Undersea Warriors,

Greetings from Norfolk! Times are changing fast. The first decade of the 21st century saw our Navy primarily focused on a land war against Middle Eastern regional threats. Our emphasis was on power projection ashore and fighting from relatively uncontested littorals. Since then we have clearly shifted our emphasis toward high-end combat in contested blue water against near-peer competitors. With the increased capability and capacity of our challengers both individually and collectively, the Submarine Force must likewise concentrate on its overall lethality including each submarine’s high-end combat effectiveness.

Let me give you a few examples of what the Submarine Force is doing to meet these new challenges. We’ve re-invigorated submarine tactical development by establishing a new Undersea Warfighting Development Center in Groton, Conn. The Center is leading new lines of effort; reorganizing and rekindling our Tactical Analysis Group; and significantly increasing the quantity and quality of tactical development exercises. Beyond new tactics, we’re working to increase the amount of sub-on-sub experience our crews get.

We’ve better “tuned” our Fleet Response Training Plan to both support our emphasis on the high-end fight and, more basically, to ensure we are working on the right things at the right times in the pre-deployment ramp-up. We eliminated a low-payoff basic training period for crews coming off a deployment vice coming out of a shipyard. We’ve eliminated duplication and focused the Tactical Readiness Evaluation on high-end warfighting and focused the pre-deployment evaluation on our challenging peacetime missions that the unit is about to go do. We’ve expanded the Pre-Overseas Movement period and right-sized the spacing of focused Intermediate and Advanced Training Periods.

Beyond that, we are looking at our foundational crew competencies in new ways. The Force Improvement and Operational Safety, or FIOS, program is the linchpin of this effort. This program was the source of our 2015 policy shifting all submarines to a 24-hour sleep cycle to reduce crew fatigue and mishap risk. We implemented an Operational Safety Officer aboard each submarine in 2016. Last year, we established a new Operational Fundamentals Core Competency, with emphasis on Operational Planning, Communication and Dialogue, and Assessment and Improvement, and integrated human -factors science into our training and doctrine for the first time.

We’re also improving missile, torpedo, and electronic warfare capability and capacity, servicing targets in all domains. Finally, as discussed in the last issue, we are working to achieve a family of unmanned vehicles to complement each submarine’s reach and capability. These systems allow a CO to be in multiple places at once. The unmanned vehicles can do the “dull, dirty, and dangerous” missions to help meet our capacity requirements while the manned platform takes on the high-end capability missions that only a professionally crewed submarine can do.

So that’s a quick summary of what the Submarine Force is doing to adapt to our new threat environment. But one thing certainly hasn’t changed; your Submarine Force remains “on scene, unseen” all over the world today, providing unequaled access with influence because we have the finest Officers and Sailors in the world. It is only through the continuous self-improvement and leadership of each of us individually and collectively as a team that we will meet the challenges of the future.

Thank you for all you do – keep charging!

J.E. Tofalo