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SUBS DRAW VARYING VIEWS As Navy Leadership Pushes to Reduce The Fleet, The Head Of Submarine Forces Urges Caution Newport News Daily Press 14 jun 05

Republished here with permission from the Newport News Daily Press of 14, 2005

GROTON, CONN.-The Navy’s top commander of Submarine Forces told a congressional panel Monday that today’s fleet of 54 attack submarines will be needed in future years, contradicting the Navy’s own long-range shipbuilding forecast that calls for shrinking the fleet.

Pressed by lawmakers who are pushing to increase submarine construction, Vice Adm. Charles Munns said a smaller fleet would be problematic because combatant commanders already ask for about 50 percent more daily submarine missions than he can provide.

“My sense is where we are today-54 submarines-is about what we’ll need in the future,” Munns told the House Armed Services subcommittee on projection forces, which held a field hearing at the submarine base here.

That assessment runs counter to the conclusions of a preliminary 30 year shipbuilding plan, issued in March, that calls for gradually reducing the fleet to as few as 41 attack submarines. Congressmen warned the fleet would drop to as few as 30 submarines if the current procurement rate of one boat per year is not increased.

Senior Navy officials have said the high cost of Virginia-class submarines -about $2.5 billion per copy-and the lengthy time required to build a submarine-about six years-may make it impossible to sustain today’s fleet. They have also said new technologies and manning policies-such as rotating crews off and on ships kept deployed overseas-could allow the Navy to maintain global presence with a smaller fleet. But the new assessment by Munns came as music to the ears of Congressmen from shipbuilding states such as Virginia and Connecticut, which faces the possible closure of Submarine Base New London.

“The projection of going down to 30 or 40 submarines is too low and it places too much risk on our sailors and our security,” said Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., who is fighting the closure of his district’s submarine base. “Whoever came up with the lower numbers were not submariners.”

Virginia Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Norfolk, a new member of the subcommittee, said, “Everything I’ve heard leads me to believe we have not made the proper balance in terms of the number of ships.”

Munns, who is based in Norfolk, described a highly capable Submarine Force that is stretched thin by a growing number of intelligence missions around the globe, as part of the war on terrorism.

“What keeps me awake at night is ensuring our ability to keep doing this in the future,” Munns said. “The knowledge we provide of terrorists or of potential enemy capability and intent enables planners to develop more realistic and effective operations plans. It’s no wonder combatant commanders are collectively asking for more and more submarine mission days.”

Any effort to sustain today’s fleet could mean more construction work for Northrop Grumman Newport News and General Dynamics Electric Boat, in Groton-the nation’s only two submarine builders. Avoiding a decline in the fleet would presumably require the Navy to begin buying two submarines a year sooner than planned.

The effort to double submarine procurement has been postponed repeatedly in recent years and now is not slated to begin until at least 2012. It’s not clear how Congress could find billions more dollars to finance submarine construction in the near future, as President Bush seeks to slow the growth of defense spending to reduce the deficit.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., the subcommittee chairman, stopped short of declaring the navy’s long-range submarine plans inadequate. But he made clear his desire for a reassessment that would preserve today’s fleet.

“I think we need a new look at what the Navy needs in the future,” Bartlett told reporters

Simmons, who requested Monday’s hearing to highlight the state of the Submarine Force, said the Chinese submarine fleet will outnumber the U.S. fleet by a margin of 2 to I within five years. “At some point, numbers count,” he said.

But Rear Adm. John Butler, who overseas submarine construction for the Navy, downplayed the Chinese threat. Most of China’s submarines, he said, are smaller, diesel submarines designed for coastal defense. Navy officials also bemoaned the declining state of the shipbuilding industrial base, which they said does not have enough construction and design work to operate efficiently and cost effectively.

For the first time in decades, there is no plan for a new submarine design on the drawing boards.

“In terms of submarine designers, we’re on the precipice of a national disaster,” Butler said. “There are skills that do atrophy and don’t come back.”



lam from Illinois, I am from down state Illinois, a little town called Columbia, a fanning community, where I learned as a child that all the down state tax money goes to Chicago so those people can drive on concrete roads while we drive in dirt and dust. And that is something I will never forget. I should also note, that yes, there is a submarine named USS CHICAGO, a very fine ship, there is also a submarine named USS COLUMBIA. Now we don’t name ships after towns of 5,000 population. But being in the right place at the right time can have benefits. Specifically, the Secretary of Navy at the time I am talking about was Will Ball. I was CNO and I got a package from NA VSEA for proposed ships names for new SSN’s, I didn’t like any of them. So I went next door and said “Will, we have a problem, I am going to send this package back but you ought to see it first. I don’t like any of the names.” He said, “What city would you like to name a ship after?” I said, “I would like to name one after my home town, but its obviously too small.” He said, “Hell, I’m from Columbia, South Carolina, it’s too small too, is there another Columbia?” I said, “Yeah, there’s Columbia, MO.” So we named the USS COLUMBIA after those 3 cities and people from all those cities participated in the launching and are supporting that ship today.

As to why we are really here, I’m here first of all to say “thank you” to the Submarine League for recognizing me as a Distinguished Submariner this evening. When I heard from Bruce De Mars that I was selected I thought it meant that everybody older and senior to me had died off, so it was my turn. He assured me that wasn’t the case and I’ll accept that. I also want to add my congratulations to those people who were the 2005 awardees today. I want to congratulate you because you epitomize what’s the best of the Submarine Force and we are proud of you.

Those of you sitting in the immediate vicinity of the table I was at with Admiral DeMars, Admiral Reynolds and Dr. Stanford could have heard a little hub-bub back there, and it was about how long I am going to speak. It ranged from Pauline’s 4 minutes to any time you want. 1 like the latter, so 1 am going to take off my watch and put it in front of me. Now Pauline is going to think, “Aha, he got the message.” You’re going to think I am speaking for a finite period of time but I may or may not look at the watch.

I am going to do several things tonight. Initially, I had reveled in the thought, when asked to be the Distinguished Submariner, that I was going to have a nice free evening, a good dinner, be among friends and listen to someone who had something worthwhile to say. Then Bruce called me back and said “Oh, by the way we decided you’re going to be the speaker”. So that dream went out the window.

I am going to give you some thoughts on a few things that are on my mind; one of them being the proposed closure of the New London Submarine Base. 1 have heard from many of you on the topic, I have given my views to several, I’ll give my views to all of you. It is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. If one were interested in eliminating any aspect of our Naval posture, he would start by eliminating the Center of Excellence for that particular specialty. That is what New London represents to us, it is our historical home, but it is also the Center of Excellence. It is where we train officer and enlisted submariners in basic submarining. It’s where we have all the schools for all the specialities that we require to support our Submarine Force. It is the heart of the system.

We can move schools; we’ve moved nuclear power school 3 times and it costs a lot of money. Sometimes we move for the wrong reasons. This time we are certainly talking about moving for the wrong reasons. I’m told Kings Bay is a big place and we can support things down there. In one of the briefings today we had an overhead view of Kings Bay; lo and behold, it hasn’t changed a single bit since I was CNO and was down there quite frequently. There are still no piers there to support SSN’s, no fMA facility to support SSN’s, there is no master welder from EB ready to come up to the IMA, if it’s still called that, to support the submarines that are there. So does it make sense, I think not. Should it be reversed, I think so. Would I speak out against this closure, I have and I would. I think it is a dumb idea. Guy Reynolds talked about being politically correct, 1 never have been noted for that particular trait. It is politically incorrect to say that decisions made by responsible people are stupid, so I won’t do that, although I think I did before. I’ll just say that the people who proposed that closure to the BRAC committee are ill-advised.

I’d like to talk about a couple of other things, if the Submarine Force were a group of units and people who weren’t needed for the future it might make sense to close New London and every other sub base. But we have a long and proud history of service to the country that proves the need. We recognize, in this room, people who were WWII submarine heroes. Who were part of that very brave group who carried the battle after Pearl Harbor to the enemy controlled areas of the Pacific, when they were the only forces available to do so. They performed well and honorably. One here this evening is Mike Rind skopf, my hero; because of Mike I learned the trade at Submarine School. This guy was known as a walking TDC because he saw in his mind what the answer was the TDC was going to tell us neophytes. I think back on those people, and I think back on my career and what most of you have done. We’ve been part of the Cold War Submarine Force. For many years what we did and what we were about wasn’t well known; we certainly didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t really until Blind Man’s Bluff (which is at least 85% accurate-you figure out which 85%), brought to public attention a Jot of what the Submarine Force was doing. We all know about the role of our strategic deterrent forces, Polaris, Poseidon, Trident, C4 and D5, and the role they play. I know of the importance of the Submarine Force as an aspect of our strength which led to the end of the Cold War.

Many of you have heard me talk about the visit of Marshal Akhromeyev in 1987. Marshal Akhromeyev was the senior officer in the military of the Soviet Union. He was a hero in the Soviet Army in World War II. He was a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Soviet Union and it’s aims. He came to this country in 1987 for a one week visit as a guest of Admiral Bill Crowe, a submariner who was our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marshall Akamayov, at the outside of his visit, was invited to visit with the Joint Chiefs in the tank, the briefing room that we used, and he had asked to give his position on the Cold War and why the Soviet Union had the posture it had vis a vis the United States. We were the avowed enemy. He started off with a briefing chart, probably a meter in diameter, of the Soviet Union. Mother Russia was right in the middle surrounded by the enemy. The enemy was represented by symbols. In the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the North Sea around the Barents there were US SSBN symbols; land based symbols in Europe, all pointed at Mother Russia. Then he said “Here are your P3’s, there were P3 symbols all over the place, that is how I !mow where my submarines are.” Then he said, “I don’t !mow where your submarines are, because we cannot detect them,” then he pointed to me, sitting about 6 feet away saying, “you and your damn submarines are the problem. You ‘re the problem to peace.” Well, I took that with a smile. That evening Pauline and I went to Admiral Bill Crowe’s quarters to a reception for Marshal Akhromeyev. He was standing next to the host as I came in. As I greeted him, I was wearing my blues, he thumped me again right on my dolphins and said “You’re the problem”. I was very proud of that and we should all be very proud of that.

What all of that says is we were doing our jobs. We were doing it extremely well and we were an instrumental group in bringing about the demise of the Soviet Union as the world’s other major military power. It’s something we shouldn’t forget and we shouldn’t let people forget the role that today’s submarines play.

I’ve heard all the arguments: Some say submarines are too expensive. You ‘re damn right they are. When we decide we are going to maintain two building yards, which I have no problem with, and we are going to build one submarine a year, that submarine is going to be expensive because you ‘re carrying the overhead for a major portion of Newport News and all of EB. So, it’s expensive. What’s the product? The product is the Virginia class, which is starting to come in, the SSN 2 ls which are doing superbly, and JIMMY CARTER, just introduced to the fleet. I agree with Guy Reynolds, it is the finest submarine and the most complex submarine ever built. More importantly, going back for a minute to New London. New London sits just up the river from Electric Boat. One of our two major submarine builders, which is still the prime submarine design agency in the world. Do we want to give up the synergy that exists there and with Newport News as the second builders of submarines. I think not, I don’t think the country can afford it.

I have a lot of thoughts on where we should go and what we should do, they are of a length greater than I want to talk tonight. What I want to talk a little bit about is Distinguished Submariners. We have recognized Distinguished Submariners in this forum for a number of years. And they are indeed people who have distinguished themselves in the service of submarines, in the service of our country and the Navy. To me, anybody who goes to sea in a submarine, or has gone to sea in a submarine is a Distinguished Submariner. I really mean that about all of you. I would also add to that category the wives and sweethearts who support us.

Now I want to shift gears for a minute and talk about the Submarine Force. I had a civilian friend approach me after SAN FRANCISCO hit that sea mountain or the bottom. Whatever it was, it was almost disastrous. It was certainly destructive, causing the death of a young man. It was an event that was saved by a very trained and dedicated and hard working crew. That they brought that ship back to Guam to me is an absolute miracle. But they epitomize what we have come to expect of our submariners. This gentleman said “You know, I read about this SAN FRANCISCO thing and I saw pictures of the damage and by God you people in submarines must be crazy.” I said “Yes, in a sense we are,” I said “You know, we take out perfectly good ships and we sink them intentionally. But we have enough confidence in the people who build them, the people who maintain them and our very well trained and dedicated crews and in our ability to combat any casualty that we feel that whenever we want to come up we’ll come up. If we didn’t have that philosophy we would be crazy.” I said, I recall when I got to basic submarine school they gave us a battery of psychiatric tests, I believe they were called. They were silly things where you look at charts and tell people what you see and the guy says, “Oh you didn’t see that, you’re thinking about something else.” But at the time, all of us neophytes about to be submariners said to ourselves, gee, they are looking for people who are completely normal. Well, I learned subsequently, that there is nothing normal about going to sea, sinking a ship, and living in a steel tube with a bunch of people for extended periods of time under conditions that most of us wouldn’t tolerate in our homes. I accept that we are all abnormal, that we are all shipmates and know that the epitomy of being shipmates really is, trust in your fellow crewman, trust in your shipmate. That is why, to me, you guys are all Distinguished Submariners.

One other thing I’d like to do is pay tribute to a few people. You ask yourself when you are selected for an honor like this, how did I get here? Well, I worked, I was proud to be a submariner, but I thought back on it. My introduction to the Submarine Force was as a first class midshipman when, now retired Vice Admiral Lando Zech, was my company officer at the Naval Academy. Lando was a submariner, he was a dedicated professional, he inspired all of us with his honesty and his integrity and he was a true submariner. 1 think directly as a result of his being the walking, talking epitomy of leadership by example, half of the 39 of us who graduated in my company that year went into submarines. That’s influence, that is influence by being positive. Lando and I have been lifelong friends ever since, and I treasure that friendship because he was a mentor for many years.

My first and third submarine CO’s, my first two submarines, was one guy, retired Vice Admiral Shannon Cramer. Shannon’s the guy who qualified me in submarines; he taught me the real value of leadership. When you worked for Shannon, you didn’t work to satisfy yourself, you worked to not let the skipper down. That, to me, was an interesting example, his comment used to be.fortune favors the bold, what does that mean? The first time I surfaced the ship out in the Virginia capes op areas at the end of the week, he said I want you to give two orders, the first order is to answer bells on 4 engines and the next order is all ahead full. And you better be headed for home and we did that religiously. We never had a failure of any one of those 4 diesels in SIRAGO, they ran like jewels all the time and we headed home. We had one problem in that run to the base. The CO of SEA LEOPARD was named Bob Long, a classmate from the Naval Academy of Shannon Cramer, and they were competitors. They were both thorough professionals. Bob Long ended up being my at-sea qualifications officer, so I had even greater respect for him eventually. However, I learned that when we were out there operating together the goal was to beat Bob Long into port so that we got a choice berth. And when you didn’t, you didn’t do very well as far as Shannon Cramer was concerned. Bob Long was accused by many of us, God bless his soul -he died a few years ago, of using subterfuge. They had a third classmate who was the Operations Officer of Squadron Six. Bob used to arrange with this guy for a certain berth at a certain time, which he knew he couldn’t make but he had that berth reserve; it wasn’t kosher, but he did it. That used to really tick Shannon off. We came in one time that I had the deck, and as I was making my left tum into the pier,

we were told we were going to moor outboard of SEA LEOPARD, not alongside the pier. This was not because he had beaten us in, he was behind us and he was given the berth assignment from behind us to pass us and go in there first. Well, the fuming skipper said, “I’ve got the deck.” His next command was “ahead full”, and I said “Captain, we’ve got four engines on the line” He said “Ahead full Goddammit” and we charged in and then he said “all back full” and left the bridge. When I looked again, he was down on the forward deck and number one line went over. I got the ship stopped, his “back full” did help. He leaped across about 6 feet of open water onto the deck of SEA LEOPARD shaking his head saying, “Goddammit Bob, you did it again.” That to me instilled the fun in submarines, it made life worthwhile. And finally, I would have to say I consider both of those gentleman Distinguished Submariners.

And if I looked at the third big influence, of which I have lots of memories, it was the acquaintanceship, and I use that word, with Admiral Rickover, which many of you have had. My first observation of Admiral Rickover was my first interview. I was a JG, I was Qualified in Submarines, I had 18 months aboard SIRAGO, and it was an event to remember. Pauline’s parents lived in the Washington area so she came up with me when I came for my interview. I went over to the Old Navy Building, and like all of us, I had no idea of what to expect. We had all the preliminary interviews with the Rickover henchmen who found out everything about us they possibly could and I’m sure they told him everything about it before we ever got in there, and as a matter of fact, that was obvious. I was once asked if he did really have that chair with the sawed off front legs. I can tell you I didn’t focus on that one bit, if he did I didn’t notice it. It was totally out of my league. He started off with “Why didn’t you do better at the Naval Academy?” I said “Well, Admiral I studied as hard as I felt I had to.” “You could have done better.” He then said “What else did you do?” “Well I sailed, I played soccer, I played tennis” “Why did you do that? What is the value of that?” I said “Well the idea of the Naval Academy is to make people well rounded.” “Doesn’t help you one bit.” he said, “You should have been reading books.” I said “I did read books” he said “tell me which ones you read.” well I drew a total blank, so I said “believe me Admiral, I’ve read a lot of books.” So about that time he said, “I guess you think your pretty smart.” I said, “No, not especially” “I’ll bet you think you stood higher than I did at the Naval Academy.” I thought about that for a minute and thought well you sure as hell didn’t beat me so I said, “Yes sir.” He said “Get out of here” and I left. After cooling my heels for another 3 or 4 hours we were finally dismissed. I went home that evening, about 7:00 p.m. I sat down to dinner with Pauline and her parents and said “We are going home tomorrow as soon as I check in and they kick me out because I didn’t make it.” I went in the next day and sat there until about 1600 on Saturday when they finally told us who had and had not made it, and I was selected to my astonishment. That was my start with Admiral Rickover.

Then I listened to Shannon Cramer as PCO of SWORDFISH deal with Admiral Rickover. We were on a living barge while the ship was still being built. He got phone calls from Admiral Rickover, sometimes he took them, sometimes he didn’t. I thought, gee, this is kind of odd, we don’t do that. One day, the yeoman said, “Captain, Admiral Rickover is on the phone.” The Captain picked up the phone and all of a sudden he slammed it down. I thought, gee, he must have been disconnected. The phone rang again 30 seconds later. The yeoman said, “Admiral Rickover is on the phone, he doesn’t want you to hang up.” So Shannon picked up the phone and I heard him say, “Yes sir, Yes sir, and if you talk to me like that again Admiral, I’ll hang up again.” I thought, well there is a way of getting along with the good Admiral, but I didn’t have the guts or stature to try it.

Later on, I went to PCO school, his 13 week PCO course, which was very, very valuable, very worthwhile before going to command of the SAM RA YB URN. As luck would have it, I had two XO tours because I had to learn how to do it. Then I went to Washington for three years. When I reported in to be PCO of the SAM RA YB URN I suddenly found myself the senior PCO of the 13 Submarine PCO’s in the shop at the time. Which meant whenever something went wrong or he had a lesson to transmit he would call me in and he would chew me out for whatever went wrong on whatever ship. Then he would say “Do you understand it?” If I said “Yes sir,” he would say “Now you get those guys together and you tell them what I mean. They don’t understand it when I am talking to them, you tell them what I mean.” So I played that role for 13 weeks.

I also had an opportunity as one of the PCO’s to go in with the young guys getting interviewed, young college students and midshipmen. That was an experience in itself. Let me tell you of two particular incidents, one was a young man from Notre Dame, a senior who was going to graduate with two degrees. A degree in nuclear physics and a degree in reactor engineering. We walked in together and Rickover said to him “Do you know that I select some of the best candidates to serve here as engineers on my staff?” The young fellow said, “No sir, I didn’t know that” He said “Well, I have selected you to be one of those engineers, that is quite a feather in your cap.” The guy listened to him for a minute and said “No sir, I don’t want to do that” I thought oops. Rickover said “What do you want to do?” He said, “Sir I want to be a submariner, I want to be a submarine officer.” Rickover said, “Don’t you understand the opportunity I’m offering you?” “Yes sir, I do, but I don’t want it.” He turns to me and said “Trost, take this kid out and talk some sense into him.” So I went out with him and we were back on deck in 2 hours, I talked to the young fellow and I said “Are you really sure you want to tum this down because he may just not accept you for the program at all.” he said “I’m willing to take my chances.” We went over and over and over that, he said “I’m willing to take my chances,” he said “What do you think I ought to do?” and then I made my first big mistake “I said, if I were you, I would stick to my guns.” So we went back inside, the good Admiral said, “Trost did you talk to him?” I said “Yes sir, I talked to him” he turns to the kid and said “What did he say?” the response “He told me to stick to my guns.” So we both got kicked out.

I found out it wasn’t all death and determination. When I was promoted to Rear Admiral in Secretary Warner’s office I was serving as his EA at the time. Pauline pinned on one of my shoulder boards and Admiral Rickover came over and pinned on the other one. I figured, I have arrived, and our relationship from that point on was much better. Those are just some of the reminiscences I wanted to share with you, I want you to know that I am honored to have been selected for this particular honor this evening, I’m proud to be a submariner and I salute you all. God Bless You.

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