It is great to be back in Washington, D.C., and in particular working among the professionals in the Pentagon. This is my third tour here, and each has been a source of personal and professional satisfaction and a rewarding education in a different element of our Navy. In addition to the great team that RADM Joe Walsh left behind (and resetting the Submarine Warfare Division back to the same number it had when I was last here – N87), the present Navy-wide leadership team here has made it an exciting time to be building our next Navy, and the one after that. I look forward to serving each of you in this worthwhile effort.
Being back in Washington gave me the opportunity to be present when CDRs Brian Howes and Richard Clemmons were awarded the VADM James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award for the outstanding jobs they did commanding USS La Jolla (SSN-701) and USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) respectively. We are all very proud of these two COs and their crews. I would also like to welcome VADM Jon Greenert to the OPNAV staff. He is serving as N8, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources, and joins us from an assignment as Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet.
Having recently completed a tour in Naples, Italy, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the great work being done every day by our forward deployed submarine groups (7 and 8) and the associated task forces (54, 74, and 69). In the European/Africa area, Submarine Group 8 and Task Force 69 are effectively teamed with the U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Sixth Fleet staff to achieve the effects set forth by the naval component commander for the U.S. European Command. This arrangement, in addition to efficiently directing Submarine Force operations and support across a large theater, is providing our people with a fine opportunity to broaden their skills at the operational fleet level. We have also developed strong linkages between the submarine task forces in Italy and Japan so that information, tactics, techniques and procedures are now common across the globe for our submarines in support of the joint force.
One of my other new hats is chairman of the ASW Cross Functional Board (CFB). The ASW CFB includes surface, aviation, submarine, and fleet leaders in ASW, and will reflect in its activities the high priority that the CNO and the operational commanders have placed on continuing a strong track for Navy ASW capabilities in the future. The team of ASW professionals that supports the CFB (led by OPNAV N874) has completed two CNO Executive Boards that have better defined our ASW challenges, and more closely linked the fleet’s ASW Integrated Priority Capability List with the development of future capabilities. More to follow.
It is an exciting time to be in our Navy. The first two ships of the Virginia-class (Virginia and Texas) are both in commission, and we are on track to deliver one ship per year until 2012, when we plan to begin constructing two submarines per year. In September, we were honored to have the first lady, Ms. Laura Bush, help us commission USS Texas (SSN-775) in Galveston, Texas. USS Hawaii (SSN-776), the third ship of the class, has successfully completed sea trials and was delivered to the Navy ahead of schedule on December 22. Our third SSGN, USS Michigan (SSGN-727), successfully completed sea trials in November. We have begun a phased SSGN operational and technical evaluation, and the first SSGN deployment is scheduled in late 2007. Our operational SSNs and SSBNs are doing great work out in the global commons and, with our sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan, are making great contributions to our Nation’s security.
I hope you had a great holiday and wish you all the best in 2007. Stop by when you are in the DC area or send us a note; we will welcome and appreciate your advice and ideas.