Greetings from our Nation’s Capital! The pace of action here in D.C. has not slowed since the normal defense authorization and appropriation bill process started after a short legislative delay due to administration change. Traditionally spring proceedings in the legislative process have been held over to the summer and heightened the sense of urgency on moving legislation before the end of the fiscal year. Individuals involved with this legislation inside the beltway recognize and value what submarines are doing for the United States around the world and I appreciate the efforts of all of the crews out there operating our submarines and making my job of conveying the value of submarines so rewarding!
Two additional efforts are underway in parallel with the normal budget proceedings, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The QDR analyzes strategic objectives and potential future military environments with the goal of defining force structure, modernization plans, and a budget plan that will allow the military to successfully execute the full range of missions within the National Security Strategy. In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act Congress directed the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of State, to conduct a comprehensive NPR to clarify US nuclear deterrence policy and strategy for the next 5-10 years. This is the first concurrent QDR and NPR since 2001 and the conclusions from both of these reviews will provide significant guidance for our future attack, guided missile, and ballistic missile submarine forces. I would like to recognize all members of our submarine community for dedicating extra effort into these important efforts and encourage them to continue to press on through their completion.
The Virginia program continues to set the standard in acquisition excellence. In May, we laid the keel for PCU California (SSN-781). The submarine is on track to deliver in June 2011, ten months early to its contract delivery date. Additionally, the final report for the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) of the Virginia (SSN-774) class has been completed and signed. The report supports the determination that the Virginia class is ready for full rate production and has been found “operationally suitable, operationally effective”. The last issue reported that we had signed the contract for the next eight Virginia class submarines in December 2008. These Block III submarines will incorporate some significant design changes from previous blocks. One of the major changes is the switch to the Virginia Payload Tube (VPT) vice individual vertical launch tubes. On 12 May, the Navy took delivery of the first VPT for the first of the Block III submarines, the PCU North Dakota (SSN-784). Finally, on 23 July, the USS Hawaii (SSN-776) received a true Aloha welcome as she became the first Virginia class submarine to arrive in Pearl Harbor, her new homeport.
This issue features the bi-annual Arctic Ice Exercise (ICEX). The exercise featured Annapolis and Helena performing a myriad of tests, procedures and events to help our Submarine Force and nation refine and reinforce our ability to operate in the Arctic, a potential strategic focal point of the future. No other military platforms have the versatility, endurance, or ability for access required to perform in the harsh Arctic environment. ICEX represents yet another area where the unique attributes of a submarine make it an irreplaceable warfighting asset for combat commanders.
This issue also introduces a new program that has been a major focus for our D.C. team members. The Sea Based Strategic Deterrent Program will provide our nation with a platform to replace the current Ohio-class SSBNs as they begin retirement in 2027. In order to have this platform ready to succeed the Ohio-class SSBNs in providing without gap our nation’s most survivable nuclear deterrence component of the triad, it is imperative that we begin the process of designing this important asset today.
For our N87 staff, I wish farewell to the following officers: RDML Paul Bushong, CAPT Moises Deltoro, CDR Drew Wannamaker, LCDR Mike Vanderbiezen, LCDR Travis Thorp, LCDR Tim Miklus, LCDR Dave Rogers, LT Ian Schillinger, LT Andrew O’Connor, and Mr. Steve Dreiss.
I would like to welcome aboard RDML(s) Richard Breckenridge, CDR Paul Savage, CDR Shane Thrailkill, and LCDR John Waterston. Finally, I want to thank all those in and out of uniform that support the Submarine Warfare Division. I know I can continue to count on your support.