Submarines Play a Critical Role in Preserving Freedom

« It was submarines who helped secure the Indo-Pacific in World War II, and submarines have played a critical role in preserving that freedom ever since. The Silent Service deserves the eternal gratitude of our Nation.»

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro delivers remarks during the Naval Submarine League Annual Symposium and Industry Update Banquet Nov. 2, 2022 — Source: US Navy

Admiral Greenert, thank you for that introduction.

Your legacy as our 30th Chief of Naval Operations endures throughout the fleet, from laser technology, to unmanned carrier landings, to your visionary commitment to opening undersea service to women.

And thanks to your efforts, I am proud to say that USS Louisiana now has our Nation’s first female Chief of the Boat.

And our first female submarine Executive Officers will report for duty in the coming months.

They will continue the watch that you carried through many years of undersea service, preserving peace, security, and prosperity against all adversaries.

That commitment has never been more important, in the face of increasingly aggressive totalitarians with undersea ambitions.

In the Indo-Pacific, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has approximately fifty diesel submarines, six nuclear attack submarines, and four ballistic missile submarines.

Beijing is using its growing naval power to coerce its neighbors and threaten the global sea lanes that carry over 90 percent of the world’s trade.

Meanwhile, the resurgent Russian Navy has about 21 diesel submarines, 17 nuclear attack boats, nine guided missile submarines, and eleven ballistic missile submarines.

These subs are actively patrolling from the Black Sea to the Arctic, reaching across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic in numbers not seen since I was a Cold War Ensign chasing Soviet Kilo and Akula Class subs in both the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Sea.

Over the past year, Vladimir Putin has proven he will stop at nothing as he attempts to impose his will on the international community.

As you all know from the press, he has even threatened to use nuclear weapons.

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As protectors of the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad, our Navy must take this threat seriously, maintaining a constant, overwhelming strategic deterrent to keep our adversaries in check.

We must maintain our tactical undersea advantage, with the posture and capability to respond with stealth and speed.

As Secretary of the Navy, I am responsible for delivering combat ready forces and capabilities to our Combatant Commanders in the most efficient and effective way possible.

We are executing that responsibility through a unified Department of the Navy strategy, rooted in three guiding principles:

  • First, we are strengthening our maritime dominance so that we can deter potential adversaries, and if called upon, fight and win our Nation’s wars.
  • Second, we are empowering our Sailors and Marines through a culture of warfighting excellence, founded on strong leadership, and treating each other with dignity and respect.
  • And third, we are strengthening our strategic partnerships, across the Joint Force, with our allies, and with innovative private sector partners.

To maintain and strengthen maritime dominance, we have to be serious about fielding and maintaining the right capabilities to deter adversaries and when called upon – win wars.

This summer, I attended the keel laying of USS District of Columbia. As our top acquisition priority, this next generation platform must be on time, on budget, and on patrol by 2030.

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Virginia-class attack submarine Minnesota (SSN-783) under construction in 2012US Navy photo © Joshua Karsten

We must also continue building Virginia Class submarines on schedule – which sometimes proves to be a challenge. We must do better moving forward.

That said, this year we strengthened our fleet with the commissioning of USS Oregon and USS Montana.

We also formally commissioned USS Delaware, in a ceremony attended by her ship sponsor, First Lady Doctor Jill Biden, and President Joe Biden.

With each successive generation of Virginia Class subs, our undersea superiority grows.

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General Dynamics Virginia-class Block I II III IV & V SSN — (Credit: GD EB)

We are working with our industry partners on breakthrough technology like the Acoustic Superiority upgrade, and the increased strike capability of the Virginia Payload Module.

Within the Department, we are transforming acquisitions, to support flexible approaches to develop, procure, protect, and sustain our force.

That includes better alignment in the Department’s Gate Review process, and Test and Evaluation guidance for more unified acquisition policy.

We are investing maintenance and operational resources to ensure availability, readiness, and maximum capability of the most effective platforms.

Thanks to the hard work of many people within our Navy and contracting communities, we completed Phase B of the drydock recapitalization project at Kings Bay on time.

Any delays would have put our nuclear deterrent mission at risk. Instead, the drydock was ready on time, and welcomed USS Wyoming for its scheduled maintenance yesterday.

The Submarine Force was one of the first to pilot a “Get Real, Get Better” approach to maintenance and operational training, setting a course for the rest of the Navy to follow.

As you know well, to stay ahead of our adversaries, we must have the best-educated and best-equipped submarine force on earth, drawing from the finest of all of our Nation.

At every level, we must work together to improve the technical expertise of our submariners, through partnerships, education, and training opportunities.

We must work together to recruit the next generation of undersea warriors, ensuring a strong talent pool.

Every service now faces recruiting challenges, for a variety of reasons, including competition with a strong labor market.

But there is also a persistent problem of familiarity – we tend to draw our talent from military families.

As our Commandant of the Marine Corps General Berger noted in Proceedings,

“Every American must understand the value of military service—to the nation as a whole and to the individuals who serve. That value must resonate with current and future young people and their parents.”

Every one of you has a role to play in building awareness of the possibilities of undersea service to the next generation.

Tell your stories. Let our young people know why you served – and why they should serve as well.

Mentor them as they move through the ranks, and ensure that their families are cared for.

Help us build the professional capability of our shipyard workforce as well. These are exciting professions for skilled workers on the cutting edge.

Together, we also need to expand our base of capable and innovative businesses.

Right now the number of suppliers in the submarine community is less than a third of what it was in the 1980s, the last time we saw a surge of this magnitude in submarine construction. We must expand the base.

That puts our Navy, and our Nation, at risk.

That is why we are working to increase the number of suppliers and builders in our contracting universe.

And to do so, I am proud that in the past Fiscal Year, our Department exceeded its small business goals by over two and a half percent, also meeting four of our five small business goals.

And we are working with our contracting officers and program managers to build on that success.

Throughout the supplier base, I want to cultivate true partnerships, deepening opportunities for small, medium, and large businesses to work with our Navy and Marine Corps.   

As our budget continues to grow, so do the opportunities available to all of you.

These efforts demand your engagement. Let me know what is working, and where we can improve.

It all comes down to responsibility, accountability, and good teamwork.

That applies to the international community as well, and I appreciate all that the Submarine Force has done to strengthen our partnerships and alliances over the past year.

This July, I delivered a virtual address to the first Submarine Conference of the Americas, or SCOTA.

That conference was a significant step to increase interoperability and communication among our undersea neighbors, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, and Peru.

And I thank our fourth fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Aiken, for facilitating that opportunity.

It was also a timely gathering, helping set the stage for the highly successful Exercise UNITAS, which featured the Los Angeles Class subs USS Albany.

I forward to SCOTA 23 next year.

I also look forward to expanding other partnerships around the world, particularly through the AUKUS agreement with Australia and the UK.

As you may know, this historic agreement is focused on providing conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability to Australia.

It will help strengthen our unrivaled network of alliances and partnerships, which help protect a free and open Indo-Pacific.

It was submarines who helped secure the Indo-Pacific in World War II, and submarines have played a critical role in preserving that freedom ever since.

Every one of you who have ever served, ever supplied, or ever stood by the Silent Service deserves the eternal gratitude of our Nation.

I could not be more proud to be your Secretary of the Navy, nor more committed to ensuring you have the capabilities and strength to continue the watch, long into the future.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.