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On March 5th, I had the opportunity to speak with the members of The Naval Submarine League at Falls Church, VA. As the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources, I offered my perspective on the status of our naval forces, our future as a service in an increasingly complex, chaotic global environment and PB-16 budget issues.

How we design and implement our Navy is driven by the guidance we get from the President through the Department of Defense, our Secretary of the Navy, and our CNO. Everything begins with the elements of our strategic foundation. The governing document for PB-16 is the Secretary of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The QDR’s updated strategy is built on three pillars: Protect the Homeland, Build Security Globally, and Project Power and Win Decisively. In support of these, it requires the Navy to “continue to build a future Fleet that is able to deliver the required presence and capabilities and address the most important warfighting scenarios.” The QDR calls for the Joint Force to “rebalance” in four key areas: (1) rebalancing for a broad spectrum of conflict; (2) rebalancing and sustaining our presence and posture abroad; (3) rebalancing capability, capacity, and readiness within the Joint Force; and, (4) rebalancing tooth and tail. To satisfy these mandates of the QDR strategy, the Navy has been compelled to make tough choices between capability, capacity, and readiness across a wide range of competing priorities. We continue to view each decision through the lens of CNO’s three guiding tenets: Warfighting First, Operate Forward, Be Ready. Our military will be smaller, but it will remain dominant in every domain. Undersea warfare, in particular, is one realm in which we, the Navy, need to carry out our unique role in the joint force. The one area we really need to be able to operate, penetrate, and be where we need to be, is in the undersea world. Undersea warfare is THE anti-access, area denial solution. This is why lines of operation such as maintaining the Virginia-class build rate, inserting Virginia Payload Module (VPM) into the Virginia-class build in FY19, ongoing submarine modernization, and, lastly and most importantly, developing and building the Ohio-class Replacement ballistic missile submarine are so critical.

The complexity and pace of operational realities mandates that the Navy be positioned forward, around the world, 24/7. In order to meet the demand for a credible naval presence, we are pushing the force. Today, we have almost 100 ships deployed out of 279, when ten years ago, we had 100 deployed out of 400. Supporting all of this is the 41,000 people we have forward deployed. So what does that mean? It means we are putting ships forward and subjecting them to unprecedented operational tempos. When you look at our SSNs, for example, we’re getting 25 percent more presence in 2016 than we were in 2014. That is a huge difference.

The natural consequence of increased presenceis that we are putting additional wear on our Sailors, systems, and platforms. The Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) is an effort to inject stability and predictability into planning and execution. More consistency assists in alleviating the strain on the Fleet resulting from higher operational tempos. OFRP was initially targeted at Carrier Strike Groups, but we are integrating all of our platforms to improve quality of life for our Sailors and Marines deployed with us, and also ensure that maintenance gets done at the right time for the right cost, ships get certified, and ships get deployed.

In response to global instability, our combatant commander demands continue to grow. Our Navy has consistently provided more forward presence than initially planned due to real world operations and unanticipated contingencies. It is critical to operate the Fleet at sustainable presence levels, or be resourced to provide a larger force, in order for the Navy to meet requirements while still maintaining material readiness, and allowing them to reach their expected service lives.

We are making tremendous investments to meet the demands of an evolving world where our potential adversaries remain free to develop exceptional weapons capabilities—capabilities that challenge us in the electromagnetic spectrum for example. We have to continue to defeat our adversaries in all domains. That requires readiness not just in sea, air, and land realms, but now also in cyber and electromagnetic warfare. Our PB-16 submission continues to place priority on cyber efforts to build the Navy’s portion of DoD’s Cyber Mission Forces. We continue our investments in recruiting, hiring, and training our cyber workforce, accessing about 80% of the 1,740 operators that will form 40 cyber mission teams by the end of 2016.

We’ve added two more domains in which we have to remain engaged and in which we have to be able to defend ourselves while engaged in them. We also have to focus on the readiness of personnel. We have to be ready when we get underway.

CNO has repeatedly stated that our number one priority is maintaining a credible, modern, and survivable sea-based deterrent. Under the New START Treaty, the Navy SSBN force will carry about 70% of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads. Our PB-16 request sustains today’s 14-ship SSBN force, the Trident D5 ballistic missile and support systems, and the Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) suite. The Ohio-class SSBN will begin retiring, one per year, beginning in 2027. To continue to meet U.S. Strategic Command presence and surge requirements, our budget submission continues to support construction of the first Ohio Replacement SSBN in 2021 for delivery in 2028 and first deterrent patrol in 2031. As part of the Navy’s Nuclear Enterprise Review, our submission adds approximately $2.2 billion across the FYDP to: (1) increase shipyard and Nuclear Strategic Weapons Facilities (SWF) capacity by funding required civilian end-strength; (2) accelerate investments in shipyard infrastructure; (3) fund additional manpower associated with nuclear weapons surety; and (4) fund key nuclear weapons training systems.

The success and importance of our sea-based strategic deterrent cannot be overstated. We have recently executed the 4,000th strategic deterrent submarine patrol since 1960.

Our PB-16 approach has six major tenets which prioritize our Navy resources. First, maintain a credible, modern and survivable, sea-based strategic deterrent. Second, sustain forward presence of ready forces to be where it matters, when it matters. Third, preserve the means (capability and capacity) to win decisively in one multi-phase contingency operation and deny the objectives of –or impose unacceptable costs on –another aggressor in another region. Fourth, focus on critical afloat and ashore readiness to ensure “the force” is adequately funded and ready. Fifth, sustain or enhance asymmetric capabilities in physical domains, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. Sixth, sustain a relevant industrial base, particularly shipbuilding.

Of course, all of these objectives must be discussed within the context of our current budgetary challenges. Three years of pressurized funding under the Budgetary Control Act, beginning with sequester in 2013, has left the Navy with a huge budgetary deficit. The impacts of sequester in 2013 and the subsequent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (impacting 2014 / 2015) are on the order of $25 billion lost, severely limiting the Navy’s purchasing power. While funding for Ohio Replacement will be preserved moving forward, other programs have not been so fortunate. Many aircraft have been moved outside the FYDP or cut. Weapons, modernization packages, and billions of dollars in shore facilities sustainment, restoration, modernization (FSRM) and MILCON have been lost. In short, we cannot afford to accept anything less than the President’s Budget 2016 submission and still meet strategic guidance.

Moving forward, I am hopeful we can work toward compromise to ensure that our priorities as a nation and a Navy receive the funding they need. In particular, undersea warfare is a domain in which the strategic imperatives are huge compared to the investment. Ohio-Class replacement is absolutely critical, as is funding the SSBNs currently operational. Our SSGNs provide an exceptional package of capabilities, especially with the ability to embark and deploy SEALs. Meanwhile our SSNs are out operating forward with the most competent commanding officers and crews in the world.

Our current threat environment demands nothing less than the most well-trained, well-equipped, and ready naval forces. If the United States naval presence is to remain relevant within the global commons, we must ensure that we apply the right resources in a thoughtful and responsible manner.

Naval Submarine League

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