out into the future. The United
Kingdom also is in the process of
designing its next ballistic-missile
submarine, [which] will use the
same missile they’re using today and
that we will use.
The Air Force recently has
drawn a lot of attention for
flaws in nuclear weapons security. How is the submarine force
responding to the concerns?
DONNELLY: A number of commissions have looked at the Air Force
and the Navy in what we call our
Nuclear Weapons Enterprise. The
[commission], led by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger,
recently reported that the Navy’s programs were very
solid. The high standards set and maintained in our
Nuclear Propulsion Program have carried over to our
strategic deterrent force. The rigor and attention to
detail help us to maintain the very high standards that
are required when dealing with the nuclear weapons
the SSBNs carry.
may be operating. The SSN or SSGN also would be capable of retasking a UAV in support of its operations.
We’re also looking at unmanned undersea vehicle
[UUV] technologies to extend our sensory envelope
beyond the horizon. One of those is a large-diameter
[UUV] that would have a great deal of endurance for
an ISR mission.
Is the Submarine Force meeting its recruiting
and retention goals for officers?
DONNELLY: We are. We work very hard to attract and
retain the highest quality of people our nation has to
offer. Retention is a constant challenge because the
quality of our people and the training they get is in
very high demand in the nuclear industry. I work
closely with the Naval Personnel Command to ensure
we have the right incentives — accession bonuses and
retention bonuses — in place so we can retain the
highest quality of people.
We’re also working hard on improving our diversity
within the force, particularly within our officer community. We’re anticipating and embracing the demographic
changes our nation is going through. I feel strongly that
our Submarine Force should be a reflection of our society. So there’s a significant outreach program to recruit
more minority officers in the Submarine Force.
Are new torpedoes in development?
DONNELLY: The Mk48 Mod 7 CBASS [Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System] Torpedo — an Mk48 torpedo body with a whole new sensor and processing capability — is our latest technology. A joint development
effort with Australia, it’s proven very capable in tests and
has been optimized for operating in shallow water against
some of the challenging targets that we face.
Is the Navy making adequate progress with
communication at speed and depth?
DONNELLY: That would be a great enabler to the
force. We’re making small progress in that area and
we’re invested with the Office of Naval Research and
DARPA [the Defense Advance Research Projects
Agency] to investigate some technologies that would
give us better capability. We need to do more. The
“Silent Service” is becoming less and less silent.
Is the Submarine Force embracing unmanned
DONNELLY: We’re continuing to experiment with
unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] like Buster [a back-packable mini-UAV]. We seek to extend our sensor
capabilities over the horizon and on the shore. We hope
to build on that capability for receiving downlink from
longer-endurance UAVs that perhaps are launched from
land and travel into a theater where the [submarine]
What is the future of the force’s two sub tenders?
DONNELLY: We’ll continue to operate submarine tenders. The plan now is for USS Frank Cable to stay in Guam
and USS Emory S. Land to be positioned in Diego Garcia
after refit and modernization. Our SSGNs will come alongside the tenders for crew turn-around periods and repair
periods. The tenders — capable of servicing other submarines and surface ships — are magnificent platforms for
forward-deployed maintenance of our force. ■