CNO Remarks at the Surface Navy Association 32nd National Symposium

by From Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
14 January 2020
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday delivers the Keynote Address at the Surface Navy Association 32nd National Symposium, Jan. 14, 2020.

CNO: Thanks. I just came from the White House where we actually stood up Space Force. An historic day where General Raymond was sworn in by the Vice President as the Chief of Space Operations. As I reflected upon that event, as I was sitting there in the original Secretary of the Navy’s office in the Old Executive Office Building I was thinking about the Navy and how dependent we are on space and how important that service and that combatant command will be to us. 

At the same time as I think about the National Defense Strategy, and I think about it a lot, and I think about Admiral Davidson, and I talked to him yesterday, and I think about the pacing threat, I think about the maritime. I’m going to talk about that a little bit today, but when I think about the maritime I think that that is an area where we must have overmatch and not parity to succeed. 

I know that during SNA most of the discussion is going to be about the high end. Admiral Kilby is going to come up here and talk about some of the things that we’re doing. Admiral Black’s going to come up here and talk about some of the great investments that we’re making. Admiral Brown talked a lot about training and the way forward and the great things that are happening in the force, and there are great things happening in the force. 

One of the things I want to talk about today is what the Navy does day to day and really talk about the why of the United States Navy. It may seem like a rhetorical question but most of the American public really doesn’t appreciate it. And because American prosperity is like oxygen. We live in a great country. If you think back to your parents and your grandparents and the lives that we enjoy today compared to our grandparents, it’s pretty remarkable. Part of that’s due to the fact that not only the United States Navy but I’m reminded with all the partners and the allies that we have in this room and what like-minded navies do together in a timeless mission on a day-to-day basis in the Strait of Hormuz today, in the East China Sea as we try to stop the North Koreans from getting illicit refined petroleum and we try to keep, Jim Malloy and 5th Fleet tries to keep the waterways of the 5th Fleet free and secure, those are timeless missions. They enable the kind of prosperity that we enjoy not only in this country but globally. 

So the things that I talk about today, any one of you could go back to your countries and give the same remarks and they’d be just as true. But an historic day over there with the Space Force. 

Let me welcome everybody again today. Everybody in our Navy family that’s here, and two of my personal heroes. Admiral Hogg, are you in the room? He might have left. 

Admiral Clark. Admiral Clark, first of all I have to apologize. I ripped you off recently. You do have a digital footprint that goes back to 2003 or 2002, and I always go back to covenant leadership. It rung true to me then and it still does today. Thank you for that. Thank you for the servant leader concept that you taught us so much about, and the word servant derived from the Greek word servo which -- actually hero, which is very interesting. Thanks for your leadership and thanks for your great service that goes all the way back to the John W. Weeks DD-701. How about that? It’s good to have you back in DC with SNA. Thank you. 

You know, I’m that 10 percent that doesn’t get the message. So last Friday Rich Brown sent out a message and he authorized this jacket and he sent me an email and he said hey, will you wear the jacket to SNA? I said Rich, you just sent me the message. You sent me the jacket two months ago. I’ve been wearing this thing for two months. [Laughter]. Unauthorized. I’ve been walking around the Pentagon, going to tank sessions with the chiefs, you know. Nobody else has a jacket like that. 

I’d like to thank the flag and general officers that are here today. I’d like to thank industry. 

I’d like to thank the media in the back as you line up to ask those questions. Thanks for coming. We live in a democratic society. We have to get our message out. You help us do that. You help keep us honest. I look forward to your questions this afternoon. 

Thanks again to our international allies and partners. Our collective naval power is truly awesome.

Most importantly, I’d like to just welcome our Sailors and Marines from the Fleet, those who are joining us virtually on the internet. You are our future. 

I want to thank the Surface Navy Association. I am member 484. I’m proud to be a life member of this organization. You do so much for the Surface Navy and the United States Navy. It is a selfless job that Bill Erickson and his team does, and Pete. Thanks so much for all you do. 

America has many enduring strengths but one of those strengths is the United States Navy. What we do is hard and there’s no getting around that. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing anyway. Everything from conceptualizing our ships to constructing them to manning them, training their crews, to funding them, and finally to operating them forward in support of national objectives. These are all challenging tasks. They challenge us and in turn, they challenge our families. 

I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to our Navy families for joining in that work. And in light of recent events in the Middle East and the amount of time I spent on the phone with Jim Malloy, we can never forget that we often have families serving forward with our Sailors. We must keep them and their safety and our gratitude for their sacrifice at the forefront of our minds. 

The reason our hard work and the sacrifices that our families make are so worthwhile is this. Decisive naval power is absolutely essential to maintaining the way of life we enjoy in this room and across this country. Many people have said that the National Defense Strategy is essentially a maritime strategy, including the Acting Secretary of the Navy Tom Modly most recently in his latest Vector 6. 

I believe that too, and for those of us who have spent our lives at sea, we innately know the reasons why. 

The rest of America, as I’ve said however, may not know. We collectively owe it to ourselves and our country to do a better job of making that case for what the United States Navy does for our fellow citizens. There are so many ways that our work is critical, but there are three that particularly I want to touch on this afternoon. 

The first is securing that economic prosperity that we all enjoy. The second is deterring our adversaries, and if we must fight keeping that fight far, far from home. And the third is providing flexible options to our civilian leaders in any corner of the world. And as CNO Clark would say, without a permission slip. 

First, we secure America’s economic prosperity, which was the primary concept that led to the founding of our Navy. Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 24 said, “If we mean to be a commercial people we must endeavor as soon as possible to have a Navy.” 

What was true at the founding of our nation still rings true today. America’s economy is more connected to the sea than at any point in our history. Our Navy and you stand ready to protect those connections. 

You know the statistics. Ninety percent of the trade volume, 99 percent of the digital data traveling over those transoceanic cables, 70 percent of the people living within 100 miles of the coast. Those statistics are rising still. American commerce is maritime commerce. The American economy floats on seawater. But more importantly, those of you who have been at sea recently have seen these changes in front of your very eyes. 

For Captain Sethi who sails in the Baltic, you’ve seen the massive installation of offshore wind energy, turbines equivalent to 26 standard power plants were installed in 2018 alone. It was also the first year that China led the world in offshore wind construction. 

If you’ve sailed in the Arabian Gulf you’ve passed de-salinization plants of which there are 20,000 around the world providing fresh water to more than 300 million people. The vast majority of these have been built in the last three decades. 

If you’ve sailed the Bismarck Sea, by Papua New Guinea, you’ve seen ships engaged in the new global gold rush of deep sea mining, working to extract not only gold but precious metals critical for advanced technologies. 

And if you’ve pulled into ports around the world you will see new infrastructure. Infrastructure funded in part by the direction of the Chinese government. 

More than just infrastructure, the Chinese government is growing a network of influence, which helps them exert control over an international system that we’re trying to protect. Allowing them to have more coercive power as described in a recent article in the New Yorker to determine which features of a global status quo to preserve and which to reject. 

China and other nations are increasingly aware of the scale and the scope of our interdependence on the seas combined with complexity arising from their increased use and their economy is more sensitive to disruptions in the maritime environment. We will not allow it to be disrupted. 

The National Defense Strategy acknowledges this sensitivity stating, “The failure to meet our defense objectives will result in reduced access to markets that will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and our standard of living.” 

Another timeless role we fulfill by virtue of mobility and scalability is providing our civilian leaders an adaptable range of foreign policy options. In this age of great power competition the key thing we provide our leadership and our country is deterrence. The concept of competition can be distorted to imply that conflict is an inevitable thing, but I don’t believe that. 

We must have credible capabilities and demonstrate the will to use them to deter and win without fighting. As President Teddy Roosevelt stated, “A good Navy is the surest guarantor of peace.” 

Finally, if deterrence fails, naval power allows the United States of America to fight, to keep and fight forward, far away from our shores. This task has become more demanding today. It demands developing concepts and capabilities that prevent the erosion of our defensive margin and preserves the commons. Admiral Kilby, are you feeling the pressure? 

In 1954 Samuel Huntington said in a Proceedings article called National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy that the “locale of divisive action has switched to the coastal area, to what various writers have described as the rim line, the periphery or the littoral.” He also said that “dispersion, flexibility and mobility, not concentration, are the basic tactical doctrines of our Navy.” 

There are a lot in these words that still apply today and will inform our future capabilities and our operating concepts. Our efforts are focused on preserving advantages while expanding others, especially in regards to dispersion, flexibility, lethality and mobility. 

These traits allow us to effectively and credibly compete for control of contested maritime spaces. These traits allow us to keep the location of decisive action well away from the homeland. One need look no further than the headlines of the past week to see why these roles matter. Securing commerce through critical choke points, providing foreign policy options for our leaders, and keeping the danger away from the United States. 

We know the Truman Carrier Strike Group, including the incredibly capable surface ships Lassen, Farragut, Forrest Sherman and Normandy operating forward today, right now, demonstrate our national resolve. They need no permissions to operate where they are, and they are sustainable, they are lethal, and they are survivable. Carrier Strike Groups, Amphibious Readiness Groups, our submarines, our aircraft in the air continue to deter actions at sea and above that would be detrimental to American security and to the rules-based international order. 

We’ve been thinking about what we provide the American people, but let’s shift very briefly to what we’re doing to ensure that we can continue to provide these benefits. 

I recently released my initial guidance to perform the roles we just discussed and to compete in the strategic environment that we live in. That guidance articulates three areas of focus: warfighting, warfighters and future Navy. WWF. I couldn’t come up with a third W. [Laughter]. Nobody helped me. 

We discussed how many of our core functions happen every day. They are not reserved for a hypothetical decisive battle. A focus on warfighting is critical because ready and lethal forces are critical in day-to-day competition. Mission one for every Sailor is a ready Navy. A Navy ready to fight today. That readiness translates into deterrence, into economic security, and preserves our defensive margin. 

That’s why we’re taking a hard look at things like ships, people, level maintenance and the modernization of our force as well as how we generate forces to employ them forward. That gives us increased operational availability to our combatant commanders. 

A focus on warfighting also acknowledges that our capital investments are long term. Between now and 2030 the vast majority of our force structure will consist of the fleet that we sail with today. 

Despite the tendency here in DC to focus on some false choices, the truth is that in order to deter our challenges in the future we have to grow our fleet’s capabilities at the same time that we maintain and modernize. It’s our job to argue for that growth. It’s why we need a Navy. 

The truth is, if we aren’t growing those capabilities today, we are falling behind. The growth I’m talking about is a lot more than numbers. Growth is about increasing our naval relationships first and foremost with the United States Marine Corps as well as with the Joint Force and with our allies and partners. Growth is about increasing our understanding of what the nature of global competition is for Americans and what it means to their economic security, our political security and our very way of life. 

Finally, our growth in warfighting is focused on integrated American naval power. What the Navy and the United States Marine Corps provide the nation together. We’re fortunate that the Commandant will be able to address this audience tomorrow so that you can hear his thoughts. We’re moving out together, side by side, integrating much more closely than we have in recent years and that’s very much a credit to his leadership. 

Are there any Marines in the room? Tracy, I don’t know if you got my memo, but I’m now calling 3 MEF 8th Fleet. [Laughter]. Admiral Aquilino is very excited. [Laughter]. 

Our focus on warfighters acknowledges our Sailors remain our real asymmetric advantage. While we’re working hard to reform our personnel system to offer more flexibility in a naval career and to reduce the bureaucracy involved in the frequent moves associated with naval service. 

We’re emphasizing education as the Secretary’s Education for Seapower Efforts bear fruit as well as Ready Relevant Learning to get training to our Sailors faster and at the waterfront where it matters the most. 

Our investments that we are making and that I will continue to make in live, virtual and constructive training will allow crews at all stages of force generation to participate in realistic, high end training. 

And we’re invigorating our culture with a focus on excellence. Not just avoiding what is wrong, not just complying, but actively pursuing what is right. 

In terms of the future Navy, we’re concluding an Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment this week. We tend to get absorbed in the details but today I’ll say that there’s broad agreement across the government that our Navy needs to grow. We need to pursue unmanned technologies and we need to solve tough technology and policy issues associated with unmanned instead of running away from them. 

We need to ensure that our logistics forces can support a larger fleet and that they can do so in support of distributed maritime operations in contested environments. 

As surface warriors, we can be very excited about what some of our near-term efforts are. The next generation frigate, experimenting with unmanned and optimally manned systems in concert with manned platforms, by continuing to backfit our current ships with new capabilities. The deployment of Gabrielle Giffords, the 7th Fleet with the Naval Strike Missile a prime example. 

In my entire career, and I say this not just because I’m CNO, I really believe I can’t think of a better time to serve in the United States Navy and in our surface force. Decisive and growing naval capability has never mattered so much to our way of life. It’s up to each of us to help to tell the story why. 

Thanks again for your welcome today. I look forward to your questions. 

Question: I know we’re close to budget submission time and I think last week I saw where there at least was a tabled proposal of a reduction of five Arleigh Burke destroyers, large surface combatants in the budget. Also, I heard through the grapevine that we’re actually looking at potentially reducing maintenance and modernization accounts. 

So I’m interested in, as you go forward, I note strategic reinvestment is a very important thing and major priority, but how you see this playing out at least at this juncture in the budget process, sir.

CNO: It’s a tenuous time right now because the President’s budget hasn’t been delivered yet. I’ll just say that in terms of my priorities I’m focused on closing capability gaps, on closing readiness gaps and increasing lethality. So for me, the focus on sustaining the Navy that we have comes at a high price and part of that price is perhaps a reduction in growth. Not to say that growth stops, but growth perhaps slows a bit. 

When I talk to Congress, I think I have to make a case that we have to sustain the Navy that we have today. It’s been an age-old problem for us. Admiral Brown up here a little while ago talked about maintenance. He talked about a laser focus on it. He talked about the trend that we’re on, and we’re on a really good trend, right? We need to fix that. 

Getting ships out of shipyards rated 20 percent, 25 percent, 30 percent completion on time is completely unsatisfactory. In a country like this, it’s embarrassing. So we need to fix that stuff. That’s where we need to put our effort. 

I haven’t heard what you’re talking about in terms of operations and maintenance accounts. It’s a high priority for me. Steaming hours, flying hours, maintenance. We are funding maintenance at the highest executable levels that we can. 

Question: 2017 was obviously a tough year for us and we lost 17 Sailors, but it did cause a really good look from inside and outside the Navy obviously. It changed a lot of things and hopefully even some of the cultures. It did give assets to the Surface Navy for some training, we changed career path and so on, but it also gave some of the SWOs or leadership to say no to the combatant commander’s desire and demand of just more, more, more. There’s a half-life to that. We got where we were because at one time we probably weren’t that way and then we just kept yes, yes, yes-ing in the SWO culture and so on. 

How do we keep that up? In three, four, five years, what prevents us from being back where we were? 

CNO: Part of this is changing process. Part of this is changing standards, right? And adhering to those standards. 

Part of it is making a no-kidding big investment in training, in maintenance, in modernization, putting our money where our mouth is and not just talking about it but actually paying for it.

So you have seen a shift in the community with respect to professionalism. The wickets that we have in place in the SWO career path are a good example of that in terms of checkpoints where your competency is really tested. We didn’t do that before. 

I think that those are being institutionalized. I’m not saying that we should rest on our laurels and say that we’ve solved those problems. I think it’s going to take a while. I think we’re on a good path. 

I’d also say in terms of the National Defense Strategy it changed when Secretary Mattis at the time signed that out. It has essentially flipped the paradigm in terms of A, readiness being a priority, but B, it has flipped the model in terms of force employment from a demand base from the COCOMs to a supply base from the Secretary of Defense. So Admiral Boxall in the J8, he develops a set of directed readiness tables every year. And those directed readiness tables take into account things like the forward presence that we need, they take into account the readiness that we’re rebuilding. Right? It takes into account what the combatant commanders need in terms of the capabilities to respond to threats. It takes that, and then the Secretary directs that readiness. 

The Secretary then has to make decisions on what missions he’s going to support. So when the combatant commanders ask for more stuff, they don’t always get it because I have an argument to make as the Service Chief and then separately as a Joint Chief on why that may or may not be satisfactory to me in my Title 10 hat. 

I hope that helps. I do think that the strategy has helped change the paradigm in the Pentagon. I do think from the top down that readiness is tracked closely and guarded. 

Question: I just wanted to go back to some of your opening remarks. You were talking about the citizens of the U.S. and how they see the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Naval Forces. I was a little bit surprised, actually, to hear that that was a concern because in my own mind I always thought that the average U.S. citizen was much more aware of what the U.S. Navy does than perhaps the average Australian citizen is of what the Royal Australian Navy does. So I ask this question to try and understand for our own circumstances back home.

In trying to get the average citizen, in fact the taxpayer who owns the Navy, to understand what it does and it’s worth spending the money, how do you in your mind appeal to then? You can appeal to them in their minds economically. You can appeal to them in their hearts from a patriotic point of view. But how do you reach down into the sinews of their being, almost into their genetic makeup so that they know that they’re a maritime nation, they know that in fact the Navy is vital. 

I ask that from the point of view that in many ways, although our own National Anthem talks about us being a land good by sea, we actually often think of ourselves as a nation good by sand and actually don’t see beyond that. 

So in terms of the U.S., how do you reach into their sinews so that they actually understand that? 

CNO: First, I think culturally if you turn on the news, Americans are primarily looking inward, right? They’re looking at what’s going on in the United States and not necessarily what might be going on in the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, those areas that are so critical to international commerce. It’s like oxygen. You’re breathing it but you don’t appreciate what you have. 

A really good Tweet was put out by Admiral Foggo the recent holidays. Essentially, it had a child opening Christmas presents under the tree and it said, “To get presents you have to have presence,” and it showed naval ships. I thought that was a very witty way to get the message across. I’m not sure how many people follow NAVEUR. Not enough. [Laughter]. 

It's a challenge to get the message out. 

I know that we have, I’m not sure if we have Members of Congress in the audience today but I know we have a lot of staffers. We are trying to make our case for funding, for a higher top line for the United States Navy. 

In the past year through the audit process, as an example, we found savings of $42 billion over the FYDP. That’s a lot of money. So we’re trying to do our due diligence to show Congress and show the Secretary of Defense that we’re really looking at ways, we’re looking at inefficiencies, we’re looking at things where we’ve been frivolous that we can improve upon. But we’re asking for more money in our shipbuilding accounts for growth. 

At the same time, as I just answered that first question, I think we have a responsibility for the Navy that we have today. As I mentioned in my remarks, we’re going to have most of that in 2030, right? If we don’t take care of it we’re in trouble. 

I don’t have a good answer except to ask people when they have the opportunity to go out there and talk about the United States Navy and what we do. We just can’t take it for granted. We can’t take our current budget level for granted. I’m not predicting that it’s going to improve unless I make the case of why the Navy’s important. 

I was talking at the beginning about coming from that Space Force swearing in and thinking about the Navy and thinking about our adversaries, and thinking that in today’s day and age, based on the pacing threat, we can’t fund a force that seeks parity. We have to seek overmatch. 

Probably an unsatisfactory answer to your question. But the work has to begin somewhere. 

Question: We used to be very religious, and I’m sure we still try our best to track operational tempo and personnel tempo. But with the turbulence of the last couple of years, no less the last few months, how are we able to really measure the degree to which we are reducing home time and making it tougher not only for units but for our individual Sailors? 

CNO: The force that we have in what we call the Immediate Response Forces -- forces that are available in zero to ten days and are largely deployed forward -- those are the forces that we offer combatant commanders. When the Secretary of Defense has to make a decision to flow more forces to the CENTCOM AOR based on what Iran’s doing, the first options that we’re putting forward are the forces that we already have out there. 

I go back to the National Defense Strategy. The National Defense Strategy forces the Secretary to make prioritized decisions. This is about prioritization. So he can come back to me and say hey look, I don’t want to accept that risk submission for Admiral Davidson’s missions and I’m not going to take those two DDGs or those two EP3s from him. I’m going to force you to reach into your next set of forces, which are your contingency forces, and I want you to accelerate those forces and get them out there. If I’m directed to do that, I will do that. My first offer, always, is the forces that we have trained, maintained, and pushed out the door already. That’s what we’ve been directed through the Directed Readiness Tables. The Secretary has already told us, CNO, you provide these forces. I provided them. Now you get to decide how they’re prioritized and used. 

Does that make sense? 

So that has helped us control PersTempo and OpTempo. 

Now you can come back to me and say, what just happened with Lincoln? So Abraham Lincoln, we extended it to about a 10 month deployment. She was only supposed to be out there for seven months. There were a number of decisions that were made to extend her, to not extend her. There was a casualty with another carrier. I couldn’t get another carrier behind her very quickly. I could have accelerated other carriers. I could have gone into that next readiness bin, the Contingency Response Forces, and we could have pulled those forces forward. Senior leaders decided not to do that, but in the end, we ended up extending Abe. 

I don’t make any apologies for that. That’s sometimes how it goes. If I had a better solution, I would have offered it. 

We are taking a look at our Force Generation Model. Coming into the job I thought there would be a higher demand signal for forces that we would potentially have to have ready to surge for crisis so Fleet Forces is doing a study right now that they’re about to go final on. We have hired a third party to take a look at our Force Generation Model. Digging into how we maintain. Digging into how we train. I don’t predict we’re going to find a lot of efficiencies in maintenance or training to squeeze more A sub O out of. 

I do think in terms of the way we employ our forces, in the sustainment phase as an example, that we may find ways that we can maybe more creatively employ our forces. But at the same time I need to make sure that we have a predictable model for families and Sailors, right? So we learned our lesson in that running up to 2012 when Admiral Gortney came up with this concept to begin with. 

Sorry for the rant. I just couldn’t help myself. [Laughter]. 

Question: What do you see as the U.S. Coast Guard’s greatest contribution to the Navy’s mission of worldwide maintenance force projection?

CNO: The Coast Guard still operates side by side with us. There are five Coast Guard vessels, five, in the Arabian Gulf today. At sea. So they’re working side by side, keeping those maritime commons free and secure. They have a mission set that’s a little bit different than ours, right? But we still work very closely together. 

Up in the Arctic, they do some great work up there. We are about to do a Naval Strategy Board where we’re not only going to bring in the Marine Corps staff but also the Coast Guard staff. We’re going to develop a maritime strategy across three services. 

Question: I know you came from the Joint world. To achieve that overmatch that you talk about, do you think that the Defense Department needs to have a kind of strategic realignment where the Navy gets a larger slice of the budget? Or are you just going to have to work? What’s the outlook that you see? 

CNO: I could play that one in different ways. Here’s the deal. We need more money. We need more top line. For all the reasons that I just stated. If you believe that we require overmatch in the maritime, if you believe that in order to execute distributed maritime operations and to operate forward in great numbers now, that we need more iron, then yes, we need more top line. Do I need another percent of -- one additional percent of the DoD budget would be $7 billion a year in the shipbuilding accounts. Now remember, if we make a comparison today in terms of what we’re spending on ships and I go back to the ’80s, there are some similarities there. So right now, we are building the Columbia Class Submarine. That is my highest priority and no-fail. By the time we sundown the Ohio Class we’ll have 42 years in those hulls. We need to get Columbia out there. That’s a priority. 

If I go back to back to Ohio, when we were building Ohio in the ‘80s, Ohio was about 20 percent of the shipbuilding budget. Right now Columbia is about 20-25 percent. In FY26-30 it’s going to be about 32 percent. That’s a lot of dough. 

Back in the ‘80s the Navy’s percentage of the DoD budget was 38 percent. Right now it’s 34. 

I think historically I have a case to make. It’s what you value. I’m trying to make the case where, so I don’t think I’m speaking into a wind tunnel here when I talk about the value of the Navy. This discussion has to begin somewhere. A one-third, one-third, one-third cut does not reflect the strategy. 

I’ve had these discussions in the Pentagon, so anything I say here won’t be news to anybody there. It just isn’t necessarily in line with where we need to go against the pacing threat that we face. Thanks, David. [Applause]. 

Question: I wanted to ask you a little bit about kind of the Aegis force and the Navy’s contribution to really what is a joint problem, and that’s missile defense. 

Over the past couple of years, Navy leadership has talked about kind of the strain on the Aegis force. It’s a multi-mission asset. The problems of ships defending dirt as opposed to dirt defending dirt. 

CNO: Can you say that again? The problems of -- 

Question: The problem of ships defending land bases say in the Pacific, as opposed to dirt defending itself. 

I wonder if you can talk about that strain and how you’re going to try to relieve it. There’s a lot of concern about the tethers and the doing figure-eights in the ocean. But the Aegis force has some capability, and geography matters here, to be able to solve that problem, to defend Guam or what have you. 

Is the answer a mix of Aegis ashore in some way for these kinds of things? How do you positively get after that besides sort of talking about dynamic force employment and -- 

CNO: I think there are a couple of points. One is, you’re absolutely right in terms of capability ashore, and we’re doing that. 

I think the other is that partner countries are beginning to pick up more of that mission themselves to take care of their own defense. So you’re seeing those investments. I’m not going to name names, but we’re seeing those investments in partners and allies who very much want to take care of their own defense. But until we make that transition, this is an important mission for us. We’re really good at it. 

I can say you know, when I go back to the relevance of the United States Navy, that’s a real mission. I would prefer not to have those ships on a tether. It’s not always the reality you want, it’s the reality you have to deal with. It is a good mission and we’re really good at it. I do think over time it will transition. 

Question: Thank you. 

Question: My question is about the FSA that you mentioned. I’m just wondering if you’re able to share any additional details at this time on anything, really, but also about how unmanned platforms are going to fit into the mix. 

CNO: Has anybody talked about the FSA yet? No? Jim, I’ll try not to steal too much of your thunder. 

When I came into the job right before I did my confirmation hearing the Commandant had rolled out his guidance and he talked about, he asked that question. How does the Marine Corps serve the Navy? So we became pretty good friends, and we talk nearly every day. 

When I came into the job the staff had already been working a Force Structure Assessment. He and I, on a handshake, and then later a memo to the Secretary of the Navy said we don’t want to do a coordinated Force Structure Assessment with the Marine Corps. We want to do an integrated Force Structure Assessment with the Marine Corps. So we actually put both staffs -- If you go to an OpNav staff meeting there are Marine Corps generals in the room, and I’m sure that our admirals are going to the Commandant’s meetings as well. We’re working much closer together than we probably ever have before. 

In that particular Force Structure Assessment, we hadn’t done one since 2016, so we hadn’t done one since the National Defense Strategy got signed out. We used a construct that both the Joint Staff and OSD was using in terms of a Joint scenario. So we were using something that had credibility across analysts inside the Pentagon. Second thing. 

The third thing is we used an integration of Navy/Marine Corps concepts. Right? So distributed maritime operations in the Navy; integrated advanced basing from the Marine Corps. 

So when we ran these scenarios in these models we integrated that together. 

The other thing that we did that’s different from previous Force Structure Assessments is that those in the past have only considered program of record. We folded in unmanned. Right? There are a lot of assumptions that go along with unmanned because they’re pretty much conceptual. So the final numbers that will come out in a couple of weeks when we release the assessment, those final numbers will not include unmanned. It will be a Force Structure Assessment, Secretary Modly has said publicly 355-plus, plus unmanned. 

Now here’s another important point. On this assessment, it’s not something that we want to leave on the shelf for three years. We’re doing a hell of a lot more analysis, a hell of a lot more experimentation. Think large-scale exercise 2020 this summer as an example. A lot more wargaming. A lot more modeling than we’ve ever done before. Our goal is to take the Force Structure Assessment and make it iterative year by year that then feeds a budget process. 

You will see some changes in those numbers. Right? But the experimentation here we do with the amount of money that Congress is giving us to experiment with unmanned is going to be critical in terms of learning what we can do. 

Does that answer your question? 

Question: Yes. So you said that the number that’s going to come out is going to be the number, whatever it is, and then the unmanned number will be separate. 

CNO: Plus unmanned, right. Because they’re conceptual. We’re not, we haven’t made a decision yet that those are going to be included as battle force numbers because they’re conceptual. I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to be on those things yet. I have an idea. Make sense? 

Question: Yes. Thank you. 

CNO: And it’s responsible. When we go to the Hill and we have to explain it to the staffers and how this is going to -- this is part of the rigor on which we base our budget and our shipbuilding numbers. Then what that glide slope looks like, 355 in 10? Sure, if we get the dough. But that can help take a look at what that glide slope looks like based on what the adversary is building. 

Question: Can you describe digital transformation efforts to date to support future capabilities?

CNO: I didn’t make digital transformation one of my bumper stickers in my guidance. My simple piece on digital transformation is digitize everything. It’s got to be in our DNA in terms of how we look at our systems, how we look at our processes. 

Right now we do have a Digital Transformation Office in the Pentagon, in the Navy Staff. That office essentially is kind of a central point to help get funding and to standardize processes for experiments we’re doing in digitization. We’re doing stuff, and where we’re making the most gains is in Admiral Nowell’s world doing manpower, training, and equipping stuff. We are taking all of those, I don’t know, 70 different web sites, five data warehouses. If you’re a cyber person and you ever walked into one of our data warehouses, you would put your head in your hands and weep because it’s just not how you want to do business. 

We’ve taken 68 different entry points into these databases and we’re collapsing all of that to an integrated cloud-based environment that operates on apps off your iPhone. Whether you’re retired, or whether you’re active duty. So that’s an example of what we’re doing. 

In terms of the warfighting stuff, I don’t think, Jim, that you can -- when Admiral Kilby comes up he’s going to talk about this more eloquently than I ever could. But we’re doing stuff in the manpower world, in business processes. We’re doing stuff in the warfighting world under the N9 and Admiral Kilby. And we’re also doing stuff in the N4. So think about supply. Admiral Williamson’s doing a lot of work as well. 

Our next flag conference is going to be spent just talking about digital transformation because I don’t think the senior leaders are comfortable with it yet. What I want to do is show the nine different projects that we have going on. Well, Admiral Nowell probably has nine different projects himself. We have a lot of projects going on right now that are showing success, and I want to be able to show senior leaders across the Navy what’s possible, what we can help them with in terms of solving problems. 

Question: Sir, you highlighted the media in your opening comments. I just want to say on behalf of Gentleman’s Quarterly, the SWO jackets are awesome. [Applause].

CNO: They’re warm. [Laughter]. You owe me a beer. [Laughter]. 

Question: On another note, a few points that stood out were one, and it was brought up in an earlier question and I’m paraphrasing here, is the general ignorance or perhaps lack of appreciation on the part of the American people that we are a maritime nation. In that vein, the critical need for very very strong and robust sea services. And even talking about expanded distributed maritime operations and the need to support those. Can you share some perspective on what you view as the current state of our nation’s strategic sealift and where we need to be there? 

CNO: It needs some work. I don’t mean to be too critical. We just did a snap exercise, no-notice, in terms of getting ships underway. We had mixed success with that. It’s an investment that we need to make. 

If I go back to the ‘80s, when Secretary Lehman was the Secretary of the Navy he essentially went out and bought 100 ships. He basically cleaned the inventory out. So one of the things we’re looking at, and Congress has given us the ability to do, is take a look at commercial ships that are used ships. So ships that may have 15 or 20 years, 17 years is probably, somewhere between 17 and 25 is probably the sweet spot. And make an investment for $30 million instead of $300 million. 

We have some authorities to do those kinds of things, but it’s a prioritization thing and we’re not moving. I would tell you honestly, we’re not moving at the pace that we’d like to based on other priorities that we’re putting money against. 

As you’re walking away, just one other thing. I didn’t mention this to our Australian partner. But if you take a look at surveys that are done by Pew and other polling institutions about the U.S. military and the public’s appreciation for what we do, the Navy consistently comes out number three or number four. Those are data points. 

Question: In order to exceed parity is the U.S. Navy investing enough on science and technology research and future naval capabilities? 

CNO: I think we are. If we take a look at lasers, if we take a look at directed energy, if we take a look at hypersonics, if we take a look at the capability gaps we’re trying to close in cyber, if we take a look at Navy tactical grid, yeah, I think we’re making the right investments. 

One could question whether or not we’re moving fast enough. The tactical grids are a really good issue, right? So we’ve got netted platforms, we’ve got netted weapons, we don’t have a net. When I came into the job the timeline for that was something like 2033 or 2035, so it wasn’t fast enough. On a handshake with the Air Force, we are putting our money together with theirs and moving out a lot faster. So that’s an example. 

Question: CNO, with the great cyber background that you have, how will your experience shape Navy efforts in that area? 

CNO: I’m not spending as much time thinking about cyber as I used to. I do still have a high interest in it. 

One of the things that we’re going to do, and I mentioned it in my guidance, is we’re going to create an IW, an Information Warfare cell within every Fleet Maritime Operation Center. It’s a gap right now for us. 

I don’t look at the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace and at space in three separate bins. I look at them as a Venn Diagram. They each play off of each other. So in order to properly integrate those into the fight you really have to have a cell of experts that can tie all that stuff together in a way with the kinetic stuff to give you an orchestra instead of a garage band. 

The other thing that I’m looking at is standing up service retained offensive cyber teams that can actually work target sets for fleet commanders. For Fleet Cyber, the offensive teams that I had were working COCOM target sets. That might not have always been maritime focused, depending upon the COCOM. I think we need that capability. General Nakasone is very supportive of our doing that. 

These are not going to be big teams. These are going to be small teams. They’re going to be very agile. We’re going to try that this summer in our largescale exercise. We’re going to try both the cell within the MOC and also the Offensive Cyber Team concept. 

Moderator: CNO, thank you so much. I know you had to juggle your schedule around to make it here.

CNO: Thank you a lot. And thanks for everything you did for me back in the day. 

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