While the U.S.-Russian New START Treaty offers promise of a world with a dialed-down nuclear-weapons presence, the fact remains that deterrence is vital to U.S. defense. And as John Warden points out, the most valuable aspect of the U.S. deterrence shield is its sea-based missile force. The Navy’s ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) fleet will be expected to play an even greater role in the strategic triad, and a replacement for the aging Ohio -class boats is necessary. This will be tough in an era of fiscal austerity, but the author believes it is imperative.
Retired Navy Commander Michael J. Dobbs echoes Mr. Warden and goes into detail on how America can design and build an SSBN it can afford. He suggests rethinking the speed, depth, and tactical weapon-system requirements of the follow-on to the Ohio -class, noting that many of the old Cold War threats taken into account when the class was designed no longer apply. Changing the baseline could make a replacement much more palatable to the bean counters.
But what of the crews that will man these boats? Lieutenant Commander Brian McGuirk worries that today’s young submarine officers live and work in an environment that emphasizes technology and discourages risk-taking. Drawing parallels to the Silent Service’s spotty record early in World War II, he makes a case for greater emphasis on warfighting in the submarine officer corps’ curriculum. He also believes the most promising officers in the community must be conversant at the strategic and operational levels of war, and should be attending staff and war colleges at every opportunity.
Not all maritime threats require putting our expensive submarines at risk, say Navy Captain Scott Pratt and David E. Everhart. Perhaps asymmetric solutions can allow the nation to maintain global maritime access even while the Navy shrinks. Because the technology exists for undersea weapons that offer low-cost flexibility in the means and intensity of an American response to a possible adversary’s reckless actions, they assert we should take advantage of that technology now.
Maybe it’s my age, but whenever I think of a Navy recruiting commercial I always hear: “It’s Not Just a Job, It’s an Adventure.” To me, that’s up there with “Aim High: Air Force” and “Army: Be All That You Can Be.” (The Marines have been consistent—why mess with success?) Later Navy slogans such as “Accelerate Your Life” or “A Global Force for Good” just never resonated. Steve Cohen, director emeritus of the Naval Institute Board of Directors and longtime entrepreneur, agrees. He concedes that the Navy is doing a better job of public relations and marketing, but much more needs to be done to sell the service to legislators, opinion makers, taxpayers, and potential recruits. We think you’ll find his blueprint for future efforts illuminating.