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What is SSP? It is ... Strategic Systems Programs.

Toward the end of my Operation Continuing Promise 2010 deployment aboard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), I received an email from my detailer, telling me my next job was going to be at SSP.

I asked my Assistant Supply Officer, "What's SSP?" He thought it was Special Projects. I did not think that was quite right, so I did what everyone does nowadays, I went to Google, typed in "SSP," and looked for the web address that had "SSP" and "Navy" in it. While the website did not reveal too many details, I knew one thing for sure; I was going back to my submarine roots.

Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) has a mission to maintain a credible and affordable sea-based nuclear deterrent system. SSP is responsible for the Strategic Weapons System (SWS) deployed aboard Ohio-class and United Kingdom (UK) Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). SSP is also responsible for the Attack Weapons System (AWS) fielded on U.S. guided missile submarines (SSGNs). A couple of important points to highlight is, SSP is the only Navy command privileged to handle nuclear weapons; SSP's D-5 (TRIDENT II) missile system comprises a majority of the nation's strategic nuclear triad; SSP's D-5 missile system makes up 100 percent of UK's strategic deterrent; and the TRIDENT is the survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.

Located at the Washington Navy Yard, a Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) order created SSP in 1956. It is an echelon 2 command, which has the SSP director wearing several hats. He is a Direct Reporting Program Manager to Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) Research, Development and Acquisition (RDA); and reports directly to the Chief of Naval Operations CNO). Additionally, he is responsible to SECNAV for oversight of the POLARIS Sales Agreement (PSA). PSA is an 11-page document signed in 1963 by which the U.S. agreed to provide its Polaris missile and subsystems of the weapons system to the UK and now includes the TRIDENT II system.

Strategic Weapons Facilities (SWF) fall under SSP, and are located in Kings Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Wash. Due to the strict maintenance schedules the SSBNs must adhere to, SSP maintains parts warehouses at both of the SWFs. These warehouse operations operate with the support of the Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, NAVSUP FLC Puget Sound and BAE Systems.

While relatively unknown outside of the SSBN arena, from a Supply Corps perspective SSP interacts with a number of familiar organizations - including Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Headquarters, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Puget Sound, Defense Logistics Agency, Naval Sea Systems Command, Fleets, submarine type commands, and Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay. We also interact with the Air Force and U.K. logistics counterparts.

SSP is a unique organization - an interesting mix of Engineering Duty Officers, Line Officers, two Supply Corps officers (a captain and a lieutenant commander), government civilians, and contractors. Prime contractors and laboratories have been involved with SSP since the command's inception. The close government-industry relationship is critical to the command's success; understanding this is a national, strategic mission of the highest degree, both sides strive for a real "win-win" approach.

Coming to SSP with little knowledge of the scope of its mission (my excuse is I was a fast attack guy), I have come to realize how fortunate I was to receive these orders. Working with submarines again is great, and the opportunity to work on one of my country's most important missions is something I will have for the rest of my life.

By Capt. Jim Lowther SC, USN Logistics Support Coordinator, Strategic Systems Programs

Capt. Lowther earned the Submarine Supply Corps Officer, the Surface Warfare Supply Corps Officer, and the Naval Aviation Supply Corps Officer qualification pins. He is also a member of the Acquisition Professional Community.
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Author:Lowther, Jim
Publication:Navy Supply Corps Newsletter
Article Type:Organization overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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