ADM Mies, thank you for the warm introduction. Fellow Flag Officers, distinguished guests, Submarine Force, and Naval Submarine League members-it is a privilege to be here again this year to discuss the future of our community. Thank you to the Naval Submarine League for hosting this 30th Annual Symposium and to all the individuals that helped to put this event together.
Thirty years-we’ve come a long way since 1982 when I was Engineer on USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO, in what was then the wilds (and I do mean wild) of Kings Bay, Georgia, from essentially an analog Navy to the digital marvel of today, PKs to Oat panels, l 6mm movies on reels to IPADS, periscopes to electro-optical sensors, flapper valves to flushing toilets. What has not changed, however, is submarining at its essence. Inherently hazardous, technically challenging, physically and mentally demanding, lethally capable in the eyes of our enemies, bonding to those lucky enough to earn Dolphins, extremely rewarding to those who have served. I am so proud of this Force-the ships and the people-for what it has done for this country for over 112 years and tremendously excited for what it will do for the next 100 years.
For the last 30 years the Naval Submarine League has been a coalescing force drawing together submariners, industry, government, media, and families to advance the Force on many fronts-in the public eye, in the academic, technical, and industrial domains, as well as amongst ourselves through well deserved recognition of our exemplary submariners, past, present, and future. You have made a real difference and I thank you. However, as I am inclined to say from my perch at Naval Reactors-your reward for a hard job-well done-is another hard job.
Your role will become more important, your mission more vital, your influence, hopefully, more profound in the years ahead. After we navigate the challenging times ahead-from our uncertain world, to the advance of competitors for undersea dominance, to the steady march of technological change, to the timeless advance of careers, I want Admiral Richardson, when he addresses the symposium for his last time as Naval Reactors, at your 60th anniversary, to be just as proud, enthusiastic, and hopeful for our Force.
The Future of Submarine Programs
The conference theme this year is The Future of Submarine Programs. Simple words but a tall order to actually flesh that theme out as we peer into the future from our foggy, uncertain present. I remember an XO of mine when I was learning the craft of submarining helping me sort out the fire control display on a torpedo approach. He, let’s just say emphasized to me to make sure I understood what was truth on the display, as opposed to all other data which was derived (or as he called it “Lies! Damned lies”). Let’s apply that teaching to looking at our future. First the truth:
- We have a clear mission of significant importance to the defense of the United States of America. Dominate the undersea domain.
- Our Submarine Force is the best in the world.
– Our force is getting smaller and the operational stress is increasing.
– Our adversaries, real and potential, are advancing their capabilities to challenge our unfettered access in the air, and on, and under the sea.
- As in the fire control system, if you pay attention to the truths that you have and smartly manipulate the other parameters of a target solution, you can and should act on those derived truths. Such as:
- The role of the Submarine Force will become more important in the nation’s future defense strategy.
- We must continue to invest in technology and modernization to advance capabilities of the ships we have and those we are going to buy.
- The lack of resolution on how to address the national debt and restore our economy and the role defense will play in the solution to both issues creates uncertainty, leads to sub optimal short term decision making in a decidedly long term business (shipbuilding), and in, ultimately, increased costs and slower production.
- We must continue, and if possible, accelerate our programs to build VIRGINIA class submarines and the replacement of the OHIO-class.
With that let’s dwell a bit on our number one priority – the OHIO-class Replacement Program.
Supporting Ohio Replacement
We have done our due diligence to smartly phase the production and replacement of our submarine fleet to provide the most cost effective and capable platforms while meeting the strategic demand signal. VIRGINIA is in place to replace the retiring LOS ANGELES class and our next shipbuilding transition to manage is the replacement of the OHIO class which begins to retire in 2027 with a boat decommissioning each year thereafter. We have already taken steps to extend the life of the existing OHIO class, to the extent technically allowable, and the key to sustaining the minimally acceptable force structure is starting construction of Ohio’s replacement no later than 2021.
The submarine based leg of our strategic triad is a national imperative and a unique responsibility of the United States Navy supported by the Department of Energy. Once commissioned, this new ship will be the foundation of our nation’ s nuclear deterrence until 2080. The requirement is clear and the timeline for getting our work done and putting a ship to sea is indisputable. The safe and secure future of this nation rests on our shoulders.
There are challenges; politics, budgets, bureaucracy, technical, but there can be no excuses and there can be no deviations from the unity of effort essential to our success.
A Vital Mission for Submariners
There should be no doubt in our minds that the mission of the sea based strategic deterrent is here to stay. The President and Secretary of Defense have re-affinned that a safe and effective nuclear deterrent is vital and the sea based strategic deterrent remains its cornerstone. We rely on these submarines to strengthen regional deterrence and reassure our allies. Therefore, recapitalizing the fleet as the OHIO class decommissions ensures we meet the nation’s national security requirements while sustaining a strong U.S. industrial base, with the skills and expertise unique to submarine design. This is well recognized in the Navy, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the Administration, and on Capitol Hill as evidenced by formal establishment of a program of record and strong support for the resources we need to do the job.
We Are Mindful of Costs
Re-introducing SSBN construction to our Navy’s shipbuilding plan after a 20-year hiatus, is a difficult task. All of the risks associated with a new class of ship are present, amplified by the unique challenges of nuclear submarine construction. We are mindful of both the technical and associated cost risks. We have been diligent in defending the fundamental requirements for the ship and disciplined in controlling scope creep. We continue to look for opportunities to take cost out of the ship. In the two years since Milestone A approval, our efforts have reduced the construction estimate for these ships by nearly $300 million, and we are not done yet.
We are striving to increase the collective readiness of this class through a life of the ship core, shorter overhauls, and reduced maintenance, reducing the number of hulls from 14 to 12 while meeting the availability requirements of the combatant commanders. This results in procurement savings of over $10 billion and saves a multitude of other life cycle costs when you include manning, maintenance, and upkeep. We are also reducing cost and risk through our proven technique of evolutionary introduction of technology.
Building On The Success Of VIRGINIA
We are applying modular construction techniques and lessons learned from the successful VIRGINIA Class program. We are re-designing and re-arranging where it makes sense, we are reusing components and systems from previous designs where we can gain cost, schedule, or operational efficiency. When corrected for ship size and inflation, we have seen a 30% reduction in design costs compared to previous designs. We are even drawing on the many lessons learned from our on-going aircraft carrier design to leverage improvements like large turbine generators supporting electric drive, our next generation propulsion plant monitoring and control systems, and plant simplification strategies.
We have also made improvements in the Reactor Compartment and engine room arrangements. The ship’s modular construction enables the ship to be more maintainable, to have wider passageways to allow for voyage repairs, and we have placed a lot of effort in mitigating acoustic risk. With her 16 missile tubes, electric drive propulsion, and other stealth technology, the OHIO replacement will showcase a multitude of improved design and new technologies, but each improvement is leveraged on what we have learned about making and operating nuclear powered submarines over the last 60 years.
I know some remain skeptical that we can deliver an effective, affordable, and reliable electric drive propulsion system. I believe most of this skepticism is anchored in perceptions of our earlier electric drive efforts -ships like TULLIBEE and GLENARD P. LIPSCOMB. While they were great ships and advanced the state of the art, they didn’t have the power and reliability and acoustic performance we need for this ship. We are applying the lessons learned from those ships, as well as from electric drive programs in the surface navy and commercial industry. We have been developing the permanent magnet motor technology with successively larger applications over the last two decades and we have a robust prototyping and testing program. The technology is essential to the ship and it will be ready.
Earlier in my remarks I mentioned the importance of unity of effort and with one last comment on that I will close. The Ohio Replacement Program is vitally important to the nation, yet I occasionally hear the discussion framed in terms of the burden it places on the shipbuilding program. Yes, this ship will cost a lot of money and we will work hard to keep that cost as low as possible. But in terms of the dollars invested per any measure of importance to national security-this money is well spent. We should not be talking about this program as a burden-it is our solemn responsibility; our obligation to the citizens of this nation; one that we will fulfill to the very best of our ability, just as our predecessors did when they delivered USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598) and USS OHIO (SSBN 726).
We all need to be able to speak knowledgeably about the program and deterrence in general. And we need to engage frequently-even constantly to ensure our leadership and our public is informed on this very important topic. When there is criticism, we should listen to, understand it as it is intended, and address it either by changing to make our program better or by educating the critics to improve their understanding. This isn’t about selling or spinning a story. If we do our jobs correctly the facts will tell the story. But that will only happen if our message is fact based and consistently delivered. There should be no daylight amongst us as we stand together doing our part to deliver this ship.
This will be my final speech to you as the Director of Naval Reactors. Although I am retiring soon, I, like you, will always be a submarine advocate. I have enjoyed the opportunity to speak to you over the last several years, and I thank you for what you do to make the future of submarine programs just as promising as the past. We have a bright future ahead, and I look forward to the continued success of the silent service.
Thanks again to the Naval Submarine League and to all of you for participating in this symposium. I am looking forward to the remaining presentations and I would be happy to take some questions.