Thank you Admiral Reynolds, Admiral Mies, distinguished guests. There arc so many old friends and shipmates in the audience. It is always a pleasure for me to address this forum.
When I was putting my remarks together, I was reminded of a time when Albert Einstein was asked to speak at a banquet held in his honor at the Swarthmore College. Hundreds of people from all over the nation gathered to hear this famous physicist speak. And when it came time, and he was introduced, he stepped up to the lectern, and he looked out at the crowd, and said, ladies and gentlemen, I am very sorry, but I have nothing to say, and he sat down. True story.
But I have quite a bit to say, and what I thought I would do today is give you a state of the Submarine Force address.
I have been in my current job now just over 20 months. When I relieved, the Force had suffered a series of Class A mishaps. Retention was also a concern and trending downward. We were plagued with numerous maintenance overruns in our naval shipyards. This was affecting the operational availability of the entire force, and so we began to tackle those problems, first Joe Walsh and I, now Doug McAncny and I.
So I am here today to report on the progress we have made over the last year. I think the Submarine Force is quite strong, and I am proud of some of the accomplishments, while at the same time, recognizing that we have many, many challenges ahead.
Today, we have 70 submarines in the force, 28 are underway, that is 40%. That’s low; it typically ranges from 40 to 45 or 48°0 underway. Of those 28 underway, I have 10 SSNs forward de-ployed, two SSGNs forward deployed, and six SSBNs at sea in various stages of strategic deterrent alert. That totals out to over 4,000 submariners that are at sea, on-watch, defending our freedom today.
When I put together this brief, I arranged it along the three priority areas. I focus my efforts in three main areas-Operational Excellence is first, Developing Our People is second, and Maintain-ing And Modernizing The Force is the third priority area.
I will start off with Operational Excellence. I always start off with SSBNs. They continue to be the mainstay of the strategic deterrent force for the nation, about 40% of our Submarine Force personnel arc associated with operating our SSBN force. They are still in very high demand..
In February, we will observe our I OOO’h patrol of the Trident force, and we’ve had over 3800 strategic deterrent patrols to date.
There’s been a lot of activity in this force recently. As a result of some of the Air Force challenges in the nuclear weapons business, we chartered a self-assessment that was led by Rear Admiral Tim Giardina. He assembled a group from across the Force, and did a very critical assessment of how we train, how we perform maintenance, and how we operate our strategic systems, and came out with a very long list of recommended action items that we are hard at work on today.
The Strategic Systems Program office led by Admiral Steve Johnson did his own assessment, and then his homework was graded in the Admiral Donald assessment of SSP, and there were some important findings that came from that.
But first was that the Navy’s nuclear weapons programs were fundamentally sound, and that was the overall conclusion. But they did note that there has been a decreased emphasis in the nuclear weapons and strategic deterrence missions since the end of the Cold War and that was a fundamental root cause of the problems the Air Force had.
We’ve reduced our numbers in systems as we went from 41 to 14; fewer platforms, fewer people. Fewer people with the strategic weapons experience.
So there is clearly room for improvement in our organization and we are hard at work at doing just that. The Director of the Navy Staff, Vice Admiral John Harvey, has been stood up to lead a nuclear weapons council which is composed of Flag Officers of the OPNAV Staff primarily and they are looking at the implementation and a plan of action to take the Donald report and ensure that we are following up on the record of actions there.
Additionally, there is a Schlesinger panel that is officially titled the Secretary of Defense Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Manage-ment and they arc doing a study in two phases; first phase was on the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Program.
They are now embarked on phase two which is looking at the rest of the Department of Defense. As part of that effort they’ve been to King’s Bay and toured the Strategic W capons Facility there and interviewed from the deck-plate all the way up to Rear Admiral Giardina level of personnel associated with our SSBN program, and in the very near future they’ll visit Norfolk and talk to me and my staff, Fleet Forces Command and JFCOM, but I’m confident that they will have similar findings to our report. Our weapons programs are fundamentally sound.
Next, SSGNs. As Admiral Mies mentioned, we have two deployed today; OHIO and FLORIDA, and Captain Chris Ratliff is scheduled to speak to you tomorrow morning. He is one of the two CO’s on USS OHIO and will be relieved with his change of command early next month. Chris has a very good brief to share his experiences on his first deployment.
MICHIGAN will deploy at the end of this year, very soon, and then GEORGIA next year. MICHIGAN will participate in the Talisman Saber 09 exercise and demonstrate the ability for an SSGN to control unmanned aerial vehicles, and experiment with unmanned undersea vehicles and the Battle Management Center and Joint Command and Control suite.
Rear Admiral Mark Kenny is going to be here tomorrow morning and he’s going to talk to you about the Navy’s Irregular Warfare Office that he leads on the OPNAV staff and how SSGN is being used in the War on Terror. So I won’t preempt what they’re going to tell you, but SSGN, which was conceived 12 years ago, was delivered on budget, the first patrol was on time and those ships are out doing great work and the Combatant Commanders are really appreciating the capabilities they bring.
Next SSN’s. They are also in very high demand today. We arc deploying to some very challenging areas across the world to gain battle-space awareness that only a submarine can get. Our SSN CO’s, when they come back from their deployments, are briefing at very high levels.
We’re enjoying access all the way up to the highest levels of the Navy, the CNO is routinely taking those patrol debriefs, Chairman of the Joint Staff is receiving those briefs. We’re going to Congress and Congressional Staffers to educate people on what it is that SSN’s are doing for the defense of our nation.
We have a very sharp commanding officer, Commander Mark Stern who is going to speak to you tomorrow. He is the CO of USS TOPEKA, another successful mission, and he’ll tell you a little bit about what his ship did on deployment.
W c are also visiting some ports with the SSN that we have not been to in a long, long time-Tripoli, and we’re going into Jordan. We have been to port visits in the Caribbean, India, the Philippines and we’re executing the CNO’s Maritime Strategy in developing partnerships and forging relationships overseas in those port visits.
You’ll find that a Class A mishap is any mishap that involves loss of life, or a million dollars or more in damage to the ship. And as you can sec, we’ve come down off the peak that I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks.
This most recent one, here, was the very unfortunate tragic death of Machinist Mate Third Class Auxiliaryman Gentile, who on USS NEBRASKA was entangled in the rudder ram and died as a result of the injuries from that.
In order to try and reduce these mishaps and bring these down, I’ve really tried to focus the Force on staying focused on the main thing. We’ve had a tremendous effort to reduce distractions to the CO and keep them focused on the safe and effective operation of their ships.
As part of that effort, I’ve reduced the administrative require-ments that we levy on the crews. We’ve eliminated over 50 administrative reports; reports such as a monthly urinalysis report, or physical fitness assessment reports.
That data is all entered into spreadsheets that arc available online. My staff can pull that data without having to task the ship to double the report. There have been about 50 incidents like that.
Have I reduced the workload on the ships? No. I don’t think so, but what I’ve done is I’ve tried to reduce the distractions so the CO can really focus on the more important aspects of running the ships.
I clearly put international cooperation in the operational excellence category. The French SSN Amethyst deployed to the East Coast of the United States, operated with USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT carrier strike group and the low Jima expeditionary strike group.
What made her deployment different is we used her in a Blue Force role. She was one of the good guys and was fully integrated in the submarine advisory team on those platforms, and was defending the strike groups as opposed to being an orange attacker of the strike groups; fully integrated with our com ms and tactics.
The Italian submarine TODARO, made another historic deployment. She sailed from Italy, operated over here for months. Made port visits in Mayport, Florida, Norfolk, Virginia, Groton, Connecticut, and in New York City. She operated also with the THEODORE ROOSEVELT Strike group and participated in a tactical development exercise with Submarine Squadron Twelve.
The last time an Italian submarine visited the U.S. was during World War II when they pulled into our ports to surrender. It’s been that long. They’ve got a lot out of this deployment and I’ve got an informal verbal commitment to continue that sort of deployment in the future.
The Chilean submarine SIMPSON deployed to San Diego as part of our DESI, or Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative. We have a partnership with Submarine Forces in South America and their subs come up and operate with our surface units and provide some very valuable training vs. SSKs. While SIMPSON was up, we did an exercise with her where we used our rescue system, the SRDRS. She bottomed and we latched onto her for the first time in the history of the Chilean Submarine Force. We transferred personnel in a rescue scenario.
And finally, HMAS Waller, a Collins class submarine equipped with the newest torpedo in the world, the CBASS MK48 which stands for the Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, a heavyweight torpedo. She fired that torpedo during RIM PAC in a warshot demonstration.
So there’s the stealthy killer, hitting the final bearing of the victim. A single shot broke the ship in half and the pieces quickly sank.
That was the very first warshot test of the Mark 48 Mod-7 CBASS torpedo, carried out by our Australian colleagues.
Rear Admiral Doug McAncny is going to speak after me today. He just came from Command of Submarine Group 7 where he was the operational commander for the forward deployed submarines in the 5th Fleet and the 7th Fleet. A lot of our operational excellence initiatives have really been born through the forward deployed operations. So he is going to give you a report on how we’re meeting the various submarine challenges in the Pacific.
We’ll move on to Modernizing the Force. As Admiral Mies mentioned, we’ve had tremendous success in the Virginia class shipbuilding program. On Saturday we are going to commission NEW HAMPSHIRE and then in December, NEW MEXICO gets christened. We, just last month, laid the keel for MISSOURI and we are marching through at a very rapid rate.
The last time we delivered two submarines in the same year was 12 year ago. When we delivered NEW HAMPSHIRE to the Nnvy, it was August of this year. That was supposed to happen in April. The CNO says, “there it is, another shipbuilding program delayed.” I said “No, no, no, its April of 2009,” that was it’s scheduled delivery date. We beat it by seven months. There’s no other shipbuilding program that can claim that.
We’ll start two a year in 201 I. We expect to award the contract for the next eight ships in the class next month and Willie Hilarides will be here tomorrow to give you more details on this well run program. I think the credit goes to him and his focus on shipbuilding excellence.
We’re deploying with a lot of new capabilities. The Battle Management Center and Joint Command and Control suite on MICHIGAN and GEORGIA are installed into what was the navigation space on the Tridents. That’s a very large room and it gives us tremendous flexibility to accommodate the Special Operations Forces and the operations those ships are engaged in today.
We’re very happy with the photonics mast made by Kollmorgen and we’re looking for improvements in reliability and improvements in the resolution, but the incorporation of those sensors have been revolutionary in our force.
We are incorporating the Buster unmanned aerial vehicle and have deployed that on ALEXANDRIA and on FLORIDA. Saber Focus is a new capability. Predator B is called an NQ-9 Reaper. It an unarmed Predator and Saber Focus has the ability onboard FLORIDA to take control of the sensor suite. We’ll be testing that n the near future in an exercise.
We’re also taking a look at the way we do our advance program build process to modernize our fire control and sonar systems. What we found was that we were pushing enhancements to the ships faster than the crews could keep up with the new capabilities and training for those new systems. So we’ve looked to restructure that a little bit and we’ve gone to a biannual program where the major changes to the software will come in two year intervals.
There will be a middle year minor enhancement in which the functionality is largely unchanged. This will allow us to deploy twice with the same fire control and sonar system as opposed to every time the crews deploy, they deploy with a new configuration. I think this will pay some dividends and Jct us get a few more dB from the operators in their Recognition Differential.
Admiral Haney is going to speak to you this afternoon about the modernization that we have planned for our ships and his approach in that area.
NEV ADA recently began a two year refueling overhaul. The plan had been that after two years of putting the ship on the sidelines to give her another 22 years of life, we would do sea trials then tie her up for another five months to do the modernization. When I questioned the rationale behind that approach, the answer was “Well, it’s different colors of money. The DOH is done with SCN funds and the modernization is done with government funds.” You can’t mix the two funding streams, so we have to do those separately. I just kept pushing and pushing. Finally we were able to get some relief from that. So we are actually doing the modernization during the ERO. That’s going to give me about three months of additional operational availability on that ship once she gets out of the shipyard period. So we hope to make that the norm from now on and we’ve actually moving to fund the refueling overhauls out of enrollment funding to give us much more flexibility to do what needs to be done.
Next is the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System. We stood that up as the operational primary deep sea rescue asset for the United States Submarine Force on I October of this year. At that same time we deactivated the MYSTIC which had been serving for 3 7 years. So the new system now is tethered to a support ship called a VESSEL OF OPPORTUNITY and it is lowered down on an umbilical cord. It’s manned, but it is not free swimming like the MYSTIC was. It can transfer personnel into this vessel and be winched back up and brought aboard the support craft. In the future we’re going to have the opportunity of transferring personnel under pressure so that when the submarine on the bottom is pressurized, which will happen over time, the crew can be rescued at pressure and transferred to the decompression chamber on the deck of the vessel of opportunity without having an uncontrolled decompression.
We’ve done a couple of operational tests of the SRDRS. We wanted to make sure we had a viable capability before we gave up on the DSRV.
We did an exercise Bold Monarch off Norway. We packaged it up in San Diego on a Russian Antonov aircraft and flew the SRDRS out to Norway. We did 13 dives with that system on a series of bottomed submarines and transferred over 200 personnel. A very successful evolution.
However, I wasn’t completely convinced we had met all the timelines in order to rescue personnel within 72 hours. That’s a specification from time to first rescue. It has to be within 72 hours. It was taking longer than planned to get all of this equipment mounted, flown to and mounted onto a vessel of opportunity. So we did another exercise as 1 mentioned with the Chilean sub and went through the time line and significantly compressed it. W c have great confidence in that 72 hour first rescue. With SIMPSON we did two rescue days and rescued 25 personnel in the process. So the system is viable, it’s up and running and we’ll continue lo build the transfer under pressure capabilities in the near future.
Last section is Developing Our People. We’ve started a series of courses to better prepare our Petty Officers and our Chief Petty Officers and our Commanding Officers for the tasks when they’re ordered into positions of higher responsibility.
The first one is the Nuclear leading Petty Officer School. The reality now is that a nuclear First Class Petty Officer can make chief in as little as seven years. The average is about, I think, just under 12 years and that’s different from when I was a young pup. The chiefs were a little older and a little more experienced, but that the reality of it today. They will report lo their second sea tour as Chief Petty Officers and be in charge. What we’ve done is set up a course to give them, in the pipeline before they report to their ship, the necessary training to offset that relative decrease in the experience level. We teach them what others have learned the hard way, the pitfalls to avoid and some of the recommendations for success.
We’ve teamed with Naval Air Forces, so this is for all nuclear trained Chief Petty Officers in the carrier force and the Submarine Force. Those courses arc being taught in Norfolk and San Diego. Initial reports arc that they arc receiving good reviews.
For a while now we’ve been doing the Engineering Department Master Chief School. That’s a 1 week course that’s taught by the force EDMC’s and again it is designed to provide them with the tools they need to succeed before they taking over in that very important responsibility.
The Submarine Command Course has gone through a lot of overhaul in recent years and prospective executive officers and commanding officers have been going through that course now for about four years. We’re to the point that the PCO’s that arc reporting to the course have already been through it once before as perspective executive officers. We’re beginning to modify their curriculum a little bit and there are certain aspects of the course that they don’t need to repeat a second time. Others they do again for the experience.
We’re able to tailor it a little bit for the commanding officers who go out and focus specifically in areas they need such as the configuration of their fire control and sonar system, or in the case of the SSBN crews, give them some additional training on the maintenance and operation of the strategic weapon systems which they may have not seen since they were perhaps Junior Officers. We will continue to hone the Command Course to get the most out of it that we can.
Dcckplate leadership is concerned with the reenlistment rate. So reenlistment is going up and attrition is going down. If we had continued at the rates that we began, we would have almost 300 fewer people in the Submarine Force today.
I’ve basically retained an additional crew and a half, almost two crews worth of submariners. I credit Chief Petty Officers for that success. They issued the challenge. They revitalized our career review boards to increase retention initiatives. It is their deck-plate leadership that has resulted in attrition going down.
Later you’re going to hear from our Force Master Chief from the Pacific Fleet, Moc Pollard and my Force Master Chief from SUBFOR, Jeff Garrison. Tomorrow they’re going to talk about deck-plate leadership and the type of dividends that are paying off.
We’ve seen an 8.5% reduction in Driving Under the Influence of alcohol cases over the last year. Illegal drug use is down 17% in the force. So, there’s a lot of good news out there and again, I credit the Chiefs Quarters looking out for their people and having an impact at the deck-plate
Next is diversity. It’s a major emphasis area for the Chief of Naval Operations and I’ve been working hard to add some energy to our diversity programs in the Submarine Force. We are working hard to bring in more diverse officers. If you look al the diversity across the enlisted force, it is reflective of our society and in some cases we actually have a higher diverse population than in the nation as a whole. So I’m focusing my efforts on our officer community which is very, very much below the national benchmarks.
The way we’re doing that is through a series of outreach efforts to just sell the Submarine Force product to universities and try to influence the decisions of young people to come into the Submarine Force. We’ve done that through faculty outreach visits and our ROTC unit commanding officers are working hard to develop interest in the diversity groups in their universities. We’ve got a hub and spoke outreach program where each submarine in the force is aligned with an ROTC unit across the country and they visit two times a year. When they visit an ROTC unit, the ROTC unit is the hub, and we give them a couple extra days to make the visit. They go out on the spokes and visit other universities that aren’t associated with the ROTC program but have a high percentage of minority technical majors graduating from those universities. We’re making a lot more visits and getting out and talking to a lot of students.
We’re trying primarily to sell them on the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program, the NUPOC program, and we’ve seen a fairly significant rise in the number of diverse candidates who are applying for a NUPOC scholarship. The proof will be whether we actually commission those folks or not, but there are some encouraging indications.
Three of our more senior individuals have recently received awards. Rear Admiral Pat Brady, my Deputy Director, Submarine Warfare Division and he’s up at N87B working for Cecil Haney. He was recently honored by the Hispanic Engineer National Awards Conference, or HENAC, with the Executive Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Award at their recent fall conference.
Next is Captain Pete Clark. He works at Naval Reactors and was honored also at that H ENAC Conference as a Luminary Honoree.
Captain Jeff Trussler was our Assistant Detailer. He’s now out in Naples as our Commander, Task Force Sixty-nine in major command. He will be presented the American Indian Science Engineering Society Executive Excellence Award at their upcoming national conference in Anaheim, California.
Next in the area of personnel: Individual Augmcntees. (IAA) Lieutenant Kent Cook of my staff, received the Bronze Star after he got back from his IA assignment in Baghdad. We’ve tried to improve the process of finding Individual Augmentees, because it was creating an area of concern in the families. We were seeing that reflected in the very high resignation rate of junior officers directly from their sea tour assignments. Basically, that resignation rate doubled in the last two years.
When we pulled the thread on this, they were afraid to go ashore and get tapped to go and be an IA when they have a family left behind. We are transitioning as a Navy to an IA assignment system as part of the detailing system called a Global Support Assignment (GSA). When they negotiate orders to go ashore, part of that discussion is would you like to do an IA assignment, and there are plenty of volunteers out there who will do those very challenging and very rewarding assignments. So, now we’re just trying to match those volunteers with billets and that has significantly reduced the number of unplanned calls for volunteers which were causing angst among our sailors.
The GSA support assignment position is really addressing how we’re transitioning. Today about 60% of those assignments are done through that detailing process, about 40% are as a result for calls to volunteers for short fused requirements.
When the sailors and officers go to a GSA assignment, they do receive a good deal of recognition. The enlisted promotion board gets special consideration. The promotion rates arc higher among the enlisted community and we’ve certainly let them know we love them and care. So I’m very proud of our sailors who serve on IA and personally every one of them that I’ve talked to has some story, whether they were a volunteer or not. They come back and say that assignment changed my life and they are very proud of what they’ve accomplished over there, of what they’re doing, and very happy to get back to the Submarine Force after working with the Army.
We did lose an IA. Lieutenant Jeffrey Amman was on USS ALABAMA. He had rolled off the ALABAMA to shore duty, volunteered to do an IA assignment in Afghanistan and was a victim of a roadside bombing and lost his life in May of this year. A memorial service was conducted back in Bangor, Washington where virtually every sailor participated. He had been in Afghani-stan for 12 months doing provisional reconstruction team work. He was beginning to see the fruits of his labor and he asked to extend. He died at 14 months into that 12 month tour. He left behind a wife and two children. He was a prior enlisted submariner who went to Oregon State University and was commissioned and served on ALABAMA. He is a real hero and a model for us all.
Challenges ahead: you’re going to hear more from Admiral Haney about Sea Based Strategic Deterrent. Front and center on our area of focus. In 2027 we will retire, or begin to retire the oldest of the 14 of the Ohio class SSBN’s. In the subsequent 13 years that follow, we’ll inactivate one a year, finishing in about 2040.
We need to achieve a capability with the follow on sea based deterrent subs that the new platform is fully operational and delivered in about 2025 in order for all the testing certifications to take the place before the first Trident retires in 2027. So you back up to 2025, we actually start construction in fiscal year 2019 and we need to begin the detailed design in about fiscal year 2012. We need to start the R&D in fiscal year 20 I 0, so it’s here, it’s time and we’re working hard on the analysis of alternatives and trying to inform that R&D effort.
That R&D effort which will feed the Sea Based Strategic Deterrent may also spin off into later blocks of the Virginia class submarine. I’ll just share a couple thoughts on what might be coming in the future. An advanced sail, Comms at Speed and Depth, Advanced Electric Drive, External Weapons. There are other things that we explored during that R&D effort which we hope will come to fruition.
Next is investing in the future: There’s been a great deal of effort to engage with DARPA and ONR, and working closely with Dr. Tony Tether at DARPA and Rear Admiral Bill Landay at ONR. We tried to raise their level of awareness of the capability needs for the Submarine Force.
The Science Advisor on my staff, Mr. Eric Spigel, is a very energetic guy. He has influenced over 450 million dollars of R&D at DARPA and ONR to be redirected toward Submarine Forces priorities. The number keeps going up every time I look at it. I think clearly we have some results there.
Some of the DARPA investments have been realigned as a result of our efforts and I think DARPA is about to undertake a high bandwidth laser communications demonstration. We’re looking at cost reduction technologies, corrosion control and perhaps a composite propeller with a lot of effort in human systems integration and improved decision making tools. There is clearly an investment in the future. Cecil will probably speak to you on that as well.
A challenge area: junior officer retention. There is a decrease in attrition and the improvements in retention force wide, but I do have a couple areas where we really have to focus hard. Junior Officer retention is a challenge. Nuclear trained enlisted personnel is a challenge. We are working hard to sell the Submarine Force to new accessions and advertising the Submarine Force through a greatly enhanced mission submarine training program.
USS NEWPORT NEWS was training some midshipmen during their cruise this summer. We’ve extended summer cruise period by about 4 weeks and we run through thousands of midshipmen with over 9 of our submarines to give them a taste of what it is like. All they have to do is see it and I think we own them.
I’ll just summarize by saying that I think a lot of our hard work is paying off. There are many, many more challenges to come, but operational performance is improving, I think, every day. The personnel in the Submarine Force are doing well and I think we’re making real progress toward a combined future force.