It’s great to be back! Following a very rewarding assignment at Group TWO working alongside our awesome Atlantic attack submarine crews, I have returned to the “second best job” in the Navy—forging the future of our undersea forces on the OPNAV staff in the Pentagon. A lot has changed since I left the Pentagon less than two years ago—the budget process is in a high state of turmoil with sequestration storm clouds thundering overhead. Constant disruption and uncertainty has become the order of the day within a landscape of continuing resolutions (inability of passing a budget on time), and the stark reality of dramatically reduced budget authority pressurizes our ability to operate our force and satisfy urgent undersea military requirements. So as you can see, your fellow Submariners on shore duty at N97 are involved in sporty “trench warfare” in the vaunted halls of the Pentagon.
The good news is that our undersea force is very well postured to weather this fiscal storm. The positive recognition of the unique, asymmetric military capability of our force has only intensified in the last two years. We enjoy a singular advantage in the undersea domain as in no other, allowing us to influence our adversaries and reassure our allies. And our leaders increasingly value the critical contribution provided by our attack submarines and guided missile submarines in peacetime and the overwhelming combat power and asymmetric advantage that we would leverage in war. They know they can depend with confidence on the quiet, reliable 24/7/365 strategic deterrent provided by our ballistic missile submarines, the most survivable leg of the strategic triad. It is clear to me that this deep-rooted respect is a direct reflection of your skillful employment of our frontline attack and ballistic missile submarines as you tenaciously provide the crux of our conventional and strategic deterrent—keep up the great work!
Secondly, it is also recognized in these tough fiscal times that we provide great “bang for the buck,” offering more capability at less cost based on our lean and lethal operating force. The eye-watering success of our Virginia-class program builds confidence on Capitol Hill that undersea forces represent a sound investment in tough fiscal times. This is due to the consistent track record of building these incredibly complex warships ahead of schedule and under budget; our two newest ships, USS Mississippi (SSN 782) and PCU Minnesota (SSN 783), each were delivered a full year before their contracted delivery date! This sterling testimony speaks highly of our people and our industry partners—so much so that Congress has committed to building these ships at a rate of two per year.
A final important trend is the growing appreciation of the undersea domain by our potential adversaries, as evidenced in both capability and numbers. It is clear that other nations recognize the military leverage that comes with undersea power, and they seek to encroach on U.S. advantage. Make no mistake: the undersea edge that we carved out during the decades of the Cold War and have since exploited to vital deterrent effect cannot ever be taken for granted. Our collective hard work and determination will be crucial to maintaining overmatch for the future while safeguarding the security of our nation.
I look forward to the months ahead as we engage in a dialogue about the bright future of our undersea forces, as we explore innovative ways to extend our warfare influence from the undersea. Rest assured we remain on a steadfast course as the gale winds of the fiscal hurricane kick up the seas here in our nation’s capital—and slightly ahead of PIM at that.
R. P. Breckenridge