Mr. Speaker, I rise today, along with my friend and fellow co-chair of the bipartisan House Shipbuilding Caucus, Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia, to honor Admiral Kirkland Donald, U.S. Navy, as he prepares to retire upon completion of more than 3 7 years of faithful service to our Nation.
Admiral Donald has held the position of Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (Naval Reactors), for the last eight years. During his illustrious career, he played a pivotal role in ensuring that nuclear-powered warships continued to meet our global commitments in defense of our Nation’s security.
Throughout his many years of service, Admiral Donald distinguished himself at the tip of the Navy’s spear. He served as the Commanding Officer of the nuclear-powered attack submarine, USS KEY WEST, Commander of the elite Submarine Development Squadron Twelve, and Commander of NATO’s Submarine Forces in Europe. Other highlights include tours at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, the Joint Staff, and as Commander of all US Submarine Forces.
As his time in Washington has shown, Admiral Donald’s accomplishments do not end with his excellence as an undersea commander. Nuclear-powered warships have safely steamed over 150 million miles, and operated for more than 6,400 reactor years without a reactor accident. The last 20 million miles and 800 reactor-years have been achieved under Admiral Donald’s superb leadership overseeing more than 100 operational nuclear reactors.
Admiral Donald has been particularly passionate about our Submarine Force and the investment in our current and future undersea programs. At a time when submarines are playing an increasingly vital role in our national security, Admiral Donald has been at the forefront of making the case for the need for robust construction of new Virginia class submarines-and has kept a steady hand on this crucial program at a time when a cooperative effort between the Navy and our shipbuilding reduced the cost and construction schedule of each new submarine. At a time when every corner of our government is challenged to find savings to ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, Admiral Donald has helped to guide this shining example of acquisition excellence.
Today, these incredible submarines are deployed worldwide, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, protecting Americans and our values. Their missions would not be possible without the ships’ nuclear propulsion plants, impeccably designed and built by Admiral Donald and his team. I can speak from personal experience about the passion that Admiral Donald brings to this incredible responsibility.
When I first came to Congress in 2007 as a new member of the House Armed Services Committee, Admiral Donald and his team were among the first in my office in those early days to help educate me on the importance of our nuclear powered submarines and the value they bring to our nation. In particular, he invited me to join an Ice Expedition on board USS ALEXANDRIA-a two day voyage under the Arctic ice which was an opportunity to see firsthand the capability of the these extraordinary vessels.
Further, Admiral Donald oversaw the final design and construction of the nuclear propulsion plant for the Nation’s next-generation aircraft carrier class-the first new aircraft carrier design in over 40 years. Owing much to his leadership, the USS GERALD R. FORD propulsion plant will triple the electrical power available for transformational technology, reduce reactor compartment manning by nearly 50 percent, and increase ship operational availability by nearly 25 percent.
As Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, Admiral Donald’s commitment to environmental stewardship and public health and safety helped foster the highest degree of public trust. He worked tirelessly to develop and implement a robust process of preparing the nation’s spent naval nuclear fuel to be stored safely for centuries. His foresight and execution give the American people great confidence that the nuclear Navy will continue to be safe and environmentally responsible for generations to come.
Mr. Speaker, Admiral Donald has been a thoughtful, forward-looking and hands-on leader for our nation’s Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, and his stewardship of this highly effective, responsive and world-class organization has set an example for all our nation’s civilian and military leaders. Along with Representative Wittman and my colleagues in the House of Representatives, I wish him Fair Winds and Following Seas as he completes his honorable and distinguished service in the U.S. Navy, and wish him and his wife Diane the best as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.