My brief, my discussion today will be a little bit different than the preceding ones to a degree, because I am going to focus primarily on the things in the Pacific, and I’d like to say, and I truly believe, that within the Submarine Force, between the Pacific, the Atlantic and the N97 folks in the Pentagon, we have a very, very close working relationship, and we standardize wherever we can. We’re unique where it’s required. But many of the issues we deal with are force-wide. And we attack them as a force-wide issue.
Admiral Connor, and certainly Joe Tofalo, have identified the big and broader issues. So I’m going to focus a little bit more on the Pacific. I’ll highlight some things that may be unique to us, and how we’re going about doing those. Generally speaking, I’ll go back to my nuclear roots, and that is, while overall I think what we are doing in the Submarine Force is very, very positive, as a nuke, we don’t really focus on the positives.
But where there is an area we can improve in,we’re all focused, most of them things I think we need to continue to put effort into, and truthfully, these are areas that I will turnover these problems to my relief, because I don’t think that I’m going to be able to get to the endpoint on these.
First let’s just talk a little about SubPac. I did not speak last year at this forum but I did speak at the Naval Submarine League Symposium in October. Since then the changes in SubPac,there are two, primarily Force lay down,issues. One is the fourth SSN will be in Guam. Originally it was going to be in Guam a couple of days ago. It’s been a bit delayedin Groton, enjoying the snow. TOPEKA exited the shipyard and will be in Guam, roughly about the first of May.
That will be the fourth SSN home-ported in Guam. If you look at it in a day-to-day basis with all the deployed units and the SSG that’s doing maintenance there, on a day-to-day basis, it has about the same number of submarines as Norfolk and San Diego does. The landscape has changed in Guam with respect to submarines and what we do there. And I will address that a little bit more in the future. But with that fourth SSN there, that changes what we call the Guam Mission Cycle. We’re working through those aspects of it, of how to obviously maximize the availability of the submarines there, and at the same time, make sure that we don’t overcrowd Guam.
The second change took place in November of ’14, we stood up a squadron in Bahrain, Squadron 21. It works for Group 7,administratively. They wear a second hat, and that’s CTF54 Det. That’s the operational hat that they wear. We have a Commodore there. He has a staff and if you think back to the days of Squadron 22 in the Med, that really is what Squadron 21 looks like. We’re fleshing out some of the processes and the people that go there. But they will, to a very large degree,look like what we used to know as Squadron 22. The big difference is Squadron 21 there in Bahrain will also do day-to-day theater ASW for NAVCENT and the 5th Fleet Commander.
EMORY S. LAND,which has just exited her maintenance availability in Oregon, stopped by Hawaii, loaded up some stuff, and now is headed out to Guam. We’ve just put in the change request for the billets. She is going to be home ported in Guam. With four SSNs, I have to have a tender in Guam. They are my eye-level maintenance facility. And the tenders have to do their own maintenance on themselves. And often times that’s over here in CONUS.
EMORY S. LAND and FRANK CABLE will both be home ported in Guam. There’s a lot of advantages to that, particularly the manning of the tender. Right now, as you probably know, they’re all on the EMORY S. LAND. It’s an expeditionary tender home port in Diego Garcia. Those are all one-year billets. The turn over of a crew that size in a year is pretty phenomenal. We’ll now man them and detail them, assign them,just like we do FRANK CABLE.And our plan for the two tenders is one will always be underway 95% of the time.
One will be out doing forward maintenance, expeditionary maintenance, including going to 5th Fleet. The other will be there doing maintenance on the home ported SSNs in Guam, and any forward-deployed guys that need it. So we’ll always have one in Guam. They’ll come in, they’ll do a turnover, and the other guy will take off. So roughly they’ll be gone about five, five-and-a-half months every year. And they’ll rotate through who’s underway and who’s doing the maintenance in Guam.
As I travel around, Asia, this slide—or something that looks very similar to it—is often used by the countries in Asia. They use this and talk about economic prosperity and how that supports security and well-being of their folks. They focus and they tell their people that they’re talking to that this is amaritime environment. And it’s simply geography. As we know, throughout the world, 90% of the volume of good sisnow moved over the ocean. That’s true in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The difference though and what they use the slide for is to highlight the choke points that are part of Asia.
You can easily see that there are choke points in the Asia area, particularly Southeast Asia. Again it’s used to highlight the fact that the Pacific is a maritime environment, something that’s not lost on us, obviously. So I’m going to talk a little bit about the countries in the Pacific and what we’re doing.
As I walk around the AOR, I’ve grouped these countries. These three first; North Korea, Russia and China,I spent a lot of time focusing on these three. First, North Korea;Admiral Locklear’s testimony to Congress last year said that North Korea is the most dangerousactor we have in the Pacific. They are unpredictable. They either have—or are working toward—nuclear weapons depending on what you read in the paper.
They have demonstrated that they will use kinetic force on the South Koreans as in the sinking of the CHEONAN, and the shelling of a small island off the coast called Yeonpyeong. The unpredictability portion of that causes us to pause. We have to think about our actions, their actions and how we interact with the North Koreans. If you go to South Korea,it’s very easy to figure out where nor this, because as you land anywhere in South Korea, you’ll see these surface-to-air missile batteries throughout the country, and they’re all pointed north, right? It’s your compass. It’s easy to get your bearings when you’re in South Korea just by looking at where all these missiles are pointing.
You also see in the open press, that the North Koreans have developed a new submarine. The assessment right now, as you read,is that it’s a ballistic missile submarine, it looks like an old Golf,that many people may be familiar with. Nevertheless, that adds another level of concern, particularly to South Korea, with a submarine that potentially could carry a ballistic missile.
Russia,as Admiral Harris, my boss of the Pac Fleet says,everybody focuses on Russia and what they’re doing in the Ukraine, rightly so,and what they’re doing in the North Sea, rightly so. He says,”Hey, but Russia has a Pacific component.” And while they do all the testing and building and stuff,in the Atlantic, those units eventually flow over to the Pacific. I was down in Australia at a conference, last year, just before theG20 met in Brisbane, and, of course in the front page of the Australian Day, was the Russian SAG (Surface Action Group) that they sent down off the coast of Brisbane. As I finished, I asked if there were any questions. The first question was,”What is America doing about that Russian SAGs that’s off our coast?” I just smiled and I said, “Hey, it is international water, right?”
Obviously we do see a lot of stuff happening obviously in the Atlantic and NATO and Europe, and it causes concern. There is similar stuff—not kinetic—but there are similar issues going on in the Pacific that does raise the level of concern by the Pacific countries. So we think a lot about Russia.
Lastly on this portion is China. China is developing and they are a blue water Navy. China, has a very, very robust Navy in general that we watch. As you’ve seen recently,they send a counter piracy task group to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf continuously. They always have one over there protecting their shipping.
The last two, again as you see in the open press, have included submarines. So they have the desire, they have the intent, and they have the wherewithal to push their units forward. While we really do desire to work with them to make sure there’s as much transparency as possible, we’re not yet there with the Chinese. There’s a 2014 Pew Research Poll which surveyeda lot of the countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia. And the number one driver for concern amongst these countries was territorial disputes with China, and the fact that in 8 of the 11 countries surveyed, their general populace believed with a greater than 50%, value, that the territorial disputes with China would result in military conflict.
It’s even in those countries that, like Malaysia, which view China very, very favorably, they also believed that conflict would result because of what China is doing. You’ve seen in the paper about all of the things that are going on in the South China Sea,it’s kind of gone from the paper about these Senkakus and the Japanese,Chinese issues there with Senkakus.
But in the South China Sea, it’s Vietnam and oil drilling. It’s the Philippines, and the Spratlys,and who owns them.I know that Senator John McCain, very recently used a slide where he showed what China was doing in the South China Sea and the reclamation projects. It is quite amazing what they have done down there across many of the Spratly Islands, and that is simply dragged up sand from the ocean and have built islands. Obviously the intent of that, is to be able to call that territorial land, and then apply the international rules that go with land masses.
I talked about the Pew Research Poll. These are the other countries that have submarines in the Southeast Asia area. While I focus a lot of time and attention on Russia, China and North Korea, I would tell you that Admiral Munsch, who is CTF-74 Sub Group 7, spends a lot of time with these countries, as they are developing their Submarine Forces. That’s primarily because that water is getting much more populated with submarines. He has to work both, from a very simple submarine rescue standpoint, and a water space management standpoint to kind of get everybody on the same page, so that we don’t have inadvertent problems.
In Vietnam in particular, there are Kilo submarines that they have bought and are buying from Russia. It’s interesting they are operating those submarines on a very routine basis, off their coast. And, again, there are broad issues about the Vietnamese and the Chinese with oil rigs down there in the South China Sea. And if you would’ve taken an overhead satellite picture and taken a look at that confrontation there must have been 45 ships, from the two countries, that were nose-to-nose, surrounding this contested oil rig that’s down there.
I think that these countries are procuring additional submarines primarily because of their concern with the tensions that are really China, and the territorial issues they are causing there.
I was just recently out in South Korea. They have just stood up, their structure is a fleet commander called ROK Fleet, he is a 3-star and operates all the units. He’s an operational commander type of construct, what they call a Type Commander similar to SubPac or SubLant.
And it’s pretty significant. They’ve changed the way they operate. Usually all the operating forces go to the fleet command-er. That continues to be true with the exception of the Submarine Force now. So the Submarine Force, not only do they do manned-trained-equipped side of it, but they are the operating commander. So they really look like both Group 7, who’s our operating commander forward, and Sub Pac. They do both sides of that equation, which is unique in South Korea.
I would also tell you,if you ever end up in South Korea, all you have to do is mention Admiral Konetzni’s name. You want a free dinner, a drink, whatever it is, mention Admiral Konetzni’s name and you’re in. They really revere him over there.
There’s a lot of changes going on in Japan. You’ve seen about the Constitutional issues they’re going through, including the collective self-defense. When you think about that change,it’s a huge change for the Japanese. And collective self-defense, before they had that, if my surface ship and their surface ship were next to each other, and somebody attacked my surface ship, the Japanese could not attack, even if it was two Japanese surface ships. It was self-defense only. So if you were not attacked, you specifically, could not protect your other surface ship right next to you. We found that quite interesting, to say the least. So they’ve changed that, it’s collective self-defense now.
The Japanese continue to make deployments to Pearl Harbor. One of their most modern submarines, an AIP submarine, pulled into Pearl Harbor last Friday. They come there for training. It’s very, very helpful for us. It’s a win-win. It’s beneficial for us and for them. We get to operate with diesel submarines and develop our tactics and our procedures with them. And at the same time they get the highest level of training they can possibly get.
Australia is still trying to figure out the Collins Class replacement. There’s a lot of people involved with that. We’ve been down there quite a bit discussing it with them. I know Dave Johnson and his team, many in our country are working with them as they go forward. They remain a very, very staunch ally of ours. We just started a PEP Program with them, and two of their junior officers are now assigned to Fast Attacks in Pearl Harbor. They’re assigned for roughly six months. They go through some of our junior officer training level. Then these guys are already wearing dolphins by the way. Then they’re going to go out and do part of the deployment with our submarines.
It’s beneficial from two parts. One, it provides a gap filler for their lack of operational time right now. And at the same time, we are sending two of our JO’s out there for a full three-year tour. And as we were working this PEP Program, I got the question that says, “Hey, how sure are you that you’re going to be able to get two JO’s to go over there and spend three years?” And I said, really? I guarantee you, I can probably go down to a boat, any boat, and get two JO’s to go over there for three years. So it really is a pretty good deal for them. They go through their version of SOAC. And they are assigned to a submarine full time, and so they’re equivalent, we call him a department head and that’s the tour they’ll spend. The first two guys are up on the detailer’s slate now for fill in August. Again I’m fairly confident we’ll be able to get two people.
I should have mentioned when I talked about Russia, China and North Korea, Admiral Richardson mentioned it last night,but in the year 2025, all three of those countries will have more submarines than the United States Navy. That does coincide with a portion of our force structure trough. It’s a telling statement, because quantity does matter. It really has its own value. Won’t talk about quality, I think, I’m very, very confident that we’ll retain quality, but quantity matters. And it’s something we do look at very, very closely as we go forward.
Now I’m going to go through some of these issues that I regret, but I am going to turn over to whoever comes in to relieve me, whenever he comes in to relieve me.
These are fairly well-known, but my perspective,particularly on the maintenance challenges issue, is it’s built up over a period of time, and we’re not going to get out of it in the near term. When I look at FY ’14. The Submarine Force lost five years of submarine operational availability because of delays and overruns;five years. Just in CNO avails. Almost 1800submarine days. That is twice the 10-year average prior to that. It really is unprecedented. And that is going to bow wave into ’15, ’16, ’17, and who knows when we’re going to get out of it.
Admiral Hilarides put additional people in our shipyards. We all recognize that it’s going to take time for those people to get proficient at the journey man level, or whatever it is that they’re going to be trained to do. We’re not going to come out of this in the near term. It is a capacity issue, in my opinion. There may be a little bit of an efficiency issue on that also. But it’s primarily a capacity issue.
The question came up yesterday about the aging Submarine Force, and you see that with respect to maintenance issues.I would say it’s certainly a contributor. I don’t know how much of a contributor, but it’s a contributor. I use SSGNs as an example. Our model has an SSGN doing four deployed operations for 14 to 15 months and then coming in. And the model has it for 100 days of maintenance, and then it gets back into the cycle. Those major maintenance periods, we call them, are running on the Pacific side about nine months now.
So what we had planned and scheduled for 100 days is now taking nine months. There’s a lot of parts that, that go into taking nine months. The bottom line is, it’s taken a whole lot longer than we had planned on those guys taking. And that really goes to operational availability and forward deployed presence.
There are other issues from a maintenance standpoint that we are addressing, but again, I don’t think we’ll get through these in the near term. I would include in that our radar systems. Our radar is fundamental to our ability to operate our submarines on the surface. Whether it’s BPS, the B-15 or the 16, we have, we’ve got problems that we need to work through. And I know the N-97and the program managers are putting money to that. It remains a concern.
Towed Arrays, particularly our Thin Line Towed Array, remains a concern. It allows us to do things,that without it, we just can’t do. We’ve done a long and very detailed look at this with Dave Johnson and his team. If you look back to what we asked of the manufacturer of the Towed Array, I think it turns out now in the way we calculate availability what we put as a requirement was 11% operational availability. That just doesn’t work. There’s a large effort going forward to remedy that, including, looking at the next generation of Thin Line Towed Arrays.
There are three other big ones, I want to be turned over to my relief. The first one is really an operational issue and its ocean observing sensors. As you may know, there’s a lot of people who put sensors in the water nowadays. Universities,weather centers. There’s a lot of folks that put systems in the water. And some of these stream real-time to the internet. In the Pacific, particularly on the North Pacific, Northwest Pacific coast,it’s really becoming an issue.
The Canadians have some in there. Our universities have some sensors in there, so it’s purely an operational issue. We have to work around how we mitigate this. Truthfully,what that really turns out to be is through some operations and training and things that I can’t do in this area, so I have to move my guys farther out to the West, or I need to move them to the South, which is exactly what we’re doing. We’re working with the folks that put these things in. Again it’s going to continue to bean ongoing challenge for us.
IUSS, growing demand for all things involved with IUSS. And IUSS includes both fixed systems and mobile systems. The biggest issues that I’m working through right now is the manning of IUSS. As you probably know or remember, in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, we somewhat disbanded the IUSS community. We had people that spent their entire lives in IUSS, both analysts and officers. That’s gone. So the manning of the IUSS now is primarily surface sonar men.
It’s a challenge because the surface sonar man is a challenge to us. I get them for one tour and they’re gone. So expertise, actual number of people there, is something we’re working on, and we’ve got both fleet commanders, they are helping me with this issue, as is OPNAV N1, because I think we need to figure out a different way of doing IUSS manning. When I say manning, it’s really both, it’s military and civilians. I’ve got people that are embedded in IUSS that have been doing this stuff for 30 years. And they truly are experts at it. But I’m not producing the next one of those guys or gals, the pipeline just isn’t there. They were OTs for 20 years, retired, and they just stayed in the IUSS community,now wearing a suit and tie. They’re going to retire,and I just don’t have the pipeline that produces those guys.
Lastly there is cyber. From a Submarine Force perspective, we started the ITS Rating,which is focused just on IT things, back in 2009. In April of this year, the projection is, we will actually be at manning in the ITS Rating, at sea. It’s taken us that long to get there. And we’ve used a lot of carrots and a couple of sticks to try to get that there. The manning has been an issue.
The PMS, per man for the IT rating on the submarine, is 41 man hours per week. Okay, that’s just PMS. I don’t know of any other rating that has such a high level of PMS requirement as our IT. We are working on that very diligently in trying to figure out how we make this system easier so we can actually get all the things done that we need to get done. We have been quite successful to a degree.
If you look at the out side organizations that come in and take a look at us they give us very, very high ratings for our operational availability and the things that they look at. But nevertheless, it’s an area that in my opinion, is ripe for us to take a look at and figure out how we do this better. It’s also one of these areas that we don’t have a lot of control over,from the Submarine Force proper.
Guam. Every time I go somewhere, I have to talk Guam, because, it really is our forward-deployed hub and it continues to expand. It continues to get better and bigger. We already talked about the fourth SSN and the second tender. The training facilities there are better. The housing’s great, the gym’s great. My only challenge really with Guam,is senior enlisted, to get them there on our operational units.
We’re working at that to a degree,primarily it comes out to their inability to screen for overseas.It’s generally kind of family issues, exceptional family members. We’re actually working with the hospital and Navy medicine to bolster up the people, the specialties that they have out there so that these things are no longer disqualifying from going to Guam.
Our SSBN Force, I’m just going to briefly mention the bumper sticker there, I think it is important to recognize that we’ve retained a safe, secure, Submarine, Ballistic Missile Force. It is part of our national defense. Day in and day out, both Admiral Connor and I tell our team, and we believe it, that it’s the most important day-in and day-out mission that we have.
Our SSBN Force, though it’s aging from a unit level, they continue to do eye watering stuff. Their retention is the highest we have in the Submarine Force. Their manning is good. We’ve resourced them properly. They’re able to go out and continue to execute the requirements that Strat Comhas given us.If you do get a chance to visit Bangor. I highly recommend just going up there and taking a look at what we do up there, both from the training command side and down at the waterfront. It continues to amaze me.
I do want to end on people. Just last week, we had the Sub Pac Sailor of the Year competition. That top picture are the sea and the shore sailors from the Sub Pac area. And it happened to actually be with Pearl Harbor survivors. This event was down in San Diego. They actually have a Pearl Harbor Survivor museum in San Diego. It’s in one of these guys’ house. They had some honorary members also, to kind of keep the membership up.
It is rejuvenating and energizing when you get torub shoul-ders with these folks, both Pearl Harbor survivors and our sailors. It reinforces the idea that we truly do attract the best and the brightest. And just sitting down and getting a chance to talk to these first-class Petty Officers, and their view in what they do and how they go about doing it, it really does make you proud again tobe part of the Submarine Force.
Our picks this year, the SOY (Sailor of the Year) was a yeo-man,of the SAN FRANCISCO, and our Shore (SOY) wasa Navy Counselor. She’s assigned to Pac West in Whidbey Island. Wecould’ve picked any one of the nominees. Could have thrownadart at a dart boardand the person that got hit on that would be an ideal candidate. They really are phenomenal.
Retention across the Force is good. The only issues we really have right now that we’re working on is unplanned losses. And those are broken into three big categories really. There’s medical losses, there’s not a lot we can do about that. Bad knee,allergies to something, whatever. That’s about 40% of our losses every year. We lose about three submarines worth of people every year in unplanned losses. That means they leave beforetheir contract isup.
About 40% of those are areas that we call psychological. Those are theareas we need to work on. For whatever reason,that person is not making it in our Submarine Force. Wereally do have to fix that. It’s been an ongoing issue for quite a while. We continue to focus time and attention on it. But it’s too high.
Last part,is both SubLant and SubPac, have an Air Force officer assigned to our staff. And we have submariners assignedto Air Force places. One’s Barksdale, Louisiana, not too bad. The other is in the heartlandand he’s got a lot more snow than we do right now. I’m waiting to get the feedback from that fellow.
I sat down with the Air Force officer. He’s a Lieutenant, assigned to my staff. And I gave him the task when he first got in to say, “Hey, I want you to come back in 90 days and I want to know the goods and the bad’s from your view as you look at our staff.”
So last week, it was his time. And I’ll pass the one thing that he said as a positive. And he said, “Your history, your culture, your tradition in the Submarine Force,he says, we don’t have anything likeit in the Air Force, particularly the Missileer community.” He goes, “It is amazing to me. Because I go to the gymI see people with tattoos of submarines of dolphins on their body. You’ll never see that in the Air Force.”
Now he said that in a positive light. I mean, that was his—and then he said—I mean, the tattoos were positive. As an example, he said, “You know,the Submarine Birthday Ball is coming up.” and he says,”Once the email came out—he works in our N-9, our SSBN side.” He says, once the email came out to them, he goes, “They were all jumping on it tomake sure,who had duty, who could get off?” sothey could go to this thing.”A Birthday Ball? In the Air Force?” He says, “I would never go to it.”” He says, the only people that go to those are the very senior folks and somebody who wants to take a date to a prom-like thing.
He is truly amazed and appreciative of what we bring,from history of culture, tradition, in the Submarine Force. And it is all drivenby those obviously who have gone before us, but those who are here now carrying on those traditions. So I thought it wasquite interesting listening to him talk to me about our Submarine Force. And he’s a very, very sharp guy. So I’ll probably give another report on the next Submarine League event I come to.