Thank you for that warm introduction ADM Mies. I would also like
to thank the corporate benefactors, leaders of industry, and friends
and family of the Submarine Force.
It’s truly great to be here today. The fact that so many of you
are here to share your initiatives is a testament of the superior
support for the Submarine Force.
It is important that we hold this symposium today and
synchronize our thoughts. When we leave this event, there should
be no doubt in anyone’s mind what must be done.
I would like to recognize my young NR engineers in the
audience. I know they’re excited to meet all our partners in the
fleet and industry. They are the newest generation – our future!
Our fate could not be in better hands.
It has been a busy and productive year. The keel for the ILLINOIS was laid in June, our thirteenth VIRGINIA-class submarine. The first lady, Michelle Obama, was there as the graceful and exuberant sponsor.
The JOHN WARNER was christened in September. A submarine named after a truly great man and staunch supporter of the Naval Service. It is great to see him doing so well. The ship is already over 90% complete with construction. I can’t wait to go on Alpha Trials when her time comes.
The NORTH DAKOTA is set to be commissioned this weekend and I look forward to seeing many of you there to welcome her into the fleet. Soon she will be heading off on her maiden deployment. I was fortunate to get to ride for her Alpha Trials. On her very first underway, we tested her limits – all ahead flank to all back emergency. We brought her to test depth, and went to her diving and steering limits—we really ran her through her paces. When we were done there were zero, I repeat zero, deficiencies in the propulsion plant. That’s quality. The VIRGINIA-class is becoming the workhorse of the fleet.
To date the first seven VIRGINIA-class submarines have deployed over 15 times. The MISSOURI and VIRGINIA each completed surge deployments in 2014 just months after returning from scheduled six-month deployments. To add to the class’s record of success, recently we signed the contract for the biggest shipbuilding program in history, over $17.5B for 10 more VIRGINIA-class submarines.
As ADM Mies said, the NAUTILUS celebrated the 60th anniversary of her commissioning in September. I was fortunate enough to go to Groton to speak at this incredible event. In attendance were some of the plankowners and Mrs. Eleonore Rickover.
As we would expect, Mrs. Rickover was treated like a celebrity. Many of the former Sailors were eager to meet her and fondly recount their interactions with Admiral Rickover during their service aboard NAUTILUS. Even on a rainy Groton day, Eleonore and the former crewmembers were beaming with pride as the importance of the NAUTILUS was on display once more. At the risk of saying something heretical in this room full of submariners, the GERALD FORD-class carrier is coming to life.
It will be the first all-electric carrier with 25% more power than NIMITZ-class, 3 times more electrical power. Recently both plants were filled within weeks of the schedule that was set a decade ago. We used a new way of building the power unit, putting it together off hull and using a single lift onto the ship. This technique saved 18 weeks of schedule and $50M dollars using this method. In my office is a picture of the super crane at Newport News lifting the reactor core over the ship. When the core was suspended over the FORD, it was comparable to holding a D-cell battery over a Camaro – and that core will power the ship for 25 years.
Looking forward, we are excited about the OHIO Replace ment Program. It has so much going for it. The security environment clearly dictates the need for this deterrent capability. That will not change in the foreseeable future. Russia, China, and India have already started their new SSBN programs. And ship requirements are stable and approved by the Navy, which is key to cost control. The requirements are leading to a stable and complete design. It will be the most complete design at start of construction of any submarine yet. The industrial base is sound and ready to tackle this challenge. They are gearing up for it. Submarine acquisition programs enjoy broad respect and support. We stand on the foundation of a highly successful VIRGINIA-class program, which not only won the 2013 DOD Value Engineering Achievement Award, but also the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award in 1998 and 2008. We proved that we can reduce costs, increase acquisition efficiency, and improve the acquisition process – a model for the OHIO Replacement Program.
It sounds like everything is looking good and in fact, many of the assessments I show that the OHIO Replacement is green – green as opposed to yellow or red, like in a stop light.
As I look forward, considering the success of the last year, the stability factors I just discussed, including firm requirements, mature design, our best assessment of the future security environment and the strong national security priority, and the path that the OHIO Replacement Program is on, I see all the ingredients for failure.
That’s right, failure. I don’t feel green at all.
The challenge before us is real
The program is on track, but we are not green. First, the situation is far too complex to measure with such a simple metric as a stop light. There has been a lot of talk recently stating “OHIO Replacement is green…” and I worry the message is too optimistic; that we have over-simplified the problem. That approach could easily give rise to a complacency that is poisonous.
It is complicated and we need commitment…there is much to do, much to solidify. We still need creative thinking, we still must do anything we can to support this national program. The time is now to get skin in the game, put your shoulder to the blocking sled and keep your legs pumping.
To give you a more complete and accurate picture, let me describe the OHIO Replacement Program in terms of six lines of effort.
The first line of effort I see is the reactor plant and reactor core. The 40-year core is a huge leap forward. It will be the most energetic core we have ever built. By virtue of no longer needing to do a midlife refueling, we can build two fewer ships to achieve the same at-sea availability. The combination of two fewer ships and avoiding a mid-life refueling reap $40 billion over the Program’s life.
There are big challenges remaining for the reactor plant. A lot of design and manufacturing work is left and we must get the S8G prototype refueled, to de-risk the final design for the OHIO Replacement. Funding for this work will come from Department of Energy, a budget that is under tremendous stress.
The second line of effort is the electric drive propulsion system. An amazing technological development. Advancements in the last decade associated with permanent magnet motors and power electronics have enabled greater torque and power capability in a package small enough to fit in a nuclear-powered submarine. Electric drive can achieve a level of stealth not possible for even the most advanced mechanical drive. It is the right solution to provide the stealth necessary for the lifetime of the OHIO Replacement.
We have plans and schedules to complete land-based systems level testing in Philadelphia for the electric drive prior to lead ship construction, but we will not have operated the capability at sea before building the lead ship. Since the land based testing is at full scale, we expect the risk to be retired – but this program must stay on track.
The third line of effort is in ship design. The design schedule is very aggressive and set to achieve the goal of 80% design completion prior to the construction start date. Thus far, the ship specifications are complete, 68% of system descriptions are done, 28% of system diagrams are finished, and detailed arrangements are now starting. A complete design includes all of these products, plus the work packages, drawings, procurement and manufacturing information needed to build and support the ship through its life. There is no slack left in the schedule; we are on a brisk pace to achieve the level of completeness with these products that we need to control the cost of the program.
The fourth line of effort, the D5 Life Extension Missile, will be maintained for the OHIO as well as the OHIO Replacement, thereby delaying the need to develop a new missile. However, the missile tube industrial base needs recapitalization, and the launching system re-qualified, to support the OHIO Replacement. Testing at China Lake and Cape Canaveral is planned to reduce the risk in re-hosting the missile system aboard the OHIO Replacement. Again, this is a must-do program. The fifth line of effort is the United Kingdom partnership.
The U.S. and U.K. design teams and construction and qualification schedules are currently synchronized, but dependent on both the U.S. and the U.K. succeeding in our plans to achieve the design and construction schedule. It is imperative that we maintain this synchronization in order to minimize the effects of possible schedule slip on overlapping schedules and limited resources. The final line of effort I see is funding. We have not yet figured out how we will pay for OHIO Replacement and we should take no comfort on the general commitment that “we’ll get this done.” With respect to funding, we are not in new territory.
We have done this before when we found the money for the Trident submarine and added it to the SCN (Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy) account. And each OHIO Replacement is only about 1% of the defense budget, a relative bargain for such an essential element of national security. It is not acceptable to crush the Navy’s ability to build other ships, including new surface combatants and VIRGINIA-class submarines. We have also learned the hard lessons that stability, including funding stability, is a key driver to long-term success, including cost reduction.
Secretary Frank Kendall (USD AT&L) recently pointed out that there is a distinct relationship between budget uncertainty and cost growth. A recent Pentagon sponsored study shows that when the U.S. military budget is constrained, weapons system acquisition programs are more likely to experience cost growth. Industry takes risk in bidding, because there are fewer things to bid for. People who run programs and budgets take risk because they try to fit more capabilities into the bid. Program Managers and acquisition leaders cut corners and make assumptions that turn out not to be true. That’s how you end up with cost overruns and schedule slips; there is a very strong correlation.
There is also the matter of advanced technology. In this regard, again Secretary Kendall points the way, “I think we’ve been relatively comfortable for decades now about our technological superiority in the world relative to other powers. That’s changing and we have to take it seriously. I think there’s a growing recognition that we have to be better at getting advanced technology products out and better capabilities out in shorter cycle times.”
Technology has always been a central element of naval warfare and especially submarine warfare. We cannot cut corners here. Some technologies will last the life of the ship like the payload volume, quieting, max speed and max depth. With these capabilities, we have to invest up front. Other technologies, like combat systems and sensors, will advance over the ship’s 40-year lifetime.
Using Moore’s Law, in 40 years processing power will be over 1 million times faster. That is a huge difference. Parts for the OHIO Replacement are built to adapt and accommodate this increasing technology.
So let us review the bidding. I see the OHIO Replacement
-Under two nations: the United States and United Kingdom
-Under two Executive Departments: DOD and DOE
We’ve got well-defined but still aggressive programs in:
There are many budget lines to fund these projects
All of these programs need to progress together, as a synchronized whole. We need to keep all these horses galloping down the road in formation.
If we, in this room, do not have butterflies in our stomach each day as we come to work on this program, we are kidding ourselves. The stakes are far too high. The question is, how to translate these feelings into actions?
In this regard, there are things we can control. Things like — funding, government performance, shipyard performance, and vendor performance. We have solid plans for construction and testing and we are building the necessary facilities. We are leveraging the things that we know work and are reducing uncertainty.
Then there are things we cannot control. Things like – the inevitable uncertainty in technology development and the changing threat picture. For the known engineering and schedule challenges, government and industry have identified executable paths forward to retire the key risks prior to start of ship construction. And for the rest, we need to ensure sufficient margin to accommodate the unknown. We must respect that we may not get this right on the first try. We certainly do not want to be introducing any more risk or uncertainty that’s not needed. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The government team is working hard and has solid plans to retire risk but a lot still must be done to execute those plans. The reason we are here, in fact the true value of these get togethers, is to unite and discern a way forward. This situation calls for some Commander’s Guidance.
I always try to make my Commander’s Guidance succinct. If you become separated from the main body or lose communications, you will still be able to contribute to the mission — know the things you can do to advance the cause, and know the things you must not do; things that will harm the cause. Commander’s Guidance enables decentralized operations, a key naval tenet, empowering more people to get involved and contribute. This concept can easily be applied to our situation with the OHIO Replacement Program. So let me offer you this Guidance.
1. Increase support. Inform those in your sphere of influence: everyone from your Congressmen to your local PTA. Look for ways to make people aware of how vital this is to the nation’s security; the stakes are extremely high. Don’t assume that somebody else will do this; we all need to do it. Like John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
2. Retire risk. Look for ways to put it behind you. Ensure plans get approved, designs get done, testing is pushed forward, and systems are integrated. Don’t introduce more complexity or uncertainty if the current system is adequate and successful. Leave margin for unknowns; don’t write checks that you can’t cash. In the end, it only hurts our credibility.
3. Be judicious about cost. In this way, we will be in a position to take advantage of all the tools that have made our current submarine production program so successful. We have the confidence of all stakeholders: Defense, Energy, Congress and the American People. Stability and Confidence will allow the nation to invest, to buy in to the program in a way that best advances technology in a responsible way, and reduces cost.
In January 2015, we’ll celebrate the 60th anniversary of “underway on nuclear power”. Study that time carefully. Maintain the rigor that has served us so well in the past. Reduce the bureaucracy and distractions that are smothering us. Recapture some of the pioneer spirit, innovation, excitement, and urgency. There is a role for the Naval Submarine League in these debates, for the League as a whole, and for each of you as individuals. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Be far less comfortable. I concur that we can get to green. We’ll be green when that first submarine goes alert in 2031. Until then, we’ve got work to do and nothing to take for granted. We can do this. Let’s get to work.