technology advances have been made in our sonar systems. Hardware and software upgrades associated with Acoustic Rapid Commercial Off the Shelf insertion, commonly referred to as ARCI, have significantly improved our ability to process data and ultimately our ability to detect, track, and classify submarine and surface contacts. We have regained much of the acoustic advantage we held over the rest of the world in the seventies and early eighties. This capability is crucial in today’s mission where we are more likely to encounter a diesel in shallow, congested waters vice a nuclear submarine in deep, open ocean waters.
A major challenge associated with infusing new technology into our submarines is the large number of depot level availabilities scheduled over the next five years. Downsizing of our force has left us on the edge of meeting national and theater requirements. The large number of submarines requiring depot level maintenance increases this challenge. Current force and shipyard initiatives to shorten Depot Modernization Periods to eleven months and refueling overhauls to twenty months are key to meeting our commitments during this period. Additionally, it is imperative that we seek to maximize modernization during these availabilities, as opposed to other lengthy out-of-service periods alongside in homeport.
A major victory for ALEXANDRIA occurred when a significant alteration, the Tactical Integrated Digital System (TIDS Phase II), was rolled back into the availability just two months prior to its stan. It caused some integration and scheduling challenges for the shipyard, but eliminates a three to four month alongside period after the availability. This was a victory for ALEXANDRIA and for the Submarine Force. Each boat entering a major availability should have the same consideration.
While it is clear technology advances improve our multiple mission capability and are important to our planners and operational commanders, they also play a major role in keeping our operators rejuvenated and challenged. Our sonarmen are excited with their new tools. It improves their job satisfaction and enhances their desire to let no contact go undetected. Our radiomen are challenged every minute we are at communications depth. They know multiple circuits up quickly is the requirement and you can see pride in their eyes as they achieve it day to day. Technology advances have done as much for job satisfaction and retention as they have for mission capability.
While new technology invigorates our Sailors, it also places a higher premium on retaining them. Operational and maintenance skills of recent technologies are very marketable outside the Navy. Our ability to conduct sustained independent and undetected military operations in high risk areas depends on having the right operators and technicians to see it through. From my vantage point, our money programs over the last few years have been on the mark. Time and time again I have seen our best Sailors re-enlist. Job satisfaction keeps the door open to re-enlist, however the pay and the re-enlistment bonus normally close the deal. During strong>ALEXANDRIA’s last deployment we re-enlisted over thirty Sailors in a combat zone for tax-free Selective Re-enlistment Bonuses totaling over 1.3 million dollars. I encourage each of you that have any part in our Stay Navy program to keep putting the money in the right places. Our Submarine Force capability is dependent upon retaining the right people at the right time.
Now, as it’s always been, people are the heart of our Submarine Force. They are well trained, motivated and professional. I feel that ALEXANDRIA’s Sailors are similar to other crews on the waterfront. Let me tell you what they accomplished in a year.
On Christmas Day 2000 they arrived in the Northern Suez anchorage and transited the Suez Canal a day later. On New Year’s Day they transited the Strait of Hormuz and operated in the Arabian Gulf area in support of the HARRY S. TRUMAN battlegroup and FIFTH FLEET until transiting the Suez Canal Northbound on the 2nd of May. Returning to Groton, Connecticut on the 24th of May, they excelled on all post-deployment examinations and inspections. Following a well-deserved post-deployment stand down they conducted an aggressive upkeep to catch up after six months of deployment with no formal upkeep period.
Throughout the summer and early fall they maintained an active at-sea schedule including submarine versus submarine training and a torpedo proficiency firing inspection. They were at sea 11 September and they were mad. Upon returning to port several days later, they worked around the clock and were fully ready to deploy in five days, an enormous task. During this period they also maintained an aggressive pre-overhaul testing program in order to be ready for the shipyard in January if not surge de-ployed.
While maintaining this fully ready to deploy status, they conducted three weeks of Prospective Commanding Officer underway training operations, probably the most taxing local operations a submarine can conduct and they excelled. Upon returning to Groton they worked long hours to finish pre-overhaul testing and final preparations for changing homeport. In January they transited to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and by the end of February had transitioned to the shipyard environment, a significant change in the way things are done. They set several time records in starting the availability and are on track to complete the availability in the shortest amount of time ever. Throughout this challenging year retention on board continually improved.
If you talk to other Commanding Officers, their crew stories will be similar. Wherever you look, you will find crews adapting and overcoming. We place a large burden on our crews and they deliver. They are versatile and skilled at getting the job done. They are multi-mission capable and able to shift gears quickly. My experience is that they go above and beyond the requirements. Our job is to keep them paid, motivated, and trained. They are the future of our Submarine Force and in their hands I feel the future is bright. Thank you.