LT Haney D. Hong. USN, is a Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government and recently completed the intentional and Global Affairs Fellows/rip with the Be/fer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Harvard Dukakis Fellowship in the Office of the Governor of New York. He serves on the Strategic Communications Team of the Submariner Force Reserve Component and is assigned to SFRC Undersea W01fare Detachment L in Washington DC. He sits on the Commander, Navy Reserve Forces, Navy Reserve Policy Board, as well as the Ashoka U Advisory Council.
The author thanks RDML Robert Kamensky. CAPT Matt Zirkle, and the SFRC EXCOM for their support during the writing of this article.
The Submarine Force Reserve Component (SFRC) stands ready to be as stealthy as the best undersea warriors out there. Ironically, we work so hard to integrate seamlessly with our active duty counterparts that our own stealth may inadvertently mask our own value. Today, we want to broach- only momentarily though- to make sure that our colleagues in the ranks of the active component, as well as our retirees, know how we provide strategic depth and operational capacity for the Submarine Force, without being a heavy paycheck in these times of austerity.
When I transitioned from active duty to the SFRC in Fall 2010, I did not know what I was about to do as a Reservist. I think back to my time on active duty, and I did not know that some of the submariners I encountered in my various duty stations from USS TOPEKA to the Headquarters of Navy Recruiting to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy were actually Reservists. I realize how little I knew about SFRC before leaving active duty, and now with about one year of Reserve service and some brief time working with the staff of Commander, Task Force 34, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on theater anti-submarine warfare, I have a much better sense of how submariners in the Reserve fit into the undersea enterprise.
The Submarine Force provides our country essential capabilities needed for the future environment and set of assumptions that guide the strategic and programmatic planning for the Department of Defense. Because our geopolitical focus has shifted to the Asia- Pacific region and our need to overcome anti-access/ area denial (A2AD) capabilities, 1 the Submarine Force becomes ever more important. Essentially employed part-time by Submarine Force, the sailors of the SFRC are on-demand assets, ready now, anytime, anywhere as in the mission statement of the Navy Reserve. We are men and women of all different shapes, sizes, and professions, and our diversity fits critically into the framework of action called for by the Design for Undersea Warfare (DUSW). 2 We support DUSW, and as such, we support the Submarine Force in its ever- growing relevance in our future defense needs.
Accompanying this strategic shift in gaze towards Asia is also an unabashed and non-partisan recognition that we, as a country, must get our country’s cash flow and balance sheet under control, and the Submarine Force has a history of doing so much with comparatively little against other parts of the Navy. Though the Navy is a likely winner of future budgetary fights in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, 3 times are tough, and they are likely to get tougher. The Submarine Force itself will find itself in higher demand with fewer resources available. 4 Fortunately, the Submarine Force is already cost-effective as about one-quarter of the major combatants in the Fleet manned by 7% of the Navy’s manpower and supported with 12% of the overall budget, 5 and the Submarine Force Reserve Component provides operational support with even higher cost-effectiveness than that.
Capabilities of the SFRC
SFRC’s cost-effective operational support and strategic depth comes in four mission areas. The fifteen hundred men and women of SFRC divide up into 64 units spread all across the country, and we consistently provide tens of thousands of man days of operational support each year. In Fiscal Year 2011, SFRC provided 25,000 man days of support all across the globe, and this support is the combined work of the Reserve undersea warriors who work in the four competency areas of the SFRC: undersea warfare operations, submarine escape and rescue, force protection, and expeditionary maintenance.
The largest proportion of SFRC’s undersea warriors works in our undersea warfare operations competency. In a total of thirty Reserve units, these sailors tenaciously prepare for strike group operations and theater anti-submarine warfare missions. The 7,200 man-days of operational support by the undersea warfare competency in FY2011 were spent standing watch as Submarine Element Coordinators and Submarine Advisory Team Watch Officers, as Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare Battle Watch Captains or Watch Officers, and as future and current operational planners and keepers of tactical plots. Whether at the strike group or theater levels, we work water space management and prevention of mutual interference so that our tactical assets can defend against and neutralize subsurface threats.
The smallest part of the SFRC is our submarine escape and rescue competency area, yet these men and women take incredible initiative in work that makes regular international impact. Only as part of three Reserve units total, the submarine escape and rescue sailors provided nearly 1,900 man-days of support in FY2011 . Whether in submarine search and rescue command and control training and tabletop exercises, called SMASHEXs, in Malaysia and Indonesia or training in the submarine rescue and diving re compression system pressurized rescue module off the coast of San Diego, these sailors perform critical work vital to the safety of not only our submariners, but also our international partners, too.
Another of our smaller segments within the SFRC, the force protection competency protects our SSNs, SSGNs, and SSBNs around the world. These self-sufficient sailors provided 2,200 man-days of support in FY 11 when they provided physical security for our SSNs as they transited choke points like the Panama Canal or visited unprotected ports around the globe, and these men and women who are trained to the standards of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command also provide SSBNs and SSGNs with added security at remote locations or during sensitive evolution. These undersea warriors protect each other and our most highly valued assets in the Fleet.
Finally, we have our expeditionary maintenance competency, our second largest segment within the SFRC. These sailors come from twenty different units around the country and apply their technical ingenuity in submarine maintenance. They integrate with the crews of our submarine tenders, like USS FRANK CABLE in Guam, and during the last fiscal year, they provided 5,600 man- days of work in the maintenance of submarines. In fact, they are planning to provide approximately 1,700 man-days of voyage repair support to the SSGNs during this fiscal year, and they stand watch side-by-side with their shipmates on FRANK CABLE. Their 3M and quality assurance qualifications help them bring their expertise to the Submarine Force while we sail and visit ports abroad.
The SFRC offers surge capacity for the Submarine Force’s planned operations, and we can provide support for the Navy’s unplanned operations as well. One of the main advantages of the Navy Reserve in general is that the continuum of service allows us to retain skill sets for access by the Navy when needed. Many of the officers in SFRC, as former active duty submariners themselves, have nuclear training, and we were able to support Operation Tomodachi after a massive tsunami caused an accident at the Japanese Fukushima-Chichi nuclear power plant. Our sailors get mobilized to provide individual augmentation, and men and women of SFRC have supported contingency operations all over the world.
The Criticality of the SFRC
As the Design for Undersea Warfare is a call for creativity and 6 a framework for action, Submarine Force Reserve Component sailors are well suited to add creativity and diverse talent to achieving our objective of undersea superiority. We bring to bear the swath of undersea warrior characteristics that we developed on active duty, and we also add the experiences we have had outside of the Navy to be increasingly innovative in our contributions to the undersea enterprise. Our four competency areas in the SFRC, undersea warfare operations, submarine escape and rescue, force protection, and expeditionary maintenance, support the Lines of Effort (LoE) in the Design for Undersea Warfare.
The Submarine Force focus areas in LoE #1, Ready Forces, include enhancing commanding officer initiative and character, sustaining warfighting readiness, and developing undersea warfare doctrine, 7 and SFRC supports the first two focus areas in this line of effort. We manage the submarine culture workshops to help our submarine Commanding Officers nurture character and integrity at every opportunity. 8 The rising number of SFRC sailors getting qualified in standard qualification processes like 3M, QA Craftsman, and small anns, is how we support training- we are, by definition, getting our training through distance support. 9 Our work providing better-prepared theater anti-submarine warfare watch officers through standardized training with the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command ensures that at-sea training in Fleet Readiness and Training Plans is optimized. 10 We are critical in providing Ready Forces.
The Submarine Force focus areas in LOE #2, Effective Employment, include developing coordinated theater-specific campaign plans, demonstrating warfighting capabilities, and improving operational availability of undersea forces, 11 and the SFRC supports the last two focus areas in this line of effort. Whether it is during JTFEXs, C2Xs, USWEXs, or coalition exercises like Key Resolve, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, or CHILEMAR III, SFRC is an integral part in theater undersea warfare teamwork and improving mission assurance.’ Fifty expeditionary maintenance sailors stand ready to serve as sentries and watchstanders for USS FRANK CABLE as she goes into shipyard availability, and this support increases the availability of our forward- deployed maintenance assets. We are critical in Effective Employment.
Supporting the DUSW lines of effort shows how relevant SFRC is to the Submarine Force, and understanding how SFRC aligns with guidance documents and strategies outside the Submarine Force also underscores this relevance. Our four competency areas fit hand-in-glove with the six core capability areas of our Cooperative Strategy for 2t’ Century Sea power, colloquially known as the Maritime Strategy. Our Expeditionary Maintenance teams provide the key maintenance support to SSNs in Guam that need to stay deployment-ready as our forward presence. They also help to ensure that our SSGNs in voyage repair periods get out to sea on time, providing continuity in our deterrence of destabilizing or otherwise aggressive behavior by other countries. Our Undersea Warfare Operations experts provide strike group and fleet commanders the sea control they need to operate freely at sea and safe from submarine threats with their anti-submarine warfare tactical training. These same undersea warfare operations experts also facilitate our continued ability to sustain our power projection ashore without fear of losing access to the littorals. Our capable force protection sailors are part of a wider and collaborative effort to keep our maritime assets safe from terrorism and other irregular and transnational threats. Also our submarine escape and rescue sailors are ready at a moment’s notice to assist other countries with submarine rescue operations- our form of humanitarian aid.
The President’s recently released strategic outlook for the Defense Department reinforces the importance of defeating anti- access and area denial capabilities, 14 and this dimension of the future environment is one we have been planning for since the Quadrennial Defense Review of 2010. 15 The Design for Undersea Warfare was built with this understanding, and as a Submarine Force, we must “expect to operate and fight far forward, independently, behind enemy lines, for long periods of time, without support.” 16 The SFRC stands side-by-side supporting our active duty partners in the Submarine Force through the Design for Undersea Warfare, and we work together to ensure that we are always prepared for battle. In the words of our RDML Bob Kamensky, head of the Submarine Force Reserve Component as the Vice Commander, Submarine Forces, “We are ready and capable for executing.” [emphasis added] Just as the Submarine Force must be, we in the SFRC are semper procinctum.
Our Partnership Endures
The members of the Submarine Force Reserve Component support the Submarine Force writ large in our shared desire for undersea superiority as “masters of the undersea domain.” 17 We provide critical operational support and strategic reserve that allow us as a force to do more with less, and our partnership will endure through some of the rocky roads that are ahead of us as a Submarine Force, Navy, and Nation. Also we continue to think about “our successors … ten years from now,” 18 who must guide the Submarine Force Reserve Component, as we navigate these rocky roads.
We are “one-team, one-fight,” as was evoked by VADM 19 Richardson in his note to the SFRC in January 2012. I, for one, am quite glad that the Reserve has afforded me an opportunity to continue my contributions to the very force that began my Navy career. And I am also quite glad that I now understand how my work in the SFRC is in the service of my country.