Pacific Northwest 114th Submarine Birthday Ball Remarks

By Admiral Cecil D. Haney | Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. | April 12, 2014

Good Evening!  It’s great to be back here, and what an honor to hang out with you and celebrate this 114th submarine birthday.  So Happy Birthday to all!  Dietrich, thank you for inviting me and being persistent in that regard.  And it’s great also Bette could be here with you tonight as well—it wasn’t that long ago we were in Hawaii

It’s great to see such a large turn out here of submariners and the folks that support this business. I know there’s representatives obviously from the Submarine Group, but of course thanks again to DEVRON 5 for your work here, and of course the staffs for squadron’s 17 and 19, sorry…yes, the Commodores of squadrons 17 and 19, and of course all the submarine crews that are here.  I know we couldn’t do the business we do without some members of the Coast Guard…I’m not sure if we’ve got any of them in the audience tonight…and the marines that also support us.  We obviously couldn’t do without that kind of support.  It’s great seeing the relationships you have here with the Junior Navy ROTC unit out of South Kitsap High School—seeing them perform out here, and obviously the relationship with the Oregon State folks here—good to see you…I’ll take your questions at the end.

But also representing the Navy and Submarine leagues and of course the submarine vets that are represented here, and in particular as was mentioned veterans of WWII. Master Chief Ed Ferris—it was great to meet you earlier today…you are a legacy that allows us to be here celebrating this special occasion.  You are a hero in my eyes, and I can’t thank you enough for your remarkable service…so how about a round?

I was just here in February, so I am surprised to be invited again.  I don’t want to wear my welcome out.  I know I am between you and this dance floor, so I’ll try to be brief.  But it was great being here then, seeing firsthand the outstanding warriors we have here at Bangor—from the folks from the Intermediate Maintenance Facility…I think you’re represented by this table here; and Trident Training Facility—are you out here in the audience?  And the Strategic Weapons Facility; and of course to the Sailors of the USS HENRY M. JACKSON and MAINE—I even got to pin on dolphins to Lieutenant JG Miles Garrett.

And of course yesterday, I was privileged to come here and present the Omaha Trophy to the crew of USS NEBRASKA.  It’s no surprise you would have it as a centerpiece…Well Done!  But you know the competition was stiff, but they were well deserving of this great award…I can’t thank them enough for performing such that we can recognize them. 

And I’d like to point out here that ‘tolling of the boats” is a stark reminder, of course, of the cost that selfless service to our country.  Yet despite the prevalent dangers we face there are still Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguards, and Civilians putting themselves in harm’s way every day, including today.  So I salute those of you who have served, those who continue to serve with honor, courage, and commitment.  And to the families who also sacrifice, I thank you too for the service to our nation.  Let’s also recognize the wonderful spouses that are also here, spouses, friends, and significant others here tonight.  You look fantastic!
So tonight’s theme is “Weapons of the Future”.  But I am not talking about the Tomahawk missiles or Trident Missiles.  I am talking about our most precious assets – our people, future leaders…and in this case I’m going to focus a bit on the “Millennials”.

Now some of you, particularly those in the under 30 crowd, might look up at me and wonder what can a guy with 4 stars on his shoulder…who is obviously a couple decades removed…who thinks his “non-smart phone” is cutting-edge technology…and who thought, until I was recently educated, that twerking and twittering were synonymous…what could I possibly know about the millennial generation? 

Well admittedly, there is a lot I don’t understand.  I guess I really don’t understand Miley Cyrus for example, although I don’t think I am alone there…I don’t understand this fascination with tattoos and holes in various parts of the body, I don’t understand the infatuation with what’s called selfies and photo bombing—some of you may be doing that tonight, and I don’t understand how the millennials communicate. 

I’ve been told though that they are the most connected generation in history…yet I don’t hear anything that they’re saying -- all because they’re using things like blogs, social media, and of course texting.  Even on my staff they do this thing called “BBMing” that they had to show me what that was here recently – where they use this Blackberry specific texting program…Perhaps some of you do the same?

What I do know, however, is that the oldest of this generation saw the Berlin Wall fall and the youngest of this generation was perhaps in diapers around 9/11.  I know that by 2025 they will account for 75% of the workforce.   I know they are more progressive on social and cultural values, but that they need to understand the how and why, which I consider a very good thing!

I know without a doubt they will be the leaders of our Navy, that will oversee a more diverse, more educated and more connected force than we have ever had before.  I also know that in the not too distant future our military is going to go through some changes.  We will do some downsizing, we will retire heroic and legacy weapon systems, and we will bring on a new generation of platforms and leaders.

Now is the time to engage these future leaders, I would argue, to ensure that they are prepared for the implementation of new platforms and the execution of our national defense strategy.  So how do we do that?  Well, I would argue we must start with history.  Not just history for history’s sake, but because it is important to understand those who went before us, the contributions they made, and the impact that their decisions made to our national security.

We’ve come a long way since John Holland developed that 7-man powered submarine that on the surface was powered by an internal combustion engine and by electric motors while submerged—and for more than 50 years this is how our submarines continued to run.  Later, that vision by ADM Hyman G. Rickover made history when the Nautilus was launched and those famous words “Underway on Nuclear Power” were uttered, breaking endurance records for speed, enabling her to sail beneath the polar ice cap and being the first watercraft to reach the geographical North Pole.



In 1960, the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON departed for the world’s first nuclear strategic deterrent patrol, fundamentally changing the calculus of strategic nuclear deterrent around the globe and in 1981 the USS OHIO made her home port here in Bangor. Today, the west-coast based USS OHIO and USS MICHIGAN have developed a new era of undersea capability.  Their ability to launch up to 154 Tomahawk missiles as well as support Special Operation Forces allow them to continue this legacy of transformational warfare in our Navy, and in our submarine community.

Tonight though, while we celebrate, I know that the HENRY M. JACKSON blue crew, PENSYLVANIA gold crew, the LOUISIANA blue crew, the OHIO gold crew, and the MICHIGAN gold crew are out there at sea, on patrol deployed, deterring potential adversaries and assuring our Allies, promoting the interests of peace and freedom around the world, just as that USS GEORGE WASHINGTON did some 54 years ago.

So in 2031, 40 years after the end of the Cold War and in the midst of the millennials becoming our most senior leaders, we should start seeing the replacement of our OHIO-class SSBNs.  Will our “millennial leaders” be prepared for the challenge of implementing a new strategic platform?  Will they understand the significant roles it will play and the impacts of things like John Holland and ADM Rickover had on strategic deterrence?  Will they understand what Master Chief Ed Ferris went through as a Torpedo man on board USS DRUM. USS DRUM, you see, sank some 31 ships, earning a silver star and 4 Purple Hearts. 

I believe they will understand our history, and the importance of every member on our team.  But they must also understand their role in deterring warfare for the future, which will also continue to evolve.

Today our nuclear-powered, survivable ballistic missile submarines are essential to that part of deterrence--alongside of our responsive, land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, and of course our flexible, nuclear-capable bombers.  While our fleet ballistic missiles submarines deter nuclear war, our fast attack submarines and SSGNs play an essential role in deterrence too.  They continue the work pioneered by our WWII ancestors, operating independently far away from friendly waters, gaining valuable experience…and intelligence in waters that could be contested in the future.  Their ability to respond quickly in crisis situations, to generate that forward presence and be the first into the fight exemplify the concept of strategic ambiguity and serve to give our potential adversaries pause, knowing that the US Submarine Force will always be ready to respond to any contingency.

But what will deterrence policies look like in the future years?  Our national security scholars are putting a lot of thought into the future of 21st Century deterrence theory…looking at how to influence decision making by weighing the costs and benefits of both the actions we seek to deter as well those we continue to restrain.

We are coming out of two major wars.  As we move forward we must plan for the continual increase in tensions around the world, on a substantially reduce budget, with a smaller military in need of considerable investment.  At the same time, significant advances in nation state and non-state military capabilities across all the domains…air, sea, land, space—as well as in cyberspace, continue.
Nuclear powers continue to invest in long-term modernization of their strategic capabilities. 


Some nation states and non-nation state actors have goals of obtaining and proliferating Weapons of Mass Destruction.  The space domain is becoming even more congested, contested, and of course competitive…and while we have increased our own cyber-space capabilities, the worldwide cyber threat is growing in scale and in sophistication, with increased number of state and non-state actors targeting U.S. networks on a daily basis. 

So, given that picture, it is clear to see there is an absolute necessity to focus our efforts on strategic stability.  That is why my Command has this Deterrence and Assurance campaign plan and your efforts remain critical in that campaign as association with our national security.  My top priority is to partner with the other Combatant Commands to deter and detect strategic attacks against the United States of American and against its Allies, and of course if deterrence fails to be able to provide the President the options he needs.  Our deterrence campaigns start in peacetime and they are intended to preserve the peace, but as we move into crisis the decision calculus of our adversaries can change significantly. Our leaders must be able to react when the tide is turned.

So what will our strategic environment look like in 2031…when that OHIO replacement first goes on patrol?  Well, I don’t think any of us can specifically make a good prediction right now…but just as planners are laying the groundwork for coherent deterrent strategies for the future, we must ensure we have competent, adaptable, and forward-thinking leaders to implement those strategies.

Unfortunately, of course there isn’t just a book out there that tells us exactly how we should move forward…so I am going to give you just a few of Cecil Haney’s thoughts here.  First, the leaders of the future must understand and be able to apply history.  Second, they must be committed to lifelong learning.   The world is continuously changing, and our future leaders must continue to grow and adapt to the changes of the future.  Third, our future leaders must be communicators…beyond that 140 character Twitter thing…although sometimes in some of these briefs I get have massive quantities of “power point.”   I sometimes wish I could limit it to about 140 characters.  But in addition to providing a clear and concise message, they must also be listeners and not forget that effective communications is a two-way street.  And Fourth, we must allow them to lead, to make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes…we must provide opportunities that promote their intellect and their ideas while fostering the culture of integrity, professionalism and “doing the right thing” at all times, no matter what others around them may be doing.  And finally, we must encourage them to find innovative ways to exploit the capabilities that come with the real-time worldwide communications networks that are so natural to them…and perhaps foreign to old guys like myself.

Well, while we don’t know precisely what the future will look like, we know though that it will be different than it is today.  But I am confident, I repeat I am confident, that having met and served with many of the Millennials today and their leaders that our future is bright well beyond the 2030s.  The American people count on all of us for our nation’s security and we must not fail.  Our submarine force is integral to that security—and what you do every day ensures that this nation remains safe. 

I thank you for your service, I thank you for your professionalism and I thank you for answering the call and I remind you …. “Not just anyone can be a Submariner”.  So Happy 114th birthday, God bless each and every one of you…Let’s get on with the party!