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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday Holds Roundtable Media Interview, Jan. 8

by Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
12 January 2021
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday spoke to members of the press for a roundtable media interview, Jan. 8.

Below is a transcript of the interview:

ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY:  Hi, everybody.  Good afternoon.  I haven’t had a chance to meet I don’t think any of you, as most of my time in this job – I think I’ve had twice as much time in a COVID environment than I have, you know, in a non-COVID environment.  Probably the first six months.  And so I really haven’t had the chance to meet any of you, I think, face to face.  And the fact that I’ve been – I was joint for the previous decade before I came into this job – mostly joint, anyway – I just haven’t had the opportunity.  But hopefully as things get better in 2021 I do have the chance to do some face-to-face discussions with you.  And I look forward to that.

So I appreciate your time this afternoon to talk a little bit about the NAVPLAN.  And you may have it in your hands right now.  And so the why behind this is the fact that it’s really nested underneath a tri-service maritime strategy that was released a couple of weeks ago.  And so I’d always intended to release my NAVPLAN after the tri-service came out.  We spent a lot of time – I spent a lot of time with the other two service chiefs and our staffs talking about how in this decade we can bring the three services together, not only in terms of how we work day to day in the competition phase, particularly vis-à-vis China and Russia, but also how we work towards force development and force design that’s better synchronized going into the future.

So over here in the job now about 15-16 months.  And I have a much better sense of what I want to focus on.  And so when I – about three months into the job I came out with a FRAGO to Admiral Richardson’s previous standing guidance.  I really focused that, prioritized it, simplified it, and really put it in my own language.  And used that really as a bridge to the NAVPLAN that we’ll release next week.  I began to feel more comfortable about what I believed the Navy really needs to focus on in this decade. 

And I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I feel like if the Navy loses its head, if we go off course and really take – and really take our eyes off those things we need to focus on with respect to readiness, capabilities, capacity, and sailors, I think we may not be able to recover in this – in this century, based on – based on the trajectory that the Chinese are on right now.  And again, I don’t mean to be dramatic.  I just sense that this is not a decade that we can afford to lose ground – to maintain those areas that we have overmatch, like the undersea, and for those areas where we have gaps to close those gaps as best we can.

So this document is really intended to focus the efforts of the United States Navy.  But before we get to that point and we talk about, you know, those specifics, it really is also to remind the Navy – and I think this is – this is so fundamental and it’s so obvious to most of you because you’ve been working in this field for so long.  But the Navy has lost its sense in the past, at times, of what our reason d’être is.  And it really is about sea control – our ability to control the seas and to project power forward.  And we can never lose sight of that.

And everything that we do with respect to man, train and equip on this staff really has to be focused on those ends.  If it doesn’t drive us – if it doesn’t drive us to a place where we can better control the seas and project power, we ought to question why we’re making that investment.  We ought to think about divesting, because it’s not core to what we really need to do.  There are ships that we’ve invested in the past or capabilities that we’ve invested in the past that haven’t necessarily enhanced our ability to do those two fundamental missions.  And they’re tied directly to – America’s security really does rest on our ability, I believe, for the United States Navy to competently conduct those two functions, because the country’s prosperity is inextricably linked to sea for all the reason that you know.

I also believe that the U.S. Navy is the most versatile and persistent instrument of military influence.  Not just in the military lane, but when you think about what we do – what we do in the diplomatic lane, what we do in the economic lane.  I’m about to travel overseas next week.  And so that’s an important part of what we do as the Navy with respect to allies.  And the fact that we do it with allies and partners, we do it with other likeminded navies.  Somebody once told me that armies and air forces meet in combat, but navies meet all the time across the spectrum of conflict.  And you see that – you see that in the Strait of Hormuz today.  You see it in other places, like the South China Sea, where we work with likeminded navies to try and promote free – the free and open maritime.

Just a little bit about, you know, how the Navy’s progressed over time.  And I’ll go back to the early 2000s, where – the point here that I want to make is that this emphasis on control of the seas and power projection isn’t new.  I believe that those missions are timeless.  Nimitz said it essentially in October of ’45 when he addressed a joint session of Congress on the Hill after the war.  And President Kennedy said it after the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He said – he talked about the ability of the United States Navy, or navies, to control the seas.  And if they can’t, then they were irrelevant.  And so the Navy really has to focus on those two functions and remain focused on them in terms of – in terms of remaining relevant against the Chinese and the Russians.

In the – in the early 2000s we began to shift our ships and aircraft to the Pacific, right?  The 60/40 split.  And then by the early 2010s we had moved our most capable – our most capable platforms in terms of combat systems and munitions to the Pacific.  And we began to shift our systems from a defensive posture to an offensive posture in terms of the investments that we began to make.  By the late 2010s, as a – I’d say, as the threat continued to grow, you saw a shift in the Navy with respect to how we were going to fight and operate from CSG and ARG-centric to fleet-centric operations, right? 

Not that – not that CSG and ARGs and Surface Action Groups wouldn’t be a part of how we would operate and fight in the future against potentially a near-peer adversary like China or Russia.  But we began to shift away from thinking on how we would operate from – you know, shifting from constabulary positions in terms of how we use – how we use these assets, to distributed maritime operations, where we would begin to present strategic dilemmas to a potential adversary in terms of the vectors we would come down, the numbers that we would – that we would – that we would present, the capabilities that we would present to a potential adversary.  And so you saw the same thing with the Marine Corps, most recently with LOCE and EABO and their conceptual shifts as well that were really in consonance with DMO and how we saw ourselves moving forward. 

So the NAVPLAN then begins to – the NAVPLAN doesn’t talk about that – you know, that history from the early 2000s.  But the point I wanted to make there is that the Navy has been – the Navy was making the move toward great power competition fairly early, right?  So the rise of China was forecasted a while ago.  The Navy began to shift.  We were directed to shift.  And we began to do that.  And then after 2010, I think we make some moves that were more consequential in terms of moving away from a 1990s mindset to more great-power competition.  And then that really picked up after the NDS was released in 2018.

So in the NAVPLAN itself, as you thumb through it, there’s really four kind of pillars that I focused on.  And the first one is readiness.  That continues to be my number-one priority.  Over the past year, we have gotten to a point where we have reduced delay days in public shipyards by 80 percent and in private yard by about 65 percent.  That’s not good enough.  I’m not satisfied with that.  It really needs to increase substantially.  I would love to delay – to remove – I would really like to remove all delay days, then we’d never have a ship delayed coming out of a shipyard.  That’s a lofty goal, but really that’s where I want to be. 

And I want to have a sustainable framework in place where we don’t have to worry about that, we’re not challenged with that anymore.  In 2019 and 2018 we were only getting 30-35 percent of our ships out of shipyards on time.  And, you know, readiness really – we all have to own it.  It touches every aspect of the Navy.  And what we – what I’m challenging – what I’m challenging the Navy to do – this isn’t just about shipyards, right?  If I talk about aviation repair depos and the success we’ve had in getting Super Hornets at an 80 percent mission capable rate after being at 50-55 percent for a decade, I want to – I want to do that across all – I want to maintain that kind of readiness across all model-type series of our aircraft as well.

And then there’s a piece of this with respect to readiness about critical infrastructure that has to follow suit as well.  So over time the Navy has underinvested in our – in our bases, in our infrastructure, both here in CONUS and forward.  And with the FNFS now and, you know, a framework – a better view of what the fleet of the future is going to look like, in terms of composition and, to a certain degree, numbers, we can now have a – we have a better end state to shoot at with respect to strategic planning for our – for our infrastructure – for our shore infrastructure.  And you’re seeing that right now in our shipyards, as an example – our public yards, where we’ve got 9 different MILCON projects ongoing.  And most of our MILCON money is invested in those projects so that we can bring our public yards back to where they need to be in this century.

A couple of other areas with respect to readiness that need – that we need to deliver on this decade.  Ready, relevant learning is another one where, you know, if we believe that sailors really are an asymmetric advantage, then ready, relevant learning, live virtual construct in terms of integrated virtual training that we need to be able to do at the strike group and fleet level is another capability that we need to deliver on in this – in this decade.  As well as the shift – a shift away from tuition assistance to naval community colleges, which provides our sailors with degrees that are more relevant within the United States Navy in an era of great-power competition and, I think, more useful to them from a technical standpoint once they leave the Navy and competing in the job market.

In terms of capabilities, right at the top for me in terms of the two- to seven-year timeframe in areas where we really have to close down – at the top of the list for me is the Navy operation architecture.  If we’re going to build – if we’re going to build the fleet of the future, and that fleet is going to be a hybrid fleet, and we’re going to be controlling that virtually, then the network that we – the networks that we have today are not suitable to put us in a position to command and control the hybrid fleet of the future – and to put us in a position, really, of decision superiority over an adversary.

So this is – I set up a taskforce under a two-star called overmatch that’s focused across four areas – networks, infrastructure, data management, and battle management aid.  So think AI, machine learning capabilities, to give us a network that we can operate and fight off of that’s much more effective than the one we have today.  And that’s central.  We are not going to be able to – we are not going to be able to operate a hybrid fleet unless we have an operational architecture that’s world class.  Another area is countering high-end adversaries – C5, ISR, and targeting capabilities.  So our ability to blind an adversary.  This is – this is highly classified work that’s ongoing, but in an unclassified – in an unclassified setting it’s a priority for me that I just want to briefly mention.

In terms of our shift from defensive capabilities to offensive capabilities, hypersonics continues to be an area that receives most of our R&D funding.  And on the – I would say, on the fleet survivability side, directed energy, there’s a – we have a campaign plan for unmanned that you’re probably aware of that we’re going to release soon.  But we’re also developing – I directed the development of a campaign plan for directed energy capability.  So this is laser capabilities that we need on our ships.  And we primarily need that capability to knock down missiles.  Chinese investments, if you take a look at them, are heavy in missiles and heavy in space.  And so I go back to my counter C5 ISR TPs, if I go back to survivability with respect to lasers, directed energy, those two areas are very, very important. 

The logistics force is important.  We’ve taken a knee for a period of time and we need to increase our investment.  The fastest way that I think we get back to where we need to be in the logistics fleet is to take a look at repurposing commercial vessels that we can use in our logistics force.  So Congress has given us a little more leeway to do that, to buy used ships and to convert them.  And that’s what we’re looking to do.

In terms of capacity, this the FNFS that was recently released and actually was the foundation of the 30-year shipbuilding plan that was released recently.  And I know that you’ve seen all of that, but for me the results of that analysis is important for me.  The numbers aside, it’s really important for me in terms of what the fleet of the future looks like in terms of composition.  So, you know, you saw as a result of that analysis a heavier emphasis on attack and large payload submarines, a lowering – a less of an emphasis on large surface combatants, more emphasis on small surface combatants.  About – a little bit less emphasis on large amphibious warships, more emphasis on smaller amphibious warships.  More emphasis on logistics ships, more emphasis on unmanned.

So in terms of capacity, that composition piece that we get from the analysis, that I would expect we would every year – ever other year we would likely go back and revisit that analysis to update it – I don’t want to have a – I don’t want to have a force structure analysis that’s going to be three, or four, or five years old that’s going to sit on the shelf.  I want to update that, at least every other year, based on what we’re doing with experimentation, wargaming, large-scale fleet exercises, and ongoing analysis that would better inform, again, that composition and the numbers that we need to buy.

I talked a little bit about the unmanned campaign plan.  By the end of the decade, I really want to be in a position where we can scale unmanned.  And so I’m not talking about buying large numbers of unmanned by the mid-2020s.  That’s unrealistic.  You know, this is a very deliberate approach.  There are – with respect to capacity and platforms, I am more interested in getting it right in a deliberate fashion than I am getting it fast.  And I say that because I can’t afford for FFG-X to be anything but, you know, a world-class – come off a world-class production line that produces a ship that we can count on.  That will also – that will also inform how we’re going to design and build DDG next.  Those have to be world-class efforts that deliver on time, on budget, with the right capacity, with the right capabilities that we need.

And then – and then with respect to sailors, I’ve talked about culture of excellence before and what we’re trying to do with that.  And our ongoing Task Force One Navy that is taking a look at inclusion and diversity issues, systemic issues that we know we’ve got to fix in the Navy, as well as the long-term piece of Task Force One Navy in inclusion and diversity is really a line of effort within the culture of excellence that we want to sustain – that we want to sustain for the force. 

Let me pause there, but I know that was a lot.  But you know, one of the criticisms may be that, you know, I didn’t talk about enough stuff that we need to focus on.  But the stuff that I talked about across those four pillars is what I consider to be the most important things that we have to focus on in this – in this decade, where we know that budgets are likely to be constrained.  And so prioritization’s going to be important.  Can’t afford everything.  And I go back to thing one, which was control of the seas and power projection.  I got to buy stuff and make investments and develop concepts that are going to further – put us in a better position with respect to those two mission areas.

Thank you for putting up with that long rant.  And I’m happy to take your questions.

NATHAN CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Sam LaGrone, we’ll give you the first question.

Q:  Good morning, sir.

So I want to talk a little bit about the focus – it sounds like you’re focused on a very specific set of priorities here.  Are you all considering thinking about divestiture of mission groups and mission areas, much like the Marines did?  That was something synonymous with General Berger’s move in the Marine Corps to sort of, like, all right, here are the things that we need to do, here are the things that I would like to do but I can’t afford.  Could you just talk about that a little bit?

ADM. GILDAY:  Right, yeah.  Absolutely.  And so there is a paragraph that talks briefly about divestment.  And so we’re talking about older LSDs, as an example, that don’t bring lethality to the fight any longer.  And we’re making a switch to our lighter amphibious warships.  Some of our older cruisers – some of our less-capable cruisers.  All of our cruisers are older.  Some of our less-capable cruisers, as well as some of our older LCSs.

There’s a challenge here with the Hill, Sam, to be honest with you, right?  So you see cuts, as an example, to unmanned.  And so the first conclusion is, well, you know, the Navy doesn’t have its story right with unmanned.  And some of that – there’s a little bit of truth to that, right?  So the – what I’m trying to do is to develop a tighter narrative.  And the campaign plan for unmanned helps us do that, which explains, hey, we’re taking all of these disparate efforts, and we are bringing this all together, along with the Navy operational architecture that gives us a tighter plan in terms of putting us in a place by the end of the decade where we can actually scale these things.

At the same time, we need to divest from some of these capabilities that are becoming very expensive to maintain.  But the criticism – some of the criticism for getting rid of some of those ships is that, OK, Gilday, you’re saying you need lethality, you’re saying you need VLS tubes, but you’re eliminating, you know, a number of cruisers.  And there’s some truth to that.  I mean, there’s going to be a transition period here where once we start to bring large unmanned online, by the end of the decade, we will replace those VLS tube numbers.  But that’s going to take some time.  It may not be as smooth a transition as everybody wants, but it’s going to be very expensive to keep those ships around into the 2030s.  I hope that’s helpful.

Q:  Sure.  Just to follow up real quick, it’s specifically to LSD, the cruisers, and the LCS?  No other ship types for now?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yep.  So specifically that is what I’m focused on right now.  You know, if you’re thinking about mine sweeps, as an example, I got to get in a better place in delivering the LCS modules before I can – before I can divest of those – divest of those – of those platforms.  And you know, I am sighted on getting LCS in a better place.  I just think, as an aside, I had a long meeting yesterday about the combining gears you were seeing on the Freedom-class hulls.  And we are going to get to a better place where we can actually – I’m comfortable we’re going to get to a better place where I can count on those ships, because I got to use them out there.

They’re – you know, I don’t look in the rearview mirror on LCS.  These are ships that we have.  We’ve got 31 of them.  My responsibility, I see it, is to put them in a place where we can count on them, when I put them to sea, that they can go out there and they can operate with a high degree of reliability, and they actually bring some – they actually bring a lethal capability that in day-to-day competition provides deterrent capability, but in a fight they actually bring something to the table.  And so I’m going to deliver that.  I’m going to deliver that with LCS in this decade.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  David Larter, we’ll come to you for the second question.

Q:  Yes, sir.  Thank you.  I appreciate the opportunity.

I wanted to pick out a phrase from this embargoed copy of the NAVPLAN.  And I wanted to just push back on it a little bit and kind of get your reaction to it.  In order to maintain control of the seas and project power in a future fight, our Navy must grow.  Yet, numbers are not the only important factor.  The composition of the fleet matters more.  But that’s not really true, is it, because you have 20-25 percent more ships today than you did the last time you were seeing double-pump carrier deployments, nine-, 10-month deployments for ships. 

And you launched OFRP – not you specifically, the Navy – OFRP as a response to that.  And there’s no indication that as a response to, you know, a more supply-based model that the COCOMs are just being told to stuff it.  So I mean, clearly you need capacity and composition, because otherwise you remain in the same rut that you’ve been year, after year, after year?  I mean, is that not correct?  Maybe you could kind of guide my thinking here.

ADM. GILDAY:  You know, so I take your point.  And I’m not going to disagree that – you know, that we’ve had our challenges with respect to – with respect to keeping that NDS-based – NDS-focused supply-based model, you know, in a place where we can sustain the readiness – we have a sustainable readiness model that is going to continue to – you know, continue to serve us well into the future. 

The reason I – the reason I use that phrase, and the reason I feel strongly about it, David, is because if we just talk about numbers, your question would be, OK, so you need 355 of, what?  You need 355 control boats?  Are you just checking a block?  And at the end of the day, it really is about capabilities.  And those capabilities do translate into platforms.  But what’s on those platforms is critically important.  It’s not just the United States Navy, right?  I am closing down on joint capability gaps as we think about – if I shift my hat from my Title 10 service chief hat to my Joint Chiefs hat, and the advice that I have to give the chairman or the secretary of defense on what I think we should invest in in order to close major capability gaps, joint capability gaps, so that we can win in the joint fight.

I hope that’s helpful, David.  I don’t mean to be evasive.  But the – you know, what’s on these ships in terms of capabilities is critically important.  And I know that you know that.  But the numbers are important, but the capabilities are even more important.

Q:  Yes, sir.  But the issue here is that if you’re talking about a competition phase – you know, I know that you need to be out there and be credible.  But at the same time, you also need to be there, right?  I mean, if you’re not there then you can’t effectively compete.  There’s a reason why Coast Guard cutters are effective competition, even though they’re not heavily armed.  So at some level, you need both.

ADM. GILDAY:  You’re right.  And so if you take a look at the Navy on any given day, I’ve got about a third of the fleet at sea, right?  And so here’s the way – here’s the way I present that as a service chief to the secretary of defense and the chairman.  I say, look, the Navy’s got 100 players on the field today.  How you want to use those 100 players you have to decide.  This is where it come back to an NDS that’s really driving the department to be priorities-driven and supply based, because if you don’t then line of operation one, in terms of – in terms of rebuilding readiness – you can never get there.  You’re in this rut, as you describe it, where the COCOMs dominate the day with an insatiable demand signal.  You have to be more rigorous about setting those priorities and using those – using those 100 ships in a way that’s most effective.

This goes right to the 2017 legislation in the NDAA that made the chairman the global integrator so that he could make a recommendations to the secretary on how to posture the joint force across the globe to – across those mission areas – and sorry to go into this in a lot of detail, David.  But just briefly, you know, if you think about the five mission areas in the NDS, right, deter strategically, deter conventionally, be able to respond to threats, assure allies and partners, and compete below the level of armed conflict.  And so those five mission areas ought to drive how those 100 ships are positioned around the globe.  And that’s going to be dynamic.  Secretary Mattis talked about dynamic force employment where you would move and message stuff because we couldn’t cover everything at once.

So we are in a resource-constrained environment.  And that means we got to prioritize better.  And I have less control in the zero to two-year time frame with respect to the NDS on how our current fleet is being used.  I just don’t – you know, right, when you take a look at how our – how the Navy is allocated and assigned across the COCOMs, only 31 percent of the Navy is service-retained.  And so COCOMs are controlling those assets.  And it’s the secretary that has to control how those assets are apportioned across those COCOMs to be used, depending on how the priorities shift from day to day on, you know, Iran being perhaps the most dangerous in any given day, or being the most likely, and China being the most dangerous.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Paul McLeary, we’ll come to you next.

Q:  Hi.  Thanks for doing this.

ADM. GILDAY:  David, I probably owe you a sit down – all of you – to talk about that one in more detail, because David does bring up a good point.  And I know that my answer probably didn’t satisfy every aspect of his question.  But it is kind of complicated.

Q:  Understood.  Thank you, sir.


Q:  Yeah, thanks. 

I mean, there’s a lot of moving pieces here, right?  I mean, you want to focus on readiness, but you also have, you know, Ford carriers coming, Columbia-class frigates, large service combatants.  How do you – how do you talk to Congress about this next year, about – you know, given budget constraints?  How are you going to prioritize this when Congress, you know, likes buying new things and maybe – (laughs) – not as excited about investing in shipyards and things like that.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So what I hope to do, right, is depending upon what the Navy’s top line looks like, what I really want to do is leverage the FNFS analysis that goes back to composition of the fleet and what we consider to be most important.  I do think there are aspects of that with respect to – with respect to numbers that we – that we end up – that we end up, you know, undeniably focusing on, because there were areas – there are areas – I’d say small surface combatants in particular where I know I need more of them, and I have to start making – I know I need to start making headway in terms of numbers of small – of FFG-X in order to get the Navy in a better place functionally.

And so it’s going to come down to, you know, talking about what that matrix looks like.  Depending upon how much money – how much money I get in SCN, right?  How much money I find in the inside of the inside of the Navy.  You know, as Secretary Braithwaite has talked about publicly, based on our budget efforts this past year we found over $40 billion across the FYDP in the Navy that we’re putting against SCN and HULDIS (ph) to buy more capabilities and capacity.  But I think – I think – I think FNFS ends up being our analysis that was signed off by the SECDEF that OPM has reviewed and agreed to that really becomes – that really becomes our ground truth in terms of composition of the fleet in guiding what we need.

Q:  And just with the new administration coming in, obviously they’re going to take a crack at this.  Are you worried that some of this might get kicked down the road a little bit?

ADM. GILDAY:  In terms of – in terms of the NAVPLAN?

Q:  Yeah.  And the – (inaudible) – plans, the new budget coming out in, you know, whenever the new one comes out?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So, you know, some would say, well, you know, why are you releasing those NAVPLAN now?  Why don’t you wait till you get a new secretary of the Navy?  And you know, looking back over the past three administrations, the new SECNAV comes in anywhere from the July to August timeframe typically, right?  And so I feel that at the end of the day what’s in the NAVPLAN is what I really believe and where I think the Navy has to head.  And so in terms of timing and in terms of scale, that’ll be adjusted by the budget. 

But at least I’m telling the Navy and I’m telling the Hill, look, if I – if I go back to thing one, if I believe – if I believe that America’s prosperity is linked to the sea, if I believe that our security rests on our ability to control the seas and project power, then this is what I think that we need to do in this decade that’s informed by the threat, principally China, to get us where the Navy needs to be.  And then we can – you know, depending upon how much money we get, then you’re talking about, you know, scale and timeliness of being able to close down those areas.  But that’s why I have tried to – you know, and, again, one would argue that there’s too much in the NAVPLAN.  But I’ve really tried to focus on – I’ve really tried to give us priorities that we need to focus – that I believe that we need to focus on.

And it’s taken me – it’s taken me a year to get there, right?  I came in, I did a FRAGO, I pivoted off of what Admiral Richardson had done.  And then I thought that I would spend this first year in the job getting my own understanding of where we thought we needed to be.  I would have been probably a little bit further along if we had – if the IFSA was accepted by the previous Secretary of Defense Esper.  But he didn’t accept it.  He wanted to look out further, and he wanted to look out to 2045 instead of to 2030.  And he wanted to consider more options with respect to, you know, force design of the future fleet.  And so that caused us to, you know, pull up our britches, get to work with our analysts, and dig in even during COVID to produce the FNFS this past summer.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Caitlin Kenney, we’ll come to you next.

Q:  Great.  Thank you.  Hi.

My question is for this plan, do you – what do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge for implementing it?  Is it going to be the budget and funding and something that someone brought up earlier, the new administration and their own new National Defense Strategy?  Thanks.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So I think that – I think that the budget is going to be – I think that that’s going to be challenge, right?  I don’t think anybody expects that we’re going to see a, you know, significant plus-up in the defense budget.  So again, prioritization is going to be really, really important for us.  I also think that – you know, I do have a responsibility – and there’s an expectation that I’m going to have to explain to the next secretary of defense and his – and his staff, as well as the Congress, where I think the Navy needs to go, and do so – and do so in a way that’s factually based, not emotionally based.  And I’ve kind of run you through the rationale. 

But it has to make sense to them.  And then, you know, if I go back to David Larter’s point about numbers, you’ve heard what happens up there in testimony when we get too caught up in numbers and we can’t explain – we can’t explain the why behind those numbers.  We just talk about – we just talk about numbers.  You know, we can talk about the 600-ship Navy.  And if you go back and you take a look at readiness of the 600-ship Navy, it’s not exactly a model for the future, right?  And so – (laughs) – so it’s not just about numbers.  Are you going to be able to sustain that?  And I’ve said it publicly and I believe it, and it’s the reason why readiness is thing one.  Because I can’t go up there and look at Congress in the eye and tell them I need a bigger Navy when I can’t take care of the one we have.

So – and I – so I hope that – I hope that that answers your question.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Gina Harkins, we’ll come to you next.

Q:  Thank you.  You have a section toward the end about, you know, people.  And I wanted to ask about your prioritization of ending prejudice and bias, and why it was important to include here, as well as, you know, where policies are headed on that front.  If you could give us any glimpses into what’s under consideration in terms of Task Force One Navy.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  Task Force One Navy has been really useful in terms of the listening sessions that we’ve done, hundreds of them across the fleet at just about every level, to get a better sense of how people feel about our policies that impact everything from how we recruit people to how we – how we bring them from the – you know, essentially from the street to the fleet, right?  How we attract people to the Navy, how we manage talent in the Navy, right, how – which translates into how we promote people, how we promote people into the Navy, the opportunities that we give them or don’t give them.  And so it’s allowed us to really take a look at not just – and this isn’t just – this isn’t just racially focused; it’s also gender-focused as well. 

And in fact, I’m going to get briefed by Admiral Holsey, who’s leading this effort, along with this team, in about another 10 days.  And so right around the time of the shift in administrations I think I’ll be in a place where I’ll have a better understanding of what we found and be able to come back to you and talk publicly about it.

Q:  Well, since you are prioritizing, you know, ending things that divide, I have to ask you – since we have you – you know, what you’ve been reflecting on this week and what you want sailors to be thinking about on that front as you move ahead with Task Force One Navy and other policies?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So, you know, the military continues to – continues to focus on – to focus on mission.  We’re apolitical.  And so that’s where – that’s where my guidance to our commanders has been, it’s been to focus on what we need to do at a time of transition for our government.  And the military’s always been – or, should always be a stable – you know, a stable element in our – in our government and in our country.  And that’s what we’re – that’s what we’re striving to be at this time.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Jesse, we’ll come to you next.

Q:  All right.  Thank you, Admiral, for taking the time here.

You know, in terms of the kind of unmanned portion of the future fleet that you guys are looking to build, I’m thinking of an article in proceedings last year, I believe Senator Inhofe penned it, but it talked about really working to ensure that the Navy proved these technologies work before you, you know, fire up the assembly line and start blasting out, you know, all different kinds of these unmanned vessels.  I believe he kind of signaled basically trying to avoid what happened with LCS.  Can you kind of take me through, you know, your thinking on that?  I mean, I think he mentioned, you know, the Navy needs to make sure an engine can run for 30 days straight on land before they, you know, approve it and start building these things.  You know, what is – what’s it going to take to prove these technologies in a fairly quick timeline for unmanned, you know, before firing up the assembly line, so to speak?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So the first piece of this, for me, when I came into the job I took a look at a bunch of disparate efforts that were going on in unmanned in the air, on the sea, and under the sea.  And even within – even within a single domain, let’s say on the sea, those efforts were not tied together.  So we were not looking, you know, across the different variants – the large, the medium, unmanned – and taking a look at what was going right, what was going wrong, what we should sundown, what we should accelerate with respect to investments.  There was no crosstalk.  There was no commonality.  There was no standardization. 

And so, first and foremost, we had a bunch of different horses in the race.  And so I did not want to interrupt the progress that we were making across many of those lines, but I wanted to understand them.  Because what I want to be able to do is get to a point where I can – where I can down-select to a single horse or single hull and sundown the others, right?  Kind of the Google approach, where you fail fast, you learn from what you did or what didn’t go right – what went right and what didn’t go right.  And you double down in areas where you’re making good – where you’re making solid, sustainable progress.

The vessels that we’re developing have to be reliable.  They have to be reliable from an engineering standpoint.  And so part of that is doing that land-based prototyping that we didn’t necessarily do with hulls like LCS, right?  And so it’s paying more attention to that prototyping up front to make sure that we have a higher probability of success.  And I would tell you that I spent a morning yesterday on naval reactors to better understand their design build approach with Columbia, which – you know, just to give you an example, with about 85 percent of the design done right now, if I compare that to where we were with the Ohio-class in the ’80s when we were building that submarine, at the same time in that program we were less than 10 percent with respect to the design.

And so we’ve come a long way, particularly in – particularly in undersea in terms of how we build those hulls, the process that we have in terms of prototyping and testing.  And what I’m trying to do is to take that same framework and apply it to unmanned.  There’s common control stations.  You know, if you take a look at how the military builds things, right, you have different program managers and different programs.  And each of them come up with their own enablers.  So enablers and systems to support a platform.  So left to their own devices, I would end up with eight to 10 different unmanned surface vessels with eight to 10 different networks to control them.  That’s not what I want.

I can’t afford it.  I can’t protect them.  You know, I can’t protect all those networks.  And it’s just not a – it’s not an efficient and effective approach.  And so the campaign plan helps bring all of that together.  I’m sorry for the rant here, but the – you know, so the reliability piece – if I could go back for a second – the engineering reliability piece of the unmanned is an absolute must-have, right?  They have to be sustainable and reliable at sea.  The second piece of this is you have to be able to control them.  And I go back to the naval operational architecture, which is the Navy’s portion of JADC-2.  That that has to – that has to be delivered in this decade in order to put us in the position to scale unmanned.

If we don’t have that operational architecture right, we are not going to be in a position with a high degree of confidence to scale that unmanned program.  And we know that we have to get – that we have to scale unmanned in order to put us in a position where you can actually execute distributed maritime operations.  To get back to David Larter’s point, numbers do matter in the end.  But – (laughs) – but the composition piece is important in terms of what’s on those platforms.  But I got to get them to work with a high degree of confidence or there’s no way I’m going to get support on the Hill to buy them.  I hope that’s helpful.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Mike Fabey, we’ll go to you for the last question.

Q:  Well, thanks a lot, sir.  I appreciate this.  Happy New Year.

I just want to riff back off of what Paul was talking about earlier.  And in your answer you kind of addressed that, you know, we were going to be kind of constrained here financially and so you have to prioritize.  And if you look at what your shipbuilding plan was, that kind of led into this whole navigation plan that we’ve been discussing, it was kind of a rosy, top line increase on top of inflationary increase.  And it seems like you, yourself, are saying:  That’s probably not going to come.  So other than that small combatant, what are you going to prioritize here?  Or, conversely, what are you going to say we got to do without, right?  Now, I’m just trying to get an idea of what you are going to prioritize now that you kind of – you know, everyone’s realizing we’re not going to get the money we thought or would like to have.  Thanks.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So you’re absolutely right.  So with respect to the resourcing assumptions that underpin FNFS and the shipbuilding plan, it was assuming – it was assuming about 4.1 percent growth.  And so part of that was growth due to inflation.  And there was – maybe 2.1 was for inflation, and another 2 percent of real growth.  So that would be money that would come from whether it was inside the Navy or come from other agencies and organizations across the Department of Defense to plus-up the shipbuilding account.  So that was – that was, I think, a reasonable assumption – a reasonable assumption to make if you want to get growth.

I think the argument there, to be clear, is that – I would tell you – is that unless I had that 4 percent growth, I can’t afford a Navy of more than 305 to 310 ships.  I’ve said that publicly.  I have the analysis that underpins that.  I know how much it costs to operate a ship, man a ship, equip a ship.  I know what those lifecycle costs look like on the hulls that we have in the water and the ones that we’re buying – pretty good estimates for the ones that we’re buying.  And so I know that without that growth it’s 305 to 310. 

So unless we get that growth, right, unless – if you go back to the argument that I try to lay out here at the beginning of the NAVPLAN – unless that argument carries the day and the department and the nation believes that we need overmatch in the maritime that yields a bigger fleet, then we’re not going to get that money to build a bigger fleet and we’re not going to be able to maintain more than 305 to 310 ships.  We just can’t do it.  We can’t do it effectively.  We know that.  And so that’s reality check, I think.

And if I’m not answering your question – I think you asked me about priorities.  And I’m not willing to tell you, hey, I’m going to – you know, beyond the kind of vectors that I described earlier about large surface combatants coming down and small surface combatants coming up, with respect to the fleet architecture of the future that we think we need to adequately execute DMO, it’s difficult for me to tell you – it wouldn’t be fair for me to take a stab right now without any deep analysis that says I’m going to buy two of these over three of those.  Over time – over time we do need to – we do need to be able to talk to that.  And I will be able to come back to you and lay that out in more detail that makes sense on why we traded three of these for two of those.  But I can’t do that yet.

CDR CHRISTENSEN:  All right, everybody.  Thanks so much for your time today.  And just to reiterate one more time, embargoed, please, until I lift it.  Expect that Monday, but you’ll see that email from me.

ADM. GILDAY:  Thanks so much, everybody.


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