Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Design For Undersea Warfare"

The Submarine Force leadership just released an overview of what they see as "commander's guidance to the Submarine Force on maintaining undersea superiority in the 21st century". VADM Richardson expects to introduce it to the Force on Wednesday (the anniversary of the first launch of Polaris from the submerged submarine USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598)), but they released this advance look a couple days early.

I haven't had a chance to look at "Design For Undersea Warfare" yet (or it's companion piece, "Undersea Warfighting") because I'm in the middle of my workweek and need to concentrate on making the best memory chips in the world. Until the official rollout, please take a look at the Force leadership's vision and start a discussion in the comments.

Update 1020 20 July: Today's the official "rollout" day of the new initiative, as detailed in the first post of the new COMSUBFOR blog. As I understand it, all the boats not at sea will be sending their CO/XO/COB to meet with the leadership in each submarine homeport to get briefed on the changes this new vision will bring. And word on the street is that there will be changes, with a message flying (possibly today) that will cancel several onerous administrative requirements. I think the highest levels of the Submarine Force leadership are buying into it; the question remains as to what the deskbound Captains, Commanders, and Master Chiefs who will never go to sea more than a day or two at a time in the future will do to support (or hinder) the Admirals' vision. I remember back when ADM Boorda cancelled a large number of admin requirements, and the waterfront inspecting agencies basically ignored the CNO. (True story -- one of the cancelled programs back in 1998 was the Diesel Trend. When my boat had its ORSE in July 1999, I showed the instruction to the team member, who acted like he'd never seen it before, and still reviewed my records. I had kept them up, of course, since I didn't expect the ORSE would ever willingly give up a chance to find another "weakness".) Since some inspecting agencies officially work for the Fleet Commander, hopefully they won't "overrule by board precept" the Sub Force's efforts to move their warfighters away from filling out TPS reports and more towards figuring out better ways to deny the ocean to our adversaries.

It's clear that money will be the biggest driver of the future of the Submarine Force. This article in The Day says that some people are considering foregoing an all-new design for the next generation SSBN, and just putting SLBMs on a Virginia-based hull. I remember them talking about that at EB as a possibility back when the original Virginia was being built next to my boat, and I thought how they'd have to drastically shrink the missiles to fit with the tiny (33'; it's tiny compared to the 40' of the Seawolf-class boat I was on) diameter of the Virginia, even if they did use some sort of turtleback (with concomitant speed penalties for an already slow boat). I suggested back then that they should base the new SSBN on the Seawolf. The design's already proven, the existing missile would fit in with only a small turtleback, and they already know how to cut a Seawolf in half to add a middle section. The only problem would be that you'd end up with an SSBN fleet that was faster than the SSN fleet.

I'll be interested to hear from anybody who finds out which admin programs they'll be cancelling.


Blogger Ross Kline said...

Quoted from the "Design for Undersea Warfare" - listed in the section "Forces that work against us"...

"2. Our TYCOM and ISIC efforts tend to limit a Commanding Officer’s freedom and flexibility. Shared responsibility and accountability between the ship and the chain of command is limiting CO’s ability to achieve success. Excessive administrative distractions are burdensome."
"Our solutions to problems can tend towards bureaucratic, process-dominated approaches."

Hmmmm...sound like something that was brought up in this forum not too long ago?

7/18/2011 3:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that the Powers That Be read this blog. A good reason to be circumspect about your identity...

7/18/2011 3:57 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

They might. Just in case I get a chance to talk to SUBFOR about this initiative, what questions should I ask him?

7/18/2011 4:48 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Interestingly, when I logged on to make the comment above, I checked my E-mail and found a note from one of my old XOs who said that the Sub Force's "Early Bird" (the daily "Undersea Enterprise News Daily" E-mail) just started including blogs, and had my post just before this one was included in today's edition. So yes, it does appear that TPTB might be aware of TSSBP. (Another submarine blog they had posts from, that I just added to my blogroll, is The Lean Submariner. You guys should check it out.)

7/18/2011 5:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing is, Joel's been at this long enough that the guys that started reading him on their JO shore duty are now heading to Command, those that were XOs are now heading to Major Command (and so on). I should hope that this blog continues on their periodic reading list. It would be a shame if it weren't.

7/18/2011 7:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that as far back as 2006 the higher ups in the five sided puzzle palace were reading Joel’s blog on a regular basis. Made for great discussions about the good ole days…

7/18/2011 7:35 PM

Blogger John Byron said...

These documents are eyewash, grandiose PR statements of no discernible mission value, no planning value, no operational value: pablum. Suggests that either the staff has too much time on its hands or the budget has too much loose change being shoveled to contractors to write this crap. Fortunately these will have no impact on anything real ever at all.

Joel: if you have a chance to talk to SUBFOR, ask him why he's wasting time on this bullshit.

7/18/2011 8:29 PM

Anonymous Name Changed to Protect the Guilty said...

I get the Undersea Daily in the morning at work (now DOD Civ) and noticed that this morning.

Just because the low people in high places read the blog doesn't mean they will stop being knuckleheads.

As for the comment Ross Kline highlighted concerning excessive admin, this has been a problem since at least 1983...IOW, when I checked onto my first boat. Unfortunately we are too nuclear and that is an undesired byproduct.

Every CO on the waterfront knows it but is afraid to say it, every Commodore knows it but can't change it, every Admiral knows it but.....???

Too bad they can't be a "fly on the deckplate" and see what really happens to overcome the admin burden. And I am not talking just rogue 3rd's and 2nd's, Chief's and officers know the score and do what it takes. BTDT!

7/18/2011 8:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not worth reading. Poor clipart as well.

7/18/2011 11:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're not going to get the technical expertise required for improved forward availability without funding the technical hands-on training and then rewarding the results in selection board precepts letters and "CMC eval writing guides". Selecting great deckplate leaders who are technically incompetent is finally completing its circular run. What we've done well was done well because it was a top priority. That's all good, but while individual certification requirements and the body of required technical knowledge grows, the NEC-awarding schools have been scaled back to a paltry few locations. PAC fleet will suffer the most from this in the near term, of course. It's going to be three years before the first 6YO ITS recruits have their planned impact, but what about the guys struggling to do the job, right now? CYBERCOM can spew requirements at will, but unless the men are funded and let off to get the formal training, it's just more check-the-block, fly-the-message paper drill. NEC's and Certs can be useful tools to improve capability and resourcefulness, but not when we cop out to CBT's, powerpoints and continue to believe that the next inspection or field day is going to provide value-added experience that must be brought to bear in the forward areas. It's not too late; a few Chiefs can still remember the days when a blueshirt had no idea how to write a CASREP.

7/18/2011 11:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our TYCOM and ISIC efforts tend to limit a Commanding Officer’s freedom and flexibility. Shared responsibility and accountability between the ship and the chain of command is limiting CO’s ability to achieve success. Excessive administrative distractions are burdensome."
"Our solutions to problems can tend towards bureaucratic, process-dominated approaches."

Great words but without action, they are not worth the paper they are written on.
Until a boat sitrep for DUI no longer requires a detailed description of EVERY action the ship has taken to prevent DUIs (interestingly the TYCOM and ISIC DUI sitreps never have that "extra" information), until boats are not directed to produce a POAM for everything (including why they got the SAME passing score on the annual engineering exam--i.e. why we did not improve), until a CO does not have to do a training arrival conference AND a training departure conference, and until the CO really does get some time to effectively train his crew (which will never happen), these are just nice words in a pretty package.

By the way, surprise inspections will never work unless ALL inspections become surprise, there is no way to legitimately compare a boat on a surprise inspection versus a planned inspection that they had some time to get ready for (I know that is contrary to the paradigm shift, but it is true).

7/19/2011 5:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many staff hours were spent to write, review and finalize this 17 page document? With all the pre-existing guidance, instructions, OPORDS and manuals out there, somebody thought there was a need for one more.

Just the very nature of our senior "leadership" signing this all but admits we have lost the battle and on our way to losing the war.

7/19/2011 6:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Joel: if you have a chance to talk to SUBFOR, ask him why he's wasting time on this bullshit." anonymous O-6 (USN-Ret.)

Better idea, tell him yourself, RD.

7/19/2011 9:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The design is a powerful construct driven by the things that should matter to us. Restoring/enhancing the independance of command will make things better.

To make it happen, leadership will have to modify tycom and isic behaviors to give the ships needed white space.

Some ships upsource thier responsibility to higher headquarters, and some isics put too much effort into inspection grade protection. Both of these trends dilute command authority.

I like the design. Credible design execution over a period of years is needed to prove it is effective.

7/19/2011 9:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read it.. didn't find anywhere in it that talks about doing better diving and shooting. Guess the folks at SUBFOR have lost the bubble.

7/19/2011 10:39 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Anon @9:47 AM

You observe, "Restoring/enhancing the independance of command will make things better."

Perhaps, but since the Cold War a new dynamic has intruded courtesy of surface admirals - Network Centric command and control:

" ... it also implies that each submarine's position--ideally as accurate a position as possible--would be disseminated widely throughout the force. Even if the security of submarine locations could be guaranteed, this is so much at variance with past practices--and potentially so inimical to the inherent stealth of the submarines--that the need for compliance is sure to give rise to intense debate."

If invoked by a careless SOPA, implications for subordinated subs and their crews could be needlessly stark.

Better practice might be having SOPA command and control from a submarine. Just a thought.

During the Cold War U.S. sub commanders had much more "independance of command", although I am guessing RD may wish to refute with a particular example of independent action gone amuck.

7/19/2011 12:16 PM

Anonymous PNW JO said...

Both of these documents are simultaneously inapplicable, grandiose, and vague. They are filled with so many useless platitudes that they actually become unintelligible over time. As my eyes glazed over while skimming through this, the only thing that actually caught my attention was the clip art on page 22 of our "warfighting" guide. Not only are the graphics useless, but they are actually insulting to my intelligence! I'm pretty sure anyone with a professional interest in reading this has the mental capacity to understand such difficult nouns as "air", "undersea", "surface", and "land".

It's shocking that the brains of our leadership have seemingly been melted by large consulting firms and defense contractors to generate such drivel. It's even more disappointing to think about how much money, time, and resources were expended to generate this.

I might just be a naive little JO, but what kinds of forces/entities are compelling my most senior leadership to generate this crap?

7/20/2011 7:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another pointless program that reorganizes the same language already in place but doesn't change a damn thing- they need to take more input from the deckplate and make some real, meaningful changes to the way the sub force conducts business. If my boat, for example, would spend the time working through actual problems that they spend discussing process philosophy, we'd all be home by 1300 every day with a spotless and well maintained boat.

7/20/2011 8:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


The rumor mill has it that VADM Richardson will be the next NAVSEA 08.

7/20/2011 9:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

....and he will fill the position without a fourth star.

7/20/2011 9:55 AM

Anonymous Comment Guy said...

Even if you managed somehow to graft missiles onto a fast attack class you would be putting yourself into having to rework whole mission strategies since the mission profiles for fast attacks and boomers are not a good fit.

Sure lets take a hard look at what the next class SSBN should and shouldn't be but to try to meld them into one hybrid boat is pure wrong headed in it's approach.

7/20/2011 10:59 AM

Anonymous 610ET said...

"Sure lets take a hard look at what the next class SSBN should and shouldn't be but to try to meld them into one hybrid boat is pure wrong headed in it's approach".

Works for LCS! :)

7/20/2011 12:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that the first SSBN, the George Washington, was a stop-gap measure, but its was an SSN Skipjack(?) with a rocket locker surgically inserted. How did that work?

7/20/2011 2:12 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...


The impetus for redesign of Block IV or later Virginias (SSBN replacements) may already be in the works.

For instance, would not that explain the lies and sudden rush to usher women into submarine crews.

Please don't protest that I am full of BS (that includes you, Lord Byron) until history actually proves me wrong.

7/20/2011 4:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, SSBN(X) is a dumb idea that has begotten an even dumber idea. I'm not saying we don't need an SSBN replacement, we clearly do, but the Navy's idea that we are going to build the end-all, be-all of strategic subs is a dumb idea, because it has driven the prospective costs so high. The Ohio class is plenty capable, and the discussion should have been, how cheaply can we build something that mirrors the Ohio class in capability, and reliability.

Going from 24 (20 post start) D5 tubes on 12 boats to 12 C4 tubes across MAYBE 10, but more likely 8 boats is just a bad idea. It may not even be cheaper, due to the necessity of increasing the role of aircraft in the War Plan. Unfortunately, the larger submarine force has kind of looked at the strategic mission as the bastard step child of "real" submarining, so there are not a lot of submariners that can effectively advocate for maintaining the plan.

Downgrading to VA class with C4 missiles will de facto downgrade the effectiveness and coverage of the nuclear war plan as a deterrent without knowingly targeting civilians. Obviously, a full nuclear war would kill many civilians in any case, but I am making the distinction of "TARGETING" them vs. collateral damage for valid military targets.

7/20/2011 5:20 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

anon @5:20 PM

"Downgrading to VA class with C4 missiles will de facto downgrade the effectiveness and coverage of the nuclear war plan..."

Exactly right, it will amount to additional, de facto, nuclear disarmament. By now, we should all be aware of the simplistic rationale for that, as well as the administration who fervently supports it. No?

7/20/2011 6:06 PM

Blogger Subguy said...

Ive served with VADM Richardson and will offer that if anyone can change things forthe better its him. While the words may be general and seem to lack specifics at this time, they are actually requesting honest feedback and recommendations. Will they happen? Why is this different than the "admin reduction" efforts of the past? I don't know. I just know I believe in the man and the "idealist" in me says take the shot. If anyone can change it, he can. No different than politics and some of our other processes. Will they change? If Richardson goes to NAVSEA 08 will the next guy change it back and "undo" the efforts? Maybe. But does that make the effort any less worthwhile. I'm still in and stayed in to change things I found frustrating as a JO. Some things I changed, others I couldn't. Thats life, but the Idealist effort is worth the blood,sweat and tears. VADM started his own Blog today to get inputs and feedback. Take a shot. Make a proposal. If anyone can change it, he can. He's a smart dude so do your homework, but he is commited to thinking as warriors and eliminating the bull. Ours is a profession of arms and we must excel at it. Nuclear power carries responsibility and extra effort to not lose confidence of American people (Japan is fighting this confidence issue). Enough pontificating. Encourage anyone to make recommendations to him. I've seen him operate and believe in him (as in trust him with my and my families lifes). Worth it for you "idealists" to make a pitch. I certainly will from my position.

7/20/2011 7:06 PM

Anonymous darth said...

Though it's not an apples to apples comparison, I'd like to point to the Russian's problems developing the Bulova and the Borei class simultaneously. I don't think it's a low-risk or cost-effective solution to re-develop the C4 in conjunction with a major redesign of Virginia, especially since rocket design is so difficult (see NASA's Constellation program). Not to mention the potential impacts to performance (and thus deployment) of using a smaller missile.

7/21/2011 7:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Let me make sure I understand your had clear instruction to stop an admin requirement but you kept doing it because you correctly guessed that the inspectors would not believe the instruction to stop the admin program?

The height of insanity if that is the case....

7/21/2011 7:58 AM

Blogger SJV said...

Pretty sure Joel didn't actually keep the records. He instructed someone else to do it. In my life I've never understood why officers in the military seem to use first person for a delegated task.

7/21/2011 8:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't remember if it was mentioned before but I know his name came up. Admiral Haney will be getting his fourth star and will be the new COMPACFLT

rest of the new flag assignments

7/21/2011 9:04 PM

Blogger SubIconoclast said...

"In my life I've never understood why officers in the military seem to use first person for a delegated task."

Because delegation of authority does not transfer responsibility. Good officers understand that delegated tasks remain their own responsibility (even as they have assigned subordinate levels of responsibility) and an appropriate sense of personal ownership leads them to continue thinking of such tasks in the first person.

7/22/2011 3:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You probably can pencil Haney in for Greenert's relief as CNO. Based on recent history, it's Haney's job to lose.

7/22/2011 6:31 AM

Blogger SJV said...

Iconoclast??Maybe rethink that handle. You seem to be pretty stuck on tradition.

Having moved on from my enlistment, I delegate tasks and authority. And although I understand that I play a greater role in getting multiple things done, I don't take personal credit for accomplishments that aren't my own. It doesn't diminish my personal ownership and sense of worth to give some of the credit to others. Plus, when I'm speaking with folks who know the rest of the story it gives me credibility and builds teamwork.

7/22/2011 2:42 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

@sjv - That's the first rule of successful eval and fitrep writing. For every good thing the boat did, assume it wouldn't have happened had you not been there and take full credit. Ex: "ET2 Schmuckatelli was the directly responsible for the ship's better than average performance in the Cleanliness, Preservation, and Stowage (CPS) portion of the ship's recent Operational Reactor Safeguards Examination (ORSE)." Translated: He was the only guy small enough to fit behind the drain pump.

7/22/2011 4:06 PM

Blogger SJV said...

Just seems like to me this and other "iconic" practices are the basis for the massive amount of BS in the navy.

7/22/2011 9:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why hasn't anyone said anything about the "diagonal assessment" the Sailors across the Force filled out? I know they put their hearts into giving honest unfiltered answers to the questions and there hasn't been a peep out of anyone???

7/23/2011 10:05 AM

Anonymous T said...

They don't really give a fuck what you think, and just want to give the impression that they do?

7/28/2011 8:16 PM

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