Submarine Force Commander Plots Course for Future
Photo caption follows
Vice Adm. Chuck Munns delivers remarks after assuming command of COMNAVSUBFOR.

by Chief Petty Officer (SW/AW) Mark Piggott

In a message to his commanders and commanding officers, Vice Adm. Chuck Munns, Commander Naval Submarine Forces, in Norfolk, VA, reflected on the future of the force and looked back at the great strides made by submariners.

“We are 21st-century American submariners,” Munns said. “The past year has been one of successfully employing submarines in all corners of the globe to combat the global war on terrorism, to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, to deliver special operations forces, and to ‘walk the field’ in our key forward operating areas.”

With submarines responsible for over one third of the Tomahawk strikes delivered during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Vice Adm. Munns sees the force as an added bonus to strike commanders in forward-deployed operations. “Our ever-smaller and better-connected world is often driven by what seems small and insignificant,” he said. “But small, local, and tactical actions can have large, enterprise-wide, strategic effects.”

“The capability that we bring to our national defense is more relevant today than ever. Our ships and crews bring unique value in forward areas and in the pre-hostility phase of combat.”

Munns noted that a major part of that capability is the ability to support joint, interagency, and coalition operations and introducing systems that achieve interoperability with these warfighters. “We can ill afford isolated, stand-alone systems, unable to connect directly to other forces at the tactical and operational level,” he stated. “These systems will quite simply drive us out of business. “They invariably will force us to speak a language not understood by our partners - rendering us irrelevant. Anything new we put on a submarine must be conceived and born in a joint context and must be open and interoperable.”

“The capability that we bring to our national defense is more relevant today than ever. Our ships and crews bring unique value in forward areas and in the pre-hostility phase of combat.”

At the same time, Vice Adm. Munns is mindful of the inherent dangers faced by today’s submariners in maintaining mission-essential capabilities during day-to-day operations. “Our purpose is to take timely, effective, and efficient actions that enhance our national interests,” he explained. “The environment in which we operate is inherently dangerous. We make it safe only by properly maintaining and understanding our equipment, respecting accepted procedures, and applying the genius and initiative of properly-trained American Sailors.”

The Submarine Force continues to grow and change, notably with the addition of the newly-commissioned USS Virginia-class fast-attack submarine and the conversion of four former ballistic missile submarines to guided missile boats.

“Technology has reached a point that enables a submarine crew to expand their area of regard significantly and at the same time to become a much more connected and collaborative participant
of the Joint Force,” Munns said. “Each submarine is a node in the force-wide network, and eventually each sensor and weapon will be also.”

The new technologies being developed for SSNs and SSGNs will greatly enhance the dominance of the Submarine Force in today’s force equation. “With the SSGN coming online very soon and with new options under consideration for our SSNs, we need to take full advantage of increasing payload volumes to expand the reach of our boats,” he explained. “Operating undetected for long periods in the littorals, we will deploy unmanned vehicles and sensors. Our ears will be open, and our reach will be extensive. We will be able to assess and prepare the environment continually and then – when directed – decisively influence events.”

A key emphasis is communication among submarines and joint commanders across the entire spectrum of our many missions. “During a future coordinated ASW engagement, the Theater ASW Commander will be able to communicate – on demand – concepts and desired actions to a CO on a submerged submarine within the span of a few minutes,” Munns predicted.

“If they can coordinate contact and targeting data, effect real time waterspace management, and carry out prosecutions, then we will have achieved initial success. Moving forward, we will build toward higher data rates, greater communications security, more operational flexibility, and more extensive, ubiquitous reach.”

Even with the significant technological changes taking place on today’s submarines, it is our ongoing traditions that make the Submarine Force a powerful player. “We have a reputation for excellence around the world,” Vice Adm. Munns said. “Even as we drive significant change throughout the force, we must at the same time nurture the proud, important, and relevant traditions that brought us to where we are today.”

Munns noted that his officers must not only lead their Sailors, but assess their talents, skills, and abilities continually so that they can be assigned to the best job available. “Effective assessment is what differentiates average and great crews,” he added. “We have much to learn from each other and those who have gone before. We need to learn from them and their experiences.”

In closing his remarks, Munns identified service to country as the most important driver for today’s submariners. “The Submarine Force is needed more today than ever before,” Munns said. “I expect that every submariner, like me, will do whatever it takes, whenever it’s needed, to defend this great nation and its people.”

“We will exercise undersea superiority in every portion of the globe.”

Chief Petty Officer (SW/AW) Piggott serves in the Public Affairs Office for Commander, Submarine Forces Atlantic.



Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005