Today is an age of acceleration, a time when Moore’s Law is creating profound changes at diminishing intervals, making it difficult to anticipate strategic, social, and technological developments.1 Some organisations facing these cascades of change, however, continue to plan for the Keynesian long term by adopting programs intended to endure for many years. One of those organisations is the US Navy (USN), which sails a steady course, stabilised by personnel and program cycles and equipment lifetimes that unfold over several decades. As a result, the United States has a plan and an existing program to maintain a nuclear deterrent onboard a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet until the end of the 21st century, and the USN is up to that task. Unless we truly encounter a black swan at sea – an unanticipated event that shifts the course of history in significant ways2 – the USN will have twelve nuclear-capable Columbia-class (SSBN-826) submarines by the early 2040s.3 To unpack the elements that contribute to this certainty and the nuance inherent in the Navy’s attitude towards its SSBN fleet, the chapter explores the doctrine, organisational culture, and programmatics that enable such precise predictions despite acceleration. The arrival of a black swan is admittedly unpredictable; however, the chapter will also survey which nest of technological or social changes might harbour that dark cygnet that will end the US commitment to the SSBN. The chapter also will identify some long-standing trends that might diminish the role of the SSBN by the end of this century. The conclusion offers a few reflections on why the SSBN is an anomaly in an age of acceleration.
|Title of host publication||The Future of the Undersea Deterrent: A Global Survey|
|Editors||R Medcalf, K Mansted, S Frühling & J Goldrick|
|Place of Publication||Canberra|
|Publisher||National Security College, Australian National University|
|Publication status||Published - 2020|