Our own Joe Buff, avid submarine warfare fiction and non-fiction writer, attended an April 8 New York Council of the Navy League luncheon where Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead discussed some of the Navy's potential future "tipping points." We recently wrote up a paper from the Center for Naval Analyses that examined the same subject.
By Joe Buff Defense Tech Futurist and Submarine Warfare Correspondent
CNO Roughead said recruiting is a big challenge for today's Navy because the parents of today's youth are in many cases themselves not military veterans. This is an important sea change compared to prior generations of youths whose parents had served in Korea, Viet Nam, or WWII. Thus it is more important for the Navy itself to reach out as much as possible to prospective enlistees, recruits, Naval Academy applicants, etc. and their families -- by visiting high schools and colleges for instance, as the CNO was doing while in New York.
The adequate size of the Navy is also challenged by currently anticipated defense allocation and appropriation levels that will probably fall short of what is required to sustain the current 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan.
Submarines are especially important. (ADM Roughead said he is often accused of having gone over to "the dark side" in that he thinks very highly of the immense utility of subs even though he is not a Submariner). He emphasized that the Virginia class is extremely capable and is very much not a "Cold War relic" as some anti-submarine pundits still claim. He pointed out that the replacement for the Ohio-class SSBN design now started will see the last sub of that new class serve until 2080, illustrating how vital and difficult it is to get key features of that design just right.
He commented that as we are seeing with China, a nation's navy and its economy tend to rise or fall together. In years to come the U.S. is likely to see a shortfall in the size of the submarine force compared to global demand. It is very important that the USN not fall behind emerging competitors or it will become a regional not global navy. Capabilities per hull are important to remain genuine world leaders in undersea warfare, just as in surface and air warfare, but having the minimum number of hulls really needed is also vital as no warship can be in 2 places at once no matter how sophisticated it might be.