CNO Speaks at the United States Navy Memorial's SITREP Speaker Series

by From Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
10 May 2021
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday spoke at the United States Navy Memorial's SITREP Speaker Series, May 6.

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VIRIN: 201123-N-SH402-1080

Below is a transcript of the event.

REAR ADMIRAL FRANK THORP IV (RET.):  Welcome to the SITREP Speaker Series.  I’m Frank Thorp, president and CEO of the Navy Memorial.  And thank you very much for joining us today.  Today’s online interactive live program is produced by our new organization, Navy Memorial Digital Productions, as part of the Navy Memorial.  And we’re doing it with the assistance of Alongi Media. 

We’re sponsored today by Navy Mutual Aid Live Insurance, who co-sponsors the entire series for the year, as well as the sponsor for the event today is General Dynamics.  We literally could not do what we do here at the Navy Memorial – we could not honor, recognize, and celebrate the men and women of the sea services past, present and future, and inform the public about their service – we couldn’t do that without their support.

We’re honored today to have the 32nd Chief of Naval Operations with us, Admiral Mike Gilday.  Admiral Gilday is a person who needs no introduction, and quite frankly wants no introduction.  But I think it’s important to state, commanded two destroyers, commanded Carrier Strike Group 8, commanded, the 10th Fleet, and the Navy’s fleet Cyber Command.  CNO, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule and joining us today.

ADMIRAL MIKE GILDAY:  Frank, it’s great to be here.  It’s an honor to be here.  Three quick thank-yous before we take in all lines and get underway.  First, I’d like to thank you and I’d like to thank the Navy Memorial for what you do for the United States Navy and for the public, and for educating them on the greatest Navy – about the greatest Navy in the history of the world.  The second is to take your sponsors – not only Navy Mutual Aid but General Dynamics, for this particular event today.  So thanks to them.  And lastly, I’d like to thank the audience for tuning in to ask some tough questions, hopefully, today, and to talk a little bit about what’s going on in the Navy and where we’re headed.

So just briefly, my focus really is twofold.  One is on the day-to-day readiness of the fleet.  So the fleet that’s out there today, on a day-to-day basis, about a third of our fleet is always at sea.  A good portion of that is deployed forward where they need to be.  So that has my primary focus.  I’m also focused on the investments we have to make to maintain a relevant, lethal, capable Navy in the future.  I know there are questions today that are going to get to some of that.  And I look forward to discussing that in more detail.

Today we’ve got about a little over 100 ships that are underway.  And as I mentioned, most of those are forward deployed doing some really hard work.  I’ll give a few examples.  The Iwo Jima ARG is up in the high north right now, off of Norway, about to kick off a big exercise.  And as you probably know, our operations up in the high north and the Arctic are no longer rare.  In the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve done 20 different operations and exercises up in the high north, most of those with allies and partners, many of them with the United States Marine Corps and the United States Coast Guard.

We continue a steady drumbeat in the Middle East, in the Arabian Gulf.  Right now the Ike strike group is on station, providing overwatch as we change our mission in Afghanistan from one of counter VEO, or violent extremist organizations, to strategic withdrawal.  And so it’s a tenuous time in the country of Afghanistan as we withdraw the coalition force.  Ike is there to make sure that if anything happens that we’re ready to respond and respond quickly and effectively.

In the Western Pacific, that drumbeat continues as Admiral Aquilino just took over as the commander of INDOPACOM last week.  Leave no doubt in your mind that the Navy will continue to play a vital role forward.  He has – right now, he’s got the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group and the Makin Island ARG up north up in the Gulf of Alaska doing a joint exercise up there.  The Gerald R. Ford just pulled in about a week or so ago.  She’s done extended operations out at sea as she gets ready to enter the next phase of her cycle, which will also be shock trials.  She’s done over 8,000 cats and traps over the past year, and has maintained an op tempo that really has rivaled any other – any other ship in the fleet.

I can’t tell you how excited I am and how proud I am of today’s United States Navy, and how optimistic I remain about where we’re headed.  Most of that falls on the Sailors that I come in contact with every single day.  And as you know from your time in uniform, every time that I meet with them it’s uplifting and it’s informative.  They hold nothing back in terms of telling me how they think we have fallen short as a Navy, and also where we think – where we’re doing really well, and we need to – we need to continue.  Particularly, their insights over the past year as we’ve operated through the pandemic have been most helpful for me.

So with that as kind of an introduction, I open it up to the audience and any questions that you might have.

ADM. THORP:  Well, thank you, CNO.  And we actually have questions coming from a couple different directions.  We’ve got some good questions from the fleet we’d like to send your way.  And also, for the folks in the audience, you’ll see on the platform there’s a place for you to ask questions.  Please do.  The CNO’s encouraged us to take those questions from the audience.  And there’s also a way to “like” the question.  So the question that gets the most “likes” floats to the top, and it floats to the top here on my iPad.

So CNO, let me – let me get started with a question.  And you talked a little bit about going out and visiting with the troops and the Sailors.  Being in the Navy, being in the sea services is hard.  It’s tremendously rewarding, and it’s hard.  These are pretty difficult times – to say nothing of COVID, but jus the uncertainty of the times.  Can you give us kind of a summary, how’s the force doing?  How are the Sailors doing out there on a day-to-day long-term basis?

ADM. GILDAY:  I’ll tell you, I think that our Sailors are doing fantastic.  It has been probably the most challenging year that I can remember in my career.  And this really has to do with COVID.  And so not only having – not only have ships with their eyes on, let’s say, a seven-month deployment, but also having to back that up by another month with ROM and COMPTUEX before they deploy.  So the Navy’s been able to maintain its mission readiness. 

And I’ll tell you, from the president on down to the secretary of defense in both administrations over the past year have been appreciative and proud of what the Navy’s been able to do, because we haven’t come off mission one bit.  We’ve been out there every single day in all those tough places – the Arabian Gulf, the high north, the Western Pacific.  And so as our potential adversaries and competitors challenge us, the Navy’s been where we need to be, forward, pressing back, showing our presence and protecting U.S. interests. 

This has been a tough year for families as well.  We’ve had some extended deployments, especially in the Middle East with respect to extended deployments where we’ve had to keep a carrier on station just because of our relations with Iran.  And so I know that’s been tough on the fleet, but I am just so proud of how they’ve responded.  Very few complaints.  I know that we’ve got some Sailors out there that – I can’t even imagine comparing us to a – to a competitor, and how we eclipse them.  Actually, I can imagine it, based on what – based on what I’ve seen.  Our Navy is just so strong and resilient.  It’s been – it’s been refreshing.

ADM. THORP:  So you talk about being out there, forward deploying, Fifth Fleet, Western Pacific, high north.  You released Nav Plan 2021 – I think you did it at the Surface Navy Association Symposium back in January.  And you used some pretty tough words in that document.  And it kind of created a little bit of a – of a buzz.  You used words like “dominant naval force,” “win in day-to-day competition, in crisis, and in conflict,” and you used “lethal and non-lethal effects.”  How are those words resonating with the fleet?  How are those words resonating with the Sailors you’re talking to?

ADM. GILDAY:  I think they’re resonating well.  I hope they’re resonating well.  The feedback that I get is really positive.  The Nav Plan itself was really designed to focus on things that I think we need to get after this decade.  We cannot afford – and the advantages that we maintain with our peer competitor, particularly China, we need to stay in front of them.  We need them looking at us and trying to catch us, instead of us catching them.  But there are areas where we’ve fallen behind and we can’t afford to fall further behind.  I don’t want – I don’t want the Navy to be in a place in the next decade where we find ourselves in significant catch-up mode.

So the Nav Plan’s really focused on those things we need to get right now.  And the first thing is readiness.  We absolutely have to be a ready Navy.  The last year proved that with the pandemic.  We were the force of choice in terms of pressing forward and being out there when we needed to be.  And so I think that the Nav Plan’s been met with pretty good reviews and a positive – as you said, a positive buzz from the fleet, which matters greatly.

ADM. THORP:  Yeah.  So talking about the difficulties of this year and being ready for it, COVID comes, then social injustice.  Let’s got to a question from the fleet, who – a sailor who talks about – interestingly, concerned about future pandemics.  But let’s hear what he has to say and then take the question from there.  Let’s got to Petty Officer 1st Class Cedrik Gordon.

Q:  In preparation for future pandemics, what solutions are now being put in place to ensure watch standards are able to take over their duties while balancing crew manning requirements?

ADM. THORP:  Pandemics.  But let’s talk about current pandemics, current situation, dealing with what you’re dealing with now, what you’ve learned about to be able to operate forward?  And I think, even with vaccinations, I mean, are we able – are you able to continue to operate?  We were in the news in a big way a year ago.  We’re not in the news anymore.  It seems like everything’s going pretty well.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So in terms of current status, so less than 0.25 of 1 percent of the force is positive.  So less than 700 Sailors out of a force of 347,000 are positive right now.  And at least 60 percent of – 60 percent of the Navy – the active-duty Navy has had their first shot.  So we’re making steady progress with respect to vaccinations.  There’s always a silver lining, and you always have to look for a silver lining in any situation, as tough as it might be.  And with respect to the pandemic, the silver lining that I’m most proud of is the fact that when I talk about less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the fleet being positive, we’ve held that number consistently for months and months and months.

And it’s not because, sure, we provided some pretty solid guidance from headquarters here in Washington.  But in terms of execution, it really comes down to individual Sailors on the deck plates doing the right things with respect to wearing PPE, washing their hands, making sure their workspaces are clean, but also holding the Sailor to the left and to the right of them accountable as well.  That’s the kind of individual responsibility that we aspire to as leaders at every level in the Navy.  And I think it’s just such a great example.

And the – you mentioned extremism.  And I would just say that I would expect that that same type of behavior be translated to that challenge and how we deal with it individually in our Navy as well.  And I think that if people have a backbone and they stand up and do the right thing, just as they’ve done during COVID, I think we have a chance to make some real progress while we have some momentum in this country.

ADM. THORP:  So you took a pretty hard stand, back when the social injustice was on the streets, shortly after George Floyd’s death and all that.  And here we are, geez, six, eight, nine months later.  We have another question from the fleet on this very topic.  And again, it’s impressive as to what the thinking is out in the fleet.  Can we go to the question from Petty Officer 2nd Class Amira West, please?

Q:  After the broad topic of extremism was discussed at the all-hands stand down, what is the Navy’s long-term plan to discuss topics relevant to the conversation, such as what it means to support and defend the Constitution?

ADM. GILDAY:  In short, we need to continue to have honest conversations at the deck plate levels.  Where leaders at every pay grade are meeting – are meeting with their Sailors and talking through these tough issues.  It’s taken – one of the things that we learned through those listening sessions that we did as part of Taskforce One Navy, is that people came forward – I would say courageously – with stories of discrimination as they’ve experience, both negative experiences but also positive experiences, that have opened the eyes of many people, including me.  Obviously not a minority and I’ve been challenged in that way.  But it’s been enlightening.

And I think empowering as well for each one of us to recognize how terrible a scourge racism is and discrimination, whether it be racial, whether it be ethnic, whether it be gender, and how we shouldn’t stand for it.  How we wouldn’t want anybody to treat us like that, and so we shouldn’t – we shouldn’t allow other Sailors to be treated like that.  And if I go back to the example that I just spoke to a few minutes ago about how Sailors courageously stood up and did the right thing during the pandemic and held each other accountable, that’s what I would expect that we do with respect to that awful scourge of racism and ethnic discrimination and gender discrimination.  That we take a stand there as well.

That’s the only way we’re going to get after this.  I can do videos.  I can put out messages.  But it's not going to have the effect on the deck plates as a – you know, I don’t care what pay grade you are, you’re taking a stand and you’re not going to put up with it.

ADM. THORP:  Are you seeing progress?  Are you hearing – I mean, Taskforce Navy One, are you seeing results from that?

ADM. GILDAY:  We have.  And so in Taskforce One Navy we identified 60 different areas that we’re now getting after.  And someone called them – someone called them areas of institutional discrimination, but the bottom line is it’s – these are discriminatory practices that have existed within the Navy that have to stop.  And I would say that not – none of them were intentional, but they existed because we all had biases and we all had blind spots.  And so these listening sessions with Sailors helped us identify these areas that we have to fix. 

I do think – at least when I go around the Navy and I talk to Sailors in small groups, and they open up and talk to me about this issue, I think their message to me is that they believe that we’re making progress.  But we can’t take our foot off the – off the pedal here.  We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re going to – that we’re going to solve this problem in six months, or six years.  This is a – this is a long-term challenge not only for the Navy, but the nation.  And I asked the Navy, let’s do our part here.  I think that we are a high-performing team.  And we need to act like one.  We need to act like one inside the lifelines of every ship, but also on liberty and with our families.  And so I expect – I have very high expectations for how we conduct ourselves as people.

ADM. THORP:  So, CNO, before we take a break, it sounds like you’re pretty high right now on how the fleet’s doing.  You’re –

ADM. GILDAY:  Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.  I tell you, I wish I could start all over again.  I wish I were a lieutenant JG back on my first ship.  When I go out – when I go and visit the fleet, I’m not sure that I could have competed back in the day with the quality of Sailors and officers that we have out there right now in every single community.  We have a very, very strong Navy.  And it’s always easy to be a naysayer.  It’s always easy to be critical.  And I take plenty of criticism, and most of it’s well-founded, and I’m happy to take it.  But I tell you, there’s also – we can never lose sight of all the goodness in the United States Navy, all the things that are going really, really well.  And the Sailors out there are the ones that are making it happen.  And they ought to be proud of it.

ADM. THORP:  Thank you, CNO.  We’re going to take a quick break and when we come back we’ll talk a little bit about shipbuilding and the size of the force, and then get actually into warfighting and what the Navy’s all about.

ADM. GILDAY:  Good.  I’ll look forward to it.

ADM. THORP:  So please remember to ask questions on the platform.  CNO has challenged me to get questions from the audience.  And so please engage.  And we’ll be right back.

(Break.)

ADM. THORP:  Thank you and welcome back. CNO, let’s talk about shipbuilding.  The number 355 is recognized, it’s in law, it’s in policy, I hope it’s in the budget.  But what does that mean in the near term?  And do you – that’s the biggest part of the question, is what do you see in the near term, five, 10 years out?  And then how do you get to 355 and when do you get to 355?

ADM. GILDAY:  Great question.  So 355 is the law of the land.  Every single assessment that’s been done since 2015, whether it’s been done inside the Navy, inside more broadly the Pentagon, Department of Defense, or even outside the Navy whether it’s from think tanks or academics, they’ve all concluded that we need a Navy of bigger than 355 ships.  That number – some estimates could grow up north of 400 if we include unmanned vessels, under the sea, and on the sea. 

We submitted a shipbuilding plan to Congress in December of 2020, so just a few months ago.  And that plan put us on a glide slope to achieve the number 355 in the 2031-2033 timeframe.  But it was predicated on 4.1 percent real growth in our budget.  So even though the requirement stands at at least 355 and we do have a glide path to get to 355 in another – in another decade, it’s really – it really requires more funding.  And so the Navy that we have today, 60 percent of the fleet in the water today was commissioned in 2001 or before.  And so it’s an aging fleet and we have to take care of it.

So thing one for me remains readiness, both in terms of our people and in terms of our platforms.  And also, the modernization piece.  So we need to continue to modernize the ships that we have, to take care of them, to get them in and out of maintenance on time, and to give them weapons with more range and more speed.  So those are my priorities, is to ensure we have a ready, capable fleet now, modernize the ships that we have for the future, and at the same time any money that we can put towards the growth of the fleet, we are.  Our shipbuilding budget today is twice of what it was in 2005.  It does need to continue to grow if we’re going to have a larger Navy.

ADM. THORP:  So you have – you have said, in conjunction with this – that the next decade is so important.  I think you actually said it a lot stronger than that, right?  You have to get it right this decade.  What does that mean?  So 2030 comes along, how do you know that you – that we got the decade right?

ADM. GILDAY:  So I try to think about it across three domains at least.  So I’m thinking about the undersea, on the sea, and in the air, as well as cyber and space.  And so I can talk about – you mention in the near term and then in the longer term.  So if I look out four years to 2025, and if I look at the undersea domain, by that time, in four years’ time, all of our Virginia-class Block IIIs will be delivered, all of our Block IVs will be delivered.  We’ll be on the cusp of delivering Virginia-class Block Vs, with a greater VLS capacity, and we’ve made investments to deliver a long-range, more lethal, torpedo.

If I look at the surface domain, we’re delivering – or, we will be delivering FFG-62, the Constellation-class frigate.  We’ll be putting Flight III DDGs in the water.  But 2025 we’ll have hypersonic missiles on the three Zumwalts.  And we’re investing in weapons with range and speed – maritime strike Tomahawk and other weapons that I can’t talk about in a public forum – that give us more punch.  If we talk about in the aviation side what’s flying off of our aircraft carriers, this summer we’re going to deploy our first F-35 squadron off of Vinson.  By 2025, we’ll have six airwings out of 10 that are going to be F-35 capable. 

We’re that much closer to a fourth generation, fifth generation fighter mix with extension range weapons like LRASM and AARGM.  So these are both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.  We’ll have the MQ-25s, the unmanned tanker, flying off our carriers by 2025.  We’re updating our networks.  So in the cyber – in the cyber world we’re making significant investments as well.  We’re updating our shipyards through a strategic infrastructure plan, where Congress in the infrastructure bill that’s being debated on the Hill right now includes money for our public shipyards.

And so – and so in the near term, in four years’ time, that’s where I see the evolution.  That’s where I see the investments in terms of providing a Navy that’s a bit bigger than it is today, but certainly more capable and more lethal, and definitely more ready.

ADM. THORP:  That’s quite a bit of force.  One thing we didn’t mention is autonomous unmanned vehicles.  And I know that’s high on your list.  And quite frankly, for us out here, I don’t really know what that means.  What does that – 10 years from now what do we see coming in and out of port in Norfolk or San Diego?  What do we see operating in the Arabian Gulf or the West Pacific?  How does this – unmanned ships, how do they – how does that fit into your fleet concept?

ADM. GILDAY:  Sure, let me give you – well, let me – let me talk more broadly about where we are and where we’re going with unmanned.  We developed an unmanned systems framework that took a look at 15 different unmanned systems that we’re developing.  These are platforms that would operate under the sea, on the sea, and in the air.  We found that these 15 systems or 15 platforms were fairly stovepiped programs.  And so we brought them all together so that we could learn from the technology and the experimentation that we’re doing in each of those programs, we could make better decisions on which programs aren’t going well and we need to cut, and which ones that are going great and we need to probably double down on.

What we’d like to do is to get after two really tough problems in the next four or five years.  One of those is reliability, particularly with the unmanned under the sea and the unmanned on the sea, so that they can operate extended periods of time with very high reliability.  The second thing that we really have to solve is command and control.  And so we need to have a network structure that allows us to command and control these with a high degree of reliability. 

With respect to manned surface, I don’t think we’re going to go fully unmanned for a while, although I’ll give an example of a recent test that we did.  We took a – we took an unmanned vessel from the Gulf Coast, through the Panama Canal, up to Port Hueneme, California.  And so 98 percent of that transit was done fully autonomously.

ADM. THORP:  Nobody on board?

ADM. GILDAY:  No, there was something on board, but their hands were off the controls.  So it was all done with AI capabilities. 

So we’re feeling more confident about that.  But I think it’ll be some time before those unmanned platforms are truly unmanned.  I would say into the 2030s, and probably for an extended period of time, they’re going to be minimally manned.  So maybe a crew of just a few people, right, so that if there’s a problem with a clogged filter in a fuel line, let’s say, you have somebody on board to be able to take care of that.  And so if I use unmanned surface as an example, I could see a large unmanned surface vessel that would serve as an adjunct magazine and a surface action group, let’s say, with a new Constellation-class frigate and, let’s say, a Flight III DDG.  And then I’d have this adjunct magazine, this large unmanned vessel, that would have nothing but VLS cells. 

Or we may have a medium unmanned vessel and it might have laser technology that would act in an anti-ballistic missile defense role, right?  And so this would free up our missiles for land attack or long-range strike, and allow us to defend the fleet and provide more survivability by using laser technology.  And I – actually, I’d like to come back to laser technology maybe when we talk about – when we get deeper into some other questions.  With respect to unmanned in the air, I talked about the MQ-25.  And so that frees up a Super Hornet from a tanker role, which honestly is an inefficient way to use a fighter.  It actually extends the range of the airwing off the carrier.  That, along with a longer-range weapon, gives us much more range, speed, and punch – offensive punch against our – against our rivals.

I don’t want to talk about the capabilities of the unmanned under the sea because they’re highly classified, but that’s an area where we’ve been making really, really good progress.  But again, I want to get us to a place in a few years where we’re very confident in the reliability and the command and control aspects, so that we can then confidently within the Pentagon and within the Congress make a case to scale the numbers of those vessels.

ADM. THORP:  So I’d like to do a kind of rapid fire through some of the platforms.  Before we do that, though, I have a question from Sinc Harris which comes in line with a lot of the things you’re talking about – quite frankly, the expense of what we’re talking about.  And Admiral Sinc Harris, you always notice, gets right to the issue:  Has the discussion regarding rebalancing the one-third split on the budgets between the military services damaged military-to-military relations?

ADM. GILDAY:  It has not, at least – at least not for the Navy.  So as most people can see, I’m operating lockstep with the commandant of the Marine Corps.  His planning guidance and where he’s taking the Marine Corps in terms of working hand-in-glove with fleet commanders to deliver sea control and sea denial against an adversary is something we desperately need.  The Army is talking about long-range fires.  And the Army is talking about how they can contribute to sea control and sea denial, and the Air Force similarly.

And so I’m making the strongest case that I can make for the capabilities that the Navy brings to the fight within the joint force.  The Navy’s concept of distributed maritime operations is foundational to the Joint Warfighting Construct that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is just about ready to sign out.  This isn’t a – this is a concept that, along with the Marines, and their LOCE, and their EABO concepts, is maturing.  There isn’t an ARG or a strike group that deploys or returns from deployment today that isn’t – that isn’t doing a fleet battle problems that’s testing aspects of distributed maritime operations.

We’re going to do our largest exercise in a generation this summer that’s called Large Scale Exercise 2021 – multiple strike groups, multiple ARGs.  We’re making big gains in live virtual constructs.  So we are leveraging technology from the gaming community in order to give us the ability to integrate all of our platforms so that we can train and get those reps and sets in much more readily than we can today.  Why?  Because we just can’t afford to do large-scale exercises every year.  It costs a lot of money to get that iron underway.  And do it with a degree of – with a degree of rapidity that allows us to test some concepts out more fully.

But the short answer is, with respect to the other services and the other service chiefs, sure, there is definitely – it’s a competitive environment right now.  But I remain very confident that the Navy has a sound case here for what we’re delivering to the joint force.  And I am parochial, of course, as a service chief.  But I truly believe that the Navy is providing substantial lethality and capability to the joint force and contributing to the – potentially to the kind of fights that we’re going to be in in the future.

ADM. THORP:  So, CNO, your focus today is really on the operations, how the Navy’s being used.  I’d like to do a rapid fire through some platforms, but more so focusing on how the platform fits into the operations than the status of the number of ships being built this year or the budget status, or whatever.  And maybe just start with Littoral Combat Ship and we’ll work our way from smaller to bigger.  Littoral Combat Ship, where do you see it fitting in the future?

ADM. GILDAY:  Littoral Combat Ship.  We got 33 of them.  We got to wring the most operational availability that we can out of those ships.  The blue and gold crewing concept is sound.  There is plenty of work for these ships to do, whether it’s in SOUTHCOM right now.  You just heard from Faller in his testimony a couple weeks ago how high he is on LCS performance.  The same thing in the Western Pacific.  The 7th Fleet commander just came back to meet with me for a couple hours to give me his report on his operational – not only his use of LCS today, but his plans in the future. 

We’re going to get the combining gear fixed on the – on the odd class LCSs.  The vendor is doing land-based testing right now.  And once that new design is proven, we will – we will first install those new combining gears in the ships they’re delivering out of Wisconsin, and then we’ll backfill – we’ll backfit some of our older hulls.  We’re putting the Naval Strike Missile on every single LCS.  And we’re on the cusp of, in the next 18 months, delivering both the MCM modules and the ASW modules, which I’m excited to get those on those ships.

I’m very bullish about LCS.  When I go aboard those ships – for those who haven’t been on an LCS or haven’t been on an LCS in a while – I will tell you, those ships are really – those crews are really well-trained.  They are eager to get back to sea and contribute.  And we’ve got – we’ve got roles for them not only down in 4th Fleet, out in 5th Fleet.  We intend to put them forward in 5th Fleet.  And of course, in 7th Fleet.  They were – they were designed to operate inside, close to land, and transit at high speed.  And you better believe we’re going to make use of that capability in the Western Pacific.

ADM. THORP:  So let’s move to the new frigate, FFX, Constellation-class frigate.  Where does that fit in in 10 years?

ADM. GILDAY:  So that fits into our design on distributed maritime operations.  So based on the assessments we’ve done in terms of – we have a really good understanding of how we’re going to fight with distributed maritime operations.  We folded that into a series of really robust wargames and assessments that allowed us to better understand what we need to fight with.  So the Constellation-class frigate, in terms of where the fleet’s going, you’re going to see if – again, if budgets maintain where we hope that they will to support a larger, more capable Navy, you’re going to see smaller ships.  So that’s more frigates.  And you’ll see less ships that are cruiser-sized, right? 

And so we believe that in order to fight a more distributed way, that we can do that with – we can do that – we can do that with smaller ships.  You’ll have your Flight III DDGs that’ll take over that air – that integrated air defense role that the cruisers now – that the cruisers now fill.  And we’ll be on the cusp, let’s say in 2027-2028, of building DDGX.  And so the next class and destroyer, it’ll be a new hull with an existing combat system.  So we’ll do the same thing that we did when we moved from – when we moved from the Aegis cruisers to the destroyers, right?  The combat system transferred.  The hull was different.  But it’ll be a hull that allows us to have bigger, more lethal missiles, like hypersonics.

ADM. THORP:  So that covers DDG Next.  Cruisers.  So, you know, we’ve come to rely on CG-47 class.  We’ve talked a lot about the major – the large combatant program.  What’s next after the –

ADM. THORP:  So DDGX will end up filling – so the Flight III DDGs that we’ll begin to be putting in the water around 2025 will begin to take over for the cruisers with respect to that air defense commander role.  DDG Next will follow.  And so you’ll see the cruisers begin to phase out as many of them are either on the cusp of 30 years or passing that 30-year service life that was – that they were designed to serve for.  We’re now seeing – if I can make the comparison, and I know this’ll resonate with the audience – 15 or 20 years ago we were retiring or decommissioning Spruance-class destroyers because it was too expensive to update the combat system.  Now it’s becoming too expensive to maintain the HM&E systems on these ships.  With the cruisers, as an example, we see a lot of cracking.  So when we bring them to the shipyard we see a lot of growth work that’s difficult to – it’s growth work because it’s difficult to plan for.  These ships have been under an extreme amount of stress for the past 30 years.  And we’re beginning to see problems now manifest themselves that are becoming very, very expensive to fix.

ADM. THORP:  So I’ll come back to submarines and carriers and joint strike fighter, things like that, in a second.  But you mentioned shipyards and maintenance.  And I know that’s high on your priority list.  And I know there’s some – to your point earlier, there’s some money on the Hill, talking about infrastructure.  That just seems to be a problem that’s just so darn hard to fix, getting ahead of the maintenance and getting ships out.

ADM. GILDAY:  So it’s been the Achilles heel for us for a while in terms of our ability to generate forces.  And so a year and a half, two years ago we really were only getting about 30 to 35 percent of our hips out of maintenance on time.  It’s difficult to go to Congress and argue for a bigger Navy if we can’t maintain the Navy that we have today.  And honestly, maintaining ships, maintaining submarines, maintaining aircraft, that’s part of what we do as naval officers.  And so we ought to be embarrassed if we can’t get these ships out of shipyards on time. 

In the past year or so we have reduced the delay days on our public yards by 80 percent, reduced our delay days in private yards by about 60 percent.  We are not satisfied with that.  Our goal is to wipe out 100 percent of those delay days so that we’re planning those availabilities properly and we’re getting the maintenance done on time.  We’re not – we’re not deferring maintenance.  I’m going to go back to things that happened a decade ago, where we just weren’t doing the maintenance.  We are going to do the maintenance.  As I mentioned earlier, 60 percent of the fleet that we had in 2001 we still have today, and a decade from now 70 to 75 percent of the fleet will be there in 2030. 

So readiness remains my number-one priority.  The fleet’s responding to that.  NAVC is responding to that.  The private yards are working with us.  We’re now backing – where we used to cut a contract for a destroyer or an amphib going into maintenance, let’s say, 30 days in advance, we’re now backing it up to 120 days.  And we’re stacking those availabilities vertically more and more so that a particular shipyard is going to see four or five DDGs in a row.  That helps them plan ahead for the work, with respect to their workforce.  Backing those contracts up to 120 days – we’re not to 120 yet.  That’s out target.  We’re at about 97 days now.  Our goal is to back up those contacts to about 120 days so that the material for those shipyards can be on hand.  The GFE can be on hand to help finish those jobs on time.

And we’re getting better at planning our availabilities based on a substantial amount of data we found that about 30 percent of the – 30 percent of the delays in shipyards, whether it was public or private, could be directly attributed back inside the lifelines to poor planning up front.  So my message in every Chief’s mess goes back to the CSNP.  I mean, this is back to, you know, blocking and – basic blocking and tackling, and how important it is that those jobs that are initially scoped are done correctly.

I know that was a long-winded discussion about maintenance, but I really believe we’re heading in the right direction.  I’m proud of how the fleet’s responded.  I know that people get it, and they understand why it needs to be our number-one priority.  I truly believe that if we get in a fight tonight, that the fleet and its commanders are going to perform at the level at which we train them, and at the level of which we prepared them.  We shouldn’t fool ourselves.  And so that readiness always has to be our number-one priority.  We owe it to ourselves.

ADM. THORP:  So let me go back to platforms a little bit, and take a slight different direction on submarines, right?  The silent service, we’ve come to know them as the undersea threat.  What’s the status of that over the last 20-some years?  And we’ve come to know them as Tomahawk launchers.  And now the future with autonomous vehicles that perhaps are Tomahawk launchers, where do you see the Virginia-class sub – where do you see submarines 10 years, 20 years?

ADM. GILDAY:  So the Block IIIs and Block IVs, we need to deliver those on time.  I think we’re going to get there.  The trend right now is pretty good.  The Block Vs bring a substantial amount of firepower with respect to – with respect to numbers of cells.  But also in 2028 right now our goal is to put a hypersonic capability – a hypersonic missile on those Block V submarines.  And so those Virginia-class submarines – which help give us overmatch against our high-end competitors – will remain a priority for me in terms of getting those – in terms of keep the – in terms of keeping the undersea force updated, modernized, and ready to go. 

As you know, as everybody knows, the SSBNs are a no-fail mission for us.  And they have the highest op tempo in the Navy.  Those Ohio-class submarines are pushing 40 years.  By the time they leave service, they’ll be at 42 years or more under the water.  And those submarines see a lot of at-sea time.  The Columbia-class is our number-one priority for the nation.  We have to deliver those submarines on time.  I get updates nearly every day on the progress with the builder on those – on the Columbia-class.  So the Columbia-class is going to be a great submarine that we’re going to be very proud of, I predict.  The Ohio-class has stood us – stood the test of time, since the ’80s.

I will say, the Navy – the nation has not been in the type of environment – this type of environment since the early ’80s.  So back in that time, we were updating the strategic force with the Ohio-class submarines at the same time were trying to build up the conventional force.  The difference between then and now is that the average DOD budget – the annual rate of growth back then was about 7 ½ percent a year.  And right now, our buying power has been flat since 2010.  Meanwhile, with an aging fleet, you see both operations and maintenance costs rise greater than the rate of inflation, and certainly we see the same for personnel costs.  So those are pressure points on a budget.  If it doesn’t grow, it becomes difficult for us to grow capacity at a greater – at the rate that we want.

ADM. THORP:  Mmm hmm.  So the Columbia-class submarine, your number one – not only your number one priority, but stated number-one priority for the nation.  Big bill.  Big plan.  How do you assess the program going forward?  I mean, history is marked with big first-priority programs that just became problematic as we chip away at it.  When does it hit the fleet?  And is it – is the transition with the Ohio class going to be as smooth as you are hoping it’s going to be?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So I’m very optimistic.  So if I make a comparison to Ohio, at this time in the build – so we’re bending metal right now on the Columbia.  At this point in the build on Ohio, we had about 12 to 15 percent of the design complete.  With Columbia, we’re at 85 percent, so a marked difference here with respect to the maturity of the design.  So, you know, you talk about building an airplane as you’re flying it.  We’re taking a much more disciplined, rigorous approach with Colombia.  We are buying – we are buying parts.  We are buying – we are buying parts for those submarines now that we have them on standby, ready to go.  We don’t want any delays.  The first submarine will go in the water in 2028 and will be on patrol by 2031.  And right now, that remains – that remains on a glide slope.

ADM. THORP:  2031, 10 years.

ADM. GILDAY:  2031, right.

ADM. THORP:  Yeah.  That’s another one of those end-of-the-decade measures, right?

ADM. GILDAY:  It is.  And so there’s three – there’s three big areas of strategic investment for us right now.  One of them certainly is the Columbia-class SSBN.  The second one is the shipyards.  And so our drydocks are 100 years old.  On average, just shy of 100 years old.  We’ve got 21 drydocks across four public shipyards.  They do all of our maintenance on carriers, SSBNs, SSGNs, SSNs.  They have – we have to be able to sustain that into the future.  The infrastructure of those shipyards is over 60 years old.  So we’re making a significant investment – these are once in a century investments in these shipyards that I’m not going to come off of, at least while I’m CNO.  It has to be a priority.

And then the last is strategic sea lift.  So we haven’t bought sea lift in numbers since the ’80s.  We have fallen behind from where we need to be.  So we’re doing surface-life extensions on those ships that I think – that we think – still have service life left.  And we also have done some really good market analysis.  And Congress has helped us by giving us the authorities to buy used ships.  And so we’re going to take those ships that we think still have a good 20 years of service life left on them.  We’re going to do some minor modifications.  And at a tenth of a cost of a new ship, we’re going to be able to replenish some of that fleet.  So those are three areas that we have to keep the press on.

ADM. THORP:  So wrapping up platforms and talking about strategic, the carriers.  The Ford, getting much better reviews now, huge technology leap, John F. Kennedy coming on.  How are the carriers doing?

ADM. GILDAY:  Great.  So Ford – so Ford had a – as I mentioned, over 8,100 cats and traps.  If you go down and talk to the Sailors that work on – work on those catapults and work on the arresting gear, these are the same Sailors that worked on the – these are the same Sailors that worked on the Nimitz-class.  And they’ll tell you that they’re not looking back.  They’ll stay on the Ford-class carriers.  They like the reliability.  They like the fact that – they like the fact that they’re not operating in hot spaces.  And the systems are really performing up to specifications.

Those ships – the Ford – has had one of the highest op tempos in the Navy over the past year.  So she’s been underway as much as she’s been in port.  She’s probably been a 50/50 mix in terms of in-port time and at-sea time.  And we’ve been able to continue doing the work with HII while the ship’s been underway.  So we’re bringing shipyard workers out there with us while the ship’s underway.  They’re about enter their shock trials this summer.  They’ll go through another maintenance phase in the fall into next winter.  And then our intentions are to deploy forward in 2022.

ADM. THORP:  So last but not least, aviation – fighters, Joint Strike Fighter, Super Hornet.  You talked about autonomous unmanned aviation earlier, but how’s Joint Strike Fighter coming into the fleet?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So Joint Strike Fighter’s running a little bit behind.  I was just down in Fort Worth in a production line a couple of weeks ago.  I love the capability.  And so when you talk to the pilots and fourth and fifth-gen fighters – so, Super Hornets and Joint Strike Fighter working together, tremendous capability.  And we’re learning every day more and more about how much more effective we can be with that fourth-gen, fifth-gen mix. 

As I mentioned earlier, first deployment on Vinson this summer with an F-35 squadron.  And we’re keeping pace to have six squadrons by 2025.  I think we’ll make that.  We’re giving those aircraft long-range weapons.  On the Super Hornets, we’re upgrading our Super Hornets to take it from 6,000 flying hours up to – up to 10,000.  And so I was just out at Boeing in St. Louis.  Some of those – looking at some of those – looking at that Block III upgrade work on those aircraft as well. 

I am very, very optimistic about the path we’re heading in with not only – not only fourth and fifth-gen manned but also some highly classified unmanned systems that we continue to invest in.  Again, we’re learning from what we’re doing with MQ-25 as the tanker, and we’ll continually learn from that, integrating that unmanned capability into the fleet.  And then I think we are – we are doing the work right now, the stubby pencil work, on the next generation airwing.  And we’re pretty excited as we work that in conjunction with the Air Force.

ADM. THORP:  In conjunction was you’re working the next gen –

ADM. GILDAY:  Sure.  The Air Force is working on unmanned, just as we are.  And so going into the 2030s, we see potentially – if we remain on glide slope with the technology and the testing and the budget – that we could have up to about 40 percent of an airwing could be unmanned.  And then that would increase to 60 percent by the late 2030s.

ADM. THORP:  Wow.  OK, let’s talk about your favorite topic – warfighting, readiness, being out there and doing what the Navy’s doing.  We have a great question from Senior Chief Kyle Hall.  And I’ll go to that, and I’ll lead into a conversation to let’s go around the globe.  Senior Chief Hall.

Q:  With the ever-changing enemy – whether it be North Korea, China, or Russia – where do you see our fleet’s primary focus in the world of global deterrence and maritime superiority?

ADM. GILDAY:  Thanks, Senior. 

So the NDS remains our North Star in terms of what we need to be prepared to do.  And there’s a number of mission sets, right?  So one is to defend the homeland.  But there’s also a strategic deterrence requirement.  There’s a conventional deterrence requirement.  There’s a – there’s a requirement to be able to respond to threats.  There’s a requirement to be able to assure our allies and partners, and also to be able to compete below the level of competition.  And that is against the five problem sets.  At the top of the heap are China and Russia.

So the short answer to your question is we have to be able to do all five of those things – five or six of those things – against those problem sets – China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and then violent extremist organizations.  But certainly, China is our pacing threat.  They are at the top of the heap.  They are our number-one competitor.  And so I think – I think that the – as the National Defense Strategy is updated going probably in 2022 as this administration takes a round turn on the existing strategy and sees what it needs to update, I think in generally you will see those five problem sets remain the same.  And I think the missions will probably remain fairly consistent.

The Navy plays big in all of those.  And so I talked about SSBNs and the significant responsibility we have with the nuclear deterrent against both China and Russia, but also with a – with a conventional deterrent as well.  In order to deter conventionally, the Navy has to be forward.  That’s what we do.  That’s why it was so important during the pandemic to be able to maintain that one-third of the Navy at sea, and most of that forward.  That’s where we do our nation’s business.  That’s where the nation needs us.  And that’s where we deter anybody that has any ideas about doing something that’s going to either harm us or our allies.

ADM. THORP:  So let’s talk about China for a bit then.  A lot of freedom of navigation operations.  I wake up in the morning, I’m waiting to hear the – read the story about scraping paint or maybe shots fired.  Our freedom of navigation operations, are they making a difference?  How are they going?  Do you see them continuing the way they’re going?  And what’s your concern about China continuing to put more ships into zones that we’re pretty concerned about?

ADM. GILDAY:  So with respect to the freedom of navigation, or FONOPS, so we do those around the globe not only – when we conduct them against China they tend to get the most press, but we also do them against our allies and partners when we think that their maritime claims are excessive and not in accordance with international law.  Somebody once told me that armies and air forces come together in war, but navies come together all the time.  And so you see us operating with like-minded navies to enforce international norms in waterways around the world.

And we just saw in the Suez Canal last month how important it is that those waterways remain open, that nobody considers blocking any of them intentionally.  And although that ship that went sideways in the Suez certainly wasn’t intentional, the cost on a day-to-day basis of that incident was about $9 to $10 billion.  So we can’t afford to have that happen in the Strait of Hormuz, or in the Strait of Malacca, and the Panama Canal, or any other major choke point – or any other major trade route, quite frankly. 

And so that work we do day in and day out with our allies and partners – and there’s not a day when we’re not doing that kind of work with our allies and partners – sends a signal to those who like to skirt the law or who like to – like to break it, that there are plenty of us out there, likeminded, who want to enforce it.  And hopefully, you know, the idea would be to hopefully change minds and change behavior so that people obey the law.  And everybody knows that in order to – in order to prosper globally, for the global economy to be healthy, maritime trade has to be very healthy.

ADM. THORP:  So staying with China, we have a question here from the audience about the status or an update or standing up 1st Fleet out in the INDOPACOM AOR.  And do you see that happening?

ADM. GILDAY:  So the secretary of defense just – he ordered a Global Posture Review.  We’re going through that right now.  The considerations with respect to 1st Fleet will be – will be discussed or are being discussed during that posture review.  I think the new INDOPACOM commander will have an opinion on 1st Fleet.  And so we’ve yet to make a final decision on implementation of 1st Fleet.

ADM. THORP:  So another question from the audience.  And they’re lighting up here now that we’re talking warfighting operations.  John Mastrocola (ph) is asking:  Just how significant of a threat in the South China Sea is the PRC Navy?

ADM. GILDAY:  I think they’re a significant threat.  So I think you see their bold activity against countries like Vietnam and the Philippines as a signal of what they – what they continue to intend to do with respect to putting pressure on their neighbors, and particularly on their economic activity, right?  They’re squeezing.  And so our steady presence out there assures our allies and partners that we have their back and that we operate closely with them and stand up to China.  And we don’t accept that – to show them that we don’t accept that kind of behavior.

But in order to be relevant we got to be there, right?  We have to have – we have to have our hulls forward.  We have to be flying.  We got to be sailing, both on the sea and under the sea.  So those forward operations are important, and they make a difference.  Virtual presence is actual absence.  We got to be there.

ADM. THORP:  So let’s move to Russia.  A question from the audience here about the Russian Navy’s role in Ukraine and also just your look on Russia.  Nuisance?  Threat?  They’re starting to push us – our buttons a little bit, it seems – it looks like.  What are your thoughts on Russia?

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah.  So I don’t discount Russia.  I mean, they could be a problem.  And so their Sev-class submarine is certainly a very advanced submarine that’s problematic.  And so I take them seriously.  And I think that Admiral Burke over there at NAVEUR takes them – I know that he takes them seriously.  I’ve really admired how NAVEUR and 6th Fleet have used the forces that they have – not only in the Eastern Mediterranean where the Russians are operating in force but also in the high north and in the Black Sea – in a very unpredictable way.

In my opinion, NAVEUR’s been giving the Russians fits with respect to their operating patterns.  And they’re doing it, innovatively probably isn’t the right word, but they’re just very agile in terms of – in terms of moving our ships around at a moment’s notice in highly effective ways.  I just mentioned in the – in the intro pushing the IWOARG up north with the – off of Norway, which nobody expected – or, we don’t think anybody expected.  And so they’re going to continue to do those kinds of things, I think, and press back at the Russians.

ADM. THORP:  So you’ve mentioned high north a couple times.  You mentioned sending the ARG up.  A question from Jeremy Abraham (sp):  What can the defense industrial base do to prepare the Navy’s – for the Navy’s needs in the high north?

ADM. GILDAY:  That’s a good question.  And so I think that a lot of that really has to do with our training and readiness.  But in terms of – in terms of capabilities I think now with, you know, the effects of sea-level rise, and we see the ice cap significantly receding, that’s going to be a very – a more and more competitive space up there.  And so we have to be operating up there more.  And as I mentioned earlier, some 20-some-odd operations and exercises, that’s going to continue.  We are going to be present in the high north and up in the Arctic, and operate up there freely and effectively.

ADM. THORP:  So, CNO, one more area I’d like to cover is the Arabian Gulf.  We have a question from Lieutenant William Kruger here about the Arabian Gulf.  If we could go to that question, please.

Q:  When we remove all of our forces from Afghanistan, what changes, if any, do you perceive in our 5th Fleet operations?

ADM. GILDAY:  That’s a good question, Lieutenant Kruger.  So, first and foremost, the CENTCOM AOR is a maritime AOR.  So we’ve got three major choke points – the Suez, the Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz.  Significant maritime – significant global trade routes, right?  So oil, as an example, is a global commodity.  And although the U.S. is much, much less dependent upon foreign oil than we were years ago, it’s a global commodity.  And so if there’s any perturbation in the Strait of Hormuz, or in the Bab al-Mandab, in the Suez, we’re going to feel that ripple effect back here at gas stations back home.

And so we need to be present.  The question is, what should that posture look like for the United States Navy in that AOR on a day-to-day basis?  My take is that as we – as we continue these negotiations with Iran on a JCPOA-next, that hopefully Iran begins to behave in an acceptable way.  And that’ll lead to a reduced requirement for, let’s say, a 1.0 carrier strike group presence.  I do think we need to maintain a presence in that AOR.  And the Global Posture Review that I mentioned a few minutes ago, that’ll help inform the secretary of defense on what that posture ought to be.

Whether it’s Russia or whether it’s China, you can’t just consider those confined to an AOR.  We’ve got to – we’re competing with them, we are deterring them, transregionally and across all domains.  And so the Chinese are operating in that AOR.  The Russians are operating that AOR.  We have some responsibility there to be able to compete, as I mentioned before, below the level of armed competition, and be able – below the level of armed conflict – and be able to compete with them, be able to assure our allies and partners that we’re there for the right reasons to help them to maintain a health global economic posture.

ADM. THORP:  So, CNO, we’re running out of time and we’ve covered a lot of topics.  I think I better ask about Project Overmatch because I’m getting crushed on the platform and I think it’s important to you too.  So how is that progressing?

ADM. GILDAY:  Really well.  So Taskforce Overmatch is the Navy’s contribution to JADC2, or Joint All Domain Command and Control.  In short, what we need to be able to do is put ourselves in a position where we can both decide and act faster than any adversary.  And so if I combine that with the fact that we’re going to be operating unmanned and there’s a command and control element there that’s going to consume more and more bandwidth, then our network structure today cannot – is not the network structure that we’re going to need to fight off of in the future as we enter the 2030s. 

And so my challenge to Admiral Small out at NAVWAR was to – was to develop a software-defined network of networks structure that allows us to transfer data – any data that we want on any system that we want or any network that we want.  And to use battle management aids or applications to allow us to get the right information at the right time to put ourselves in a position of advantage against any competitor.  So let me give you an example, and if I drew a parallel to your smartphone. 

Your smartphone right now is probably connected to a wi-fi network and then also to a 4 or 5G network from your service provider.  And your phone – the software on your phone makes a determination of what path the data’s going to take to and from your phone.  You really don’t care what path that is.  It’s figuring it out.  The software is driving the most efficient means to move that information.  And then you have micro-processing in the applications of your phone that help you make whatever decisions that you have to make.

It’s the same – it’s the same kind of approach that NAVWAR’s taking.  And so they are doing four different spirals this year that increase both the amount of applications the networks that we’re – that we’re experimenting with.  I will give you an example.  We’ve taken NAVMACS data, or normal message traffic that goes out to the fleet, and we’ve bundled that in a way, or containerized it, and passed it on a tactical fighter network that we use – that we use to communicate between Super Hornets.  And we’ve done that with other systems as well.

The technology exists, without getting into a concrete one single data standard, to take legacy data constructs that we have and to be able to – to be able to wrap them, if you will – or, put a wrapper on them and to move them over any network.  So the technology exists to do it.  NAVWAR, that’s their number-one priority.  After Columbia, it’s my number-one priority, because I really think that we’re going to be challenged to fight in the future, no matter what platforms we have.  We got to be able to communicate with each other.  And that data has to be able to transfer on many different networks, on many different levels, and be able to do so securely.  I hope that’s helpful, with respect to Overmatch.

ADM. THORP:  Yeah, very helpful.  And we’re out of time.  Let me ask one question, because you talked there about fight – the fight.  And maybe bring it all the way back to the beginning here, about the Sailors.  The possibility of the fight, the possibility of conflict.  It almost seems like we’re on the edge here.  Are the Sailors ready to fight?  What are they – what’s their reactions?  When you use words like this on mess decks or the hangar deck, are they ready to fight?

ADM. GILDAY:  I think so.  So if we go back to last week in the northern Arabian Gulf, PC up there had an interaction with an IRGCN FIAC.  The CO made exactly the right call, 10 warning shots in the water, as that vessel would not respond to whether it was visual signals or whether it was – whether it was bridge to bridge.  And that CO made the right call in both maneuvering his ship and putting those warning shots in the water.  We see similarly really good judgement calls by COs in tough situations in the Western Pacific.

I think – I couldn’t be more proud of how we’re moving forward as a Navy when I go on surface ships and I meet these WTIs that are highly qualified in disciplines like amphibious operations, and much more qualified than you and I were back in the day – integrated air and missile defense, anti-submarine warfare.  They’re not just – they’re not just interested in it.  They’re the best in the world at it.  And so it’s the same thing in the aviation community.  In the submarine community, you go up to Groton and they have the fight club – I don’t know if you heard about this – where they put ward room against ward room in these tactical scenarios.  It’s competitive. 

And so we are learning from each other as we put ourselves in those kind of situations.  Every COMPTUEX we do now has unmanned involved.  We just did an integrated battle problem on the West Coast.  We had unmanned, under the sea, on the sea, and in the air, along with Zumwalts and LCSs and maritime targeting cells onboard the Michael Monsoor that was passing targeting solutions to a remote platform, doing live fire exercises.  Drones dropping sonar buoys.  We’re doing stuff that – you know, the fleet’s moving faster than I can keep up with them, to be honest with you.  I just need to make sure that they get the right stuff to do what they need to do. 

I just – for anybody out there listening from a ship or listening from the tactical edge, keep doing what you’re doing.  Keep pushing yourselves.  And don’t – just don’t be subtle with – you know, with just making the grade.  Push for excellence.  We need to be the best in every area.

ADM. THORP:  So CNO, I was going to ask you if you wanted to make closing remarks, but that sounds like a pretty great way to end it.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah, I don’t know if I can say anything more poignant than that.  I am very proud of what we’re doing.  I appreciate the skepticism out there.  In some of those questions I could kind of catch it.  And it’s OK.  We need to be self-critical.  At the same time, I also want you to be really confident in terms of what you’re doing and where we’re going.

ADM. THORP:  Well, CNO, thank you for joining us.  It’s my personal honor to be able to sit here with the CNO and ask some questions.  And I can’t tell you enough how much, on behalf of everybody here at the Navy Memorial, and I think everybody who – the naval enthusiasts around the world – how much we appreciate your leadership and what you’re doing to put it out there for the United States Navy.  Thank you, sir.

ADM. GILDAY:  Likewise.  Thanks, Frank.

ADM. THORP:  So thank you very much for joining us today.  This has been a pretty intensive one hour of conversation with the CNO.  I really appreciate him giving us the SITREP.  I would like – again, like to thank Navy Mutual Aid and General Dynamics for sponsoring us today.  Our next event online is the Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony on Memorial Day.  We don’t know yet whether we’ll have a live audience or not.  Probably not.  We’ll be really safe with COVID, as we have been.  But we definitely will be online.  And until then, we wish you fair winds and following seas.  Thank you very much.

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