For any chance at U.S. dominance on ocean floor, investment needed now

For any chance at U.S. dominance on ocean floor, investment needed now

For any chance at U.S. dominance on ocean floor, investment needed now

A retired Navy commander believes the United States has fallen behind its adversaries in investing in the critical area of seabed warfare.

Seabed warfare has been described as the "invisible backbone of the global economy." A 2017 report entitled "Undersea Cables: Indispensable, Insecure" raised alarms about the extreme vulnerabilities of the seabed commercial networks. According to that report, 95% of the traffic coursing through the global Internet is carried by just 200 undersea fiber-optic cables, with some as far below the surface as Mount Everest is above it.

Russia and China are heavily invested in dominating the ocean floor, so the U.S. Navy is pushing for $5.1 billion to build a high-tech submarine that can patrol the deepest reaches of the ocean and deploy mini-subs and drones that can battle hostile forces while withstanding the crushing pressure of the ocean depths. The new sub would be the successor to the USS Jimmy Carter, a nuclear-powered spy submarine currently fulfilling that role.

Retired Navy Commander Kirk Lippold tells AFN that action must be taken now if the U.S. hopes to control the bottom of the ocean.

Lippold, Kirk (Cmdr, USN-Ret.) Lippold

"The challenge the United States has once again [is] the senior leadership of the military has not developed a strategy that is directly confronting the threats that we have and tying it to force structure," he emphasizes. "So consequently, we're falling behind – and we're continuing to fall behind in these types of missions and capabilities."

The retired naval officer argues that $5.1 billion is a great investment. "Absolutely, yes. To budget for it now and get one of the Virginia-Class submarines, which is probably what it's going to be to be able to be in there, would absolutely be worth it," he contends.

He adds that if construction started today, it would probably take three to four years to complete.

Lippold commanded the USS Cole during a 2000 terrorist attack. He now serves on the board of a nonprofit that combats suicidal thinking among veterans.