REMARKS AT NAVAL SUBMARINE LEAGUE SYMPOSIUM OCTOBER 22, 2008
It has been a fairly busy seven days. Last Tuesday night I left and flew to Venice, Italy for a Regional Seapower Symposium of Black Sea and Mediterranean countries. They’ve also expanded into South Africa. We also had Brazil there, so we’re seeing our regional initiatives really take root, take hold and most importantly kind of spread out. We then flew to Maine for the christening of the WAYNE E. MEYER, truly a unique opportunity to christen a ship with the ship’s namesake present. And I can assure you that Wayne is as sharp as ever. It really was a great couple of days up there with him. And then I’ve been flying up north every night for two dinners in Philadelphia and then I was in Boston last night for the 211 ‘h birthday of USS CONSTITUTION. So from last night going from our oldest ship to being with a group of those who represent our newest ships, it really has been a busy week. I got into a little bit of trouble when I had the choice between u romantic weekend with my wife in Venice after the Regional Seapower Symposium or going to sec Wayne Meyer in Bath, Maine. My judgment was called into question on that one.
But I really did want to come out and spend some time with you. Jay Donnelly will know this, that the reason I wanted to is because I love submarines. Some of my brothers and sisters in my community think I’ve gone over to the dark side but I’m proud of that fact and I did want to come and talk to you.
There are some I believe, clearly not in this room, but there arc some who think that submarines are a thing of the past, that they’re Cold War relics that have kind of gone beyond their usefulness. I will tell you that I am not in that camp. As a commander in the Pacific, you rely on submarines more than anything else. To me they were the killer arrow in the quiver that we have. And that’s not to diminish the other capabilities that we have, but a submarine to me gives a Navy commander options and capabilities that don’t exist anywhere else. They arc the most significant threat in my mind to any sea control mission or operation that you may have and for those reasons it is important for us to take them very seriously. And they are also key in my mind-to our maritime strategy.
When I look out and survey the landscape or seascape as I am sure all of you do, as I hope all of you do, my count is that there are about 40 countries that arc operating submarines today and those numbers of submarines are in excess of 350. As I look at projections in the next two decades there are some business projections that say 280 may come onto the world’s stage and they are not, as you well know, bush-league submarines. These are pretty capable boats that we’re going to have to deal with. And there are some countries that don’t like us very much that are looking to either purchase or in some cases produce their own indigenous submarines and for that reason we have to take it extraordinarily seriously.
When I talked about part of our maritime strategy: for me the submarine has always-and because of the fact that we are a nuclear force-it has always been a persistent weapon that we could use. Many in the military and in the defense industry will talk about stealth at great extent, but to me there is nothing that represents the ultimate stealth more than a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine. So that gives us a quality and a capability that is absolutely extraordinary. They can also, as you well know, be used in non-provocative ways so that the submarine really is key to so many parts of our maritime strategy. Whether it’s addressing the capabilities of just being forward, being a deterrent force, controlling the seas, or projecting power, it’s all there to include the added capability that we have of maritime security and the things that we’ve been able to do with our submarines in that regard.
I consider our ballistic missile fleet to be the most survivable dimension of our triad. And so as you talk about deterrence you can not talk about our ballistic missile submarines. And as you all know you’ve ticked over some pretty significant milestones in this past year. A thousand patrols, 124 consecutive launches -successful launches. Pennsylvania just came back from its 60’h patrol and it was the soo•h [patrol] of the Ohio class so time marches on. Talk about sea control, I mentioned the stealth, the speed, agility, it’s just all there. Power projection, used in ways-not just in what I would call the high-end warfare-but because of the way we can tic ourselves together today and the precision of Tomahawk. The submarine also plays a significant role in some of our search parties and operations that we may be called upon to do.
ways-not just in what I would call the high-end warfare-but because of the way we can tic ourselves together today and the precision of Tomahawk. The submarine also plays a significant role in some of our search parties and operations that we may be called upon to do.
I am extremely pleased with the performance that we’ve had with our converted submarines-the new SSGNs-and this week the third of that class begins its first deployment. So again the capability that’s there is being used, and from the reports that I have received back from the first two patrols, I’m extremely pleased with the SSGN.
What’s on my plate as I look to the future and as it applies to the Submarine Force? Virginia class is on all accounts a great boat and I was extremely pleased when we took delivery of NEW HAMP-SHIRE. As I have told every audience in the last couple of weeks that I’ve been speaking to, we took delivery of the ship in August-it was to have been April-and everyone’s immediate reaction is ‘Ah ha! Another late ship.’ Well that was April ’09 so that’s a very good thing. That’s the first time in a long time that we have taken delivery of two submarines in one year with NORTH CAROLINA and NEW HAMPSHIRE. 1 think those are very positive trends. And I would submit that it is a trend that we not only want to keep going in the Submarine Force but also we need to translate that into every other ship class that we’re pursuing.
As we look at the submarine programs I would tell you as I do with all of the ship classes, I believe that it is important that we who are involved with this business, who arc involved in the decision making process of the business, always keep in mind the industrial base and what we are doing with regard to the industrial base. I also believe that we must continue to articulate and make clear to everyone the importance that we place in our responsibilities and the accountability that we have for the nuclear deterrent. I believe that is where our deterrent resides, it resides with the most exacting, the most competent and the most professional force that exists within our Navy and as the CNO, I like that way a lot; that I have a bunch of nuclear submariners taking care of our nuclear dimension.
I am extremely interested and Cecil Haney and I have spent a few sessions already on this in the replacement for the SSBN. It is [incumbent] upon us that we take it very seriously, and I’m very interested in how we move forward with that. So to me that is an area that will continue to become increasingly important as we go forward, not just for us but for our Royal Navy friends.
And another area that you will be hearing from me on in the next couple years in increasing frequency is unmanned underwater vehicles. I believe that we must move aggressively there and I wilt say the same thing about unmanned aerial vehicles as well. My view after having observed now for a couple of years is that our great advance in the unmanned world is hindered more by our culture than it is by technology. And we have to stretch ourselves out and we have to reach ahead and bring the unmanned capability into being in a very, very aggressive way.
The other area that I just wanted to touch on before opening it up to any questions is the area of people. And throughout my time in the Navy, there has never been any doubt in my mind that you lead the most professional and the most competent force that we have ever had. I will also tell you that as the CNO I have taken more submarine patrol debriefs than I have carrier strike group debriefs. There have been more submarine 0-5s who have come in and briefed me than Admirals on deployments because of what you are doing and the information that I can glean from those operations. In every instance when that young submarine CO walks out of my office it just reaffirms the fact of the standards, specialties and competence of the Submarine Force. So paying attention to our people is extraordinarily important to me. And there is no question that at the root of our success is the leadership that’s represented in this room. Jay Donnelly; when he moved to SUB FOR I could not be more pleased with the fact that he was going there and I know he’s going to lead the force in an absolutely extraordinary way.
The areas in which you are devoting the attention of leaders is also key. I touched on the nuclear enterprise already. We cannot take our eye off that mark. It is so important to us, not just on the weapons side but also on our operations of the largest nuclear reactor enterprise in the world, and the professionalism has worn on time and time again and I have the greatest confidence in that.
There’s some things that we’re doing with our force these days that are a little different and have had some effect no doubt on issues such as retention. One of which is the individual augmented program, now has become the GWOT support assignment, but again the leadership of the submarine community has stepped to the fore and the way that it is being done, to me, is allowing us to take advantage of the talent, the competence and leadership of the Submarine Force and to be able to apply that leadership in areas that arc so critical to the fight that we arc engaged in now.
You’ll also hear me talk frequently about diversity. It is not a sound bite as far as I’m concerned. I really believe that we must become a more diverse group of leaders within our Navy. If you muster the entire United States Navy up it looks like America. If you ask the officers to step forward it turns pretty white quickly. And if you ask the senior civilians to step forward it’s the same thing. And if you ask the senior enlisted, command master chiefs and the COBs to stand forward it looks pretty much the same. We have to make sure that we are moving in a way that allows us to not only reflect the demographics of our Nation among our leadership, but I have long believed that you get better solutions when you have many different points of view and that’s the strength of diversity so I continue to press on that.
I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank you for the opportunity to be here, to spend some time with you to take any questions that you have on your minds. I would like to commend those that will be recognized during the course of this conference and Symposium. But also for those who are here, particularly those who are in the uniform of the Navy-particularly those young officers who are wearing the uniform of the Navy and the enlisted that are here that you can take great pride in the Force in which you serve. It is out and about every day. It is off the shore of every continent, every day and there is no force that performs its missions in the professional and competent way that you do and I thank you for that and I thank you for your service.