Good morning; it’s great to be here with the Naval Submarine League, a great advocate of the United States submarine community. Last night I watched the President’s State of the Union Address. The question is: am I disappointed? The answer is: yes, because I was waiting for him to say “two submarines per year.”
I have always been proud as a Connecticut state representative, and as a Member of Congress, to represent Groton-New London, the Submarine Capital of the World! For us, it’s more than a name; it’s more than a title. It’s our history and our culture. It goes back to the days of the Revolutionary War, when General Washington authorized a Connecticut resident from Old Saybrook to design and build a subsurface vessel. The world’s first submarine, TURTLE, engaged in operations against enemy British forces in New York harbor by trying to affix an explosive device onto one of Admiral Howe’s ships. The attack did not work perfectly-but it did encourage Howe to move his fleet away from an anchorage near Manhattan; so, in that regard, it was a success. It was also one example of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy working together. That’s because, when TURTLE was designed and built, no self-respecting mariner would attempt to operate it, so they had to get an Army sergeant.
Today, we’re in trouble. I would have said six months ago we were in trouble because Naval Submarine Base New London was on the Base Realignment and Closure list. For the life of me, I could not understand why people over on the other side of the Potomac River would place Sub Base New London on the BRAC list. It’s the heart and soul of what we do in Southeastern Connecticut. It’s the heart and soul of a center of excellence, which has existed in that part of the country along the Thames River for over half a century. Yet, it was on the BRAC list; and with a great deal of effort and with the assistance of some of the people in this room we were able to take it off the list, and were able to breath a sigh of relief. We were able to sustain and maintain the synergy that exists between that base, and the design and construction force at the Electric Boat Corporation, and some of the academic excellence that we have in that area, and some of the ocean surveying excellence that we have, such as Robert Ballard, who heads the Center for Exploration in Mystic. So, that whole center seemed to be preserved and protected into the future. But as I speak here today, Electric Boat has issued layoff notices to over a hundred designers employed at Electric Boat-almost two-hundred pink slips on average. I can’t tell you how much that concerns me. I know it concerns John Casey and others in this room.
This goes beyond a simple pink slip or a simple layoff notice at an industrial facility. We are laying-off the design force. We are laying-off people who are critically important to the future of our subsurface capabilities and our subsurface dominance. We are laying-off people who Admiral Rickover referred to in June 1968, when he testified before the Joint Atomic Energy Committee about a submarine program cut that would cause about 25 percent of the design force at Electric Boat to be laid-off: “As you know, there is a great scarcity of submarine design personnel in this country. The effect on our submarine design capability is obvious … Of course, we shouldn’t build [submarines] just to keep people busy. However, these designers are the scarcest class of personnel in ship design in the United States. Our big problem … is that we don’t have enough qualified submarine design people.” That was Admiral Rickover in June, 1968.
Later in July of the same year, at a similar hearing before the Joint Atomic Energy Committee, Admiral Moorer: “In the Navy we have this problem because there is no commercial use for submarines. Consequently, unless the Navy builds submarines, those people who are capable of doing so then seek some other type of employment. If the amount of design work that was being done was significantly reduced, then these talented personnel would be dissipated throughout American industry and it would be very difficult to call them back together.”
Admiral Rickover: “You talk about a faucet and, of course, you don’t tum these programs on and off like faucets even though this is the theory of the cost-effectiveness people.”
Surely there are no cost effectiveness people in here. I certainly hope there are no cost effectiveness people in this room.
The message of Admiral Rickover should resonate with us here today. What are we doing to ourselves? What are we doing to our capability to design and develop for the future? Why is it that for the first time in half a century we don’t have a new design on the board or coming down the pike? Why is it that the MDA, the Marine Draftsman Association, with 1, 700 people at Electric Boat, which is substantially lower than it was 15 or 30 years ago, is being laid off! Is it because there is no threat? Is it because the Chinese aren’t building submarines as fast as they can-nuclear and diesel? Is it because the Russian industrial line has gone cold? It hasn’t. They’re designing and building right now. The Chinese are deploying right now. We’ve got a serious problem here. And it goes far, far beyond the parochial problem of one Congressman in one district, in one state in New England. It goes to the issue of future generations losing the subsurface dominance that we take for granted-just the way we take for granted our control of the airspace. When you lose it, you don’t get it back.
Now, some say that, “well, you know, we can work on multi-mission modules, and do some unmanned undersea vehicles, and we can work on some mini-subs, and this will keep people kind of around the design table for the next couple of years until we need to tum the faucet back on.” That doesn’t cut it. It’s not going to solve the problem. What is going to solve the problem is two submarines per year. Two per year has to be the focus. Two per year is going to allow us to sustain these critical workers. Two per year is going to allow us to sustain the total force, which Admiral Charles Munns properly testified before our subcommittee should be around 54. Two per year allows industry to reduce the prices and stabilize the prices at $2 billion a copy.
Two per year is cost effective and cost effectiveness is important-but it is not absolutely important. What is absolutely important is maintaining our capabilities. What is absolutely important is bringing on the next line, whatever it may be; the next set of systems; the next design, whatever it may be. What is absolutely important is that the United States does not lose its subsurface dominance in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile; in a world where subsurface systems are proliferated; and in a world where China wants to regain its dominance.
How many people in the room have read I 42 /? Not enough. 1421: The Year That China Discovered the World. A lot of people say that “the Chinese don’t have a maritime tradition”; “they don’t have a real interest in projecting power beyond their littorals and their shoreline.” Well, read 142 /; because in 1421 they built and deployed a navy that was the largest fleet in the history of the world, and that was not matched, really, until the D-Day landing. 4,000 ships it had, the largest of which could have put the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria on its deck with plenty of room to spare. China has that tradition; they have that history; it’s part of their culture, and they are looking to get it back. If we are not aware of that, and if we are not listening to that, and if we are not watching that, then we are making a huge, huge mistake.
I lived in Taiwan for three years. I speak Chinese. I’ve studied the culture. We are going to have to deal with it. People tell me, “well, you know, our systems are much more sophisticated, much more capable; they just do a hell of a lot better.” That’s true one-on-one. Let me ask you this: if you’ve got the best heavy-weight boxer in the world, and you put him up against a middle-weight or a light-weight, he’s going to win. But, what if you take the best heavy-weight boxer in the world and put him in the ring with two light-weights and a medium-weight. Then, what’s going to happen? Is he going to win? I don’t think so, because numbers count. Numbers are important.
If we are letting our numbers slide, and we are letting our design force go, and we are turning off the faucet to be cost effective, what are you going to tell the young man who is signing up for the Submarine Force over the next five years? What are you going to tell him? Good luck? That is not a responsible thing to do.
That is why I have joined with my colleague, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, to form the Congressional Submarine Caucus. We decided to form it in December, after we heard about the layoff notices. By the way, those layoff notices hit us all; they hit every-body in this room. Jim and I agreed to form the caucus, and with virtually no publicity other than word of mouth we have 15 mem-bers. It will pattern some of the activities we’ve done in the Ship-building Caucus, which we started some time ago and now have 99 Members of Congress. We will systematically identify those districts around the country that have substantial research and development or manufacturing capability that goes into our subsurface fleet, and we will recruit them into the caucus. And we are going to make a major effort to get to two per year and we are going to do it in the coming year. We want advanced procurement in this coming year. And we are going to talk about the loss of designers, the impacts on the industry, and the future of our Navy. The health of the total Submarine Force is a critical issue. It’s not an issue for Republicans, for Democrats; it’s not an issue for senators or representatives. It’s an issue for us, as Americans. If we let the cost-effectiveness people rule the day, we may end up like the British. They lost their designers. Unlike us, they are unable to bring a new system from computer-assisted drawings to salt water tests in five years. They are unable to do it. We sent our people over there to assist them after they let that capability slide.
My final question to you all here today is: what happens when we lose that capability, and we can no longer do what we have been doing for half a century-and taking for granted for half a century? When it’s gone, who do we go to for help? China? Russia? Think about it.
Thank you all very much, and God bless you.