VICE ADMIRAL TERRY BENEDICT, DIRECTOR OF NAVY
STRATEGIC SYSTEMS PROGRAMS AT THE
CAPITOL HILL BREAKFAST FORUM
AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION RESERVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION AND NATIONAL DEFENSE INDUSTRIAL ASSOCIATION
I want to welcome you here. My name is Peter Huessy. I’m Senior Defense Associate at the Air Force Association.
I want to thank NDIA, AF A and ROA for their sponsorship of this event, as well as our head table sponsors that are here today. I want to thank also our friends from Russia and Great Britain that are here as our guests, as well as staff from the United States Congress; and, of course, my good friend Professor Curtis from the Naval Academy, who is here.
Today we’re honored to have Vice Admiral Benedict, who I believe has gotten his third star recently, and congratulations. I want to give you a little background of the Admiral. He was assistant for Arms Control to the Director of Strategic Systems Programs, which meant he was responsible for the implementation and compliance with the START Treaty, including the Navy’s coordinator for the initial Russian visits to the U.S. for the required ST ART missile and telemetry technical exhibitions.
And he then went to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for START negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. He was Technical Division Director at the Program Management Office of SSP in Sunnyvale, responsible for all in-factory development, production and operational support of the Navy’s Trident I and II systems between 1993 and 1996. He then was Executive Assistant to the Commander of Navy Sea Systems Command in 2002 and ’03.
Vice Admiral Benedict was then assigned as the Technical Director for Strategic Systems Programs in January 2004 through July 2007. He was Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research Development and Acquisition. And his current command as the 13th Director of SSP, he assumed on the 7th of May 2010.
With that introduction, Admiral Benedict, I want to thank you for coming here today.
VADM TERRY BENEDICT:
Well, good morning everyone. And Peter, thank you for the introduction and thank you for the flexibility. We’ve had to move my speaking date around a little bit to adjust for calendars.
You know, there’s been no end to interesting developments in D.C. over the last year. There’s been an election. There’s been talk of cliffs and devastation to capabilities and plans for furloughs. There’s been sequester and gridlock and uncertainty. And just like reality TV that’s so prevalent today, the new normal is anything but standard or stable.
But it’s within this environment that SSP has been tasked to operate to provide a safe, a secure, and a reliable strategic weapons system. And the SSP team that’s made up of military personnel from across the services, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, our government civilians and our industry partners, we are all wholly focused on providing credible and affordable strategic solutions to the warfighter, General Kehler. We continue to meet the challenges of maintaining our aging strategic weapons systems while developing the strategic deterrence platform for the future.
From a security aspect, United States security is my number one priority. We are partnered with our fellow maritime forces to provide the world’s premier protection for our systems. Navy masters-at-arms and the United States Marines stand watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week, day in and day out, protecting our national assets. Together with the Coast Guard’s Maritime Force Protection Unit, this team ensures the protection of our assets until they are once again underway, virtually undetectable, on our nation’s 14 Ohio-class submarines.
From a technical aspect, today we are ensuring the Trident II 0-5 is supported on Ohio-class submarines. We are designing and conducting life extension efforts in every one of the functional subsystems of the strategic weapons system. We are supporting Admiral Dave Johnson, PEO submarines, in the development of the Ohio-replacement SSBN.
Most notably, we remain on track with a common missile compartment in concert with the United Kingdom, despite the overall two-year shift to the Ohio-replacement program. And, we are implementing the entry into force of the New START Treaty. This will give the Navy responsibility for the majority of the authorized warheads in support of this nation’s nuclear deterrent force.
Now each year in this forum there is specific interest with regards to the perspective of overarching topics of nuclear deterrence and arms control, particularly as it relates to the New START Treaty. The president’s announcement of the new guidance on the United States employment strategy for the United States will certainly touch and affect SSP. However, the announcement does not alter our current path of preparing for implementation of the New START Treaty for the United States Navy.
Under current requirements, which establish limits of 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted against deployed heavy bombers, that must be achieved by all parties no later than 5 February 2018. Based on current strategic structure plans, the Navy will make up more than two-thirds of the deployed warheads allowed under the New START Treaty, an increase of roughly 20 percent from current requirements. I see this as a testament to the reliability and the survivability of the submarine deterrent leg of the strategic nuclear triad, and the value that the President and our nation’s leadership place on our sea-based deterrent.
I also see this as a challenge, a challenge to continue to provide the assurance of the most reliable submarine-based ballistic system that we have ever fielded. Any future changes that may occur will certainly require the SLBM force to maintain the same level of assurance. No matter what the numbers, the reliability and the survivability of the system can never be in question.
Now it’s been exactly one year since the Congressional defense committees received the report and cost assessment of options for the Ohio-replacement ballistic missile submarines from the Secretary of the Navy and StratCom. In that report it stated, “The changing strategic and fiscal environment demands a renewed emphasis on thoughtful risk management across the United States nuclear weapons enterprise.” This is certainly the mindset in SSP as we maintain the current system and develop the future.
So I’d like to talk here for a while about our efforts over the last year, in collaboration with the United States Air Force. As we have moved through the last few years of fiscally constrained environments, those of us who support the strategic defense of our nation, whether it be part of SSP and the Trident II D-5 system or as part of the Air Force strategic bombers and ICBMs, all of us have been required to look at how we do business and what that business should look like in the future. While we recognize there is significant cost risk to business as usual, we also recognize there is significant operational risk to complete technical integration. This cultural shift offers the opportunity to determine the intelligent use of commonality. We are moving forward in multiple areas within respective modernization efforts where Navy and Air Force collaboration have great potential.
Since initial meetings between my technical director and his Air Force counterpart, the ICBM system division director, we have signed a new MOA that documents the coordination of strategic ballistic missile R&D and future systems planning efforts between our services. Moving another step forward, we have stood up eight working groups that are focused on options within our current system sustainment efforts, as well as evaluation for commonality for future systems. While the areas of consideration are often complicated technical endeavors, the framework for the working groups is actually quite simple.
Navy and Air Force subject matter experts are joined together in these eight groups and they are identifying ideas that ( 1) benefit both services, (2) mitigate significant program risks, (3) offer opportunities for return on investment and (4) leverage work already being done by either service. These principles are able to be applied to opportunities in R&D, in manufacturing, in production and in test and evaluation. We are particularly looking at areas where industry skills and sustainment are of significant importance. It provides a framework to look at resourcing component commonality where it makes sense.
Topics are not limited to R&D, but we have opened up the aperture to ensure that we consider all life cycle phases for options. And while collaboration efforts are expanding in new areas, joint work with the Air Force is not entirely new to our program. The Navy is currently on schedule refurbishing the W-88 re-entry system.
The SSP-led Mark V alteration management team continues to proceed with development of a new arming, fusing and firing circuit. It will refurb the 30 year old W-88 Mark V re-entry system. The Navy is collaborating with the Air Force to reduce costs through shared technology. The Air Force will adapt the new Navy AF&F for the Air Force Mark 12 Alpha, as well as Mark 21 re-entry systems.
We are also involved in the W-78-88-1 life extension pro-gram. This initiative is led by the Air Force. This joint warhead study, that also includes efforts by NNSA, is investigating possibilities for a warhead capable of being used on multiple platforms in order to reduce the number of warhead types. We remain committed to work with NNSA and the Air Force to manage limited resources.
As I mentioned, our Navy-Air Force working groups are considering both collaboration within future systems, as well as options within our current sustainment efforts for the Trident II D-5 and the Minuteman III programs. Life extension is the way of life for current strategic systems. The Trident II D-5 SWS has been deployed on our Ohio-class submarines for over 20 years. It is planned for a service life of more than 50 years. This is well beyond its original design life of 25 years, and more than double the historical service life of any previous sea-based deterrent system.
We continue to demonstrate the Trident II D-5 as a credible deterrent which exceeds the operational requirements established for the system almost 30 years ago. Our system reliability remains at an all time high and we have completed 144 successful flights since the beginning of Trident II. This far exceeds our baseline requirements.
However, we can never rest on our successes. Aging and obsolescence are being addressed through an update to all Trident II D-5 sub-systems: launcher, navigation, fire control, guidance, missile and re-entry; all of them are being updated to ensure that we have a path forward for the future. Our flight hardware, missile and guidance are on track. They are designed to meet the same fonn, fit and function as the original system in order to control costs and ensure that the deployed systems maintain one homogenous population.
The life extension efforts are not unique to just flight hard-ware. Another major step is to ensure the continued sustainment of our shipboard systems through a shipboard integration effort using open architecture and commercial off the shelf hardware and software for shipboard systems. We are on track to complete this effort within this year for the first SSI increment.
In-service warhead reliability remains a key focus and SSP continues to be involved with various warhead life extension efforts. We are extending the life of the W-76 re-entry system through a refurbishment program known as the 76-1. This program now in production is being executed in partnership with the Department of Energy and NNSA. The W-76 refurbishment maintains the military capability of the original 76 for approximately an additional 30 years.
We also remain in continuous production of energetic components such as solid rocket motors. While SSP has been able to maintain solid rocket motor production to meet the demands of life extension, this remains an area of significant concern to our program. I’ve spoken extensively about my concern in this area, and have continued to address the issue in testimony before the Senate and in interaction with national leadership.
The Navy cannot afford to solely carry this cost, nor can this nation afford to lose this capability over the long-term. While the efforts of our industry partners and others have created short-term cost relief, the Long-term support of the solid rocket motor industry remains an issue that must be addressed at the national level. I am concerned that this effort is not proceeding quickly enough. Ongoing efforts to generate a national plan of action are falling short of anything that is actionable. This deficiency must be resolved as soon as possible. While solid rocket motor industrial base issues are a significant area that must be addressed, overall life extension efforts are in place, on schedule and within budget to meet current and future strategic weapons system requirements.
Which brings me to one of the highest Navy priorities, the Ohio-replacement program. The continued assurance of our sea-based strategic deterrent requires a credible SWS as well as the development of the next class of ballistic missile submarines. The Navy team is taking aggressive steps to ensure that the Ohio-replacement SSBN is designed, built and delivered on time, with the right capabilities, at an affordable cost.
The Ohio-replacement SSBN will enter service with the Trident II D-5 SWS and the D-5 life extended missiles onboard. This was a move designed to leverage the proven reliability of the Trident II D-5 and lower development costs. A critical component of the Ohio-replacement program is the development of the common missile compartment to support the Trident II D-5 on both the Ohio-replacement submarines as well as the successor to the United Kingdom’s Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine.
Our team: naval reactors, PEO submarines, SSP, we were able to weather the impacts of the fiscal year ’13 sequestration without affecting any of the major program milestones for the CMC. However, in doing so we utilized essentially all of the program’s float. Any future sequestration cuts will most certainly impact major milestones, as there is essentially no schedule reserve left for either the U.S. or the U.K. program.
SSP is fully engaged in the original program of record for the design of the common missile compartment and SWS deliverables in order to meet our obligations to the United Kingdom. We are working jointly to prioritize risk and develop a mitigation plan under the auspices of the Polaris Sales Agreement for this effort. The United States and the United Kingdom have maintained a shared commitment to nuclear deterrence through the Polaris-Sales Agreement since April 1963, and we just recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of this agreement. We will continue to maintain a strong strategic relationship with the United Kingdom based upon the Polaris-Sales Agreement.
So these past 12 months have been significant for SSP. We have seen the future development of important dialogue between the Navy and the Air Force as both services face major program decisions and the challenges of modernizing our systems within constrained fiscal environments. We have enjoyed successful completion of milestones in our Trident II D-5 missile life extension efforts, with the second flight of the new guidance system and the first flight of one of the four missile electronics packages. But we must continue to be vigilant for unforeseen age-related issues. And we must maintain the engineering support and the critical skills of our industry and government teams to ensure that we can address the challenges with the current system and prepare for the future of strategic deterrence.
And finally, and always, SSP must maintain our focus on the custody, the safety and the security and accountability of the nuclear assets entrusted to the Navy. Our nation’s sea-based strategic deterrent system remains a critical component of the triad that provides for our national security through strategic deterrence. We will continue as we have done since the 1950s, to assure our allies and deter our rivals. And as the 13th director, I remain honored to represent the unique organization that we serve in order to protect our great nation.
MR. HUESSY: The Admiral will take questions if you could not give speeches and let him know who you are. We have about 15 minutes of Q&A. Just let him know who you are and fire away. I’ll ask the first question. There has been a recent article by Hans Kristensen calling for the de-alerting of our nuclear forces to avoid what they call the hair trigger. And I know you’ve heard that previously. Could you address that, if you can, with respect to the submarine leg?
VADM BENEDICT: So the question is-I guess the question is one of policy rather than execution. So I’ll talk to you from an architecture standpoint. From an architecture standpoint certainly we could support that policy decision. But I guess I’ll defer to the policymakers on whether that is a position that the United States, this United States, the national leadership, would choose to take.
Within the system itself, on the platform, there’s absolutely no reason we couldn’t support that type of a policy decision. But I’m going to defer to the policymakers on the policy decision.
MR. TODD JACOBSON: Todd Jacobson, Nuclear Weapons and Material Monitor. You mentioned the collaboration with Air Force. Specifically on the 78-88 interoperable warhead, what is your level of confidence in that concept going forward? And is there anything since NNSA has begun that study that has raised or decreased your level of confidence about it?
VADM BENEDICT: So, the concept of a 78-78-1 LEP is one that, from an execution standpoint, certainly makes sense. But I will tell that you my position is it’s one that’s going to require a significant amount of good technical analysis, good engineering work and focused effort by both services, as well as NNSA, to fit within the enterprise. We are fully committed to do the upfront work.
We’re authorized to go through the 62A phase, 62A being costing phase. We’re engaged with the Air Force to go execute that with NNSA. We have the full backing of the Nuclear Weapons Council to go do that. And I think we’ll let the data and the information that derives from that data speak for itself.
This will be a challenge. This nation has never done anything like that, to create a body that could fly on both an ICBM as well as an SLBM. I certainly think that there’s the technical expertise to do the evaluation. We just have to see whether we can meet the demands of the requirements.
First, thank you for your leadership. We really do appreciate it. There seems to be a perception that the Trident program may have excess resources available to it, judging by one of the recent markups in the Appropriations Committee. Can you comment on whether you have margin or excess resources either in prior years or in your’ 14 budget that could effectively be taken away without hurting the execution of the program?
VADM BENEDICT: If Trident has excess resources I’m going to have to talk to my comptroller, because he certainly has not shown them to me in my budget line.
SSP performs what I call four national programs. The four national programs are: execution of the New START Treaty for the United States Navy; execution per presidential direction all United States nuclear weapons safety and security-and SSP is accountable for every United States nuclear weapons asset in the United States Navy-and the nuclear weapons life extension program, which today has to match up with not just the Ohio program but the Ohio-replacement program. So we are running a mission package which has a requirement to be viable through 2080. And then the fourth program is the Ohio-replacement program and the development of the common missile compartment.
So when I look at those four national programs and I look at the budget, I see very little opportunity to delete, defer, delay, in what I would judge other programs have some flexibility. I cannot delay the New START Treaty. There is a 5 February 2018 requirement.
I cannot delete, defer, delay nuclear weapons safety and security because those are very strict mandates of which I am expected to adhere. The program for the D-5 life extension program, be it flight hardware or shipboard systems, must be accomplished on time because that becomes the baseline for the Ohio-replacement program. And the Ohio-replacement program, with its delay of two years, essentially is required in order to meet the StratCom requirements of number of boats at sea.
So there are very few dominos that can be dropped without setting off a sort of chain that breaks one or many of those four national programs. So when I look at our budget and I look at the impacts that we absorbed in fiscal year ’13 as part of sequestrati-on, and when I look at the potential sequestration marks for ’14 and out, I see the opportunity to have one or more of those four national programs negatively impacted. So I do not see tremen-dous budget reserve, as the director, nor flexibility, cost schedule or requirements in any of those four programs. So we’re a program that’s, right now, fairly pressurized.
MR. JOSEPH HOL TZHEIMER: Joseph Holtzheimer with TASC. I follow a lot of NATO issues for DTRA. I hate to always point to the NGOs, but some of the NGOs have also suggested -and politicians-that by reducing the numbers of U.S. subs – and the U.K. the same suggestion-that there might be significant cost savings. To what extent is there cost savings in the production and to what extent is it R&D?
VADM BENEDICT: Well, when I look at nonrecurring engineering versus production cost, the nonrecurring engineering of whether you’re going to build one submarine or JO submarines is essentially the same. The production costs, to some extent, are tied with the number of units produced. We believe, and we’ve gone through years now-essentially the last four plus years, actually five-with data convincing this nation’s leadership that we have the program structured with the right number not only of submarines but of tubes, which equates to missiles, in order to meet General Kehler’s and StratCom’s requirements in defense of the policy statements for strategic deterrence for this nation. I won’t bring the U.K. program in except to say that they have gone through the same process with their national leadership. So I believe that based on the guidance we are given, the requirements that we were tasked to meet, that we have structured a program that is the minimum number of boats with the minimum number of tubes at an affordable cost that meets the requirements as they stand today.
MR. BAKER SPRING: Baker Spring with the Heritage Foundati· on. It seemed to me that in your comments that you seemed to think it was a good thing about limiting the diversity of the types of warheads in the stockpile and relying on service type extension programs. It seems to me, at least my perception, is that that would increase risk and reduce reliability instead of the intended opposite. Why is that perception wrong?
VADM BENEDICT: Well, I would say that commonality certainly has cost savings potential, right? And so that’s why I try and use the word intelligent commonality. You need to look at a program where commonality for cost savings is balanced against risk associated with everything being common. And you want to interject into that system, on purpose, at the appropriate reliability points, devices, components which are specifically not common to avoid and prevent that very feature that you ‘re talking about.
We do it-in the old days we used to do it by buying lots of material every single year. As we’ve moved towards cost savings and we try and buy life of type of material in order to get efficient manufacturing runs, then it becomes how do you balance that with the implementation of that material into a component, into a package, into a subsystem? So it’s a different mindset.
So saying that everything should be common and we can have one and that gives us the greatest cost savings, from a cost standpoint that may be true. From a reliability standpoint that’s absolutely counter. So I think we’re going at this carefully. And in the 78-88, or in the reduction of warheads, that needs to be a significant factor in the analysis on how low do we go and where is the variation to ensure that we don’t run into a situation where one failure takes an entire force down.
MR. HUESSY: Could you address the issue of what are your biggest challenges in the Air Force-Navy collaboration in trying to find common elements? What are your biggest challenges down the road that you see coming?
VADM BENEDICT: I think the largest challenge in commonality with the Air Force, just to be absolutely honest, the first one – and I think we’re well past it-is culture. We’re both very comfortable doing our own thing. I think we’re well past that. And I think the fact that we both have stressed budgets has helped us move past that very quickly.
I think the second-the next largest hurdle that we are facing is really the architecture. And I don’t want to get into a design symposium here, but if you look at the architecture of the missile electronics and the way that the functionality is distributed between various packages in either a Navy SLBM or an Air Force ICBM, the same functions don’t sit in the same packages on either missile. So as we look for commonality, we’re starting with components.
We’re looking at resistors and capacitors and component constituents as we build up. I mean ultimately we’d like to say this flight control can be used in an ICBM. I think until we can get to a common architecture that’s going to be a very difficult challenge.
I think there’s great opportunity in test equipment. I think we’re headed towards a direction in test equipment with common COTS hardware, common COTS software, and then we program it to test whatever device package self-component missile that we’re looking at. I think, again, there’s great opportunities in that. Another area that we have traded a significant amount of information with the Air Force, as we developed the new guidance system we created a database of rad-hard pieces, parts and components. We handed that over to the Air Force and I will tell you that was years in development for us. And so that gave them a significant leg up as they look at future development packages in the ICBM.
So where it makes sense and where it’s government control-led, we’re handing it over. And then, where there are opportunities, we’re going to go explore. And then, divide and conquer between their budgets, our budgets and working with industry.
MR. SEAN SULLIVAN: Admiral, Sean Sullivan with the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. What are the challenges with your human capital -facing short-tenn challenges with sequestration, furloughs, trying to keep your people for the long run? Could you please speak to that?
VADM BENEDICT: I think human capital right now is one that-1 think we are totally underestimating the impacts of furloughs. We are breaking trust with our civilian employees.
In a program like SSP that prides itself on details, on structure, on constructive attention to always find the right answer, to walk in and hand over to my workforce the requirement to be furloughed 20 percent of the time for the remainder of this year, is actually counter-culture to us. We’ll get through this. We’ll lead ourselves through this. We’ll come out with the same standards. But I think we are creating an environment within the civilian workforce-and they are the continuity of the success that we’ve had over the last 58 years-it is a significant challenge.
Within industry, I see the challenge is-I said life extension is the way today of strategic deterrence and of programs, both in the Navy and the Air Force. I worry and I deal a lot with industry leadership on how do we keep talent who comes in and they’re told that their job is going to be to keep what has been designed, what has been developed, what has been manufactured, what has been deployed, alive? I think young engineers want to work on what’s next. And with limited resources we have limited opportunities to challenge them in that area. So I think that the partnership that we share with our industry partners within SSP, and the continuity that we’ve had over the last 58 years with them, certainly helps in that area.
But I will tell you, it is a day-to-day challenge of the leaders-hip within industry partners to try and keep that alive. We’re winning today. We’ll see. It’s going to be a challenge.
MR. RICHARD BELSTEN: Richard Belsten from the British Embassy. I’d like to take a rare opportunity to say a public thank you for your leadership and work with the U.K. on the Polaris Sales Agreement, and in particular you mentioned the common missile compartment, which is an unprecedented level of cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K. So thank you on behalf of the U.K. for that.
My question relates to the recent nuclear employment strategy issue. I know that this guidance will take some time to filter down. But I wonder if you have any initial thoughts of any implications for SSP of the guidance that’s been issued?
VADM. BENEDICT: The answer is no, I don’t. You know, I think the big question is, if we were to get to the lower number, how would the lower number be distributed? I’ve gotten no indication what that might be or what’s the process to get to that number.
Today we are executing, as I said, progress towards the New START Treaty, which is 5 February 2018, and we’re making great progress there. Our partnership with the U.K. is one that is absolutely transparent. It’s more transparent today than it has ever been.
I think it’s free knowledge, and I’ll state it here publicly. It has gone to the extent that Mr. Tom McKane, who is the equivalent of I’ll say our OSD policy-Jim Miller-had the opportunity last night, and I participated, in a brief to the Nuclear Weapons Council of the United States stating the U.K.’s requirements and desirements for the future as we move forward in a collaborative statement. That’s never been done before.
The efforts that we are doing today on the common missile compartment between the U.S. and the U.K. has reached a new level of encouragement as well as confidence in that we have made a decision with the slip of the Ohio by two years that the first missile flown from the common missile compartment will be on a U.K. submarine. Those are steps that we in this partnership of over 50 years under the Polaris Sales Agreement-I mean, these are milestones, milestones in the sense that our nations would trust and work openly with each other to have that level of confidence, as well as that level of transparency in order to execute that type of a program. So I value the work and the relationship that we have with the United Kingdom and I look forward to it being stronger in the future than it is today, if that’s possible.
MR. JIM DOWN: Jim Down with Senator Tester, congratulations on your latest star. Can you tell us about, when you come to Indiana, what you’re going to talk about in general?
VADM BENEDICT: So General Harencak and I had the opportunity to talk to Senator Coates, and we offered to jointly address this issue of commonality in Senator Coates’ state, if he so desired to do that. And so we’ll look for the opportunity to do that. I think if we were to go out there, I think we’d take the concepts that we have, the A-teams, the work that has been done, the support that we’ve had from Senator Coates, and we’d expand on that.
Again, I think there’s opportunities here that must be explored. I think as taxpayers everyone in this room, everyone in this nation, should expect that the United States Navy and the United States Air Force deliver that. There’s absolutely no reason today, in today’s environment, that we can’t move in that direction and do it in an intelligent fashion, saving money and ensuring the reliability of the future systems, whatever they may be for the Air Force as part of the GBSDA-Away (ph), and certainly as we extend Trident into the Ohio-replacement program. So I think the form would be to open that up and to provide more details into the opportunities for industry, as well as to educate the public.
Well, I appreciate the opportunity to address you. Thank you very much.