Our annual focus on the submarine force comes every October. As I think and read about the current era of competition at sea, it is clear no one doubts the value of submarines. For quite a few years, an ongoing discussion in our pages has weighed the value and vulnerability of aircraft carriers in high-threat antiaccess environments. Even as that debate has raged, it seems to have emphasized the enduring value of the submarine force, which is perhaps the best counter to antiaccess/area-denial strategies.
The lead author this month is the Commander, Submarine Forces, Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle. His “Sustaining the Submarine Force’s Competitive Edge” provides a direct view of the priorities of the Navy’s top submarine officer. I met Admiral Caudle at our WEST Conference in San Diego in February 2019, when he spoke on a warfare commanders’ panel. His remarks then made it absolutely clear that he and his submarine crews understood they would be the first force into battle in a war in the western Pacific—and perhaps the force most capable of bringing the fight to the adversary in a conflict’s initial weeks. His article here underscores the competitive edge the submarine force provides to forward com-manders, and the constant focus and dedication needed to maintain that edge.
Three young submarine officers have articles in this issue. Lieutenant Andrea Howard’s “Basic Principles for a Complex Nuclear Environment” analyzes the 6-page document Russia released in June, describing its nuclear weapons doctrine. Lieutenant Benjamin McFarland’s “Jetting below the Surface” offers an innovative idea to create auxiliary submarine propulsion by adding waterjets to seawater outflow. And Lieutenant Phoebe Kotlikoff penned this month’s Leadership Forum, titled “Surviving the Shipyard Requires Grit and Grind.” She describes the intense pressure and unique challenges of leading a crew through an unexpectedly long maintenance availability. During her time on board the USS Ohio (SSGN-726), the submarine entered a planned 9-month availability that turned into a 30-month endurance test. Leadership at sea is what young officers envision as they start their careers. Leadership in the shipyards is a different game altogether, but one that many submarine and ship crews have to figure out.
In “Reflections on the Loss of the Thresher,” James R. Geurts shares his personal experience and lessons from when that submarine sank in 1963, killing two of his close friends. Today’s submarine force benefits from the SubSafe program put into effect after the Thresher disaster. Such personal recollections of that event are moving and haunting. I thank the current Assistant Secretary of the Navy James “Hondo” Geurts for bringing us his father’s article.
Finally, a number of readers have spoken up about the commentaries on race relations and diversity by Commander Jada Johnson and Commander Wolf Melbourne in the September issue and others online. Reactions continue to be both positive and critical. Your open forum has had a lively discussion about racial justice and diversity over the past few months—both online and in print. Comment and Discussion has presented a range of thoughts over that time, and Proceedings has always provided a place for such issues to be debated. We encourage you to be part of the debate—on this or any topic. Write an article, a commentary, or a letter. The easiest way is to send an email to [email protected]
Next month’s focus is on the Marine Corps. Until then, fair winds!