Things have picked up here in Washington, D.C. as the new Congress considers our Navy’s (and our nation’s) proposed budget for fiscal year 2008. During this process I’ve had the opportunity to meet, and testify before, some of our members of Congress and their staffs. It is exciting to be a part of this process where two branches of our government meet in carrying out the responsibilities assigned by our Constitution and other laws.
It is our duty in the Navy, and in OPNAV N87, here in the Nation’s capital to work to provide effective capabilities to the joint force that will be relevant in the future. The Virginia-class attack submarine program, a significant element of our future, continues to move forward. USS Virginia (SSN-774) recently completed a post-construction shipyard period in March and has begun to work through a series of at-sea tests to confirm that the ship indeed possesses those capabilities that were included in the design. In April we christened North Carolina (SSN-777) and laid the keel for New Hampshire (SSN-778). USS Hawaii (SSN-776) was commissioned May 5 in a ceremony in Groton, Conn.
I had the honor to attend the christening of North Carolina a few weeks ago at Northrop Grumman Newport News (NG-NN). Having spent part of my youth growing up in North Carolina, the ceremony had special meaning. NG-NN, General Dynamics Electric Boat, the rest of the Navy team, and Mrs. Linda Bowman, the ship’s sponsor, all contributed to a meaningful event that will help move this crew down the road towards the fleet. Mrs. Bowman challenged the crew to achieve excellence and to include being good shipmates and looking after each other both professionally and personally as part of each man’s daily routine. This ceremony and others, like the commissioning of USS Hawaii held recently in Groton, are becoming more common but each is important as we work to establish the culture and standards of each crew. If you get the chance to attend, you should take the opportunity and assist in other ways to help these crews reach operational excellence.
In December, we successfully completed the first submerged escape from a U.S. submarine in over 30 years, and the first ever from a U.S. nuclear submarine, during an exercise off the coast of Alaska. The submarine rescue collaborative environment provides us with excellent opportunities to contribute to the CNO’s vision of the ‘1000-ship Navy.’ This concept envisions nations with like interests working together to provide for the safety and security of the global maritime common areas. The U.S. Navy has agreements with several nations that would provide for reciprocal submarine rescue assistance if required. We host the office of the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) in Norfolk, Va. ISMERLO is an organization which facilitates regular planning and collaboration that would support the rapid call out of rescue systems.
Duty in Washington, D.C. is rewarding and challenging, serving to broaden our perspectives in many ways. Several of our shipmates from N87 departed the pattern in the past several months and I want to take this opportunity to thank them and their families for improving our Navy and our Submarine Force during their assignment. Thanks go out to RDML Mike Klein, CAPT Jim Hertlein, CAPT Duane Ashton, CAPT Chris Murray, CAPT Ed Brands, CDR Mike Rimmington, CDR Gerard Vandenberg, CDR Alan Boyd, LCDR Matt Miller, LCDR Joe Lockwood, LCDR Chris James, LT Thomas O’Donnell, LT Greg Klos, LT Joel Hartel, and CWO3 Jimmy Lee. We wish you fair winds and following seas. Thanks for your energy and contributions to the next Navy.