As I get started into my topic, I’d like to remind you of how we’re executing the Design for Undersea Warfare to date, what we’ve done and what we ‘re about to do. I’d like to give you a peek into some of the changes we have coming in the future. We’re considering the next update to the Design, which will likely be issued in the summer. One huge event that’s happened since we last got together is that we have a new CNO, Admiral Greenert. He has blown out of the starting gate with terrific energy and clarity in his communication. We’re hearing what he’s been saying and it’s music to our ears. His Sailing Directions are very well aligned with the Design. His plans and his three tenets, which will guide our decisions are “Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready.” These two calls for action are very well aligned. The central element of our approach is to recognize and support the submariner. The submariner is the key element of our success. Admiral Caldwell and Admiral Johnson and many more submarine leaders, down to the CO’s and XO’s, are doing real things to make this come alive.
In the personnel world, we’ve made good progress to strengthen and support our team. We’ve put in place a new enlisted supervisor retention pay and other incentives that are specifically designed to show the value we place on those folks that have the experience and the expertise, and to motivate them to stay our senior enlisted leaders in positions such as Chiefs of the Boat, Engineering Duty Master Chiefs (EDMCs), and other senior leaders. Regarding EDMCs, we’ve issued guidance for this position. Defining and strengthening their role in engineering throughout the boat. For our junior submariners we’re about to issue a comprehensive program that strengthens their resilience throughout their career. This program starts when these first-time Sailors report to their submarines for the very first time. There’s also a different program, sort of a steroid injection, for sea returnees. It’s got elements that provide consistent support throughout their time at sea on boats. We will ensure that the CO’s command team will have all available resources to detect the challenges his crew will face both operationally and from the command climate stand point. It also includes the families, engaging the ombudsman and the family readiness groups, so it’s comprehensive.
We’ve also just completed the final phase of a three-phase approach of conversions to establish our integration of IT specialists onboard. There are now about 300 submariners in this new IT rate. The combination of that conversion of 300 people and the influx we’re receiving from the new submarine IT school, is now giving us expertise to fight and protect ourselves in the cyber and virtual battlefields. These are just a few examples of how we’re putting effort into supporting that submariner who is the center of everything we do. It starts with recruitment and with all sorts of recruitment incentives. We’re also implementing community management incentives, retention incentives and waterfront readiness so that we see everything. And the teams that bring these plans together include folks from SUPERS, from the TYCOMS and from all of the commanders. It’s truly an operational team. You’re likely to hear a lot more about this tomorrow from the force master chiefs.
I’ll next discuss our effort to empower the commanding officer and sustain warfighting readiness. When a crisis erupts, submarines provide the best value when they are underway, ready to respond, and providing information and capability to the nation’s leaders. Just as with our personnel programs, this has been more than a slogan- we’ve exercised it.
First and foremost, our SSBNs do this day in and day out and, because they do it so well, they operate forward in their patrol areas providing eye-watering reliability, eye-watering connectivity and amazing resilience. The SSBNs are doing terrific work and we are making adjustments to increase their independence and resilience at sea and sustainability to reduce the number of near port events and personnel transfers to improve their overall deterrent posture.
In the SSN world, we’ve been building our muscles and strengthening the entire force. There’s a difference between strengthening a particular individual unit or squadron and the entire force at the operational level. Our first effort in this was a command exercise conducted this past summer which walked us through the detailed planning efforts that would be required to serve the Submarine Force on the Atlantic Coast in support of any crisis that arises. We learned a lot from that exercise.
The second phase of that exercise was Hurricane Irene. When Irene moved up the East Cost, we actually sortied the entire fleet. We had seven SSNs at sea when the storm hit, we got seven SSNs underway in about 48 hours for storm avoidance, and we had five SSNs forward deployed. When you combine that with the four we had in depot maintenance, there was just one SSN we could not get to sea, and that’s a pretty good record. They remained underway for about a week on very short notice, stopped maintenance altogether, and it was a super gratifying outcome. But the next question was, “what if it had been for war? What more would have been required?” We decided to get the squadrons and the COs together and went to another level of detail where we laid out, “I think this many days would have been required for training, this many days for certification, this much for weapons load,” and then we compared. The Irene sortie statistics showed we exceeded requirements on all accounts.
This fall we’ll take it up another level. Admiral Caldwell and I will link together and we will sortie and exercise the entire force. SUBPAC and SUBLANT together in response to a war plan. This will be a terrific event.
I won’t take too much time to describe the administrative efforts that we’ve got underway, but we have been very vigilant. In fact, there’s a terrific effort to make sure we capture all lessons learned and documented in formal orders, instructions, NWPs, and other vehicles so that we capture all the information in support of effective and efficient operations.
There are a few programs that I want to tell you about that are around the bend. Training and qualification programs- we’ve brought those two programs together, so now we have one program that trains and certifies individuals to do the job they are assigned. Then, there will be another certification process to certify the team, and all of those things use some computer software to lighten the administrative burden as much as possible and enable a unified approach to training and qualification. We’ve brought together the philosophical approach to training and qualification between the forward and aft parts of the ship so engineering and tactical operations training are very similar.
We also take great pride in being a learning organization, and we now have a very recognizable spectrum of tools- from very time-responsive to formal and permanent changes to requirements. On the time-responsive side, we’ll issue a message before we’ve done all of the analysis, to make sure everybody gets the word quickly and can check to see if they are vulnerable to the same situation. Then there’s sort of a middle ground where we’ve got initial analysis from the technical and operational communities, and we can put those out in a series of messages or monthly newsletters that may have directive authority to make short-term changes. Finally, where there are enduring lessons, we formally institutionalize these things for the long term by making a change to the appropriate reference. It’s one system, a set of tools that everybody recognizes, so that when something happens throughout the force, everybody’s locked in to reacting, “Who else needs to know about this? What do I need to do to make sure everybody else gets the word? It’s time for that alerter message, and it’s time to start the investigation.” There’s this responsibility to inform the force and we’re doing just that.
Related to learning, we’re also about ready to issue an instruction for assessment to formalize and standardize the way we self assess and improve… again, a common language throughout the force.
At the NDIA event in Groton, I outlined a framework for maturing technology and how to bring new ideas into the Submarine Force. This framework will allow for a responsible and predictive way to mature technology that is consistent with our principles.
Again, not to be too bureaucratic, but I wanted to share some of those things that will sharpen our performance and let you know that we are formalizing these in instructions and other lasting vehicles. Getting the right information into the right people’s hands at the right time with minimal burden. There’s a lot more, but I think you can probably see the direction we are heading. It’s about real things that are happening to enhance warfighting and operations, about enhancing unique contributions in order to remain ready to get underway on short notice, to remain on alert, and to remain undetected behind enemy lines.
As we address this environment that is changing very rapidly, we’re starting to look forward to the first updates to the Design. The Design, by its nature, is flexible and responsive and made to be self-examined and always have its assumptions questioned so it can get better and adapt to the changing reality. This effort led my staff and me to try and come up with a better name for our current situation than Post-Cold War. I mean, it really has been decades now. It’s really a lack of imagination to continue to call it that. So what is it? It’s really a measure of the complexity of the situation with which we find ourselves. So, we’re doing our best to characterize this environment, particularly for undersea forces. As we did, we couldn’t help but look back because we also want to be firmly grounded in the principles that Admirals Donald and Padgett highlighted as being our foundation. We can’t leave those behind. Our way forward has got to be firmly founded in our history.
It’s in this context that I’d like to propose that we’ve already entered a new phase of undersea warfare. I’m going to propose that this is the fourth phase. I’m going to step through these things quickly and describe them in terms of missions, the warfighting domain, the industrial base of technology and the people. It’s not necessarily one mission replacing another. It’s one mission being added on top of the previous ones. As the Design clearly states, it’s only going to get more complex. It’s also not linear worldwide. We can talk about phases, but I think sometimes that lulls us into a false sense of security. A predictability or linearity of number two can’t come until number one is done, or that sort of thing. It doesn’t happen that way. It hasn’t happened that way in history. You can be in Phase 3 in this particular environment of your AOR and Phase l in another, so you’ve got to keep resolve and balance in all those places. The Germans were a little bit ahead of us in the early phases of undersea warfare. They brought technology to bear faster, but we caught up with them.
There are four phases which I challenge you to help us refine and flesh out.
Phase 1 was the exploration phase. Its primary mission was to figure out how to take a big chunk of steel, put men inside, submerge it and then make sure it came back. I think this phase came to a close with the introduction of the fleet boat, which had the range and speed to be a warfighting platform, but was still vulnerable in many ways.
The second phase was WWII. The mission was commerce interdiction and sea denial. The warfighting domain was really geographical. You could put your submarine on the sea lines, in the battle lane and go sink the enemy. The industrial base at this time was fluid… an assembly line approach to making submarines, in fact, multiple submarines per month. The people, of course, were the greatest generation. Even at this early stage, where submarines began to make a warfighting contribution, you could see that this was going to be a very asymmetric business. Even at our largest complement of submarines, the people were six percent of the Navy. We had the best of the best then, as we do now. Only about six percent would graduate submarine school. That six percent of the people in the Navy sank 55 percent of the tonnage.
Phase 3 was the Cold War. Our missions were deterrent. And because it became deterrent versus deterrent, ASW arose as a way to go against SSBNs. Our maritime strategy adapted to that reality. The warfighting domain was now more than geography- it was also oceanography. The advent of nuclear power allowed submarines to stay submerged for long periods of time and this became their new environment. So, just as in land combat you have to seize the high ground; in this new ASW world, we had to seize the acoustic high ground- the oceanographic high ground. The industrial base was characterized by just a tremendous infusion of engineering, optimism and forward momentum. Lots of shipbuilders and many ships per year. Lots of optimism. As I’ve said before, we built the first SSBN, GEORGE WASHINGTON, more than 50 years ago, and once we committed to that concept, it all came together through tremendous energy. I think this is where the genius of Admiral Rickover manifested itself most aggressively. He foresaw and anticipated virtually all of the problems that technology could, and did, introduce. In terms of the people, the baby boomers in that generation were also technologists with tremendous optimism coming back from the war. They were also the Cold Warriors. They cemented in place what we would eventually call the submarine culture that Admiral Donald spoke about…the balance of using advanced technology with very deliberate controls. Reliable, safe, effective, decisive. This is when the term “You ‘re a nuke!” came to be a badge of pride.
Those are the first three phases- rough, challenging. So what’s this fourth phase? What is it all about? I believe it is characterized by access and networks. Our missions are going to be a lot about stealth leading to access. About being able to go down to vast parts of the world in the ocean where nobody else can go. The introduction of Jong-range precision weapons, the ability to act from a great distance with great speed and precision, is going to continue to change the character of warfare. That technology is only going to get cheaper and proliferate. What China can do today, other nations and even non-state actors are going to be able to do in the near future. They are going to be able to buy this capability off the shelf. In addition to explosive weapons- missiles and bombs, you’ve got this entire cyber domain and information warfare. We need the people with the education and the ability to fight that. The geographic and oceanographic warfighting domains will still remain relevant, but now you’ve got this cyber domain and information warfare to contend with. In this fourth phase, to be seen is to be vulnerable. Range from your aggressor is going to be Jess and less protective. In the current, phase-four industrial base, there are very few shipbuilders. There’s very little prototyping and relatively low procurement rates. This does not scale gracefully, and the nonlinearities that come with that will characterize our current environment. In terms of people, they are going to be tougher to find. There is a smaller portion eligible for service and the skill sets that those people are going to have to bring to the fight are vastly different, just as they have been different in each of the phases in our history.
I will comment on a question that was asked about this new generation. I would agree completely with Admiral Donald and I would say that I was in a seminar where we were talking about this, and it’s a big deal. The thing that realty captured my thinking was a time when, as an experiment, they provided a group kind of like us, our generation, and a group of younger people, a list of virtues, and they said, “I want you to go off and prioritize these.” The two teams came back and, in terms of the principles that drive a generation, theirs were the same as ours.
What does the fourth phase mean? What are the implications for us? I’d just like to outline two. One is, if we agree that we are entering a new phase, and we’re formally recognizing that the Cold War is over, I think that we have to put together an appropriately scaled effort to capture our history in the Cold War. We can read all the terrific tales of our WWII submarines and skippers as they took the fight to the enemy. These are the tales often read at ceremonies. They deserve every bit of that recognition. But there is an entire generation of heroes whose exploits remain classified and unspoken. We need to address that. We should declassify what we can, keep classified what we must, and get those lessons- classified and unclassified-out to the force so we can learn what that generation taught us. If you go back 25 years from now to 1987, it’s almost the end of the Cold War! We’re 25 years past it and there’s a tremendous amount of history there. Part of this recognition effort includes resurrecting our strategic expertise in nuclear deterrence theory. That’s another part of that era.
The other thing I think we must do is start to posture ourselves for the future. We’re just probably not going to be able to predict our future, but we’ve got to give it our best shot. We were late to see the impacts that acoustics and radar had on vulnerability for submarines… slow to adapt to the SSBN-centric approach to the Soviet strategy, and I think we need to ask ourselves how we’re doing in transition now. Is this a new era or phase of undersea warfare? We must do our best to address this question. We’re not always going to be accurate, but we must try, and I can’t think of a better team to wrap their minds around this very challenging problem than all of you working together with us. And as we do this, I think that we’re all in agreement that we must retain those fundamental principles that Admiral Donald spoke about, and have served us so well to date.
Thank you very much.