NAVAL SUBMARINE LEAGUE SYMPOSIUM OCTOBER 22, 2008
Good Afternoon fellow submariners, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am honored to speak to you today at this 26th annual meeting of the Naval Submarine League. To stand before such a renowned group of retired submariners is truly a humbling experience for me. It’s great to see so many familiar faces, some of whom had the difficult task of mentoring yours truly over the years! I thank each one of you for your steadfast, distinguished service and continued devotion to the defense of this great nation.
For the last 26 years the Naval Submarine League has been a vital part of our Submarine Force. The support provided by this great organization in raising awareness of our submarines’ importance to U.S. national security is INVALUABLE in today’s marketplace of idea.
Your voices and your support now about 3500 strong, help to drive the Submarine Force message home to our Navy, our public, our Nation, and our elected officials.
You not only support us with your voices in the public sphere, but also by your support of our Sailors, through the presentation of more than I 00 performance-based awards each year, some of which we will sec presented at this Symposium. I can tell you that this positive reinforcement benefits recruiting, retention, and morale force-wide, and I thank you all for that.
I like to focus my remarks today on the terrific contribution our Submarine Force is making in support of Global Maritime Operations. In doing so, I hope to stimulate discussion that will help us to benefit from the collective wisdom assembled here today. The ealth of knowledge and experience in this room is staggering, and should make for some lively discussions over the next couple days.
We deter, and if deterrence fails we win our Nations wars. SSBN Force patrolling at sea ensures our nation and our allies arc provided with a protective umbrella. Submarine presence means access. Our worldwide operations mean no safe havens for enemies.
We provide credible combat power, organizing, training and equipping our submariners to fight each and every day.
We keep the homeland safe by deploying and pressuring potential allies far from our shores. When called on, we deliver proven combat power to fleet war fighters.
We work with our allies to improve interoperability and develop their capacity.
The title of my brief, “Dominating across the globe-deterring, protecting, engaging” speaks to the actions of the Submarine Force each and every day around the world. We are a global force that never takes a day off. We know we are a necessary but not sufficient clement of the nation’s maritime strategy.
We value the contribution of joint and allied partners. Make no mistake, even though we are the world preeminent maritime force, no single nation can “protect the maritime domain, ensure global prosperity, and address transnational threats to peace.”
et me begin with the bottom line up front: The Submarine Force, like the entire United States Navy, is committed to global security and prosperity. To this end we remain forward deployed and well positioned to dominate any threat and decisively defeat any adversary.
Our force is manned by the best trained and equipped mariners in the history of the world. We are fully engaged each and every day through committed relationships with our allies as together we work to strengthen our current partnerships and engage future partners to build steadfast relationships that advance global maritime security and our common national interests.
Today our force and our Nation faces a broad array of challenges.
To cover just a few:
The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high intensity conflicts against high-tech adversaries which China refers to as “local wars under conditions of informatization.” China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance, at present, remains limited but, as noted in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, it “has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages.
China’s near-term focus on preparing for military contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, including the possibility of U.S. intervention, appears to be an important driver of its modernization plans. However, analysis of China’s military acquisitions and strategic thinking suggests Beijing is also generating capabilities for other regional contingencies, such as conflict over resources or territory.
The pace and scope of China’s military transformation has increased in recent years, fueled by continued high rates of investment in its domestic defense and science technology industries, acquisition of advanced foreign weapons, and far reaching reforms of the armed forces. The expanding military capabilities of China’s armed forces arc a major factor in changing East Asian military balances; improvements in China’s strategic capabilities have ramifications far beyond the Asia Pacific region.
North Korea and Iran both possess a potentially toxic mixture of ballistic missile technology and desired or actual nuclear weapons capability which has the potential to threaten the United States and our allies.
Afghanistan and the federally administered tribal area of western Pakistan with its terrain, poverty and tragic history promises to prolong the worldwide irregular conflict dubbed the Global War on Terror which our Nation’s military and our Submarine Force confronts each day .
Today our Navy faces a more complex and unpredictable world than what many of us faced in the Cold War. These threats of potential peer competitors and our desire to shape their outlook drive our global naval and Submarine Force posture.
Your Submarine Force is fully invested m providing presence-presence which is fully supported and requested by geographic combatant commanders across the globe.
This year we added SSGN to the deployed mix. Today, USS OHIO and USS FLORIDA arc deployed to the PACOM and CENTCOM Areas of Responsibility. SSGN’s proven capability is providing joint war fighters with flexibility, endurance, payload, and naval special warfare effects needed to dominate from the sea.
We are also continuing to call on Atlantic Fleet submarines to deploy to the Pacific as demonstrated by USS PROVIDENCE’s operations today in the SEVENTH FLEET area of responsibility.
This year for the first time since reestablishing Guam as a homeport for three forward deployed submarines each submarine completed deployed operations in support of PACOM objectives.
USS ALBUQUERQUE, who deploys early next year from her current homeport of Groton, Connecticut for an around the world cruise and ultimately her new homeport-San Diego-will join USS HAW All, the Pacific Fleet’s first VA class submarine-as we continue progress toward a 60/40 PAC/LANT split of our Subma· rine Force.
Equally important to delivering on the promise to deter is a credible and scalable ability to retaliate against aggressors with our sea based strategic nuclear capability-this deterrence is provided each and every day by our strategic ballistic missile submarines and their crews.
From our Trident submarine bases in Bangor, Washington and Kings Bay, Georgia we provide our nation and our allies with the confidence that we are ready. The backbone of the Nation’s survivable nuclear deterrent will continue to be provided by our Submarine Force.
To quote former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger who heads the task force on nuclear weapons management:
“The nuclear deterrent role today is quite different, and it is much more circumscribed than it was in the days of the Cold War. However, it is no less important. One needs to be aware that the United States holds a nuclear umbrella over the other NATO nations, over our allies in the Western Pacific, as well as Australia and New Zealand, some 30-odd nations which depend upon the U.S. nuclear umbrella. And the confidence that they have in that umbrella will determine whether or not they themselves may seek to acquire nuclear weapons.
In the wake of concerns for nuclear weapons management, triggered by the Donald Report the entire strategic nuclear enter-prise is being examined. While there will likely be recommendations that require Dept of Navy action, I can assure you, today our strategic ballistic missile submarines provide national decision makers with the confidence and the means to decisively influence potential adversary decision makers.
Our fully modern force is postured to respond subject to firm command and control procedures, while conducting fully survivable and secure operations from sea bases in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The credibility and survivability upon which this deterrence rests is dependent upon the terrific Sailors that man these subma-rines and their proven record of performance which includes 124 consecutive test missile launches and over 3800 successful SSBN patrols since 1960. They are also receiving superb day-to-day support from the outstanding shore based organizations that provide technical oversight, training and equipment which supports this important mission.
Defense Secretary Gates has stated that:
“Nuclear weapons will continue to be required for the foreseeable future. The future security environment is very uncertain, and some trends are not favorable. The future direction that any number of states may take, including some established nuclear powers with aggressive nuclear force modernization programs, could have a dramatic effect on U.S. security and the security of our allies.
And recently, Commander, US Strategic Command signaled CNO that “Sea based strategic deterrence is essential to deter future adversaries from aggression against the United States” and urged the Navy to begin planning for the replacement of the OHIO class SSBNs and the Trident strategic weapons system which will be retired beginning in 2027.
In summary, we cannot afford to fail at strategic deterrence, and we won’t. Critical to the success of this deterrent is it’s survivability, which is itself dependant upon stealth. Stealth is essentially an as-built condition of a submarine, so it is essential that the level of stealth for our next generation SSBN be appropriate to counter all foreseeable threats over it’s platform life which will extend well into the rest of this century.
While our strategic nuclear forces provide an important hedge against potential competitors our deployed submarines play an equally important role in shaping the decision making calculus of potential adversaries.
As I mentioned earlier, China has been and continues to be a focus for U.S. Naval forces operating in the Western Pacific.
Having given you an appreciation for geopolitical threats faced by our nation and the posture of our naval forces around the globe I’d like to spend time focusing on the global maritime challenge we face in some of the regions of the world where our submarines are operating today. Let me start with the challenge I am most familiar with-China.
n the last 8 years the PLA(N) has shifted from a Submarine Force dominated by I 960’s technology consisting of MING, ROMEO and HAN submarines to a newer more modem force of SONG, YUAN, SHANG, KIL0(4B) and JIN submarines. Almost all of them produced indigenously with ever increasing capability.
And it’s not just the platform we should be focused on either. The newer submarines come equipped with anti-access weapons like the YU-6 wake homing torpedo, the SS-N-278 anti-ship cruise missile, and in the case of the JIN, the PLA(N) is developing the JL-2 sea-based ballistic missile with an assessed range of nearly 5000 NM.
For these modern platforms, China has also developed state of the art shore based facilities like the facility on Hainan island in the South China Sea. China recognizes to be relevant, they must be regionally concentrated with credible combat power that can be projected across the Pacific maritime environment-not just a force relegated to operations inside the first island chain.
While the expansive nature of the Pacific theater does provide a challenge to U.S. naval forces, it also provides an opportunity as long as we can maintain access to the ports we operate from in the Pacific AOR.
An essential clement of our naval presence in the region is forward deployed Submarine Forces that are manned, equipped and most importantly trained to meet the maritime challenge that confronts the entire region. Today, our deployed submarines from both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets are meeting the challenge and doing so while conducting port visits in over 10 separate locations and one submarine homeport -Guam. Our Sailors are welcome around the Pacific Rim. They understand the axiom “liberty is mission” and commonly engage in community relations projects that leave a lasting favorable impression of our Navy and our Submarine Force with the countries and people in the ports they visit.
Our forward presence is also helping shape the perception of allies and potential peer competitors too. W c provide credible combat power continuously with forward deployed maritime forces to protect our vital interests, assure friends and allies or our continuing commitment to regional security, and deter and dissuade potential adversaries and peer competitors.
Our presence plays several key roles in the region. First it supports operations that allow us to walk the battlefield so that if conflict occurs, our submarines have already developed the environmental and operations understanding and experience to quickly engage in combat operations. Second, exercises with key regional allies that demonstrate and further develop U.S. and allied capability, integration and interoperability, which then form the cornerstone of effective theater security cooperation.
SSGN’s maiden voyage to the Seventh and Fifth Fleets has been noticed too and the flexibility she brings to naval special warfare operations and global force management of tomahawk missiles is in play every single day.
Finally, the promise of three SSNs homeported in Guam has been realized and HOUSTON, CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI and BUFFALO are leading the way.
We are well-positioned to anticipate and lead the United States Navy as we adjust to the changing nature of Maritime Operations in the Western Pacific.
I’ve already mentioned SSGN and the role this transformational platform is playing in the Fifth and Seventh Fleets; let’s spend a few moments highlighting some of OHIO’s achievements as we recap nearly a year of deployed operations:
- OHIO has completed three successful operational periods and today is on her fourth and final mission period of this cycle before heading back to PACNORWE-ST after nearly a full year of operation.
- She performed well in exercise FOAL EAGLE with our South Korean allies, she has accomplished operations employing special operating forces and she has proven the CONOPS that she was converted to do. She has validated the crew exchange concept in theater, and further substantiated the strategic significance of GUAM as a forward operating base.
- With regard to OHlO’s relief, USS MICHIGAN, she is in her first homeport training period and will soon be finishing all her various certifications for deployment. During this period, MICHIGAN will be certified ASDS and will be the first SSGN to deploy with ASDS.
So how does this relate to executing our maritime strategy–SSGN is present and providing a unique multi-mission capability that remains in theater ready to respond and, because of it payload and capabilities, is well suited to respond to regional crises. As seen in a previous slidc-SSG N, because of its enhanced strike and SOF capabilities is well suited for the expansive maritime environment of the Pacific.
From the Fleet Commander’s perspective, SSGN brings capacity and capability that supports enhanced war fighting flexibility:
Flexibility by virtue of her Tomahawk weapons inventory that allows theater missile defense equipped cruisers and destroyers to adjust their pay loads in favor of additional ballistic missile interceptors which in turn provides our allies in the region a protective umbrella-from short and medium range ballistic missile attacks.
Flexibility to joint and combined special operations forces through enhanced platform effectiveness and improved operational support.
General Mattis-Commander Joint Forces Command-when he gives warfighters his view of platform adaptations that support meeting today’s “irregular warfare” threat, often cites SSGN as an example of adapting a “classic” deterrent platform into a platform that has significant capability to respond to today’s fight.
Guam has been essential to the success of forward basing our SSNs and our extended forward presence of our SSGNs too.
Guam is a key enabler to our Pacific Theater Presence and maritime domination: To our allies, Guam provides assurances that U.S. Forces are forward deployed and dominant. To our peer competitors, Guam provides a reminder that U.S. Forces can respond to regional crises on a moments notice. Collectively, our presence in Guam is a game-changer that provides our allies opportunity and our competitors caution-THAT IS A STRATEGIC MESSAGE!
Turning now to US CENTRAL Command, the maritime landscape is much different than what the Force faces in the US PACIFIC Command Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Our submarines operate in support of national and theater objectives in the Global War on Terror-taking full advantage of our inherent characteristics of stealth, mobility, firepower and endurance, we provide the warfighter with effects that arc denying terrorists the ability to operate from ungoverned and unstable regions which arc predominant in this part of the world.
We arc positioned to respond to ASW threats to Carrier Strike Group and maritime operations.
Finally, we can respond to bids by countries seeking to deny freedom of navigation to maritime nations in and around the Arabian Gulf.
Just as important to the operations we conduct in the region is our presence and the signal it sends to our allies in the region. Deployed operations must also provide an opportunity for repairs and re-supply.
We work very closely with US NAVCENT and our allies to provide our submarines the access needed to support their operations in the US CENTRAL COMMAND AOR.
FLORIDA, like OHIO, is now deployed having just completed her second operations period.
As an example of the value she brings to the warfighter USNA VCENT extended her operations to cover an urgent operational need.
We have demonstrated the ability to conduct deployed maintenance and crew exchange in Diego Garcia despite not having deployed a tender to serve as a logistics hub. Eventually, the EMORY S. LAND, following her DPMA in 2009 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard will be based in Diego Garcia to provide this capability.
I could go on and discuss important operations our force is conducting in the EUCOM, AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM AOR’s, which are equally important in shaping the perceptions of potential competitors and/or real or perceived threats, but, for the sake of brevity I will stop here to summarize and give you my final thoughts.
First, we are an extremely relevant force in today’s complex geopolitical environment. When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, our force and our industrial base has delivered.
On the 29th of September of this year, Secretary of Defense Gates gave a seminal lecture al the National Defense University-which covered his thoughts on the ideas and analysis, as well as the points of contention behind the National Defense strategy.
In doing so, he cautioned all of us on the performance of our National Security apparatus and by extension the Department of Defense and he cited the work of a former colleague at CIA to make his point. His former colleague identified a number of tendencies that prevented institutions from adapting long after problems had been identified and solutions were proposed.
The tendencies included:
-“The reluctance to change preferred ways of functioning, and when faced with lack of results, to do more of the same;
-Trying to run a war with peacetime management structure and practices;
-A belief that the current set of problems were either an aberration or would soon be over; and -Where because a certain problem; counterinsurgency-did not fit the inherited structure and preferences of organizations-it simultaneously became anybody’s business and no one’s business.
Secretary Gates went on to say, “I cite that study not to suggest that the institutional military hasn’t made enormous strides in recent years. It is, however, a cautionary reminder that these tendencies are always present in any large, hierarchical organization, and we must consistently strive to overcome them.”
As I reflect on the recent performance of our Submarine Force I sec none of the behavior that Secretary Gates cautions us to be wary of.
We are a flexible, adaptable, relevant and capable lot-motivat-ed by a healthy skepticism which pushes us to ask the hard questions and move forward to constructively address problems.
Our force and our submarines arc in high demand by our allies, our Navy and our Nation-because we are able to operate around the world with stealth, mobility, payload and endurance.
SSGN, thanks to the vision and wisdom of many in the room today, is changing the nature of maritime operations and with its nearly unlimited payload volume promises to be a platform that “keeps on giving” to the war fighter.
Finally, we alt recognize that maritime operations and effects are a necessary but NOT sufficient component of joint war fighting. Thank you and God bless you all.