This month marks the one hundred and second birthday of the United States Submarine Force. Our annual gatherings like tonight where we celebrate our submarine history and heritage, see old friends, reflect on the challenges and opportunities of the future and really enjoy ourselves, are important. They are local family reunions of a sort. They are also one of those traditions that remind us that we are different-and submariners are different.
Our gatherings this year are unique in my experience. I came to the Submarine Force during the Cold and Vietnam Wars. I have not experienced an annual gathering of the submarine family where it was first necessary to reflect on the fact that three of our brothers, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Murphy, Lieutenant Commander Ron Vauk, and Petty Officer Brian Moss were killed by people who attacked our country. These were three good men whose average age was 36. They were three submariners whose deaths leave our family with three widows and five children without their father. Reflecting on that loss is serious and sorrowful, but necessary. It comes with being part of a family. It makes the War on Terrorism intensely personal, as if the attacks on the Pentagon, World Trade Center and murder of Americans on four civilian airliners were not personal enough.
So we submariners, families and friends gather tonight while we are at war. I know that phrase at war is not one anyone in this room ever takes lightly, regardless of how often we see it in the press. As united and determined as we Americans are today by the events of 11 September, this war, as does any war, will surely test and try us. It will likely be a long and difficult effort and our enemy appears to be illusive, insidious and vicious. This war will, probably as never before, blur boundaries between military action and law enforcement because of the nature of our enemy. This war will have us disturb, revise and debate the balance between our civil liberties and the need to protect our citizens to an extent that’s unprecedented, because the terrorists seek to attack us from within. And although our submarines will probably not be directly threatened at sea, they and their crews will be a target for attack at home and in foreign ports.
To the war-experienced veterans among family and friends here tonight, I suspect there are more similarities than differences between the War on Terrorism and the wars they knew. Yet there are striking contrasts, like how we view our enemy compared with how our heroic World War II veterans did theirs. World War II was a different time, place and circumstance, some would even say this is a different United States. The contrast, however, is striking in any context. I have read some of the World War II correspondence of the Pacific Submarine Force Commander. For Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood, thinking and talking about his enemy was not an intellectual exercise, it was visceral. My read is that he hated them and expressed that hatred in words that today make us uncomfortable. His words seem racist and more. The factor of religion that looms large in the current conflict further complicates how we see our enemy, both individually and collectively. They are our enemies, and our personal and family losses steel our resolve to deal with them.
The lessons others have learned about warring on terrorism, the British with the Irish Republican Army and the Israelis with the Palestinians are many and sobering. Their experience tells us that terrorists succeed by doing the unexpected or by executing attacks from within that in the final analysis are extraordinarily difficult to stop in a free society. Terrorists can be very patient and only need an occasional success among frequent failures or aborted attacks to sustain their energy and motivation. It will be a difficult war indeed.
The complexities of our nation’s current situation are many, but remember, these people entered our country, used our liberties and freedoms to conceal themselves and attacked our citizens. How dare they! Our response, the duty of your submariners is clear. We must do all we can to find, incarcerate or destroy our terrorist enemies. The British and Israeli experiences tell us we will not, in any short order, either eliminate them or prevent all fonns of attack. They will probably kill again. We can, however, create a constant, crushing force that seriously hinders their level of activity and makes it very difficult if not impossible for them to mount major attacks. That is what we submariners are off to do. We want to make fear and discouragement a part of the terrorists’ daily lives. If they gather in anything larger than groups of twos and threes, if they communicate electronically anywhere in the world, if they even try to conduct anything like military training, we want them to be fearful. We want them fearful that we will find them. We want them fearful every second they pursue the activities of terror that the next sound they will hear is the local police or gendarmerie at the door, Special Forces crashing through the window or whatever an incoming Tomahawk cruise missile sounds like in its last seconds of flight.
To instill fear in the terrorists, we must be relentless in our pursuit, tenacious when we have a lead on their whereabouts, and flawless and bold in executing our attacks. Relentlessness, tenacity and boldness are part of our submarine heritage. Ladies and gentlemen, we have submarine crews that have delivered fear to the terrorists already and who are doing it right now. Our access to any coastline and our stealth are attributes that will continue to make us an important factor in this war.
Besides the war, I think our gathering tonight is also different than many in the past because of the changes that swirl around and through our Submarine Force today. Everyone in a position of responsibility fancies themselves present at some critical point in history, but it is difficult to know without the perspective that only time can bring. Nevertheless, there are three factors at work today that are generating change in our force, perhaps unprecedented change.
First. The end of the Cold War marked a turning point in nuclear submarine history. That change continues today and is not the change that some predicted. Instead of a reduction in the relevance of our submarines because of the demise of the Soviet Union, the Cold War’s end unleashed us from our necessary but confining laser-like focus on Anti-Submarine Warfare. For the first time in their history, nuclear submarines are being allowed to achieve their full potential as multi-mission stealthy warships. The decade-plus since the fall of the Berlin Wall has seen an expansion of missions and demand for our attack submarines, and that continues.
Second. The conversion of four Trident ballistic missile submarines to submarines that carry things other than intercontinental ballistic missiles is an enormous issue for us and the rest of our Navy. When we talk about these converted Tridents today the focus is on how many Tomahawk cruise missiles or Special Forces troops they can carry. These capabilities are exciting and important, but thinking of our converted Tridents in that way is a short-term view that misses the long-term point. The point is PAY-LOAD. We have certainly had big submarines before-like TRITON and the conversions of POLK and KAMEHAMEHA for Special Forces operations. What we have today, however, is different. The confluence of the availability of these wonderful ships and the products of technology is, I think, unique. Technology has delivered the capability to sense, find, strike with great precision, out-know and out-think an enemy. These great submarines will allow us to employ these technologies in the oceans, on the sea beds, in the air and on the land. We will put unmanned air, sea, undersea and land vehicles to work, implant and exploit remote sensors and communications tools and networks. All these coupled with unprecedented submarine striking power, the stealth, agility and endurance of our nuclear powered Tridents provides enormous potential. They can make the undersea battlespace look substantially more like the domain of airplanes and missiles. They can also change the way our Navy fights, and alter the way it looks.
Third. Today the leadership of our country is making sweeping changes in defense strategy that will have potentially profound effects on us. For example, instead of sizing our Navy, instead of composing our Navy of ships, submarines and airplanes to deal with countries we have classified as threatening, we are being told to develop capabilities that exploit our country’s competitive advantages. We are being told to develop capabilities that allow us to be and remain superior in ways that totally frustrate and incapacitate adversaries. Given our preeminence under the sea this is a change in defense planning and policy that we submariners embrace with enthusiasm.
As another example. the recently completed Nuclear Posture Review changes course with the past in a major way. It takes the Cold War equation of mutual nuclear deterrence and replaces it almost wholesale with a broader, more complex, more comprehensive and, in my view, more relevant approach. It will better arm us to deal effectively with those who may threaten to or use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons against us or our allies. It wilt prepare us to deal with those against whom Cold War style deterrence alone is not enough. This can have a significant impact on how and where we operate the current Trident force and what the force looks like. It will also affect the operations of not only our attack submarines but all the elements of our Navy that we used to call conventional forces and previously excluded from discussions of strategic deterrence.
There are other major winds of change like technology, and our defense leadership’s view of the need for the military to transform ourselves for the future. Submariners welcome these as well. The foundations for the future of your Submarine Force are well established, continually renewed and adapted. Wonderfully talented people, disciplined demanding training, high standards of performance and reliability in our boats and crews, exceptionally competent technical discipline in the designing, building and maintaining our submarines, these foundations remain strong and secure. With those foundations and the example and legacy of our 102 years of exceptional submarine leaders, with women like Mary Lou Moss, Masako Murphy and Jennifer Vauk, with the memory of their husbands and the presence of their children in our family, we have every reason for determination in our present tasks, pride, optimism, the common and confidence that only family can bring. We also have every good reason to celebrate tonight, have a great time and look forward to tomorrow.
I could not be prouder of this family, the submarine family and each of you. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I am inspired every day by the work, ethics, energy and unlimited capabilities of the submarine brotherhood. God bless each and every one of you, our boats and their crews. Thank you