The Navy League contends as part of its maritime platform
that the most important Defense
Department mission is to maintain
a safe, secure and effective nuclear
strategic deterrence capability to
deter adversaries and guarantee the
defense of the United States and
our allies. A key component in that
deterrence is the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.
Recent reckless and provocative activities by North Korea —
the launching of ballistic missiles
and testing of nuclear warheads —
have put the world on notice and
U.S. allies in the region on high
alert. Now is not the time to undercut our ability to
be on station, to be able to protect our nation and our
allies by underfunding programs that keep us forward
deployed and ready to respond.
The U.S. Navy’s submarine force comprises ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs), guided-missile submarines (SSGNs) and attack submarines (SSNs). While
SSGNs and SSNs are multimission boats, the mission of
SSBNs specifically is strategic nuclear deterrence.
During a July 14 hearing on naval dominance in undersea warfare before the House Armed Services seapower
and projection forces subcommittee, Rear Adm. Charles
Richard, director of Undersea Warfare, and Rear Adm.
Michael Jabaley, program executive officer, Submarines,
said, “Ballistic-missile submarines provide the security
the United States needs to perform all other military operations around the globe. Beyond strategic deterrence, the
dominance of our undersea forces in the unique undersea
environment enable U.S. forces, manned or unmanned, to
hold adversary surface ships and submarines at risk, collect intelligence, launch Tomahawk strikes, deploy special
operations forces and conduct mine-hunting operations.”
But there is trouble on the horizon.
“Over the next 15 years, the forward presence of
SSNs and SSGNs taken together will fall by over 40
percent,” Richard and Jabaley said in the statement.
“Roughly half of this reduction is due to the decline
in the number of SSNs and half is due to the retirement of the SSGNs. … Today, the SSN force is at 53
SSNs — above the 48-SSN mini-
mum requirement defined by the
decade-old force structure anal-
ysis. The combatant command-
ers’ robust demand for SSN for-
ward presence greatly exceeds that
which can be provided.”
Today’s 14 Ohio-class SSBNs
are scheduled to be replaced by
In “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,”
Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations
(CNO), writes: “U.S. naval forces and operations — from
the sea floor to space, from deep water to the littorals,
and in the information domain — will deter aggression
and enable peaceful resolution of crises on terms accept-
able to the United States and our allies and partners.”
A top priority for the CNO continues to be main-
taining and modernizing the undersea leg of the stra-
tegic deterrent triad, with the Columbia class a key
program. The service aims to buy the first boat in 2021.
The $773.1 million requested in the proposed fiscal
2017 budget for advanced procurement funding would
be the initial funding for buying that first boat.
The Navy today is buying two Virginia-class SSNs a
year through fiscal 2025, and we need continued financial commitment to this program as well to keep it on
track and minimize the duration of the SSN shortfall
below the requirement of 48.
American military superiority depends on the
strength of its submarine fleet.
Maintain Undersea Superiority
By SKIP WITUNSKI, Navy League National President