2013 ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM
NAVAL SUBMARINE LEAGUE
23 OCTOBER 2013
Good afternoon. Thanks Admiral Mies for the introduction. I want to thank the Submarine League for sticking with this event. A few weeks ago I contacted Admiral Padgett and Tim Oliver to warn them that I was uncertain if we would be able to attend, as we had restrictions on travel spending and even participation in outreach events, whether or not there was any cost to the Navy. That goes double for the corporate sponsors whose names are posted behind me. I know many of you had people moving in this direction before we could guarantee that this event could happen.
We appreciate that you create this forum in which we can share our ideas and priorities. It is never more important to clarify our priorities than during times of fiscal uncertainty.
The message that I want to carry to you this afternoon is that the Submarine Force is doing well- even in these uncertain times.
- Our SSBNs continue to prove that they are the most reliable leg of the strategic triad.
- Our SSNs and SSGNs are turning in impressive returns on their deployments, and they do so in a deployed environment that is extraordinarily dynamic. Phil Sawyer will walk you through some examples.
- Our people are talented and motivated- they never took their eye off the ball despite the fact that it looked for a while like their paychecks, reenlistment bonuses and spare parts were going to be used for political fodder. Our Force Master Chiefs and two of our best commanding officers will talk to you about that tomorrow.
- Our fleet commanders stood behind us as we prepared ships for deployment and no ship that faced a patrol or deployment in the next 12 months was denied the resources to prepare for that deployment.
- The SSBN mission was protected in virtually all respects as we worked through sequestration and shutdown restrictions.
- We continue to deliver submarines- ahead of schedule and under budget. We just commissioned USS MINN ES OT A in September in Norfolk and we will christen PCU NORTH DAKOT A in Groton next week.
The good news, I think, is that our priorities have not changed significantly. So what I would like to do, in this time of fiscal confusion, is reassert what our INVESTMENT priorities are from the perspective of a Type Commander charged with the man, train, and equip mission for the Submarine Force. We need to understand those priorities, because the country has yet to face our fiscal challenges; we have simply kicked the can a few months down the road.
OUR NUMBER ONE priority was- and is- to reconstitute the Sea Based Nuclear Deterrent. I was careful in my choice of words there because while I am talking about the Ohio Replacement Program, I am not JUST talking about Ohio replacement. I am also talking about 05 life extension, Strategic Fire Control systems and sustaining the infrastructure that supports the SSBN Fleet. This is the most important mission in the Navy, perhaps the most important in DoD.
I have some concerns that while the country is justifiably happy with the performance of the current SSBN Fleet, that we have made this critical mission look too easy- much easier than it really is. As our SSBN crews and teams that maintain and train our fleet work very hard to meet their tasking, we have self-proclaimed experts who claim that the same level of deterrence can be achieved with a smaller force.
Similarly there is not enough appreciation for the work that we have to do during the next several years to lay the foundation for the next generation of the strategic deterrent. I am speaking specifically about the Research and Development necessary to achieve success with Ohio Replacement. We know what it takes to design, prototype and build a submarine of this size and technology density. There is no margin left. So- in a world of unpredictable budgets, continuing resolutions, and threats of government shutdown, we need to ensure that the ROT &E stays in the budget, work continues under continuing resolutions and work does not stop if we have more government shutdowns. The same logic applies to the many steps we must take to design and test critical components for 05 life extension.
Those of us in the operating forces need to make sure that when we get pressed to save money, that we don’t do so in a way that would lead others to believe we lack the resolve to sustain our most important mission. This is hugely important as we take the Trident Fleet through its last 20 years of life. We will have to work harder to maintain our commitment of SSBNs at sea. To do so will require absorbing some financial inefficiency, to include >u>overtime work during refit periods, conducting modernization during depot maintenance periods only. If we do not accept these realities, we will eventually start to miss our required readiness standards, and if we accept that sort of compromise against this critical mission, we will define a new normal that will lead the budget programmers and congressional staffers to adjust the ‘requirement.’
Our next priority is to meet the Combatant Commander demand for deployed SSN and SSGN presence. You all know that the combatant commander demand for SSN and SSGN presence far exceeds what we can supply. That has been true for so long now that we just accept it, and our ships get allocated by the Joint Staff, they essentially provide a share of the stated requirement. It’s almost as if we assume that the Combatant Commanders are overstating their requirements. Well- they are not. Submarines are needed because they provide real things- like awareness of activity in terrorist networks, over watch for special operations forces, knowledge of adversary weapons capabilities AND intentions. And of course the hammers- or should I say Tomahawk- that back up the policies of our Commander in Chief. And while the allocation process recognizes that submarines can do all of these things, it does not recognize that we cannot do all of these things AT THE SAME TIME with one or two ships in theater. This limitation has become very apparent lately.
So-what we need to do is ensure that we do our best to sustain our presence over the next several years. We will do that primarily by continuing to press for two Virginia class SSNs each year. We should be aware that we will need to have that fight EVERY year. We also need to continue to press to reduce the time between commissioning and first deployment. The incremental improvements that we have achieved in construction time and quality need to be sustained. We appreciate all that the people in this room in government and industry have done to make that so.
We also need to make sure that Block V of Virginia Class includes the Virginia Payload Module. It is absolutely essential to preserving the payload volume that will start to go away in 2026 as the SSGNs reach end of service life.
Next priority (#3 if you lost count) is Payload development. Given that there are many circumstances under which the Submarine Force will be the only US asset that is able to deliver its payloads in the face of a mature A2AD threat, we need to expand the tools we carry. We need to do everything we can to extend the reach and influence of each submarine, because it will be the Submarine Force that opens the door for the Joint Force of the Future.
That effort starts with resuming heavyweight torpedo production. Our existing weapons, while they are effective today, will become obsolete over the next decade. They become obsolete in one sense because things like the torpedo hulls and fuel tanks will be too old or too corroded to be serviceable. They will become obsolete in another sense because the existing weapons have not leveraged the tremendous leaps that have been made in autonomy, propulsion, navigation and communications. We have the ability to make the toroedo of the future a true precision, over the horizon weapon.
But it is about much more than torpedoes. We need to press with a portfolio of payloads to expand our capacity in the ISR, EW, offensive mining, and strike areas. The Tomahawk missile remains the country’s primary precision strike weapon. But we only carry land attack variants. We need to reconstitute an anti surface missile capability for its obvious value, but also because an adversary that must defend against this type of strike makes himself vulnerable to other means of attack.
Rick Breckenridge and I laid out our strategy, and some first steps, in truly developing our undersea payloads earlier this week for the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology. The meeting went well. So well, in fact, that we are no longer able to discuss the details in a forum like this.
While the platform investments that I discussed earlier are the essential foundation of a successful Submarine Force, I don’t think any investment will pay a higher return in terms of war fighting capability per dollar than investments in submarine-delivered payloads.
Unify the Undersea Domain
Almost a year ago, we, or I guess I, was presented the task of leading the Navy effort in the ‘Undersea Domain.” It’s been an interesting journey …. and it is far from over.
There is a lot of work to be done here in the refinement of operating concepts, harmonizing tactics, aligning command and control and producing a useful common operating picture.
We are putting NMA WC, the Navy Mine and ASW Warfare Center, in the forefront of this effort. They are the Undersea Warfare Warfighting Center of Excellence. They have the daunting task of pulling together the tactics developed by the surface, air, submarine and mine warfare communities into a coherent approach. They will be responsible for assessing performance of the individual communities at the advanced phase of their pre-deployment training and for assessing the performance of the Theater Undersea Warfare Commander. Rear Admiral Bill Merz just took over last week. We plan to leverage his experience as the Commander of Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE to spread that level of rigor in tactical development to the greater undersea warfare community.
Just to be clear. Here are our investment priorities. They are pretty straightforward …. as they need to be during times of fiscal uncertainty. We hope that we do not have to pick and choose-because they are all so important. However, if we do have to pick and choose we will work from the top of this list and go down.