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CNO, Commandant of the Marine Corps Speak at Defense Forum Washington 2020 - A Transformational Change in the Fleet’s Architecture

by Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
05 December 2020
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday and Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger speak with former Secretary of Defense, Robert O. Work at U.S. Naval Institute's Defense Forum Washington 2020 panel titled "A Transformational Change in the Fleet’s Architecture," Dec. 3.

ROBERT O. WORK:  Thanks, Pete, for that kind introduction.  And hello, everybody.  Thank you for joining us today.  I’m really excited to be here with all of you and to moderate this panel, which is entitled “A Transformational Change in the Fleet’s Architecture.”  I wanted to also have – mention a couple housekeeping items.  For tips for the best viewing experience please visit the handout underneath the resource list.  And as Pete mentioned, we’re going to allow time at the end for audience Q&A.  We’ll probably shift over around 09:35.  If you have questions during the webcast, please submit them through the Q&A management tool on your screen and we’ll do our best to address as many questions as possible in the time we have together. 

So, please, let’s get started.  We are really, really lucky today to have both the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps.  Admiral Michael Gilday is the 32nd chief of naval operations.  He’s a surface warfare officer, a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.  He holds master’s degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School and the National War College.  As a flag officer, he served as commander of Carrier Strike Group 8, embarked abord the Ike, and as commander of U.S. Fleet, Cyber Command, and 10th Fleet.  His staff assignments include Bureau of Naval Personnel, staff on the chief of naval operations, and staff on the vice chief of naval operations.  He was serving as the director of the Joint Staff when chosen as the 32nd chief of naval operations.

Sitting next to him is General David Berger, the 38th commandant of the Marine Corps.  He’s a native of Woodbine, Maryland.  He graduated from Tulane University, was commissioned in 1981, and after The Basic School became an infantry officer.  He holds multiple advanced degrees, including a master’s of international public policy from the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He’s commanded at every level of reconnaissance, company, and combat – 3rd Battalion 8th Marines in Haiti during Operation Secure Tomorrow, Regimental Combat Team 8 in Fallujah during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  As a general officer, he commanded the 1st Marine Division forward in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.  He’s commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Welcome, gentlemen, to both of you.  And thanks for being here.  I have a question – I’ll start off with a question for both of you, if I could.  You know, we’re going to be talking about the fleet architecture, but one of the things that’s driving the fleet architecture is both of you have emphasized the importance of greater naval integration.  Please describe the operational challenges that are pushing you in this direction.  And if you were a COCOM instead of a service chief, what would you be looking forward to with improved naval integration in the case of – (inaudible)?  CNO, let’s start with you.  Because of our time, I’d ask that you be as brief as possible so we can get as many questions in as we possibly can.  CNO.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY:  So, for me, the “why” is China.  China is a strategic threat.  And in terms of both sea control and power projection, obviously a combined Navy-Marine Corps team brings much more to the fight for the COCOM.  Many more options, many more strategic dilemmas for an adversary.  And so our coming together is natural, I think.  And there’s a lot of synergy there.  There is no pushback that I’ve seen at eche 1, at eche 2, and the lower echelons in terms of moving forward.  There is significant activity at echelon 2 in terms of tangible integration at the – at the fleet staff level.  And we’ll see that exercised in 2021 during our planned large-scale exercises. 

So for me, it makes sense.  There’s a lot of goodness to it.  And I don’t see – I really don’t see any downside.  Perhaps a little bit of risk during the transformation phase here as we – as we get a better understanding of force elements, how they’re packaged, how they’re going to be used, to the – to the point with respect to what COCOMs can expect.  But I think the last thing I’d say is that we’re both studied on the fact that we need to deliver here in this decade.

MR. WORK:  Thanks.  Commandant?

GENERAL DAVID H. BERGER:  A number of people have written about the proliferation of a precision strike regime as a way of countering the U.S. advantage.  And I would agree, I think, with that summary.  That’s part of the drive for us.  And the second, I would say – or, a second one is the growth into what some people call gray zone strategies or hybrid warfare.  I think both of them, for me, driving towards a place where if both of those two are happening in the maritime region – and they are – then it drives us to be much more of a naval force in order to maintain an advantage. 

The synergism that Admiral Gilday talked about, I think you can break that into two parts as well.  There is a – there is an element that in great-power competition no single service can do it alone, but there’s also an element like Mike highlighted that the unique advantage of the Navy plus Marine Corps operating together is it’s more than the sum of the parts.  That element of synergy is really powerful.  So what – to your second part, what does it do to combatant command?  I think it fits perfectly within both a joint and a functional component approach, which most combatant commanders are doing now.  They are operating, they’re fighting through a joint force maritime component commander.

Having a custom-built, sort of a prefab naval element that comes in as a package deal fits them perfectly.  This is stand-in forces that we write about and are practicing now.  This element of having a stand-in force that allows you to – every day to compete, to deter.  And if something goes wrong, you are already forward positioned.  You can – the combatant commander can respond every quickly.  That’s the – that’s just a huge advantage that the naval integration brings to you.  So I think all those things together are really powerful.

MR. WORK:  Thanks.

ADM. GILDAY:  I think to kind of amplify something that you touched on, Commandant, it really gives an operational commander more options.

MR. WORK:  Yeah.


MR. WORK:  So, CNO, Commandant, we’ve heard the Navy and the Marine Corps before, several times, say that naval integration is absolutely important.  But it always seems that we never get to where the vision – you know, the promise of the vision.  We just never seem to get there, either for budgetary reasons, or bureaucratic reasons, whatever.  What makes this time different, do you believe?  You know, how confident are you we’re going to see real transformational change to the fleet architecture to allow us to get to this vision of naval integration?  Commandant, why don’t we start with you first?

GEN. BERGER:  I’ll start.  I think – I’d begin where the CNO answered the last question.  Why now – why would we believe it’s going to work now?  Well, one reason why is we’re pressed by at least one adversary that we haven’t had in decades.  So before it would have been an aspirational, a nice to have.  Let’s make – put our teams together because we’ll be better.  But there was never an adversary that was really pressing us like they are now.  And so we have a forcing function that we didn’t have before.  It’s no longer just a nice to have.  China, primarily the PLAN, is pressing us hard.  So I think that’s a huge driver that we didn’t have before.

ADM. GILDAY:  And if I – if you take a look at the operating concepts – and I don’t mean – we can’t talk about that in detail – but fighting as a distributed force, DMO, LOCE, EABO, right, they all kind of fit together.  And then as we – as we go through assessments like the recent force structure assessment, that translates itself into tangible – into tangible platforms, right?  We are closing down on capability gaps for combatant commanders that then translate into platforms.  And there’s a heavy emphasis on the transformation of the amphibious force.  We’re briefing Congress today on the amphib.  We have the greenlight from OMB and OSD to brief Congress today. 

So those briefings will begin.  I’m sure it will be public soon.  But you’ll be able to see that in a – in a real kind of way in terms of where we’re putting our resources, that we’re serious about the investments we’re going to make to give life to the words that we’re speaking to.  And for the Navy, we have an upcoming naval board the commandant and I chair.  And at the eche 2 level, we’ll be presented by the four-star commanders and the three-star commanders – we’ll be presented their campaign plan on integrating staff.

MR. WORK:  Thank you.  Now, the 2018 National Defense Strategy called for urgent change at significant scale.  I wanted to ask, what timeline are you operating under to reorganize your respective services?  It seemed as though the Navy looked at a 10-year timeframe in its own future force study.  OSD took a longer 25-year look.  And the Marine Corps plan is pegged to 2030.  Can you validate where kind of the endpoint is, or how soon you want to get to a major change?  And can you give a sense of prioritization for what needs – what you need to do early in this timeframe to get to where you want to go?  CNO.

ADM. GILDAY:  Sure.  I think 2030’s a good target.  But let me talk about the work that was done in 2019-2020 with respect to force structure assessment.  And so the INSFA took a look at 2030.  And so we – as you know, as the audience knows – that a decade from now 70-75 percent of the force we have today we’re going to have in 2030.  So the INFSA, the Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment, did not show significant change with respect to the composition of the fleet. 

When we – when we went out to 2045, and we took a look at a number of different fleet architectures under the Future of Naval Force Study, it gave us much more maneuver room to take a look at what the art of the possible was against some very structured scenarios, with a very robust red team, and then – and then some folks from the outside who came in and actually asked some tough questions to ensure that our analysis was rigorous.  And so I hope I’m answering your – this has been kind of evolutionary from the INSFA to the FNFS.  I think that the 2045 timeline gives us much more maneuvering room in terms of what the art of the possible is with respect to composition. 

For the Navy, I am really focused on less say and more do in this decade.  And so what I need to do during my tenure, and what I’m focused on, is delivering things like FFG(X), or the design and then the build of DDG next, right?  And so that design’s going to happen in 2026, it’s going to be delivered then.  And we need to start building those ships as the – as the DDG-23s begin to phase out in 2028.  That has to happen.  We cannot – we have no more room to put anything new on a flight 3.  And so that is a natural progression for us.

The network that needs to be built in order to tie the future fleet together – it’s critically important that I deliver that in this decade.  Not just to support the hybrid fleet of the future with respect to manned and unmanned, but I can’t run – we can’t tie the fleet together and fight in a distributed fashion with the network infrastructure we have now.  Unmanned, in the campaign plan that is ongoing right now, is going to deliver, I think, in the 2020s to put us in a position where we can scale unmanned under, on, and above the sea going into – going into the 2030s.  In terms of personnel, I really need to close down and the deliver – just follow through on ready, relevant learning, as well as live virtual construct.

I talked a little bit about doing a large-scale exercise in the summer of 2021.  You’re talking about multiple arms, multiple carrier strike groups.  We just don’t have the ability to do that and to exercise DMO and LOCE like we want to as often as we need to.  That’s why LVC becomes critically important for us to mature these concepts in a virtual way.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step beyond what we have today.  And I’ll pause there.  That was quite – a little bit of a rant.  I apologize for taking the talking stick for so long, but it was a complicated question.

MR. WORK:  Commandant.

GEN. BERGER:  I think perhaps as someone, Mr. Secretary, not used to the long-term planning that you highlighted, it might look like different timelines.  And they are, and I think there’s a logic behind that – because if you’re planning a capital ship, you’re talking 30-40 years’ worth of thinking, because you’re going to own that thing for decades.  Concepts, like the CNO said, you can move faster than that.  And we have to move faster than that.  So I don’t think the timelines are really out of sync at all.  We are taking the much longer view for the capital investments that we have to make for the nature, but a near term turn faster on the things that we have to turn fast.

I think, to your point, first in the, you know, do we need to change or can we keep going like we can, I’m clearly in that, yes, we have to change.  And then do we have to change now, or can we wait?  Can we wait and see how the world develops, wait and see how technology falls out?  I don’t think we can wait.  So the third part, which you mentioned, what’s the priority in the near term?  I think the ability to rapidly put together a stand-in force that has the sensing, the lethality, the mobility that you need inside a contested environment against a peer adversary is where we got to press.  And I think the thing, like CNO mentioned, that stitches it together is the – is the C3, which is more than just communications.  It’s the whole basket of that.

Lastly, I’ll just finish up with, you know, where do we have a lot of work to do?  I think logistics.  I think contested logistics.  We got a lot of work to do there.  So in the near term we don’t have to wait for the long 30-year programs to come to fruition.  We can turn faster, and we have to.

MR. WORK:  Thank you.  Good points.  CNO, you mentioned the large-scale exercise.  I think it’s scheduled for next year.  Can you both give us just a little bit of what that exercise – how truly big that exercise is going to be, and what are going to be the objectives of this first big exercise?

ADM. GILDAY:  So, broadly.  I can’t talk about specifics in terms of, you know, specific units or even the exact number of strike groups that are going to participate yet.  But kind of big picture what we want to test is we want – we want to take a deeper look at DMO, LOCE, EABO, and how they tie together, right?  And so that’s important for us conceptually, to begin to mature those concepts in a way that we can visualize whether or not we need to course correct, whether or not we’re heading – whether or not we’re heading precisely in the right direction.

Secondly, to take a look at that integration at the staff level, right, the JFMC and what that combined JFMC looks like with a Navy-Marine Corps team in a – more than just a coordinated sense.  It needs to be an integrated – it needs to be an integrated sense.  I think the logistics piece is really important.  And to that end, one of the things that we just talked about, coming out of a fleet sync conference with our fleet commanders, is, you know, we wargame and we study logistics all the time, but we never have developed really a plan for sustaining the fleet in a fight.  And so that’s an important project for us in 2021, to actually develop a plan for how we – how we sustain a fleet.  Not just logistics, but battle damage.  We just – we haven’t been forced – we haven’t forced ourselves to take a deeper look in terms of a plan.  And we need one.

So with that, Commandant.

GEN. BERGER:  I think on the scale part of it – on the smaller scale conflict, where you can contain it regionally, we’ve been doing those kind of training exercises for a long time.  But against a peer adversary, there’s a clear acknowledgement that you’re probably not going to be able to contain it into a local, small region.  Which drives you towards multiple numbered fleets, multiple maps.  So the large-scale exercise is going to go beyond a single numbered fleet and a single map, right?  It’s going to tie together, stitch together multiple fleets, multiple maps, on more of a globally integrated scale, the way that the CNO mentioned.  That’s the overall objective.  Against a near-peer or a peer adversary, you have to take a global approach.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah, if I could add something on.  So yesterday in testimony this came out a little bit with respect to – you know, I was talking about the timelessness of the functions of sea control and power projection for the Navy.  But right now, as the commandant said, we face – we’re likely to be in a fight next that’s going to be transregional, and it’s certainly going to be all-domain.  And so it’s not just – it’s not just the – obviously, it’s not just the naval forces alone.  But the naval forces themselves, we do have capabilities that reach from the seabed to space.  And those need to be integrated into how we exercise transregionally as well, so.

MR. WORK:  And both of you have spoken about how important unmanned systems are going to be to your respective futures.  Is there going to be a large unmanned component in the large-scale exercise, or will that come later?

ADM. GILDAY:  I can’t answer that question yet.  I would say, given a choice we will integrate what we can.  We need to integrate what we can.  So we’ve been doing – as you’re probably aware, we do fleet battle problems with every transiting strike group that is either on their way to or coming back from deployment.  And in some of those, unmanned have been folded into those fleet battle problems, which are a – which are a piece of DMO, LOCE that help us take a look at specific narrow aspects of those operating concepts, but not, in a broad sense, the (org ?).

GEN. BERGER:  I think to – just to add to that on both – well, all domains, as he pointed out, in unmanned aerial systems, surface vessels, subsurface – where we know we have to move fast but we don’t have all the platforms yet, we may well in exercises started to use surrogates.  In other words, manned platforms that replicate an unmanned platform, so that we can learn faster instead of waiting three, four years till the unmanned platform gets here.  So I think in the coming two/three years, the number of unmanned systems when you look at it may go, I think there should be more.  But I think we’ll be adding in manned platforms that act as surrogates for unmanned, so that we can learn quicker.

MR. WORK:  Both of you are seeking transformational change in your service’s architecture.  Commandant, you have said publicly and over and over that you’re intent on self-funding your desired transformation, giving up legacy or less-useful capabilities to get new capabilities.  But your transformation plan, the whole idea of EABO, really hinge on a new class of laws – like, you know, small amphibious warships and small logistics ships – that have yet to be designed and funded, much less produced.  CNO, I was interested to hear that you’re going to be talking to Congress today, and so I look forward to hearing the details of that.  But my question to you, Commandant, and this gets to your point where you can move faster with concepts than necessarily with capital ships, can you execute your vision of EABO with legacy amphibious and combat logistics force ships?

GEN. BERGER:  The only thing, just as a point of clarification, I don’t think that a concept hinges on a platform.  In other words, I separate the two into what are the – what is the warfighting concepts that the naval expeditionary force, the naval force has to have to compete, to deter, to win.  The combat logistics vessels, the light amphibious warships, we don’t yet know the design of them.  We do know we will need the ability to resupply to sustain the forward stand-in forces in a contested environment.  So we need something to do that.  We need the means organically within the naval force to distribute the mobility, in other words, to move that force around.

But I don’t think – I am not one that says the concept fails if we don’t get that ship, or the concept fails if we don’t get that plane.  We have to move forward on the concept because we are convinced DMO, LOCE, EABO, this is how we maintain an advantage.  And then we got to drive the capability that delivers that.  So we need the capability.  To your – I don’t think – I’m not mincing words, but we need the capability to maintain that stand-in force.  We need the capability that provides us the tactical to organic mobility to move that force, whatever that looks like.

And people get really focused on the numbers, right?  And so for FNFS there’ll be a – maybe it was Secretary Esper that mentioned 500 ships.  So that’s what people will be focused on.  We’re going to be focused on 355.  As we’re doing this analysis, obviously we’re focused on capabilities that we bring to the fight that translates into platforms.  But it’s really the capabilities in a joint fight that the Navy-Marine Corps teams brings to the table.  And that translates itself into platforms.  

And the big takeaway – when I take a look at the FNFS, the important thing for me, really taking a step back and considering what we need to make investments in, is I’m not specifically looking at numbers as much as I’m looking at the composition of that fleet, again, the closedown of those capability gaps, whether it’s in the near term in investments I have to make or over the longer term.  And so, you know, the big trends would be more submarines, less big surface ships, more smaller surface ships, consistent with DMO and LOCE, right?  A hybrid fleet with unmanned that we need to deliver on.  More logistics ships.  A change in the composition of the amphibious fleet.

And so those trends are important to take a look at as a signal, as a set of headlights for not only Congress but also for industry, in terms of where we’re heading and what our expectations are.  In terms of – I think you’re going to be talking about top line.  And so for me, it's a balance – it’s a balance among readiness, lethality, and then capacity.  I’ve said publicly, and my actions with respect to the budget have been consistent with the fact that we’re not going to grow a hollow fleet.  We can’t afford a Navy much bigger than about 306 to 310 ships, based on the composition of the fleet we have today.  And so it is going to require more Navy top line.  We have found money inside the Navy budget, but not enough to sustain that effort to give you the numbers that you really need to fight in a DMO LOCE fight.  And so numbers are important, certainly capabilities are the driver.

I hope that’s helpful, sir, and I didn’t – I’m not trying to be evasive.  But if I’m not hitting the target, please let me know.

MR. WORK:  No, you actually kind of teed up my next question nicely.  You mentioned that you were counting on substantial top line support to grow the Navy.  But if you don’t get it, for whatever reason – say the defense top line overall is truncated or there’s other priorities from an incoming Biden administration – what would you trade to get the capabilities that you think are most important for the future transformed Navy, if you were forced to make a trade?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So broadly I would – I would take a look at legacy platforms that, A, don’t give us the kind of lethality we need to support the fight that we’re going to be in.  And I’d take a look at – affordability has to be a part of that as well, right?  Where I’m going to transfer, what I can afford based on the budget that I have.

GEN. BERGER:  Your long term with ONS –

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  That’s right.  That’s right.  I need to – I need to modernize the force, right, at the same, you know, I’m pouring money into legacy platforms.  Right now in this particular budget that’s been delivered and up at the Hill, I’d like to decom the first four LCS test platforms that we made no changes to relative to the other ships in the class.  And so I am not a proponent of sinking a lot of money into those vessels that I can put in other places to buy me more lethality.  There’s gaps that we need to close on now, right? 

And so examples would be our investments in ordnance, missiles specifically with range and speed.  And we are making those investments now to close down those gaps.  There are longer-term R&D investments that we’re making with respect to offensive capability, think hypersonics.  Defensive capability for fleet survivability, for me, is lasers and a forthcoming campaign plan that we’re going to want to invest our time and energy in so we deliver relevant capabilities to the fleet, you know, at scale in this decade.

MR. WORK:  I think the last question for both of you would be:  What do you think is the biggest impediment right now?  And let’s try to set aside budget – because that’s always going to be an unknown – but what impediments do you see on getting to the desired future and this transformed fleet architecture that both of you are so intent on pursuing?  So commandant.

GEN. BERGER:  This isn’t a new one, but I would say the bureaucracy that we have to operate in – and I’m not blaming it.  We just – because we own it.  It is ours.  It’s not someone else’s.  But if you’re going to turn faster, if you’re going to out-cycle an opponent, you have to look internally to the processes that we have.  So from acquisition, to fielding, to sustainment, we have to look internally inside the Pentagon to cut that – to turn that circle faster.  That’s one impediment is just the processes that we have.  And some of those processes are service processes.  In other words, our own manpower and personnel processes have to change.  If we’re going to put the right people with the right talent into the right billets we can’t have the top-down industrial model that we have today. 

Training has to improve.  And we own part of that as a service – a big part of that.  It’s an impediment because if we buy a force but we can’t train it to the standard that it’s got to be, then that’s on – that’s on us to do.  But to put money aside for a moment, I think the processes, the manpower, personnel, talent management element for the Marine Corps, the training and education part that the CNO talked about, those are things that we own that we have to change.  I don’t know if you’d call them impediments, but it will do no good to design a force for 2030 if you can’t man it and you can’t train it.

ADM. GILDAY:  So I’ll add onto that.  I think internally, certainly, we’ll have challenges again with a new administration in terms of explaining the rationale for making the investments in the naval force and to head down the direction that the commandant and I want to go in, that are – that both services want to head down.  So as an example, I think that we made a lot of progress in the last year with Secretary Esper and his staff in terms of coming to a place where there was a realization that the Navy – we’ve under-invested in naval forces for too long and we needed to not double down, but increase the investment in naval forces perhaps at the expense of other areas.

That we were making the argument that we believe overmatch in the maritime based on the adversaries that we’re facing.  We think that our – that our analysis stood the rigors through the FNFS in a CAPE-led analytical effort to deliver an FNFS and discussions about a top line in ’22 that would support an increase in – an increase in those investments.  I think we have challenges up on the Hill, particularly the Navy, with respect to unmanned, right, and with DDG next.  So we are fighting the ghosts of our past, whether it’s LCS, Zumwalt, the challenges we’ve had with Ford.  We need to explain how we’re not going to repeat the mistakes that we’ve had in the past.  And we’ve got to – we can’t just say it.  We have to show them what we are doing systematically to build a little bit, test a little bit, and then – and then move to scaling, but when our confidence is high enough to do so.

MR. WORK:  Thank you.  We’re getting some great questions from the audience.  There are a lot that are binned in on programmatics and budget, and I’ll come back to those.  But there are two that come from our allies. 

So from Tanya Grodzinski – I hope I got that right, Tanya – Canadian Armed Forces:  To what degree will the planned changes integrate allies?  The U.K. Carrier Battle Group comes to mind as an example. 

And then from Volker Blanche (sp) – or Blanché (sp) – I hope I got that right – from the German Embassy:  In the age of great-power competition, allies become more important.  During the Cold War, there was a high level of interoperability and joint understanding.  Does the Navy and Marine Corps need to be more engaged towards allies to be effective?  Are we on a good track?

So kind of how the naval integration – how are you thinking about integrating allies?  So we’ll take those two questions kind of as a – as a package.  CNO.

ADM. GILDAY:  So we’ve been sharing our concepts with our allies.  I would tell you that – if I just take a look at the Arctic, right, and I take a look at the number of exercises that we’ve done in the past year, the Navy and Marine Corps, upwards the numbers of about 20 different exercises and operations with three different – with three different combatant commanders, that have been – very few of those have been unilateral exercises.  Nearly all of them have been bilateral.  Most of them have been multilateral, with NATO allies.  Exercising the concepts that we’re moving towards. 

And so I’m very optimistic about the heading that we’re on, the fact that we’re – the fact that we’re being very transparent with our allies and partners.  We have engagements – coming in as CNO, this is one of the things that surprised me, is how often I’m speaking to my counterparts about what we’re doing with respect to the direction we’re headed in.  So I remain very optimistic that we’re on a good path here, and that we’re being met with open arms.  And the commandant can talk about the deployment that his F-35s are making right now with the Brits.  But that kind of stuff is becoming more the norm instead of the exception.

GEN. BERGER:  I mean, the example Tanya brought up of the Queen Elizabeth II is – I don’t know, there may be other examples on the same scale, I don’t know any better, that we have F-35s on their aircraft carrier.  They’re going to deploy in the spring with them.  That’s the pinnacle, right?  That’s – when you have joint forces – or, combined forces on the – that operate from the same platform, that’s the pinnacle.  Because jets are taking off, jets are landing, and it doesn’t matter what flight is on the detail, it’s all part of the same fighting force.  So we’re going through that learning with the U.K. forces right now.  And I think that’s not just a powerful military capability; it’s a powerful messaging optic, symbolism.  There’s a very powerful element to that, when you’re deploying and operating around the globe together, side by side. 

On the interoperability side, the second part of the question, you know, how important is that going forward, or where do we see that?  I think here we need to approach that with perhaps a more nuanced view than we had during the Cold War, as was brought up.  Sometimes the U.S. comes in with a – if not an arrogance, sort of a heavy hand that here’s the way we operate, you have to do it this way and then you will be interoperable with us.  So go do this.  We have to be a little more understanding of the investments, the approaches that other countries, our partners and allies, already have, and find a way that we can operate together without coming in heavy-handed with:  You must do this, you must use this doctrine, you must buy this piece of equipment or else you can’t operate alongside of us.

It's not – we don’t intentionally do it in an arrogant manner, but sometimes it can be perceived that way.  So I think we have to – our approach now has to be much more nuanced.  How do you all operate?  How can we operate together better? 

ADM. GILDAY:  If we took a look at a comp right now of naval forces globally, you’d see nearly everything we’re doing is tied in with allies and partners.  And that’s – I think that that behavior is – I think is growing.  I don’t care if you’re looking at countering narcotics operations in the SOUTHCOM AOR or you’re looking at what’s going on in the Strait of Hormuz and the BAM, or our activity in the western Pacific and the South China Sea, or in the Arctic.  You’re seeing – you’re seeing allies and partners working together with us.

Naval forces come together in peace and not just in war on a routine basis.  We talk about a free and open global commons all the time.  These are like-minded nations and like-minded navies operating together to exercise those kind of freedoms.  And there have been cases in history where that kind of behavior has actually – that kind of behavior among likeminded allies and partners has changed the behavior of those who have been unwilling in the past to follow the rules.

GEN. BERGER:  And I think just one other add I hadn’t thought of till Admiral Gilday was talking, what’s guaranteed to happen every year are things like typhoons and hurricanes, where you really need a maritime force to respond to that.  And it needs to be combined with partners and allies because you don’t know whose capabilities are going to be closest and respond fastest.  So unlike perhaps the other services, we’re driven every year to operate together because we know for sure something’s going to happen.  We don’t know where. We operate really closely with our allies and partners, knowing that we’ll get called somewhere to move pretty quickly to try to – to try to address a really bad problem outside of – outside of a war fight.  That drives us to work together pretty closely.

MR. WORK:  Thank you.  The next couple of questions are more technologically focused. 

One comes from Brian McGrath (sp).  He starts with an observation and then asks a pretty pointed question that I think kind of pulls on your bureaucratic comments, Commandant.  So given the priority both of you place on integration and the benefit derived therefrom, the network that the CNO places so centrally in the Navy’s future seems sub-optimized if it is not naval from the get-go.  So here’s the question:  Is the department bureaucratically aligned to ensure that the Navy and Marine Corps can effectively network together, let alone be networked into the joint JADC2 type of architecture?  So, CNO.

ADM. GILDAY:  So I would say that our relationship with General Lori Reynolds and her staff – and, again, I talked about connections at the eche 2 level.  They’re really driving fleet requirements that are informing this new architecture, network, the types of battle management aids we’re going to need, as well as data standardization.  I think it’s coming together well between the Navy and the Marine Corps.  We don’t need an MOU to do this.  We can’t operate together unless we – unless we’re locking arms in terms of working this.  So it is naval.  It’s not Navy.  There’s no question about that.  In terms of – in terms of integrating Marine Corps fires or integrating effects that – or actions that the – that the Marines help deliver that will turn into effects, that has to be seamless with respect to C3.

GEN. BERGER:  I agree.  We have perhaps a big advantage here because we have always deployed together.  So our systems have to talk to each other because Marines embark on ships.  We can’t have – we never had our own networks that only talked to Marine things and didn’t talk to ships.  So unlike – again, the other services had made pretty big investments in command and control systems that now they have to stitch together from a naval perspective, it’s been driven that way since day one because we have to deploy together.  Stitching it together as a joint force, the second part, I think Brian (sp) is spot on. 

That’s a bigger – that is a big challenge, because the Army, the Air Force, the naval forces had each made investments in their – I mean big investments – in their own programs for decades.  Now trying that all together into a common network where data can be moved regardless of the sensing platform, and the fusion, and the shooting platform – agnostic of all that – that takes a lot of work.  But from our perspective we had a jump start on it, because we have always deployed together.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  And so if you think about the work we’ve done with systems like NIFC-CA or CEC haven given us a step, I think – a step ahead of the other services in terms of – in terms of that kind of work, in terms of that kind of integration.  And there’s a lot of talk in the public domain about integrative fires and the ability to deliver fires at speed.  That’s one piece of it.  A bigger piece of it is being able to decide and act faster than the adversary.  And you know, for me, that’s putting weapons on target – yeah, that’s important and that’s one thing.  But there’s a much bigger piece of this with respect to data standards, how to move the data quickly, how to – how to leverage, whether it’s AI or some type of battle management aids, that allows commanders out there at the tactical level to make – to make the best decisions that they can make, given the situation that they’re in.

And I would also say, broadly – and we know this as service chiefs – that there’s work to be done to tell the public exactly what JADC2 means.  And so you know, none of us – if you separate General Berger and I, we would likely have a big of a – there would be similarities, but I think also there would be some gaps in terms of our explaining what JADC2 means to the joint force.  But we know what it’s not.  What JADC2 is not to us is a hard requirement that all the data from the most forward elements goes all the way backwards to some giant brain and then the answers come all the way forward. 

We’re used to operating as the forward stand-in force all the time.  So the networks that we’re building, that we’re developing are a layered set of networks that we assume – we assume – that both our logistics and our command and control, our communications, will be severed behind us.  And therefore, the forward forces have to be able to continue to operate with that severed for periods of time.  That’s an assumption going in that we have.

GEN. BERGER:  I couldn’t agree more.  I think we will leverage – we will leverage data links and big – you know, the big cloud back at rear echelon.  But we’ll also be dependent upon tactical clouds forward at the element level that leverage – that leverage AI and battle management aids that can act independently of those bigger clouds, if you will.

MR. WORK:  We’re going to jump to a question that just came in and I’ll pulling on the thread you mentioned, CNO, about explaining to the public about what JADC2 is. 

From Victor Sussman (sp).  He says:  What opportunities exist to shift public perception on the importance of naval investment on national prosperity at a time when a bevy of other issues dominant the national discourse?

ADM. GILDAY:  I think that’s a challenge.  I think it’s always been a challenge for us to – so, anybody – anybody that has an interest in the Navy, that’s been in the Navy, or is a proponent – is a navalist and an advocate for us, understands that, you know, the data there – the data is there with respect to the economic gains by freedom of the seas that we have – that we’ve enjoyed over the past seven-plus decades, right?  That argument is there to be made.  But until it’s threatened, people really don’t see it, right? 

If there’s piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn that’s driving up insurance rates on those vessels, people back at home aren’t really going to – it doesn’t – unless they see an effect on their wallet on a day-to-day basis, it just doesn’t really – you know, doesn’t really – it’s not really obvious to them, right?  The fact that in order to have presents under the tree at Christmas you need presence out there to keep those – to keep those goods, 90 percent of which are going to flow by the sea. 

This is an unsatisfactory answer to your question.  We could always use the advocacy of the 1,100 out there to help tell our story, whether it’s in blogs, whether you like to write, but to be an advocate for that – to be yet another amplifying evangelist on our behalf.

GEN. BERGER:  I agree.  There is a principled aspect to sort of the free and open, but there’s a hardcore, no question about it we are a maritime nation.  Our economy depends on commerce and the flow of it.  Threaten that, and our economy is at risk.  It’s pretty – it’s not a complicated argument.

MR. WORK:  Back to a more technical question:  Can and will we harden CBN decks to accommodate F-35B STOVL operations and STOVL deck cycles?  And can we use Marine Corps F-35Bs to reinforce late-deploying carrier airwings?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah, no plan to do that that I’m aware of.  I mean, there may be some discussions, but I haven’t seen that tabled as an option.  Perhaps we should.  That’s not to say that – it’s not to say that it shouldn’t be.  I mean, I’m all about more flexibility and more options.  I take a look at the cost in doing that and take a look at how that fits into our operating concepts, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out also.  I just haven’t thought about it.

GEN. BERGER:  There has been a fair amount of writing, and debate, discussion in the past maybe 12-18 months about the pros and cons, merits of light carriers and different approaches that a lot of folks have written about that are probably listening today.  I think all that discussion is really healthy discussion.  But none of – as the CNO mentioned – none of it comes – every option comes with some pros and some cons.  It’s not as simple as turning an LHA Tripoli, America into a light carrier and then all problems are solved.  It’s not that simple.  There are clearly trades.  But I think the discussion is a healthy one, because those discussions inform how we’re going to operate, how we’re going to compete, how we’re going to deter.

ADM. GILDAY:  If I could just add on a point for the FNFS that’s going to become public here.  The line on CBLs on light carrier reads, I think, zero to six.  And it is separate and distinct from the line of super carriers, which remains at around 11, right?  And we’re not coming off – we’re not coming off of that number right now, just based on how we believe we’re going to fight and the day-to-day requirements that we need to fulfill.  But the zero to six number, that just requires a lot more analysis in terms of what a light carrier – what functions it might do in the kind of – in the kind of operations that we expect to be in. 

And quite often people make an apples to apples comparison between the light and the super.  And I was an advocate with secretary of defense, and I know General Berger was, that we separate that.  It shouldn’t be an either/or, right?  It can be in addition to.  It depends on whether or not – you know, whether or not – is the investment – is the investment worth it?  What kind of functions would that – would that light carrier do with the platforms that you’re going to put on it?  ISRT might be – might be a good example, right?  We know we need more of that.  Could a light carrier perform that function?  Is it necessary to have a light carrier to do that?  What would – what kind of platforms do they care to close down that gap?  It just requires more analysis.  I think the main takeaway here is that we’re not being closeminded about light carriers.

MR. WORK:  Commandant, do you have any more on that one?

GEN. BERGER:  No.  I think just CNO covered it.

MR. WORK:  All right.  Getting a lot of great questions, and now they’re bouncing around and so I’m unable to kind of bucket them.  But retired general – Marine Corps General Chip Gregson asked both of you:  Would you like to see a standing combined maritime taskforce in Asia?  CNO?

ADM. GILDAY:  I wouldn’t be opposed to it.  I mean, so if you take a look at what 7th Fleet and III MEF are doing, I mean, in terms of – in terms of operating together and working together at the staff level, it’s pretty extraordinary.  It gives you a lot of hope for what the future is – I really want to see more from the operational level in terms of what they’re thinking.  But it’s not a bad – it’s not a bad idea.

GEN. BERGER:  I don’t know of anybody who has more experience, more depth in the Indo-Pacific than General Gregson does.  I think it’s a concept that’s definitely worth pursuing.  We’re not far off from it now.  It’s just not standing.  But elements like the amphibious rapid deployment brigade and the – in this – this springtime we’re going to take our F-35s and bounce them – not literally – but bounce them off of a Japanese maritime platforms, their ships, for them to start to learn how to employ F-35s from their ships.  We’re headed in that direction.  I think it’s definitely a concept we – I hadn’t heard before, but worth considering, yeah.

MR. WORK:  Thank you.  I have one for each of you from different audience speakers.  CNO, from Ardem Shribienin (ph).  He’s a lieutenant JG.  He said:  The force structure assessments, you spoke on point to a fleet that looks the way our current – excuse me.  Sir, the force structure assessments you spoke on point to a fleet that looks very much like our current fleet does – approximately 75 percent of the platforms will be the same as those we have now.  Yet, these legacy platforms are being run into the ground with current tasking and the demand signal from COCOMs.  With a new focus on great-power competition, can we expect to see changes in how we deploy in order to maintain these forces and get ready for the future fight?

ADM. GILDAY:  So let me talk about – let me talk about maintenance for a second.  I think that’s one of the things that the lieutenant is talking about.  Readiness – current readiness still remains my top priority.  We got to deliver on the requirements – we got to deliver to meet the requirements that we have right now.  A big change with respect to maintaining the fleet – if I take a look back a decade ago and make a comparison – we’re actually doing the maintenance now, right?  We’re not deferring it.  And so that’s a priority. 

What is a challenge, right, that we’re getting our arms around and actually making good progress towards is getting ships out of maintenance on time.  And I would tell you that I’ve taken a look at a lot of data inside the lifelines of the United States Navy.  We found that 25-30 percent of our delays have been due to poor planning and forecasting up front.  That’s on us.  That’s on – you know, that’s on CSMPs on ships that aren’t very good.  That’s on class maintenance schedules that need work.  And so great focus there in order to – in order to make sure that we can maintain our fleet.  And so we will be ready to operate in the future as well.

With respect to the 70 percent timeline, you can only change – these are big, capital assets.  And so you cannot turn the fleet composition on a dime.  It takes time.  But think about – think about the trends here.  With respect to supercarriers, that’s a design that works.  We know it works.  It’s a solid design.  And so I’m not walking off that design, lieutenant, until somebody comes up with something better.  Now, with respect to unmanned, do I think there’s a – there’s possibly an aviation combatant of the future that’s going to replace the Ford-class?  Absolutely.  I think that’s in the cards.  I’m relying on people like you to think – help us think about what that – what that can look like.  But, again, a design of a ship and the delivery of a ship, it just takes time. 

What we’re trying to do with ships like FFG(X) and then with the next DDG is to make these SpaceX-like in terms of our delivering them so that they’re capable when we deliver them, and we’re not spending 10 years or 15 years fixing stuff that we should have got right in the design.  So I hope that adds a little bit of context to your understanding of where we’re headed, but it’s just – some of this is a question of pace.  And some of it also is, as we talked about constraints during a previous question, to ensure that both the Congress and leadership in the Pentagon are supportive of where we’re going, and we have enough confidence – we do have enough confidence to gain their support, is something that’s very important.

MR. WORK:  Thank you, CNO. 

Commandant, this comes from Peter Aung (sp).  He says:  With the divestment of M1A1 tanks, M777 artillery, and other legacy systems, has Marine Corps yet seen cost savings?  And how are those cost savings being applied to get to your higher priorities for force design 2030?

GEN. BERGER:  We have seen cost savings, to answer Peter’s question.  And of course, not the gamble, but there was some risk going into this last year that the savings would be taken away.  That has not happened.  And both the Pentagon and Congress have allowed the Marine Corps to reinvest those savings.  Where are we reinvesting them?  Things like long-range precision fires that help us from a ground-based or a platform hold vessels at risk, so we can be part of the anti-ship warfare business.  We’re investing in unmanned platforms.  We’ll triple the number of unmanned squadrons that we have today.

So the systems and the reorganization of the Marine Corps, that’s where we’re pouring the money into.  And we’re taking the money from the legacy systems – the divestment of them that Peter highlighted.  And to date both the secretary of defense and Congress has allowed us to pour those savings, those resources back into a more modern Marine Corps.

MR. WORK:  Great.  I think we have time for one more question.  And this is kind of a wish list question.  It comes from Eric Labs from the Congressional Budget Office:  If Congress were to give each of you an extra $5 billion to spend in your budget, what would be your top three priorities as where you’d put these marginal dollars right now.  CNO.

ADM. GILDAY:  So some would certainly go to shipbuilding and the priorities that we have there, most notably submarines.  But in terms of things I need to close down on now, I’d go faster with respect to the fielding of hypersonics.  I would go way faster with respect to laser technology.  I need to be able to knock down missiles.  I need lasers powerful enough not just to dazzle and confuse sensors.  I need them to be able to lethal and knock stuff down.  So those are some examples of where I’d put money now.  Another is Project Overmatch with respect to the network.  We have to get that right.  We’ve got to deliver on that.  And that remains a priority for me.  So those would be some examples.

If I had money left over, I would put it towards live virtual construct.  I have to deliver on that in this decade as well.  And of course, ready, relevant learning.  So I – it sounds like I’d be spreading that $5 billion pretty thin, but I’d give a number of those things that I talked about an injection of money to get it moving faster.  But I think – I think hypersonics, the network, and lasers would be the top three on my list.

MR. WORK:  Thank you, CNO.  Commandant.

GEN. BERGER:  I mean, of all the things that I’ve learned over the past year and a half – and there have been a ton of them – one of them is what the CNO highlighted, which the secretary knows really well:  Don’t buy anything you can’t maintain.  So if somebody offered you extra money, the first thought in my mind is:  If we’re going to buy something can we maintain it over the life of that thing?  And by maintain really – it’s modernization.  For us, I would start probably in a little different place than a thing, a piece of equipment.  I would start probably in manpower and personnel and training and education, the way the CNO outlined.  If you’re going to elevate, modernize the force, you have to pour the resources into those areas.

We’re shrinking – we’re contracting the size of the Marine Corps based on my assumption that we’re not going to have a higher top line, more money.  So the $5 billion is great, if somebody writes you a check for that this afternoon.  But my second question right coming right back would be:  Is this a one-time deposit in my bank account or is this a sustained effort?  Because we’re not going to have a hollow force.  Just like Admiral Gilday said, we’re not going to buy something we cannot maintain.

The only other part I’d highlight, which Eric knows really well based on where he’s working, is I think if we could ask for – ask for something, we would ask for flexibility in reprogramming.  In other words, it’s not a dollar amount, not a I need $100.  It’s more the service flexibility for us to reprogram, so that as we save money in one area we can put it into another.  That flexibility, even if it’s just for a couple years while we’re going through some rapid modernization, that flexibility would be huge, because right now it’s very difficult for us to reprogram.  And I understand why.  I understand why those restrictions are in place.  But in addition to a shopping list, I would ask for reprogramming flexibility.

MR. WORK:  Well, gentlemen, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedules to be with us today.  You know, this is such an exciting time.  It reminds me of the interwar period, where we were faced by a very, very stressing competitor.  The Navy was trying to figure out how to integrate aviation into the naval operations.  The Marine Corps were trying to determine how and if they could do amphibious assaults.  So it reminds me very much of this time.  And a transformation was needed in both of the services, and they worked hard to do it.  So this is a great time to be a service chief in the naval services because of all of the stuff that we have to do.

I’d like to also thank the virtual audience for attending and asking a lot of great questions.  I’m sorry we couldn’t get to all of them.  The on-demand version of the webcast is going to be available approximately one day after today – I mean, the day after tomorrow.  And it can be assessed during the same link that you used to view this webinar.  The next session is going to begin momentarily, and we hope to see you there.  Everyone please have a wonderful time and stay safe.  God bless you all.

Thanks again, Commandant and CNO.


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