Peter, thank you for the kind introduction, and my thanks to Task Force 21 for this opportunity to be with you to day. I’d also like to wish a happy birthday to all U.S. Air Force service members here today, past and present, as the Air Force was founded 67 years ago.
I’m RDML Joe Tofalo, Director of Undersea Warfare on the Navy staff in the Pentagon, OPNAVN97.
I took the job about 10 months ago, having come from command of Submarine Group 10 in Kings Bay, GA, where I was responsible for all Atlantic SSBNs and SSGNs. In my current job as N97, I’m both the head Requirements Officer and Resource Sponsor for the U.S. Submarine Force, to include requirements and resourcing the OHIO Replacement program. So between my most recent and present assignments, I am fortunate to have both operational and Echelon I headquarters perspective on the Sea Based Strategic Deterrent. To be clear, the Sea-Based Strategic Deterrent is my, and the Navy’s, #1 priority. It is also clear that it is a high priority for many in Congress, and Senator Hoeven’s words on OHIO Replacement this morning are greatly appreciated.
There is one key message I want to make sure everyone takes away today. For the foreseeable future, and certainly for our and our children’s lifetimes, the United States will require a safe, secure and effective strategic nuclear deterrent, and the SSBN force will be a critical part of that deterrent.
Why am I so sure of this? Let me walk you through four points of my reasoning.
First, there is every indication that strategic nuclear deterrence will become more challenging –not less challenging –in the future.Let me give you some examples:
The President has made clear that the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. Both Russia and China have recently indicated that they intend to strengthen, not weaken, their nuclear forces. North Korea clearly depends on nuclear forces to extort the international community. Iran is enduring substantial international sanction pressure in order to continue its nuclear program. Taken together, the various nuclear states have articulated any number of strong reasons to maintain and in some cases increase their nuclear force capabilities.
During the recent Nuclear Security Summit attended by 58 world leaders at the end of March, 35 countries pledged to turn international guidelines on nuclear security into national laws, and open up their procedures for protecting nuclear installations to independent scrutiny. Notably absent from the agreement were Russia,China, India,Pakistan, North Korea and Iran—the six countries that we most focus on when we think about our own deterrent effectiveness.
Both Russia and China have made clear that they are modernizing their nuclear forces and increasing the irreliance and emphasis on nuclear weapons. Both countries have a new SSBN in the water and are testing a new sea based ballistic missile—we do not.
Clearly, the strategic deterrence environment is going to be more challenging in the future.
Now, point #2: Maintaining an effective strategic deterrent in the face of these challenges will continue to require a Triad, of which SSBNs by virtue of their survivability are an essential part.It is the Navy’s stated position that the Nation should retain its nuclear Triad. Each of the Triad’s legs brings unique strengths that provide a strong deterrent against different classes of adversary threat, and each of the legs reinforces the effectiveness of the others.
For the SSBN force, the unique strength is survivability. The SSBN force provides the President with an assuredability to robustly respond that is capable of deterring both attack and coercion through the threat of attack.
A common misconception is that the number of warheads is the main driver for how many SSBNs we need.
The SSBN force is sized to keep the right number of platforms in the right place and in the right posture all the time. Geography, survivability and target coverage are in fact the primary drivers in sizing the force—not the total number of warheads.
The ability to adapt to emerging threats also plays a role. For instance, as we are selecting requirements for the Ohio Replacement SSBN, we have to ensure that its stealth paces the projected threat. We do this by carefully looking at the evolution of proven technologies, the emergence of credible threats, and detailed analysis of all available intelligence.
In order to provide a survivable assured response, our SSBNs must provide our adversaries with aninsurmountable problem. We do this by ensuring we have multiple stealthy platforms distributed across largeoce an areas in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. Our goal is to effectively remove the incentive for an adversary to even attempt to locate our at-sea SSBNs.
To put things in perspective, SSBNs have over half of the Nation’s deployed nuclear warheads. Their survivability is essential if our deterrent is to remain robust and credible.
So, maintaining a robust survivable SSBN force is critical, but how can we do this in the most affordable way?
My third point is that by leveraging a variety of tools, the Navy provides SSBNs to the Nation in the most cost effective manner possible.
Let’s go through some of the ways the Navy has controlled the cost of the SSBN force:
First and most importantly, we have delayed recapitalization of the SSBN force for as long as possible. Webuilt 18 OHIO SSBNs and designed them for a 30-year service life. If we had replaced them on the original schedule, we would have needed the first replacement SSBN at-sea in 2011—three years ago. In fact,tomorrow, we are celebrating the 4000th strategic nuclear deterrent patrol by our SSBN force; ADM Haney will be speaking in Kings Bay to commemorate it. The timing of the celebration happens to coincide within a month of when we should have been decommissioning the first of the remaining OHIO SSBN (USS Henry M.Jackson—originally scheduled for decommissioning on 06 OCT 2014). Instead, the first OHIO Replacement SSBN won’t go on patrol until 2031—a full twenty years after the original 2011 patrol date.
How did we do this? We reduced the SSBN force at the end of the Cold War from 18 to 14.That bought us four years. Then, after extensive engineering analysis determined it was acceptable, we extended the service life of each ship by 12 years—now we’re at 16. Then we incorporated design changes into the OHIO Replacement SSBN so that 12 could do the work of 14 OHIOs, gaining us two more years of delay—now we’reat 18 years. Finally, we accepted the risk of an additional two-year delay, which will also have us transition from OHIO to OHIO Replacement at a force level of only ten ships. You heard what Congress-man Rogers had to say about that this morning. All combined, that’s20 years later than originally planned—there is absolutely no room for more.
This ten-ship force is acceptable during the transition period only because none of our SSBNs will be inoverhaul during that period. The OHIO Replacement force will ultimately build up to a force of 12 ships. The last two enable us to do the necessary overhaul work on the others near the middle of their service life without dropping below the minimum operational force level of ten ships.
I have taken the time to walk you through the 20-year sequence because it has literally saved the nation billions of dollars and, separately, it has delayed the expenditure as well. Just cutting two SSBNs off of the required force size saved us more than $20B in procurement and operating costs over the life of the class.
Making the force lean like this saves money, but it applies pressure to the force that cannot be ignored. This increases our level of risk.
The OHIO Replacement is being designed with cost-efficiency in mind. We’re going from 24 missile tubes in OHIO to only 16 tubes on the OHIO Replacement. We are incorporating components already in use in the VIRGINIA-class attack submarines, letting us save money on design, on training pipelines, and on logistics support.
We no longer design custom electronics for each submarine. We stopped doing that years ago to leverage the cost-savings that come with Commercial Off the Shelf technologies. As a result, the OHIO Replacement will have common sonar, fire control, and radio systems along with the other submarines in the fleet, again saving us maintenance, training and logistics costs.
One of the main reasons we can use 12 OHIO Replacements to do the work of the 14 OHIO SSBNs is because the new SSBNs will start with a 42-year service life and will not need to be refueled or extended. This will reduce the duration of the mid-life overhaul, making 12 ships sufficient.
In addition, we have taken advantage of our long-standing relationship with the United Kingdom to share the development cost of our OHIO Replacement with their Successor-class SSBN. This has led to our mutual development of a common missile compartment, creating savings for both nations.
We have been operating SSBNs for over 55 years. With each new design we incorporate lessons and efficiencies learned from our operating experience with the earlier ships. By leveraging both our long operational experience and the tremendous cost-control techniques we have learned with the VIRGINIA-class SSN, we have been able to ensure that the OHIO Replacement is as affordable as possible while still having the capabilities it must have to be viable into the 2080s. Let me emphasize that date… the 2080s… that’s a longtime with a lot at stake. We’ve got to get this right.
Recapitalizing SSBNs only happens every other generation. We’ve already extended the OHIO from 30 to 42years and it’s now this generation’s turn to recapitalize the sea-based strategic fleet. The unfortunate thing about SSBNs is that we have historically procured them in tight groups, ever since the first 41 SSBNs were procured in just 7 years (repeat, 7 years). This means that they must be replaced in tight groups as well. The OHIO SSBNs were procured at a rate of one per year, so that means we must procure its replacement at one per year if we are going to meet our strategic operational requirements.
We have delayed OHIO Replacement as long as possible, and 2021 is the latest we can start construction and execute the first deterrent patrol by 2031 with no gap in the required strategic presence.
Even when done in the most cost effective manner, the recapitalization of the SSBN force at about one per year requires the commitment of significant national resources for about 15 years. This creates a challenge for the Navy shipbuilding program.
So this brings me to my fourth and final point. We must take steps to minimize the impact that OHIOReplacement procurement has upon the rest of the shipbuilding plan.
The Navy shipbuilding plan emphasizes stable procurement lines in order to maximize cost-efficiency. If theNavy alone were to absorb the entire cost of the OHIO Replacement SSBN within the existing ship constructionbudget, it would consume at least one third of the available money. Over the course of the 12 yearsassociated with those 12 OHIO Replacements, that’s like losing four years of ship procurement money. Thatmeans that all of the other shipbuilding programs would be disrupted by a third to make up the difference.
This would make the other disrupted production line less efficient and increase the cost of each of theseplatforms, and result in overall fewer Navy ships. Given that the Navy is already stressed with the force levelstoday, there is no room to absorb this kind of ship construction impact. Add the realities of Russian andChinese aggressiveness, and the problem becomes even more acute. The bottom line is, as referred to in the30 Year Shipbuilding Plan, the Navy cannot procure OHIO Replacement inthe 2020s within historical funding levels without severely impacting other Navy programs.
We do need to pause for a minute to ensure we all understand the phrase “historical Navy shipbuildingfunding levels,”as it is often quoted in the press. When it is used, perhaps the caveat recentshould beadded to historical, as often only the last twenty years are what is being considered. We must remember thatthe last 20+ years do not include the procurement of SSBNs—we procured our last SSBN in 1991. When we dobuy the OHIO Replacement, it will have been 45+ years since the procurement of the first OHIO. So it does notmake sense to hold the shipbuilding accounts constant when “recent” averages, or “recent historical fundinglevels,” did not have to account forbuilding SSBNs. The Center for Naval Analysesdid a study that determinedthat the Navy’s annual shipbuilding account has been about 5 to 6 billion dollars higher in the years that weprocured SSBNs—including the ‘41 for Freedom’and the OHIO Class. This historical analysis, which looks atthe full historical perspective and not just the last 20+ years, is consistent with what we see is needed today.
So, yes we will have to bear the burden of paying for these SSBNs during the 2020s, but they will remain inservice into the 2080s, and they come with all of the fuel they will ever need. Given the significant magnitudeof their mission (preventing major power war), the infrequency of their procurement burden (every othergeneration), the need to not impact therest of Navy shipbuilding, and their outstanding amortized value (intothe 2080s), the case for top line relief is very strong.
Top line relief can come in one of at least two ways. Either via the shipbuilding account, as the Center forNaval Analyses study I previously mentioned indicates has been done if you look at the full history, or via aproperly funded separate account outside the Navy shipbuilding account. As Mr. Stackley, the AssistantSecretary of the Navy for Research Development and Acquisition, testified to the House Armed ServicesCommittee in early July, such a fund is just a vehicle.So what really matters is additional resourcesregardless of the vehicle. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus just reiterated this point earlier this week in hisremarks at the Council on Foreign Relations. Again, either approach is acceptable, but for the Navy to take OHIO Replacement out of hidefrom within current projected shipbuilding account limits just doesn’t makesense.
So where does this leave us?
The ColdWar may be in the past, but the world that is ahead of us is even more complex and challenging. There ismuch work to be done to address problems like North Korea, Iran, a resurgent Russia and an emerging China.
There will undoubtedly be other problems that will arisethat are not even on our radar scopes today.
We will need a strong deterrent, and it will need the flexibility of the bomber leg, the responsiveness of the ICBMleg, and the survivability of the SSBN leg. We have saved the country literally billions of dollars by deferring andshrinking our nuclear forces to the limits of what is reasonable. We are at the point now where <0.7% of federaloutlays go to nuclear deterrence and the prevention of major power war. This is a tremendous return oninvestment, but it can go no lower. Now is the time to recapitalize the SSBN force. There is no further room for delay or force reduction. We mustensure that we properly fund the development and building of the OHIO Replacement, and continue to leverage allof the tools we can to make it as affordable as possible. And this affordability extends beyond cost.We alsohave to make sure that we can afford the impact on the size of the rest of the Navy. Thank you to everyone in the audience who makes today’s nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective. Holdingthat standard in the future is a tall order, but we must and will make it happen.