Monday, September 14, 2015
U.S. Navy sub forces get new commander
Mike Hixenbaugh, The Virginian–Pilot
13 September 2015
The Navy has a new top commander leading its submarine forces.
Vice Adm. Joe Tofalo relieved Vice Adm. Mike Connor at a ceremony Friday atop the attack submarine Newport News at Norfolk Naval Station.
During his three-year tenure, Connor oversaw the initial steps of integrating enlisted women into the Navy’s submarine force and managed to keep subs deployed around the world despite a shrinking budget that led to a significant maintenance backlog.
“You’re leaving the submarine force in much better shape than you found it,” Adm. Cecil Haney told Connor during the ceremony.
Haney, the head of U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska, was one of at least a half-dozen current and former four-star admirals in attendance, a rare gathering of top-ranking naval officers that included Adm. John Richardson, the former submarine force commander who will become chief of naval operations at a ceremony next week.
“It’s a pretty impressive all-star lineup,” said Haney, who has oversight of more than 70 U.S. submarines as well as the nation’s nuclear arsenal and other military deterrence forces.
Connor is retiring from the Navy after more than 35 years in the service. His first submarine deployment came during the Cold War.
“Clearly, Mike has seen a tectonic shift” over the course of his career, Haney said.
His replacement, Tofalo, takes over “at a critical time,” Haney said. Among his top challenges: maintaining the Ohio-class submarine fleet, which was introduced around the time Connor joined the Navy.
Because of delays in producing a replacement, the aging nuclear-powered submarines must remain in service for more than a decade longer than planned, for several years beyond 2030, when the Navy hopes the first replacement sub will be ready for deployment.
Maintaining the force while ensuring the future one gets built will be a tall order, Tofalo said. “There is no margin for error.”