It is a pleasure to join you today in paradise. Hawaii is a place of great tradition for the United States Submarine Force. In fact, just down the road in Pearl Harbor lies one of our submarine bases-a place we’ve called home for almost all of our 101 year history.
As the opening speaker, I want to set the stage for the discussions to follow over the next 3 days. Today, I’ll be looking with you at the worldwide stare of the submarine and making three points:
- First, we all feel pride as we celebrate the end of the first century of submarining and excitement as we look forward to the next 100 years. Both emotions are justified.
- Second, submarines are readily available on the world market today. An interested buyer can select a submarine with a wide range of capabilities. You need look no further than the UDT Exhibition Hall in the Tapa Room to see the products and services available from the world’s leading undersea defense manufacturers, suppliers, consultants and research organizations.
- Third, in the midst of all this excitement over submarines and submarine technology, I question whether potential buyers have thought through the long-term stewardship responsibilities that are necessary for safe submarining? Have they properly conveyed to their country’s leadership the continuous, high-resource commitment that must be made to become a responsible member of the world’s submarine community?
So let me begin with the pride felt around the world as we open the door to the next century of undersea warfare.
Many can share in the pride that goes with 100 years of accomplishment. The first 100 years opened with submarines viewed as little more than stationary manned mines by many nations and naval leaders. By the end of the first 25 years visionaries were seeing the value in these unique platforms. Scientists and engineers made improvement after improvement. The second 25 years saw submarines become a major part of many navies and platforms to be reckoned with. The third 25 years saw the introduction of nuclear power, air independent propulsion and the marriage of missiles and submarines. The first 100 years closed with submarines recognized as major combatants by nations around the world.
As the theme of this conference suggests, we meet symbolically to discuss the next JOO years. We close the book on what is, in effect, the global 1oom anniversary of submarining.
Technology is moving at an incredible rate. I will not attempt to predict the future except to say that 100 years from now another group will look back and say that technology in the second 100 years advanced at a rate an order of magnitude greater than before.
More and more we recognize that submarines and other submersibles will have an increasing role in the maritime battle-space.
More and more navies and their parent governments are calling on submarines to play a major role in their defense establishment. People around the world are recognizing the contribution submarines can make when properly employed, and there is no shortage of suppliers.
In fact, there are no fewer than seven countries around the world today that are marketing submarines. This market has led to a worldwide total of almost 500 submarines operated by 40 nations.
The Pacific theater alone is home to over 300 submarines. Why so many submarines? Simply put, submarines provide a nation instant credibility and what may appear, at first glance, to be a relatively inexpensive seat at a very important table.
The proliferation of submarines should come as no surprise. Submarines are in high demand around the world today because of their inherent characteristic: stealth.
Stealth allows a submarine to operate undetected, providing unmatched intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. This same characteristic provides unobserved access to so called denied access waters-a capability not provided by any other platform.
Once on station submarines can provide ambiguous presence, seen or not seen, as the situation warrants.
In these second hundred years we will undoubtedly see a further proliferation of submarines with even more advanced capabilities.
This conclusion has been reached over and over again as the world closed out the first hundred years. From my perspective, no other warfighting platform has been studied more than the submarine.
In my country, the 1998 U.S. Defense Science Board study, Submarines of the Future, called the submarine the .. crown jewel in our Nation’s arsenal.”
Many other countries seem to have arrived at similar conclusions and seem to be moving quickly to begin their submarine force or increase their numbers of submarines.
BUT I URGE CAUTION.
A review of our submarine history should help put this in perspective:
- In the last 100 years, there have been more than a hundred peacetime submarine accidents around the world that have resulted in the loss of life.
- These peacetime submarines accidents have taken a heavy toll. More than 2,000 men have given their lives beneath the sea.
Submarining is an inherently dangerous business. Submarines operate in an extremely harsh environment. Casualties that in most cases might be survivable aboard a surface combatant, pose more dire consequences for submarines. The consequences of fire, floodings and even a navigation error are more severe when they occur beneath the sea.
The tragic loss of KURSK is our most recent example, a vivid demonstration of the explosive power of today’s submarine-launched weapons, coupled with the unforgiving nature of undersea operations. The fate of the majority of the crew was decided in only a few seconds. Rescue of those not killed immediately proved a daunting and ultimately unsuccessful task.
Those of us who have operated submarines at sea recognize that we share a common culture. The responsible members of the community are forging ahead into the next century of submarining as a brotherhood sharing a common goal: to improve the safety of tomorrow’s submarines and submarine operations. Many of the countries represented here today are working together to develop a better international submarine rescue program.
Operating submarines safely demands a serious, expensive, lifelong commitment. There are no simple, easy paths that guarantee success. That commitment increases with the number of boats being operated. Simply purchasing a new submarine on the open world market without this commitment is a formula for disaster.
Attempting to acquire a submarine capability without a total commitment to the submarine culture, without establishing the support infrastructure that safe submarining requires, will inevitably lead to tragic accidents in the second hundred years. No one should bead down the path that will contribute to a repeat of the chilling statistics I cited earlier.
Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy in my country, developed principles that speak to the commitment I’m discussing. His principles had to do with nuclear power stewardship, but I would argue that many are equally applicable to submarining in general. These principles have stood the test of time and are still very much a pan of the success of today’s United States Submarine Force.
So what were Rickover’s principles of safe nuclear reactor plant operation that can be applied to safe submarine operations? I will discuss 8 of them:
First, select the best people available. Then train them to operate the equipment under the worst possible conditions and educate them to know everything and do everything necessary, without question, to bring the submarine and her crew home safely before they step foot aboard their first boat.
Then number 2, establish high standards of continuous training and qualification for these handpicked operators. These training and qualification programs must be supported by well-defined standards and must be monitored by a dedicated cadre of experienced seasoned, professionals.
Number 3, demand the highest possible quality and reliability of submarine components and equipment. Implement exacting standards of design and manufacturing, with independent inspections and certifications. Oversee this quality at the point of manufacture.
Number 4, establish centralized control of the submarine systems and components-what we call configuration control. Do not allow quick fixes, easy workarounds, installation of non-conforming components or material, or unauthorized changes to design.
Next, learn from experience-adopt an honest acceptance that mistakes will occur and set up a well-defined system for critique, feedback, and corrective action. In every case document and share the lessons learned.
Number 6, require redundancy in critical systems so that a single point failure does not jeopardize crew safety, survivability of the submarine or mission accomplishment.
Number 7, design a layered defense for safety-design systems to minimize the impact of casualties or accidents; where you can’t eliminate the possibility of a casualty through system design, build in automatic protective features; and always rely on people to take appropriate action when accidents happen.
Number 8, face the facts of each problem or situation, do not let other factors such as costs or schedule lead to accepting questionable actions or to short-cutting established policies. Avoid the human tendency to accept simple easy gimmicks or management techniques as the solution to problems.
Simply put, my point is obvious: Submarine safety can’t be bought.
It involves much more than buying a submarine on the open world market. This is not a so-called tum key operation. It is a complicated undertaking that demands a lifetime-in fact, several lifetimes-of commitment: commitment not just to the bottom line, but to building an infrastructure to support the submarine through quality monitoring and enforcement; to creating a cadre of experts to oversee the design, development, and testing of the submarine and its components; and to train the team of experts who will serve in her and operate and maintain her at sea.
That commitment must involve all levels of government decision-makers. Without the unequivocal support of the Government, indeed the support of the entire nation, I daresay the existence of a safe Submarine Force is not possible.
Our world, now more than ever in the history of the Submarine Force, recognizes the capability that this platform provides-the crucial element of assured access-now and into the future.
However, although the submarine is an increasingly desirable platform for maritime nations of the world, the profession of submarining remains an unforgiving business. one that requires dedication, tenacity, logistical resources, strong technical oversight, an unrelenting commitment to excellence, and the overarching support of our national governments.
During the first 100 years of submarining, nations of the world learned the crucial importance of developing, maintaining, and nurturing a submarine support infrastructure. This lesson-that safe submarining is more-much more than just submarine ownership-has been written in the blood of more than 2,000 submariners worldwide who sacrificed their lives over the last century .