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SPEECH | Sept. 19, 2014

4,000th Patrol Ceremony Remarks

ADMIRAL HANEY: Thank you Mike for kind introduction, to all a good afternoon.  Distinguished visitors, families, friends, men and women of Kings Bay, welcome and thank you for being here this afternoon. 

It’s great to see the number of folks assembled here, especially all the VIPs.  I want to first thank the waterfront team, for putting this ceremony together knowing how busy you are today meeting my U.S. Strategic Command mission requirements. I must specifically thank the crew of the Rhode Island and my Skipper, CDR Louis Springer, and the Chief of the Boat, Master Chief Motree.  You today represent the sailors that are providing remarkable operational availability and survivability from the sea towards our strategic deterrence and assurance capability 24/7. 

Although the technology has changed since the first patrol, the resilience and dedication of the Sailors that manage and provide support to our SSBNs remains that essential ingredient to this success story.  So it is fantastic to see the assembled submariners, both active and retired, and especially submarine veterans as well as civilians that have been in continued support of this foundational mission for our country.  It is you, and the families, who support the Sailors that have made the 4000th Patrol Ceremony possible. 

To achieve this remarkable milestone also required legislative support.  So I’m pleased to see the legislators that are also here today. Georgia Senators Ligun and Carter, State Representatives, Mayors and Navy League Representatives, thanks for being here and for your support for this important mission.

Finally, I’d like to salute all the assembled flag officers and especially the retired admirals that are also here that put us on a path for this success.  It’s great to see, as I call him, Big Al, Admirals Mel Williams, George Emery and Raymond Jones.Tthanks for coming, thanks for being here, thanks for your leadership.

This mission has also been successful due to the significant focus from the Pentagon and our national leadership.  So you should not be surprised to find the Office of the Secretary of Defense Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon here also.  Brian, thank you for being here and for providing the support we get from the Office of Secretary of Defense for this important mission. 

So, I hope you get the picture.  It’s about the remarkable Americans supporting the strategic deterrence mission with outstanding precision, coupled with an amazing support team. Yes, partners, thank you for your participation as shipmates, or should I say teammates.  As we continue this essential mission into the future it will require even more tremendous partnership. 

To Vice Admiral Carter, this community has a rich history, one which I am extremely proud to be part of.  Today, our SSBNs continue their vital task of deterring our adversaries and assuring our allies.  Blue and Gold Crews have operated 24/7 every single day defending this country through five decades.  This mission they carry out is as important today as it was in the beginning. 

Today, the global strategic environment is as complex and dynamic as ever, perhaps more so than any other time in our history.  Violent extremist organizations are carrying out destabilization operations.  The Ebola crisis is of significant concern.  And in July the Chinese conducted yet another missile test designed to destroy satellites in space, for example.  Thankfully, this time they didn’t hit anything.  Following their test in 2007 they created thousands of pieces of debris that continue to endanger every nation’s space systems.  Also, other nuclear powers are investing in long-term and wide-ranging strategic modernization.  For example, Russia has had a significant investment in modernizing across each of its legs of its strategic forces.  The Chinese are modernizing their strategic forces as well.  Even Kim Jong Un is following his predecessors, working to advance and weaponize his nuclear capability.   Iran’s ambition for nuclear weapons is no secret, and of course India and Pakistan both continue to modernize their nuclear capabilities. 

While this gives a snap shot of nuclear modernization efforts around the globe, we should not lose sight of terrorists and non-state actors who continue to have aspirations to have weapons of mass destruction at their disposal.  As the report of nuclear weapons employment strategy states, we must assume they would use such weapons if they manage to attain them.  As we have recently witnessed with ISIL and Boko Haram, and given the brutality of their movements, we should expect that provided the opportunity these groups have the will, as they are already displaying their propensity to behave in ways that are unrestraint by international norms.

With this changing and challenging global security environment, it should be no surprise that strategic deterrence is the core competency of our national defense strategy.  And I will join other national leaders who say the strategic deterrent capability is foundational to our national security.  It serves to encourage restraint, deny benefits, and if deterrence fails to impose loss to any potential adversary and provides the President of the United States flexible responsive options. 

Each leg is unique, complementary and vital to our strategic deterrence and assurance mission.  As I travel around and discuss our strategic deterrence capability, frequently the conversation starts with the focus sole on the nuclear triad, comprised of strategic bombers and ballistic missiles and ballistic missile submarines, like the USS Rhode Island.  While these platforms are the cornerstone of our deterrence strategy, our credible deterrent is much more.  It includes a robust and agile intelligence apparatus that can provide the necessary indications and warnings.  A synthesis of dedicated space and ground sensors that provide critical early warning for missile launches and bomber threats and an effective Nuclear Command and Communications system.  It also includes a nuclear weapons capability with its associated infrastructure, and a credible missile defense system that defends against limited attacks from nations such as North Korea and Iran. It includes relevant space and satellite based capabilities and synchronized treaties, policies and strategies.  And of course, a campaign plan that orients all of our assigned capabilities and activities toward a common daily purpose - to deter strategic attack and assure our allies.

None of this would be possible, however, without the trained and ready people, the Sailors and civilians who are out here today and of course the veterans who came before them.  Certainly the 4,000th patrol milestone would not have been possible without them, or their families, that have supported them all along the way.  So, let’s give a round of applause for all those shipmates.

Today, not present at this ceremony are the Blue and Gold Crews aboard the USS Maine, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wyoming and Tennessee that are standing watch, conducting nuclear deterrent patrols, silently securing the seas, miles away from home or port.  Vice President Biden said earlier this month, “The SSBNs are an absolute vital arm of our nuclear triad, and the most secure element of our triad.”  Our SSBN force coupled with the Trident D-5 missile provides an assured second strike capability that is survivable, reliable and of course critical.  As we continue to draw down to meet the requirements of the New START Treaty, each submarine, and missile tube and missile, becomes just that much more important. 

Our submarine force carries approximately 70 percent, yes, seven zero percent, of our nation’s deployed warheads.  That is an incredible responsibility met today by an incredible team of professionals.  Just this morning I had breakfast with a group of young SSBN junior officers and I wish I could have shown you a replay of that.  I wish you could have seen their passion and thoughtful approaches that they shared with me and offer suggestions to further improve our mission. 

But it doesn’t end there.  Just as important as our submarine Sailors and their ships at sea, this team also includes the Coast Guard, the Marines, and masters of arms who protect our valuable assets.  I’m also extremely proud of those who maintain these ships, keeping them in top shape and ready for the sea.  Never missing a beat, they have sustained the Ohio-class submarine beyond its original 30-year service life to an unprecedented 42 years.  And oh I should have mentioned the teachers, mentors, and leaders at our training facilities, keeping our crews sharp and ready for any challenge the sea may throw at them.

To ensure the credible and effective SSBN force in the future, or more importantly the safe, secure and effective nuclear triad, timely and stable investments are needed for the Ohio Replacement Program.  Recapitalizing our sea-based strategic deterrence force is my top modernization priority, and it’s critically important, this program.  The design and build of the Ohio Replacement Program must stay on schedule to meet future strategic commitments, to include a commitment to the United Kingdom, and in providing a common design.  U.S. Strategic Command is working closely with the Navy, with our Joint Staff and with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to ensure the Ohio replacement remains on course. 

Today, I have confidence in our ability to operate a safe and secure nuclear deterrent force, but the sustainment and modernization requires sustained funding.  We must support the Ohio replacement construction through fiscal year twenty-one.  This is a must do, as there is no margin left to extend the Ohio class.  However, no further extension is possible, as the Ohio class will start coming off service in 2027.  While this is an expense our nation must fully consider, the Navy has made significant progress in cost reductions. 

The Ohio Replacement Program will provide a credible deterrence at the lowest possible cost.  These new submarines will be in service until 2080.  Let me provide a little context with regard to that.  Some of you youngsters, your great, great grandchildren could possibly serve in them.   I can’t tell you what the strategic environment will look like in 2031, when the first Ohio Replacement Program submarine comes online.  What I can tell you is that as long as other nations, who do not share our ideals, possess nuclear weapons, we must maintain a capability to respond to nuclear aggression or threats with our own highly reliable, credible and survivable nuclear forces. 

So again, congratulations.  Of all the things that I said today, nothing rings more true than a quote from a friend of mine, the former U.S. Strategic Command commander, Admiral Mies.  He said “our SSBN forces are manned by the nation’s best, and brightest; charged with operating the greatest technological marvel ever put to sea.  They are what define a strategic submarine force.  They are the best trained, best prepared, most capable Sailors in the world.  Our nation is safe because of them.”  We share that responsibility, because of what each and every one of you do day in and day out – maintaining readiness to respond to any threat, any time.  As a result our nation is safer, and for that I thank you.  God bless.