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BRADLEY PENISTON: I’d like to go over a few housekeeping items before we get started with today’s exclusive interview with the chief of naval operations. So to the right of your screen, or wherever you have the window, you’ll see the chat box, the Zoom chat box. And that is where you can ask questions that I’ll go through and ask of Admiral Gilday towards the end of our session. So we’ll be – you know, you can ask them then, you can ask them along the way. Our producer will take a look at them and see what – see what makes sense in the light of the conversation we’ve been having. You can also use that chat to ask for technical assistance if for some reason something goes wrong for you. Finally, this event is being recorded. And we will place it available for viewing later on. You can send it to your colleagues, whoever you think might be interested, as soon as we can after the interview.
So without further ado, Admiral Gilday, thank you so much for joining us on this Navy birthday. Happy birthday to the Navy and to you, and special thanks for finding time in a season where on top of planning the entire future fleet, on top of dodging coronavirus, you’re recovering from heart surgery. How are you doing?
ADMIRAL MIKE GILDAY: Thanks for asking, Brad. I’m actually doing great. I’m back on the bridge. I’ve got the watch. I’m connected virtually because I’m in quarantine right now, but I’m exercising every day and feeling really strong. I actually feel better now than I did before the surgery. So everything’s going really well. And it’s a pleasure to be here with you today, particularly on October the 13th. So thanks for mentioning the Navy birthday, and I really look forward to the conversation this morning.
MR. PENISTON: Great. Well, again, thanks for joining us. Let’s get to it. Biggest news of the past couple weeks has been the rollout of Battle Force 2045. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gave us kind of the barest details of what it might mean as we move forward into the next quarter century. It calls for more of a lot of ship types, a lot more of some ship types, and just maybe fewer big deck aircraft carriers. Why fewer carriers?
ADM. GILDAY: So when they release the report you’ll see the numbers, but actually the numbers are up there where we presently are with the supercarrier force. I think the hidden point that needs to be drawn out is the comparison or not to light carriers. And so I was a big proponent of leaving light carriers, or what I think is more aptly named the aviation combatant of the future. Because the timeframe here in 2045. And so whether or not an aviation platform of the future looks like the Gerald R. Ford of Nimitz-class is questionable. I think it’s largely going to be driven by payload.
And I think leaving that line in that report – and those numbers are anywhere from zero to six – allows us to do much more deeper analysis, to think about what type of functions in a distributed maritime fight across the spectrum of conflict might we want a smaller aviation combatant to do? So one example might be ISR&T, right? And so definitely a gap for us. Definitely something that we – that we need more of in terms of quantity. Can we close that gap with something smaller than a supercarrier, that could not necessarily take over what the supercarrier’s doing – which primarily is long-range strike – but supplement those capabilities of the supercarrier.
And not to get – not to spend too much time on this, but previous studies – or, most of the studies that have been done that compare a large carrier with a smaller carrier tend to try to make an apples to apples comparison. And then there’s a couple of big drivers, whether it’s sort of T rate or whether it’s sustainability, nuke power versus conventional power, that leads to a, you know, fait accompli that the smaller carrier just doesn’t – just doesn’t compete with the supercarrier. I think that that’s a – I think that’s a set of false choices. And I really think that the United States Navy needs to take a look at where we’re going to go in the future, if there is indeed a requirement – which I like – which I think is likely to deliver effects downrange from the sea, through the air. I think that some type of aviation combatant is going to be required.
MR. PENISTON: Good. Sir, you just mentioned a gap in ISR&T. And I presume that’s intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting. Tell me about that gap, and how the Navy intends to fill it.
ADM. GILDAY: So with a more distributed force, where we’re going to potentially come at the adversary across a bunch of different vectors, and we’re assuming that the adversary’s going to continue to grow in numbers, we’re going to need to be able to target. We’re going to need to be able to target that force or target those nodes, whether they’re ashore or whether they’re at sea. And that targeting capability isn’t always going to come from national technical means. So it’s not always going to come from space. There will be a high degree of organic ISR required in order to find and fix, and then eventually finish, those targets, right, with a lethal part of the – part of the – part of the fleet.
And so it’s a – it’s a gap that is going to continue to widen unless, I think, we move in the direction of unmanned and rely more on unmanned for many of those functions. We’re going to be operating, you know, further back, further away from – further away from the adversary based on – based on long-range weapons, both their ability to reach us and our ability to reach them. So it’s going to be a standoff, right? A standoff capability. So you got to get in there to target them. And I just don’t see an answer right now, aside from heavier investments in unmanned to take us to a place where we can – where we can scale that capability and close that gap that we think is going to be required in the future.
MR. PENISTON: Mmm hmm. You have deep experience in cyber and the networking world. And obviously that is the web that pulls all of this together. The Navy recently let an up to $7.7 billion contract to Leidos to refresh NMCI and other IT systems. Is that going to get you where you need to be, in terms of moving the data from sensors to shooters? Or is there another big piece that needs to happen as well?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, thanks for asking that question. So there’s another big piece to this. So if I think about what’s required to deliver – to deliver naval power, part of that is digitization and a network at the tactical edge that’s going to allow us to have sensors plug and play in a way that doesn’t currently exist – in a way that we can move data around in a way that doesn’t currently exist. We know that as we move to a more hybrid fleet with unmanned that our requirement for bandwidth and to move data is going to exponentially increase.
And we know that the networks that we have right now, and the infrastructure that we have right now, is insufficient to meet the requirement that comes with unmanned. And so separate and distinct from NGEN and NMCI Next that is in play right now is the Navy’s naval operational architecture, which actually will plug into JADC2, right? So it’ll actually be part of the joint network that right now is the Joint Chief’s number one – number one priority. And truly, in terms of – in terms of warfighting capability is something that we absolutely have to have.
So it’s the top of the list. And I’ve just put a two-star in charge of a taskforce called Task Force Overmatch. And he is charged with, you know, in the spirit of Rickover and the Polaris program, and the Aegis program, to bring that naval operational architecture to life. And I want – I want to challenge him – you know, if were having this conversation a year and a half ago, the timeline for such an architecture would probably be 2033 or 2035. We need it in this decade. We need in this decade to deliver unmanned and the fleet that we want to get to.
MR. PENISTON: So you mentioned a capability that just doesn’t exist, right? Are you talking about new kinds of satellites or, I don’t know, UAVs with – you know, with comm sat – with, you know, comm relays on them? You know, what do you mean by brand-new, doesn’t exist? And what could that be?
ADM. GILDAY: So what I mean by that is that we know that the current architecture that we have that services the fleet is insufficient, right? In order to maximize naval power in an all-domain fight, in order to take information off of other sensors and bring it together in a way that develops target-quality tracks that we can push out, perhaps, on one-way datalinks to a shooter, who doesn’t necessarily hold that track themselves, is – it’s not a new concept. But the joint force hasn’t perfected that yet. The Navy needs to perfect it in order to maximize, you know, what we want to get out of long-range precision weapons and numbers.
But we need to move that – we need to move that data around. It really isn’t just the infrastructure of ships and at shore nodes. It’s also the transport layer. It’s also –
MR. PENISTON: Still there, CNO? I don’t know, I think I’ve lost him. Maybe it’s my problem.
MR. PENISTON: Hi, everybody, and welcome back. We are – we have just been served with a very good demonstration of why the Navy needs especially robust networks. (Laughter.) So thanks for getting back on with us, Admiral.
Let’s go back to Battle Force 2045, and let’s talk about the analysis that led to this, shall we say, rather large increase in the number of ships that the Navy believes it’s going to need over the next 25 years. Can you tell me about the analysis? And in particular, the challenge of preparing both for great power competition and, you know, ultimately, we hope not, great power conflict, and also all of the missions that you need to do to ensure that it never reaches that point?
ADM. GILDAY: Sure. Thanks for the question. So a little bit of context. As you’re all aware, the commandant and I, along with the secretary of the Navy, presented our integrated naval force structure assessment to the secretary of defense last winter. And so he didn’t accept that analysis at the time. There was competing analysis from CAPE. And that analysis used a different scenario, with different facts and different assumptions. And it led to different conclusions. And so he – what he wanted to do was bring all the analysists together, take a look at a broader range of force structures against a different potential Chinese – different potential adversaries, right? Same single adversary, China, but on different trajectories, assuming, let’s say, X percent growth, Y percent growth, and Z percent growth.
So their assumptions with respect to the different type of adversaries that we could – we could face. And then what did that mix of capabilities look like that transformed into platforms? All of those analysts together with a very, very robust and skilled red team, and a group of outside experts that OSD brought in to keep us all honest and to keep it real, so it wasn’t just self-talk – it really was robust analysis that at the end yielded a range, not necessarily a discrete number, but a range of – but a range of platforms that we should aim to outside the FYDP. And then that range was achievable based on a 4.1 percent growth. And so the assumption was that it was resource-informed that we would have 2.1 percent growth for inflation, and then another 2 percent real growth of Navy’s top line above that.
So that’s the first time we’ve really had that conversation with the secretary about that increase in resources to be able to fund that fleet, to meet – you know, to essentially get away from a flat line of 305 to 310 ships, which that’s the path that we’re on giving our current total. You need that bump up in order to see a rise in mid-2030 that would yield about 355 ships. But it’s really not necessarily just about the numbers. It’s really about the capabilities, right? And it’s the capabilities that are going to close joint gaps that we have in the joint force that the chairman’s joint net assessment brings out every year in terms of, look, this is what we have to get after if we’re going to – if we’re going to fight this adversary trans-regionally and across all domains.
So some of the big takeaways for me as I think about the range of platforms that the secretary talked a little bit about last week is that a balanced, all-domain fleet’s the most effective. So we know that we need a larger fleet. We know that it has to be more capable, it has to be more lethal, and it has to be more distributed in order to be optimal against the adversary that we think we’re going to face. A big takeaway there is that this isn’t just self-talk that we need a bigger Navy because we need a bigger Navy. It is – it’s a threat-informed analysis. And that gets back to a very robust red team that fed this, right? And it’s projected out to 2045.
Another thing is the – another big takeaway has to be new platforms, right? It’s the hybrid fleet that we need to build that brings together not just the fleet that we have today, but it also takes a deep look at unmanned. And what’s promising about unmanned in terms of numbers, in terms of distributed fire, in terms of C2 nodes, electronic warfare, that we can get out there and field in an affordable way? Now, I think it’s important that as we talk about the need for autonomy, as we talk about – as we talk about bringing new technologies to bear, that also presents some technical risk. And so we are also very aware of the need to prototype and the need to take this in a deliberate but urgent manner in order to get to a point where we can actually scale it.
Survivability was a big takeaway for us, obviously. Survivability of the fleet with respect to both offensive and defensive capabilities. So on the offense, think hypersonics, think high-velocity projectiles, think SSNs, right, which are a very – obviously a very survivable platform that gives you – so the survivability piece and the advantage that we have in the undersea domain, that’s the key to those bigger numbers with respect to submarines. Of course, the limiter there is the industrial base, which the SecDef talked about a little bit.
I should also mention the promise of directed energy, right? And ships that we’re building now – whether it’s the Ford-class, that has three times the power generation of the Nimitz-class, or whether it’s the Zumwalts, or whether it’s the large surface combatant of the future, DDG next, we really need that type of power generation to be able to sustain weapons like directed energy that give us the ability to make the ship – the fleet more survivable. Sustainability was another big takeaway, right? We’re going to have to bump up sea lift and the combat logistics forces. There’s no way – there’s no way around that. We need to make those investments. And then lethality, right? The air wing off a carrier with weapons that are more precise, and have more range, and higher speed, along with a very dedicated effort – a counter-C5ISR&T campaign that’s going to be required against the adversary to blind him.
So I just give you those as kind of big takeaways from me that underpin this hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned not just on the sea, but under the sea and above the sea. I think that future iterations of the FNFS – and we probably ought to do it maybe once every other year, right, as we learn more from prototyping, from experimentation, from exercises, from war games – is that we need to take a deeper look at the air wing of the future and what that will bring to bear. I go back to my opening comments about the aviation combat of the future.
Long-winded answer to your question, walking you kind of through FNFS. But I hope that gives you, Brad, and also some of the others out there in the audience, as they think about some more detailed questions to ask.
MR. PENISTON: Great. Thank you, Admiral. So you’re making an argument essentially to the president and the Congress that the Navy needs more money in order to do the things that we ask of it. And you’ve been on record for some time saying that. And, you know, that will obviously be a political decision made on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. But there are other issues with increasing the number of ship types and increasing the number of prototypes. Every time you have a different ship type – or, as we’ve seen in the Arlee Burke destroy class – every time you update a flight of those to get better and better, it becomes more and more difficult to take care of them, and so more expensive, more timely, more complicated, just harder. And there are people who say, why should we give the Navy more ships when they can’t take care of the ones they have now?
ADM. GILDAY: So I’m in that camp. And so that’s why readiness has – coming into the job was my number-one priority and will continue to be my number-one priority. Back to, you know, your point that in 2030, 70 percent of the fleet that we’re going to have then we own now. And we got to continue to maintain and modernize it so it’s in a state that’s combat ready. So in terms of – in terms of maintenance, if I could talk about that for just a second in terms of where we’re headed?
So three facets to that when a ship goes into the yards, right? One of them is the class repair plan, right, that is kind of known stuff that has to get fixed. The second is the modernization plan that, as you said, keeps those ships updated and combat ready for an evolving threat. And the third is the needs of the fleet. Jobs that the ship comes up with that, you know, are known deficiencies that need to get fixed.
And so what we have discovered through our perform-to-plan process, and this is the same process that we use to move Super Hornets that were static at a 50 percent mission-capable rate for 10 years. And we brought them up now for years – a year’s time to at least 80 percent readiness level, right? Not by lathering a process with a lot of money, but by taking a look at what elements of the repair process can we leverage, can we optimize. And then what barriers do we have to knock down in order to reach – in order to reach that output of 80 percent.
So if I take that same framework and I apply it to shipbuilding, there’s a couple of areas – known areas that we have to get better at. One of them is the planning side. And based on a substantial amount of data that CNA has exhausted looked at with its data scientists, about 30 percent of the delay days that we have in maintenance right now can be directly attributed to poor planning. So that’s inside the lifelines of the United States Navy to fix, right? That’s a class maintenance plan that gets tighter. It is a – it’s learning – it’s being a learning organization, from previous availabilities on light ships so that we fold that data into our planning process, we aren’t making wild estimations about what it’s going to take to complete a task.
And there’s also – the other big piece of this is both new work and growth work that comes into play once you get a ship into the shipyard. We need to drive that down. We need to drive those unknowns down, because that is accountable for another 30 percent of the delay days that we have getting out of shipyards. And so you can throw all the labor in the world you want at that, but you can only get so much work done at a certain time on a ship. So the planning piece of this upfront, along with laying down those contracts 120 days before, right, so that we can have the materiel on the pier ready to go.
It's – so you can – you kind of get the idea. It’s streamlining things, right? It’s getting after things that we haven’t got after with enough focus before. And it’s – at the end of the day, the results that we saw in 2019 with 37 percent of our ships getting out of shipyards on time, now in 2020 we’re at 65 percent right now. We were aiming for 80 percent reduction in delay days, but we’ve taken some – COVID’s had an impact on the shipyards. We’re back now up to above 90 percent production workforce at both the private yards and the public yards. But we did have a dip there in the spring and in the summer, and we’re coming back from that.
But to your point about maintenance and readiness being absolutely key, everybody knows that the Achilles’ heel of force generation for the Navy is the maintenance space. Maintenance is something that we have to be able to do as a United States Navy. As naval officers, its part of what we’re supposed to be good at. And we haven’t been as good as we ought to be at it. And so that’s why readiness is – readiness is thing one for me. The current fleet, I have to be able to generate ships to get out there. COVID or no COVID, they’ve got to be getting out there. And the way to deliver ships on time is to – is to keep them inside that bandwidth that we have – that we have designated for maintenance.
MR. PENISTON: It’s a ferociously complex problem. And it sounds like you’re making headway on it. So we’ll watch that carefully.
Admiral, let me – let me do a lightning round with a couple of future programs. Let’s start with sixth-gen tactical aviation. The Navy stood up a PMA office. The Air Force revealed a little bit about their own flying demonstrator. Where’s the Navy on that?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So working hand-in-glove with the Air Force. A lot to learn from the Air Force, right? And to be honest with you, this is as much about how you deliver six gen as it is with respect to the new capabilities that six gen brings into play. The reason why that – why that delivery of six gen is so important in terms of process is that, you know, we did our first test flight – the F-35A flew in the late ’90s, right around – right around 2000, I think. That’s a whole generation. We can’t wait till 2045 or 2050 to field the next manned aircraft if that’s what we think is required, right?
We also have to come to grips with what is required. What is – what do we think the future’s going to hold if we continue to develop and invest in weapons that are more precise, and that have range, and that one would argue we’ll be doing fewer air-to-air combat type of scenarios, right? We’re going be – we’re going to want to be able to reach out and touch everybody from quite a distance. So what am I going to get from that investment from a warfighting perspective, right, that I can’t get from unmanned?
So we have to take a look at that. It involves rigorous analysis. So it’s – I don’t think that there’s a table slap yet on next generation air defense. I think both the Navy and the Air Force have a lot more work to do to create a compelling argument that if we’re going to be making investments in the double-digit billions that it’s got to be worth it. And it’s got to be delivered timely. And it’s got to bring – it’s got to bring the kind of lethality that’s required, because we’re in a – we’re in a day – I’m being completely honest with the audience here – We’re obviously in a day in age where we don’t have time to waste and we don’t have money to waste. And so it’s got to count. And we’re making tough decisions on where the next dollar goes. The Navy gets $160 billion budget. That’s a lot of dough. And my job is to maximize naval power with that money. And I’m – we’re making a lot cuts to put money toward shipbuilding. The secretary of defense talked about that. And so as I’m taking a look at modernization programs, they really got to yield lethality for us. I can’t be buying stuff just to buy it.
MR. PENISTON: All right. Let’s change track, just because we’re about 15 minutes left to go in this program. Over the summer, you stood up a Navy diversity taskforce. And separately you also asked every leader at every command to launch a dialogue within their command about race and racial issues. Have leaders done that, that you know of? And how is that going?
ADM. GILDAY: So I am really satisfied and actually excited about what the listening sessions are yielding, that the taskforce is – the taskforce has been out there on the deck plates with not only sailors but also civilians across the four generations that we have in the Navy. It’s got Baby Boomers, like me. We have Millennials. We’ve got – we got Gen X and we got Gen Z, right? And they all look at things a little bit differently. And so it’s important that we get inputs from all of them. And so those listening sessions are really vital in terms of understanding what people think we have that’s wrong with respect to systemic problems in the Navy – whether it has to do with racism, or whether it has to do with gender inequality. We need to understand that. And these listening sessions help us to do it.
I am not satisfied that we’ve done them in the quantities that we need to yet. So in other words, I don’t think – I’m not yet satisfied that every commander has had a listening session, and they need to. So what are we hearing from the listening sessions? Six big takeaways right now. One of them has to do with – one of them has to do with the silence of leadership. So those are – that’s pointing to commanders that are not reaching out enough to listen, right, and understand. So we have to get after the silence of leadership. And that’s commander involvement. Respect comes up an awful lot. Empathy comes up an awful lot, as does skepticism – skepticism and whether or not the Navy is going to drive institutional change, and whether this is just another flash in the pan with another taskforce.
And I can talk in more detail about that in terms of sustaining this effort during the Q&A. Accountability comes up an awful lot. And it’s not just UCMJ accountability, which is where people’s heads go to immediately in terms of holding somebody accountable. It’s holding each other accountable for how we act, right? It is my holding, let’s say, type commanders accountable for how they manage diversity within their communities, right? It’s taking a look at the data and following the data in terms of where it tells us – we’ve taken our eye off the ball with respect to that, whether it’s the – whether it’s the quantities of people we attract in the Navy, or whether it’s how we manage that talent, how we promote them. And so there’s data there that we need to look at, draw from, and get after problems and drive solutions.
MR. PENISTON: All right. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.
ADM. GILDAY: No no, no no. I know that I tend to be a bit winded there, and I want to leave time for you and the other – the other folks who have questions.
MR. PENISTON: Well, let’s go to the questions that people have been leaving in the chat.
One is: Admiral Gilday, what are the capabilities you are looking to incorporate onto unmanned ships like the Sea Hunter? And does that include surface-to-air missiles?
ADM. GILDAY: It might. And so I think you need to be open-minded about what the payloads on those platforms could be. But they obviously have an adjunct magazine potential capability, right, to bring more – to bring more lethal firepower to the fight in a distributed kind of way. I talked about, you know, that being one of the big inclusions for me in terms of a balanced all-domain fleet. It is lethality, and numbers, and distributed. So deeper magazines in terms of volume and capability. I think there’s also C2 and EW functions that some of those unmanned vessels can play that could be vital to us as well in a distributed fight.
MR. PENISTON: OK. Another question from Sam LaGrone of USNI News.
He wants to know about DDG-X – no, I’m sorry – DDG next. Is that the new term for the large surface combatant effort? And what’s the timeframe for that work?
ADM. GILDAY: That’s what I call it. So in terms of how we – in the Pentagon we talk about small surface combatants, we talk about large surface combatants. So when you talk about large surface combatants, people in their minds – in their mind’s eye, they’re thinking battleship. That’s not – that’s not where we’re going. We’re talking about a ship that’s going to be probably smaller than a Zumwalt, right? I don’t want to build a monstrosity. But I need deeper magazines on a manned ship, deeper than we have right now. And so I’m limited with respect to DDG flight threes in terms of what additional stuff we could put on those ships. Just based on DDG-III, can’t put much more on those hulls.
So the idea, Sam, is to come up with the next destroyer. And that would be a new hull, right? But what we would leverage is existing technologies to put on that hull, right, and then to update, modernize those capabilities over time. So think DDG-51. That’s essentially what we did, right? We built a new hull, we put Aegis on it. We put known systems that were reliable and were already fielded out in the fleet. And that’s kind of the idea. So that’s why for Gilday I call it DDG next, so that it kind of right-sizes in everybody mind – and I’m not trying to mislead anybody here. Truth in advertising. In my mind, based on the work we’ve done in the Pentagon, smaller than a Zumwalt, but packing some power.
MR. PENISTON: All right, on the subject of sort of next-generation platforms, there’s SSN(X), the next attack submarine. It’s been speculated that this will be – look more like the Sea Wolf than the Virginia. That is to say, a bigger boat with bigger tubes. Any thoughts on that, and when that might be coming out?
ADM. GILDAY: So I think lethality in terms of when it’s going to come out? No. In terms of a significant and important R&D effort underway, putting money against it now. So the advantage we have in the undersea is an advantage that we need to not only maintain, but we need to expand, right? I want to own the undersea forever because I know that I can be really lethal from the undersea. I know in terms of sea control and sea denial that that’s a significant advantage that I can – that we can bring to bear for an operational commander and the rest of the joint force.
But I just don’t think it’s about – I just don’t think it’s about a lot of missiles. I also think that speed’s an important factor there that we have to take into account. The mobility – the inherent mobility of naval forces is really important. What I don’t need is a – when you think attack boat, you’re thinking an asset that I can move around so that I can, you know, meet the timing and tempo of an operational commander’s need to deliver ordnance on a target in a timely fashion. And so it’s got to be a fast sub as well.
MR. PENISTON: All right. Somebody writes in to say: Last week Navy Secretary Braithwaite said that you, CNO, would soon be releasing a new navigation plan. Is this an update to your FRAGO of last December? Is this something new? What’s that all about?
ADM. GILDAY: It is – so, it is an update to the FRAGO. And so after a year in the job, you know, based on my coming into the job fairly quickly, I now have a better understanding of what I think – what I think the Navy needs to focus on in order to not only deliver combat power today, but combat power in the future. And so my Nav Plan will lay out my priorities. And it’ll include Taskforce Overmatch that we talked about earlier with respect – with respect to the Navy operational architecture. It’ll talk about Taskforce Novel, which is bringing together the best sciences we have from our labs in the Navy to close capability gaps faster than we’re closing them right now. I want to be able to test, fail fast if we have to fail, but to deliver new technologies quickly that’ll make our existing platforms more lethal.
So I think that the timing of the Nav Plan will likely be in October – I mean, in November, probably mid-November, mid-to-late November. Before that I expect that the FNFS, the Future Naval Force Structure study, that will be delivered, along with a 30-year shipbuilding plan. And so OSD controls the timing of that delivery. So that’s the first important set of documents to be delivered. The commandant of the Coast Guard, the commandant of the Marine Corps and I are also – have put together a tri-service maritime strategy. If I could just talk about that for a second, Brad.
So we strongly feel that the balance of power in the maritime could potentially be significantly affected in this decade, and that the time to act is now – to leverage studies like the FNFS, right? To leverage our investments in new technologies. To not just close known gaps that we have with our competitors but to open them, and to put us in a place – and to put us in a position of advantage to deter, certainly, but also – but also to fight and win, should we come to crisis or conflict. And so all three – the three service chiefs feel strongly that now is the time to act. And so we are laying out our priorities in this tri-service maritime strategy.
And so that tri-service maritime strategy, beneath that the commandant’s planning guidance and his force design, the commandant of the Coast Guard’s guiding principles, and then the CNO’s Nav Plan. And so it’ll all be synchronized. It’ll all make sense. It’ll all be stitched together – nested together.
MR. PENISTON: You say in the next decade you expect a possible shift to maritime. Were you talking specifically about China, or are you talking about the proliferation?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. Specifically China.
MR. PENISTON: OK.
ADM. GILDAY: So China is the strategic threat to this country. And so we have to be in a position as a force that operates far forward, because we never want hostilities to happen here, we need to be forward. We need to be forward in numbers. We need to be very capable in order to be – in order to effectively deter. And then if we can’t deter and it leads to a fight, we need to be able to win. And so there are things that the Coast Guard brings to bear that are really critical. There are things that the commandant is courageously making changes and bringing – and bringing to life these maritime littoral regiments, right? They’re going to be a key inside force, as an example, to supporting C2, supporting counter-ISR – C5ISR&T, counter-air, counter-surface, rapidly mobile, and so giving us another capability for sea denial and sea control in a way that we haven’t thought about before. So it’s trying to bring all the services together in a way that we’re optimizing what we have in a way that makes a difference against a leading threat.
MR. PENISTON: Right. You just mentioned that the Marine Corps commandant is talking about a stand-in force, close up front, you know, lighter, more agile, that sort of thing. That puts it in tension with, you know, the Navy’s, you know, we’re going to stand off because of the weapons that our potential adversaries are developing. Talk about how, you know, the Navy is going to address that tension. You know, the Marine Corps wants to do one thing. You know, prudence or effectiveness demands another thing.
ADM. GILDAY: So if you take a look at the FNFS, right, we’re talking about an amphibious force of 50 to 60 ships. But it’s a different amphibious force than you have today. It’s connectors that can rapidly move those Marine – those Marine regiments from archipelago, from island to island, hopefully very quickly. What we want to be able to do is essentially don’t just give the – to give the adversary the strategic dilemma of trying to figure out where all those attack vectors are, where they’re coming from. Some of them need to be in close. Some of them need to be far away. We need to make it difficult for him to target, to find, fix, and finish. We need to be able to blind him.
And so all of those elements, whether it’s – whether it’s a carrier strike group, or a SAG, or unmanned elements, or Marines on the ground, all bring together pieces of lethality and bring pieces of the counter ISR&T part to put us in a position of advantage, particularly early in a fight. The Navy and the Marine Corps has to be forward in order to be relevant.
MR. PENISTON: All right. A former Navy captain wants to know: Has there been a lessons learned documents promulgated after the Bonhomme-Richard fire? And if not, why not?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So there is – so, first of all, there is. What we – what we initially did after the fire, in addition to the four investigations that are ongoing, is that we went out to all our commands in the Navy and we had them conduct an assessment. So we sent out via naval message. We said, look, we want you to dig into your current state of readiness with respect to firefighting, and to be absolutely brutally honest in terms of whether your people are manned, trained, and equipped to adequately fight fires in your command. And we got some really good feedback from that. And so that’s led to some – that’s led to some changes inside the Navy.
We also have a safety review board that’s tied to Bonhomme-Richard, a failure review board which takes a look at firefighting infrastructure, firefighting capabilities on the ship and whether or not they performed as designed, and if not, why not, and do we have to make changes there. There’s the NCIS investigation that’s ongoing with respect to potential criminal activity. And then lastly there’s a command investigation that kind of takes a look at everything in total. So the pacing investigation for us is really the NCIS investigation.
And so we have finished elements of the other investigations, and we’re in a pretty good place. But we need to close in the NCIS investigation in order to free up the rest of the stuff that has to go on with those other investigations. I hope that adequately answers the question. I’m not trying to be evasive. It’s just where we are right now.
MR. PENISTON: Sure, sure, sure. And of course, there’s going to be more when the formal investigation wraps up, as you say. All right, I think we have time for one last question. This one is from Jeff Schogol of Task & Purpose.
He wants to know: CNO, are beards coming back in the Navy?
ADM. GILDAY: Are beards coming back in the Navy? So it’s something that we’re taking a look at with the inclusion and diversity taskforce. If I’m reading into Jeff’s question correctly, we made a decision pretty early in my – in my tenure as CNO to do away, essentially, with no-shave chits, right? And we made a move – some would argue that I moved too fast with that decision and that some were disadvantaged by it. But you know, quite frankly, in my mind the key thing is safety of people out there in a situation like a fire, right? I mean, can they wear a gas mask that’s going to seal properly?
We’re going to take another look at it. So if people are complaining about it, I’m not going to be – I’m not going to play deaf ears and think that I have all the answers in my beautiful office in the Pentagon. And so we’re going to take a look at it, Jeff.
MR. PENISTON: All right. Well, Admiral Gilday, thank you so much for making time for us. Thank you so much for answering the questions. Happy Navy birthday, again. Good luck with your recuperation. And best of luck to you and the fleet.
ADM. GILDAY: Brad, thanks. I appreciate that. I’m happy to –take another question, if you all have time. Maybe you don’t. But I’ll just make the offer.
MR. PENISTON: Well, let me – let me fire one more at you, then. And it’s, again, maybe your cyber background has an answer for this. What’s the – what’s the situation with the Navy’s approach to AI and ML – artificial intelligence and machine language? And my producer is saying wrap it up, so maybe give us a quick answer.
ADM. GILDAY: OK. So, we have some really awesome initiatives going on that I’m excited about, not just in war fighting but in business management and personnel. And so across the gambit we probably have about 20 different AI and ML projects going on. And that’s a conservative estimate. But what we need to do is we need to scale that. In order to scale that, a big piece of that, I think, is better educating a certain percentage of the Navy, right – and I don’t know what that percentage is yet, but it’s something that I’m intrigued with. Besides having a governance structure, we also need people that understand AI and ML, so that they can be the – kind of the impetus inside, the catalyst inside their organizations to come up with ideas on how we can fix problems that exist today.
MR. PENISTON: OK. And we’ll leave it there, Admiral. Thank you so much, again.
ADM. GILDAY: Thank you, Brad.
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