NAVAL SUBMARINE LEAGUE SYMPOSIUM
OCTOBER 31, 2007
Admiral Mies, thank you very much, and to all the members of the Naval Submarine League, thank you for this invitation to speak to you today. As the Commander of Submarine Forces, I want you to know how much the Submarine Force appreciates the support from the Navy Submarine League.
I apologize that I couldn’t be with you in person today. The good news from my perspective is that I won’t have to answer any hard questions after I speak this morning. I will be joining you tomorrow, and I’ll be there at the Submarine Leadership Round Table with Rear Admiral Grooms and Rear Admiral Hilarides.
But today I’m in Millington, Tennessee, at the two-star board, and I just couldn’t arrange my schedule to be there with you.
This is my first time speaking at the annual symposium as the Submarine Force Commander. I did speak years ago as a submarine commanding officer on one of my deployment debriefs, but it is a great pleasure to be with you this morning.
I’d like to provide a status report of the Submarine Force. I’ve been in the job now nine months, and I feel we ‘re making good progress on my three priorities. My first priority is operational excellence. The second priority is developing our people, and the third priority is maintaining the force and modernizing the future force.
Last week the Chief of Naval Operations unveiled the new maritime strategy to over 100 nations at the International Seapower Symposium in Newport, Rhode Island. My three priorities are closely aligned with this new maritime strategy. In fact, the Submarine Force, along with the rest of the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps, was intimately involved with the development of this new strategy.
Why the change?
This new strategy stresses security and prosperity, which are vital interests to the United States. They are increasingly coupled to those of other nations. Our nation’s interests are best served by fostering a peaceful global system comprised of an interdependent network of trade, finance, information, law, people and governments. Seventy percent of the world is covered by water, 80 percent of the world’s population lives on or near the coastline, and over 90 percent of our commerce sails across the oceans. So any disruption of the maritime domain will have a direct impact on the American quality of life.
Preventing wars is an important concept, and as important as winning wars.
Our challenge as a nation is to apply seapower in a manner that protects U.S. vital interests even as it promotes greater international security, stability and trust. Submarines will play a critical role in this new maritime strategy.
We have a head start on the international relationships part that will be needed. We are already working with the Submarine Forces of 27 different nations, representing 224 submarines.
Through operations, exercises, mutual agreements and staff talks with our allies and partners around the globe, we continue to increase our interoperability and strengthen partnerships in the name of the U.S. national security, and to promote economic and political stability that secures the benefits of globalization for all maritime nations.
Another tenet of the maritime strategy is maritime domain awareness. That requires an accurate and timely intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system. It requires an enhanced maritime information sharing network, and the communications to support it. This will require an unprecedented level of integration among our maritime forces, and enhanced cooperation with other instruments of national power, as well as the capabilities of our international partners.
In that light, USS OHIO deployed last week with a new joint collaboration capability called the Small Combatant Joint Command and Control Center, or SCJC2. Additionally, CENTRIX, which is a tool for sharing operational and tactical information with U.S. and coalition maritime forces will be added during the OHIO’s first voyage repair period.
The submarine is the platform that will be called upon to operate in an anti-access environment where other forces can’t go. And of course, strategic deterrence will remain a critical element of our national security.
So we’re already hard at work achieving the operational excellence that will make us essential to the maritime strategy.
Though I’m not able to go into the specifics due to the classification level of this forum, I can tell you we have had a number of successful SSN deployments around the world. That’s due in no small part to sharp commanding officers.You’ II be hearing from one later, Commander Lauren Selby, the former CO of USS GREENVILLE. He’s here to talk to you about what he did with the Advanced SEAL Delivery System on GREENVILLE.
We ‘re also deploying to new areas of the world like the Southeast Atlantic, and other areas in the 5th Fleet where we haven’t gone much before, deploying with new information sharing and intelligence gathering capabilities. USS MONTPELIER is in the final stages of her Pre-Overseas Movement work-ups, and she will soon be deploying with the TRUMAN Battle Group. We’ve equipped her with a high-frequency internet protocol communication system using her floating wire antenna. This will allow her two-way communications beyond the line of sight using HF, both transmit and receive, that will give her an e-mail, chat and electronic file transfer capability with other strike group platforms or aircraft while she ‘s operating at speed and depth. This is our first step- it’s a small step, but a good first step-towards communications at speed and depth, which is so vital as we participate in this new maritime strategy of the future.
We’re also equipping MONTPELIER with an unmanned aerial vehicle called the Buster. We tested the Buster in AUTEC last week, and I have some video I want to share with you here. (Referring to video .. .) This video shows us launching the Buster from the surface. It’s launched basically with bungee cords. Eventually we want to get to a submerged launch. This is Buster cruising at a thousand feet altitude, restricted to that height because of airspace restrictions. She would actually operate a little lower and have higher resolution on the camera.
This is an infrared camera image. In this image black is hot, and the white areas are cold. She’s flying over the AUTEC range complex, and this image is beamed back to MONTPELIER 20 miles away. Here at the bottom of the screen, you can see the power plant with the smoke stacks which are the hot thermal image.
So that’s the capability we hope to prove on her deployment, and then use that in an SSGN deployment in the future.
Speaking of that, SSGN is now a reality. Twelve years ago, the idea was developed to convert the first four of the Ohio Class to SSGNs. After my commanding officer tour I was assigned to the Pentagon and I was one of the briefer that pushed that PowerPoint concept around. Twelve years later, OHIO is on deployment and it was delivered on cost and on schedule. FLORIDA and MICHIGAN will deploy next year, and GEORGIA is nearing the end of her conversion and will return to service in March of next year- A remarkable achievement.
The regional Combatant Commander’s ( COCOM) demand signal for the SSGN is high, and OHIO will initially deploy to the PACOM Area of Responsibility (AOR). As you know, this part of the world is becoming an increasing area of concern and focus for the U.S. Navy. So SSGN is anxiously awaited, and will play an integral role in this new maritime strategy.
I have another video I’d like to show you from SSGN. This is taken of USS FLORIDA during the OP EV AL of her strike warfare assessment, which was done just this last summer.
(Referring to video … ) In this video, you’ll see the hatch opening. This is one of 22 of her large diameter missile tubes, and in that tube is a canister that holds seven Tomahawk missiles. It’s called a MAC, or Multiple All Up Round Canister. This is a picture of a MAC, and you can see the seven Tomahawks. The center tube is being
launched. The tube contains a Block 4 Tomahawk missile, leaving the tube under impulse, and then exiting the tube. Those are cameras, installed for the test, topside-they’ll be removed. There it is transitioning to boost phase and cruise phase as she heads down range. That was one of two block 4 launches, and both were successful.
The Virginia Class submarine is also off to a great start. Due to the high need for deployers, and the unprecedented achievement of the Virginia’s new construction program, we were actually able to deploy VIRGINIA early with great success. Prior to her post-shakedown availability, we sent her down into the SOUTHCOMAOR. Commander Todd Kramer will brief you tomorrow on that deployment and his experiences as the Commanding Officer of the first ship of this newest class of submarine.
We’ve had a lot of success also in reducing the cost of the Virginia Class submarine, attaining what we call two for four in twelve-two submarines for 4 billion dollars in the year 2012. We’re very optimistic that we may actually reach two submarines a year early, in 2011, and we’re waiting for Congress to approve the budget that might make that a reality.
The Virginia Class bow redesign is also a recent development. One of the cost-cutting measures was to reduce or eliminate the sonar sphere and the sonar trunk which connects the sphere to the pressure hull. That enabled us to redesign the entire bow area. Instead of 12 vertical launch Tomahawk tubes in the first two blocks of the Virginia Class, we now will equip that ship with two large diameter tubes the same size diameter as our SSBNs and the SSGN- only 27 feet long. That will enable us great flexibility. We still have the same sonar capability with the conformal array that will be on the skin of the ship in the bow area. But with those large diameter tubes, many of the payloads that we will incorporate in the SSGN will be able to be incorporated in the future Virginia Class submarines. It it gives the force great flexibility for the future.
Rear Admiral Willie Hilarides will provide you more detail on the Virginia Class progress tomorrow. It really is a model for our shipbuilding program in the Navy.
Our SSBN force continues to be a vital part of the Submarine Force. Almost 40 percent of our operating personnel operate on SSBNs. The demand for their service is still very high. I’ve been to both Kings Bay and Bangor recently, and the professionalism of those sailors is eye-watering. I have great confidence in their ability to operate their ships.
Ohio Class ships will, however, begin decommissioning in the year 2027, so planning for the replacement is underway now. The 30-year ship building plan calls for a 2019 construction start date, and if you back that up, that means we must commence design efforts starting in about 2014.
There is a Rand Corporation study recommendation that we begin design of the follow-on sooner than that. It’s actually cost effective to have a more mature design when you start construction. So SECNA V has directed the R&D and capability assessment for the follow-on sea-based strategic deterrent. We’re very excited about that. Now is the time to start, and Rear Admiral Bruce Grooms will speak more on that subject later today.
As you can see, we have a lot of success in my two priority areas of operational excellence and modernizing the future force. We’re having the same success with our people. As Admiral Nimitz said, “Our armament must be adequate to the needs, but our faith is not primarily in these machines of defense but in ourselves.” We’ve revitalized our emphasis on deck-plate leadership, and I think it’s paying off.
We’ve had a 75 percent reduction in traffic fatalities from fiscal year 06. We’re seeing a reduction in illegal drug use among the force, and a reduction in alcohol-related incidents. Now while this is only a modest success, we’ve had 13 crews go more than a year without a single member of the crew getting a DUI. USS ALEXANDRIA has actually gone for three years without any DUIs. We’re sharing the things that these ships are doing right with the rest of the force so we can get every crew benefiting from their lessons.
I think it’s the CPOs leading the way with strong leadership at the deck-plates who are primarily responsible for those successes. We’re making a lot of progress and we’re proud of what we have accomplished, but there are still many challenges ahead.
I have a high-demand and low-density asset. Last year we only met 56 percent of the COCOM demand signal for SSNs. The COCOM demand has actually been on the rise, and I think that trend will continue for the foreseeable future. We have 52 fast-attack submarines, and the force is decreasing at the same time as the requirements are increasing.
Under the current ship-building plan, during the period from 2020 to 2034, we’ll dip below 48 SSNs, which is the number of submarines we need to meet the obligated requirements to the COCOMs. And we’ll reach a minimum of 40 SSNs during that period. So we’re hard at work looking for ways to mitigate that. We’ re transferring six of our SSNs from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet to meet the surge requirements and establish a 60/40 split of SSNs between the Pacific and the Atlantic Fleets. Two for/our in 2012 with the Virginia Class will not be enough. We need to reduce the construction time to 60 months, accelerating boats to the fleet. We need to selectively extend SSN operating lives for the Los Angeles Class. And we need to lengthen the period between the depot avail-abilities for the Virginia Class submarine. We’ll also need to look for a range of affordable and modular payloads that we can put in those large diameter tubes, both on the Virginia Class SSN and the SSGN.
The retention of our sailors and our junior officers is another challenge. Over the past three years, we’ve seen a steady decline in retention rates. We’re making some progress to correct that trend. Retelllion Deep Dives is one way. We’re using teams that are visiting the boats to help improve their retention. Reenlistment bonuses are at the highest levels they’ve ever been, with multiples of l 0 for selected reenlistment, equating to $90,000 reenlistment bonuses for some of our sailors.
Recently, the declining sailor retention trends have been arrested across the board, and we’re currently at or above CNO retention goals across all reenlistment zones. My new Force Master Chief, Master Chief Jeff Garrison, will provide you with more on this later today, and also he’ll talk about the deck-plate leadership that our CPOs are providing, and the difference that’s making.
Now we do continue to struggle a little bit with junior officer retention, and I’m watching that very carefully. What we’re seeing are an unusually large amount of JOs resigning directly from their sea tour vice their follow-on shore duty. I’ve talked to the JOs about that and we’re attacking that problem on a number of fronts. I’ve been listening to what their main disatisfiers are, and we’re working that problem hard.
Diversity is another area in the third priority that I’m working. It’s a high CNO priority and we need to improve the diversity in the Submarine Force, especially among the officer ranks. Our diversity in the enlisted ranks overall is quite good, and actually is a mirror image of our society. But in the officer ranks, we have a ways to go. I’ve established a Force Diversity Officer, Lieutenant Commander Eric Mason. He’s just taken the job, he’s got lots of energy, and he’s been coordinating visits to introduce the Submarine Force to diverse organizations on college campuses across the country.
Recently we talked to students at several universities in California, Georgia and Alabama. We wilt soon be visiting universities in New York. He’s making a lot of progress, and we’re reaching a lot of good potential candidates for the Submarine Force.
Commander Jerry Miranda, Deputy Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Navy Liaison Office, is a submariner, and he’s also a member of the Navy Submarine League. He was recently recognized by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference as a Luminary Honoree representing the top Hispanic professionals in engineering, technology and the science arenas.
So in conclusion I’d like to say that our hard work is paying off, but we still have a lot of hard work left to do. Operational performance is improving every day. The personnel are doing well. And we ‘re making real progress towards a future modern force. While the demand that the new maritime strategy will place on the Submarine Force is great, we have a plan to answer the call. We’re incorporating the latest technologies to make our ships more affordable and more capable at the same time. More importantly, we’re continuing to invest in the thing that has made the Submarine Force the greatest in the world for decades, our people.
Please forgive my absence today, and thank you for allowing me to speak to you virtually from my office at Submarine headquarters here in Norfolk. I look forward to joining you tomorrow, and I’ll be happy to address any questions that you might have during that round table session.
Thank you very much