Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


Submarine Base, New London September 2001

The United States Submarine Force is the best Submarine Force in the world. The synergistic, disciplined and inovative contributions of our people, scientists, engineers and industry leaders help us continue to be the best. While privileged to serve as Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet during the past fourteen months, I have stated my view of the challenges facing our Submarine Force in the new world order. Suffice it to say that in a world where instability is the now and foreseeable enemy, a world in which the consequences and undesirable manifestations of that instability will require the presence and use of military power, our submarines can and will make an even greater contribution than they have in the past and do today. Their stealth, endurance and agility allow them to deliver military capability anywhere in the world any time and by surprise. That stealth and surprise will be valued in the new world order. So, I believe our nuclear powered submarines are today poised to achieve their full potential for the first time in their history. They are a primary requirement for our future military strategy and a key foundation of America’s military strength.

The following is a status report on our progress in meeting some of the challenges facing our Submarine Force, a submarine state of the union address of sorts that enumerates some of our past year’s achievements and accomplishments as well as those areas where progress has been limited or not achieved.

First Successes

During the past year the Submarine Force has been substantially operationally successful throughout the world. One of our Pacific submarines conducted joint Prospective Commanding Officer (PCO) operations with the Australians and there are other important Pacific operations that Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Padgett, USN will address. In the Atlantic, highlights included deployments and exercises supporting the Joint Forces Command, Southern Command, European Command and Central Command.

One of our 688 ‘ s that is modified to carry the dry deck shelter and swimmer delivery vehicles had a superb deployment to the Mediterranean and demonstrated her unique capabilities in a host of NATO and bilateral exercises. She also off-loaded her dry deck shelter in Turkey and on-loaded the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle leading our participation in the very successful NATO submarine rescue exercise Sorbet Royal. Several of our attack submarines conducted the first open-ocean MK48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) torpedo exercise in the Sixth Fleet area of responsibility. These torpedo firings took place in the Adriatic Sea, one of the many areas of the world where we need to know with certainty how our weapons will perform. In addition to testing the torpedoes, our submarines also evaluated engagement tactics versus a low speed , quiet target gained at very short range. The exercise was smoothly executed and will provide excellent data for use in tactical development and improving torpedo performance. An SSN conducted successful missions in the North Atlantic. Her operations supposed Joint Forces Command and EUCOM and she was a key asset of CTF 84, the Atlantic ASW Commander. The ship also participated in a number of exercises with NATO and Northern European allies. We must maintain the capability and confidence to operate proficiently in all oceans of the world including the Arctic. This year we sent several of our SSNs under the ice and to the North Pole to conduct some very important testing including new under ice sonars and navigational equipment. We took some of our British shipmates with us to share experience and we learned a lot as we always do when we test ourselves in the tough Arctic environment. Another of our attack submarines completed a very successful deployment to South America interacting with the navies of eight South American countries and France. She participated in almost thirty multi-national exercises and gained invaluable diesel submarine experience with several foreign diesel submarines. U.S. submarines conducted extensive operations in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Submarine contributions to battlespace preparation, TLAM contingency presence, support to the battle group, and Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance were impressive. Our SSBNs earlier this year completed their 35001h patrol and continued to provide us with the foundation of national missile defense. And our SSBNs continue to fill an incredibly important role as substitutes for our inadequate number of SSNs during exercises, tests and development efforts.

The Department of Defense has directed the Navy to plan for the conversion of at least 2 OHIO class SSBNs to SSGNs -Tomahawk and Special Operating Force delivery platforms. Exactly how many, and when, and how we will pay for them remain open issues, but this is a huge decision for our Submarine Force and Navy. Not only does the country get the full benefit of its investment in these great ships, but we also get the opportunity to explore and demonstrate the impact of a submarine with a large payload on the way our Navy and Joint Forces fight. Transformational is the right word to describe this enormous advance in undersea warfare.

We’ve had a very good year at Submarine School. We have substantially transformed traditional classrooms to electronic ones with all the resultant benefits of reduced time-to-train and measurable increases in training effectiveness. Sub School has also used technology to make the training resources resident in our school-house available to submarines in port and at sea. Submarines can peruse and download most of sub school’s training materials or ask for responsive training online, again, at sea as well as in port. There are currently over 1100 training products available in addition to e-mail and online chat and technical services to resolve questions and respond to unique training needs.

Technology has also allowed some of our officers to complete graduate courses underway, underwater. Through the combined effort of Old Dominion University and the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education, master’s degrees can now be earned via CD-ROM based classes while at sea.


But it’s too early to call them successes. First of all, people. Our submarine enlisted retention continues generally to exceed Navy averages. Our best retainer was USS WEST VIRGINIA (BLUE) with a 100 percent first term reenlistment rate for 2000. The only area where we do not lead the Navy is zone C, which represents those with 10-14 years of service. I think this is partly due to industry’s recruiting of our well-trained and experienced Sailors. To help improve retention of this group we are talking to each of these Sailors one at a time; listening to their near and long term personal goals, and providing individual counseling to ensure they know the facts and make the right decision for themselves as well as the Submarine Force. We are also looking at larger re-enlistment bonuses for zone Band C individuals, and we certainly support the Presidential budget proposal to improve mid-grade enlisted and officer pay. Officer retention is improving. Retaining enough young officers to 7 years in service is the key to ensuring we have sufficient department heads to keep department head tour lengths reasonable and giving us adequate selectivity for Command-ing Officers and Executive Officers. The information I have seen is encouraging for those officer year groups approaching 7 years of service.

Recently we appear to be achieving success in our efforts to improve schedule performance in our depot level maintenance program. Less than a year ago, an Engineered Refueling Overhaul (ERO) took more than 27 months. Since then, two EROs are on track to be completed in the notional 24 months. Also, a Depot Modernization Period (DMP) last year took 14 months. A DMP in progress is projected to be completed in 12 months, one month ahead of the national schedule. These improvements seem to indicate that NA VSEA ‘s initiatives are improving schedule performance. Such improvements are critically important to our ability to keep SSNs at sea in the next decade when, at times, we will have almost 25 percent of the SSN force in depot maintenance availabilities. Each of the four public shipyards is scheduled to execute concurrent, sequential availabilities. The operational impact of even one submarine falling behind will ripple through the Submarine Force reducing the already scarce scheduling flexibility and potentially delaying deployments. Shortfalls in funding depot maintenance in the past two years are now impacting our ability to start availabilities on time. This is very disruptive and has to be corrected or we will not give ourselves the opportunity to successfully meet the maintenance challenge ahead.

Over the past year, the Submarine Force conducted about two dozen diesel submarine exercises. SUBPAC’sjoint PCO ops with the Australians were an absolute home run because we not only got to operate against a capable diesel submarine but also put our PCOs on board to operate the Australian Collins Class. We are making arrangements to send an American student annually to the Dutch PCO Course, referred to as the PERISHER after its British origins since this will also enhance our diesel submarine experience. Steps have been taken to increase the number and intensity of exercises with Northern European, Southern European, and South American diesel submarines. We are not, however, sufficiently disciplined enough yet to systematically collect data, analyze it, and then effectively feed that knowledge back into tactics, techniques, procedures and technological development. This aspect of meeting the challenge of modern diesel and Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) diesel submarines requires different organization and coordination within the Submarine Force than during the Cold War and we are making those changes.

We are revising our guidance to provide greater flexibility in operating submarines with friends and allies. Further improvement in this area is an essential element of future battlespace preparation. Since the next undersea enemy we may fight could be a German-built submarine with French sensors and Swedish torpedoes owned and operated by a hostile nation, we must know the best diesel submarines and AIP diesel submarines very well. We also cannot surrender technological agility to the many different producers and consumers of diesel and AIP diesel technology as they can shop the international marketplace and have a smaller number of submarines to modernize and replace when obsolete.

In mine warfare, we have started requiring our submarines to use their high frequency sonar at the two east coast training and evaluation minefields. We are learning a lot and building our foundation of mine warfare skills and experience. Meanwhile, mine stealth and lethality continue to advance. We need a realistic and more precise mine training range. Versatile exercise mines are smart training mines that can feedback information as to whether or not your submarine entered the mine’s lethal envelope. Those mines along within an appropriately instrumented range are needed to support our long-term efforts in this area. Due to the age of the Mk67 Submarine Launched Mobile Mines (SLMM) and because we haven’t conducted an exercise SLMM plant in several years, we are planning to conduct a mine planting exercise next summer. We’ll see what the exercise tells us, but based on what I know today, I think we’ll prove to ourselves again that we need to replace SLMM with the Mk48 based dual warhead mine to maintain a useful clandestine mining capability.

We are taking an active role in the development of Organic Mine Countermeasures and their concept of operations. Organic Mine Countermeasures are the family of sensors, sweeps and mine neutralization mechanisms that our Navy plans to incorporate into every carrier battlegroup. Submarine Development Squadron Five, is engaged in the testing of Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS) vehicles and the refinement of the tactics, techniques, and procedures for employment of LMRS and other unmanned underwater devices. We have also reviewed our approach to mine warfare training. With the revised curriculum at Naval Submarine School, our officers receive formal indoctrination on the mine warfare mission during their pipeline training.

Progress has been made in the area of Anti-terrorism Force Protection. We need to take delivery of more patrol boats, more security personnel and waterside barriers to achieve the desired standards. Our standards are to have substantial landside and waterside barriers, the ability to rapidly sound an alarm and unambiguously warn someone who penetrates the barriers, and weapons of high enough caliber and rate of fire to stop them. Our submarines will have armed escorts when entering and exiting port.

In order to help mitigate the impact of our SSN force structure-requirement mismatch, USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI, USS SAN FRANCISCO and a third submarine will be homeported in Guam. This increases submarine forward presence and reduces transit times. This will help. but is not a substitute for more submarines. and we are working toward a more efficient and fluid worldwide deployment scheme that has our SSNs doing multiple missions in multiple theaters each deployment.

With our submarines operating almost constantly in the very crowded shallow water of the littorals. we must invest and improve our submarine escape and rescue proficiency. Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment (SEIE). an all-weather escape and survival suit that replaces the Steinke Hood, is currently installed on 9 of our 688 Class Submarines and we hope to have it on all our submarines by 2005. Over the past 12 months approximately 900 personnel received SEIE training. We have made hatch modifications that provide hydraulic actuators to ensure ease of opening the escape hatches on 13 of our 688s. Completing the remaining submarines is a high priority. In order to improve submarine escape proficiency we must provide pressurized submarine escape training at Basic Enlisted Submarine School and Submarine Officer Basic Training. To support this, an escape training tank and diving tower is currently planned for 2005. We also need a pier side escape training tank or water filled cofferdam that we can place over our escape hatches in port and allow our crews to realistically test themselves in escape trunk and escape appliance operation.

Submarines and Special Operating Forces (SOF) are in my view inextricably linked. We are a perfect partnership. Progress in developing submarine SOF capability is taking a large leap forward with the advent of the Advanced SEAL Delivery System. We are moving forward to consummate the marriage of submarines and SOF, and deliver the full potential of their military capability.

We’ve made some progress in reducing the burden of administrative tasks that do not contribute to warfare proficiency or combat readiness, but we have a long way to go. SSBNs have adopted an electronic deck log, routine chemistry analysis and graphing is being automated, and tagout management is being computerized along with technical manuals. Our new combat systems facilitate a paperless fire control party which not only improves tactical performance but also makes data collection, event reconstruction and analysis significantly less burdensome. Eliminating or automating all administrative functions that do not contribute to combat readiness remains our goal.

No Progress

There are several areas where progress is still a promise. In the past three years Submarine Force structure has declined from 73 SSNs to today’s 55 SSNs. At the same time submarine tasking has increased. Today, of the 28 SSNs in LANTFLT, 23 are operationally available. The impact of having fewer submarines than required to serve the needs of the theater CINCs results in the United States accepting increased risk abroad and has a corrosive affect on near term and future readiness both in the Submarine Force and fleet. During fiscal year ’01, we satisfied 65 percent of fleet service requests, in fiscal year ’03 we will satisfy 35 percent of them. In addition, tactical development exercises and research, test and evaluation exercises will be reduced by 50 percent. The corrosive effects are also causing our Submarine Force to experience higher deployed OPTEMPO, reduced time between deployments, and a fast paced Inter-deployment Training Cycle (IDTC). The IDTC schedule is a success oriented one. The impact of a single submarine fail-to-sail ripples through the force and is disruptive, making schedule stability and predictability a challenge. In the near and mid-term, refueling as many 688s as possible will help. The obvious long-term solution is to increase the Virginia class build rate to at least two submarines per year as soon as possible.

Sustained under-resourcing of our Submarine Force, a problem that is endemic throughout our Navy, has prevented us from making adequate capital investments for our future. As I’ve said, we need to build Virginia class submarines faster. We have developed a sound technology insertion plan to evolve the Virginia class submarines, but that plan is inadequately resourced. The Trident missile will have to have its life extended to match our Trident submarines’ 42-year life, but this is not adequately funded. And the potential of electric drive and fielding of SSGNs need to adequately funded. We are not adequately resourcing the modernization of our operational force with the result, among other things that the R in ARCI (Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion) is not being realized. Chronic systemic underfunding has resulted in compro¬∑ mises and cutbacks to some basic submarine programs that are the cost of doing business in operating the world’s best Submarine Force. For example, today we attempt to shoot 6 exercise torpedoes per submarine every 12-15 months. Why this number? This number was arrived at based on resource limitations, not individual submarine or force wide proficiency. By contrast each Swedish submarine shoots 25 torpedoes a year. We are going to have to pay for these costs of doing business or we will not remain the highest quality Submarine Force in the world.

We need a disciplined technical approach to finding solutions to the many challenges we face. The focus must be on sound science, math and engineering, not marketing. At a conference celebrating the 50’1′ anniversary of Submarine Development Squadron 12, Admiral DeMars, USN (Ret.) said “The rise of weapons system advocacy analysis in Washington to support the budget process, I believe, corrupted the analytical process in general. You have an approach which supports the answer rather than attempting to find the answer. The rise of contractor analytical support has created a demand for more analysts than the system can support and still maintain the required professional quality.” The truth in the Admiral’s statement is evident in our business daily and we need to change it.

Challenges have always faced our Submarine Force and I hope I’ve given you an appreciation for the status of some that face us today. By every measure, our people, our submariners, are as good, dedicated to service, enthusiastic and fun to serve with as American submariners have ever been. Working with them is the highest privilege and greatest honor of my job. They will be tested at some point in the future and our country will need them, and need them to be the very best.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League