REAR ADMIRAL JAMES ROBB (RET.): So thank you for being here, the two of you. I think you’ll get a sense that this is somewhat of an unusually perfect opportunity for us to have two service chiefs and, again, we’ve talked a little bit before about the training community sort of feeling left out on occasion. But to have you all show up and participate in this and support it, it really – it brings a lot of energy to the crowd and it helps reinforce the importance of training, as you know, within the services.
This crowd – this is about 1,800 of the 17(,000) or 18,000 that will show up, hopefully, this week. A lot of them are very passionate about supporting the warfighter. So I think you’re in a friendly atmosphere here with regard to having a crowd that’s not only probably been in the military, supported the military, but they’re all dedicated to supporting the warfighters. So they’re the unsung heroes, in many cases, of a lot of training systems.
What I’d like to do also is to, you know, set up the situation here today. What we’re going to do is have a fireside chat. It’s a discussion. The questions or the topics that we’ll talk about today were really screened from the community itself. So this isn’t my situation. These, in many cases, are questions and things that came to us as interest items from before because, you know, trying to do Q&A is sometimes difficult, as you know.
I did study your sea-airspace presentation, which I thought was wonderful, and I recommend it to people who want to go on the Navy League website – you could see that. It was a very high-level great discussion about strategy and there’s a wealth of information there I recommend to folks.
This is the training simulation systems group here, predominantly industry and academia as well as government, and so what we’re going to try to do is maybe start at the high level and then sort of talk about training because that’s the primary interest of the crowd.
So I open up now for your opening comments, if you’d like to address the crowd.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sure. Thanks, Jim. It’s really a pleasure to be here, particularly to share the stage with the commandant of the Marine Corps. Our services do so much together. We do everything together, as a matter of fact, and so to get the chance to talk to this audience about training, about where we are and where we think we need to head, is an important opportunity, I think, for both of us.
I’d like to join the chorus in thanking the city of Orlando, the Convention Center, and the hundreds of invisible hands that have been working hard to set the stage for this event and to carry it through over the next few days, and also to thank Admiral Robb for his personal invite to be up here – to be down here in Orlando today.
I wanted to set the table by talking about a few things very briefly, and the first, I think, it’s important to talk about from a naval perspective how the Navy and Marine Corps operates and potentially fights during crisis and into conflict, and it says the distributed force – as a(n) integrated distributed force – and so that is coming at an adversary through many vectors and across multiple domains simultaneously.
We’ve been working on concepts that enhance that distributed maritime operations for a number of years now and that includes – that would include the Marine Corps’ advanced basing operations concept as well as their concept of operating in contested environments. And so what capabilities like live virtual construct, which many of you are working on – live virtual constructive training – has allowed us to do at scale is to test ourselves to mature our warfighting concepts, to hone our skills, to sharpen our – to sharpen those skills, to learn from them, and that also informs not only what we’re going to fight with but also how we’re going to train and what we’re going to train with.
And I’d just make a few comments about insights we’ve gained over the past year or so from a number of fleet battle problems where every deploying Carrier Strike Group and Amphibious Ready Group tests a(n) aspect of those warfighting concepts and we learn from those. We upped the ante this year in doing a large-scale exercise that, essentially, was global in nature, using large live virtual constructive training capabilities. We trained across five fleets globally, 30,000 sailors and Marines. That included live firing events as well. It was pretty impressive.
And from that, we also did an integrative battle problem that included a high degree of manned and unmanned teaming. Well, we learned from that a few things. One is that as we develop these capabilities there needs to be a continuous feedback loop, almost like a development operations kind of concept where, as we’re – as you’re developing the capability, you’re getting that real-time feedback from operators. That’s something we haven’t perfected yet but it’s something that, obviously, we need to overcome and get better at in order to make this training more relevant.
To that point on relevancy, the other things, I think, that we learned that I’d ask you to think about we need the training capabilities that we’re going to invest in to be realistic and relevant. So to that end, they need to be based on physics-based performance aspects of not only our forces but of potential adversaries, and they need to be reliable, obviously. And then an important piece of this they need to have a recording capability.
And then lastly, I think – looking over the horizon, I think there were human performance aspects of this that can get tied into training much more deeply at an individual level so that – I’m sure many times during this conference people are going to use the buzz – the bumper sticker reps and sets. But that reps and sets kind of bumper sticker is all about maintaining currency.
What we’re really after is warfighting proficiency, which reps and sets is an element of that, but understanding not only down to the individual level not only what we’re good at but what we’re deficient at and then to focus on those deficiencies in a way to raise the bar for individuals and then collectively across a team, whether that’s a fighter squadron or whether it’s a ship or submarine or a marine element.
And so with those comments, Admiral, I’ll turn it over to the commandant.
REAR ADM. ROBB: All right. Commandant?
GENERAL DAVID H. BERGER: As one who has not been here before – let me move this down a little bit – to this conference, I’m new to this so fascinated by reading beforehand of scope of it. I had no idea.
So, for me, it’s – I came here to learn as much as anything else. I’m also grateful that this isn’t virtual because it’s – you can do a lot of things virtually. Glad they did it last year virtually. It’s not the same. You’re not going to get as much out of it.
Colonel Lara, who introduced me – I don’t know where he is right now – but thanks very much. I saw him in the bar last night. I saw him in the gym this morning. In both cases, I’m pretty much convinced you don’t want to keep up with that guy in either place. (Laughter.) No, not really. I won’t – the CNO and I speak at a lot of – a fair amount of events, only a handful together. Not by design. It’s just two different services. But when we are together we learn from each other. So I’m really grateful we have a chance to be – to listen to each other this morning.
I’ll just offer maybe two things and then I think in benefit of the Q&As which, really, what we’re here for. One is the urgency that Admiral Gilday and I feel we have to move at, the speed. We cannot be comfortable going at a comfortable deliberate pace anymore. I think we could in the past. We cannot do that, going forward. We’re driven by a pacing threat that’s driving us, which we haven’t had before. So the speed, the urgency, to move and move quickly.
And the second thing I’ll highlight, which I think you brought up this morning, we have, I think, maybe unintentionally, put training third or fourth in a list of – in a sequence or a priority. We go after a capability. We figure out how we’re going to structure the force. We buy platforms, and then we turn to the training guy and say, we need a way to train on that.
That’s not going to work, going forward, either, I don’t think. I think training has to get to the front of the line, where before we’re chasing – before we’re looking at a platform, we have to imagine, can we sustain it and can we train on it? If we can’t, then we need to move on to the – to the next option on the table.
And just the third point – I said two but maybe a third point – I think, customarily, traditionally, I grew up thinking of training and simulation as a way to train, as Admiral Gilday said, to a certain level on a platform, on a weapon system, and I think that was good enough because we were our own competition.
But when you’re driven by some – another – an adversary who has pretty similar capabilities, bigger force, perhaps, than you do, then the determining factor is not how good you are on a platform. It’s how you can think. So what I’m trying to learn out of this week is how are we going to be able to train our leaders to think.
The reps and sets on a platform, on a weapon system, are necessary. Beyond that, I think the deciding factor is going to be can we outthink the adversary. So we need to focus on training and simulation force on force, like CNO said, that drives our leaders to think.
REAR ADM. ROBB: OK. Thank you. I appreciate that. I congratulate you both on the Tri-Service Strategy. I think that with the Coast Guard, you all coming together, that’s a very important document. I’ve also read the NAVPLAN, which is sort of the action plan behind that. I wanted to get your thoughts on how we could develop a training strategy that flows from that.
CNO, do you have any thoughts on that?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So in terms of the Tri-Service Strategy, what we try to do is put a focus on integrated maritime operations – integrated maritime force across the three services, not only in the here and now in terms of operations but also in terms of what we invest in and, certainly, how we train.
I think, if I could touch on a point that the commandant made a few minutes ago, the people aspect of this is really important, and when I was mentioning to him this morning, a week ago I was up at Fort Meade, Maryland, and one of the places I visited was the Marine Corps cyber headquarters, and it struck me as I was being briefed on some very technical cyber operations that the team was involved in planning and executing, behind the team on the wall was a quote from Colonel John Boyd of OODA loop and energy maneuverability theory fame, who once said, “People, ideas, and things, in that order,” and I think that’s an important point for us to remember, particularly as the commandant and I were talking about how good it is to be out of the Pentagon this morning.
But in the Pentagon, you really are sited on shiny objects a lot. We run big budgets and big programs, and it’s easy, I think, to the point you’re making, sir, to take your eye off the training – the training piece.
I think we’ve both made training and readiness an absolute priority. In fact, for me, it’s been my first priority since I’ve been in the job. And so we are actually funding new platforms as number three in a prioritization scheme that includes readiness and training and modernization, and then capacity at an affordable level.
I think that the Tri-Service Strategy, I think – but more than more than the Tri-Service Strategy, I think that the way that we’re going to operate in the future, as I mentioned earlier, is going to drive a training continuum that’s centered around the fleet Marine Corps and the Navy fleet as a team.
And I don’t want to go on too much longer except to say that as I go to 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, I’m not meeting with just the 7th Fleet commander. I’m meeting with the commander of III MEF. Their operating concepts are signed by both of those three-star generals. It’s the same thing with 3rd Fleet and I MEF on the West Coast of the United States. And so true integration that’s going to drive how we operate and how we must train.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Commandant?
GEN. BERGER: The strategy that the three of us drafted – I think, when we talk beforehand before we put pen to paper, we assume that we’re going to need an asymmetric approach. In other words, you’re not going to outmuscle, outsize, this pacing threat so you have to have an asymmetric advantage, and the asymmetric advantage that we have is our ability to operate as a team because we have decades of doing that.
OK. So how do we take that to the next level? The way to do that, obviously, is to train together. But the thing – the impediments against that are, I think, what this forum has focused on for the last few years is each one of us has proprietary training systems. Now, we know we need to operate, train together, but they’re proprietary.
How do we fuse? How do we link them together so that the Marines and the Navy elements and the Coast Guard elements, who each have their own – purchase their own proprietary systems, how do we link them together? Because if you’re going to train as a joint force, you can’t have 15 systems out there doing – that aren’t linked together.
So we’re driven by a need to link those systems together and then go farther, and the farther is, OK, that’s great for the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy and Coast Guard to operate together. How are you going to bring in allies and partners? How are we going to bring in the Japanese Self-Defense Force, the Australian Navy, into that kind of collaborative synthetic environment that the CNOs – how do you do that?
The large-scale exercise he spoke of, that was us. We have to get to a part where we’re incorporating allies and partners in the same LVE – how do you do that? Those are things we need help with.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Well, we’re here to help. (Laughter.) So I’m interested, and I’ve always asked especially flag officers because I worked in the Pentagon, as I said, who really is in charge on the OPNAV staff for training? And I don’t – and I never have been able – I get a lot of sort of question marks. Is there something we can do organizationally to sort of refocus this? Just your thoughts.
ADM. GILDAY: So, organizationally, we did stand up the N7 under a three-star officer, and his – one of his primary responsibility is training but also education as well. And so we take a look at not only fleet battle problems and large-scale exercises but also the wargaming that we’re doing, the analytical framework that supports all of that in terms of going back and learning from what we did. And so we actually have an analytic framework that drives most of that.
And I don’t mean to say that we’re a slave to the analytics, but we’re definitely leveraging the data that we’re getting from these exercises to improve our understanding of where we’re deficient, where we’re doing well, what we should probably invest more in, what we probably ought to look at sundowning and reinvest that money somewhere else.
So the short answer is the N7 is the belly button.
REAR ADM. ROBB: OK.
General Berger, do you feel like Marine Corps is organized to balance training and shiny objects?
GEN. BERGER: We do now. Training and education in the Marine Corps up until last year was subordinate to combat development commander and that, I think, worked OK for us. For 30 years, worked fine for us. And underneath them was a training commander – a one-star training commander – and that all seemed to nest well.
What it didn’t do is give it the prioritization that it needed. So last year, training and education commander now is a three-star commander. Training commander is a two-star major general. Their resourcing is equivalent to – manpower is equivalent to combat development. We had to bring them up on the same plateau to make – if you’re going to put the resources behind it your structure has to reflect that. So that’s the adjustment we made last year.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Great. And I’ll continue to track that. You know, this is a lifelong learning session for me as well. I know you both are – you know, believe people are number one in that, and I’ve heard in some of your discussions sort of the idea that we need to train Marines and sailors to think and to act and to not be, you know, necessarily bound by a chain of command. How are you manifesting those kind of ideas within the training system?
ADM. GILDAY: I think it’s broader than the training system. I think the training system is part of it and I think that we need that feedback from the tactical edge from individual operators to give us a better sense on how to mature our warfighting concepts. Otherwise, we’re just drinking our own bathwater, right?
But I think it really is a culture of empowering people to fearlessly communicate up the chain of command. And it doesn’t mean they should go off half-cocked. They need to recognize the chain of command. But they should speak fearlessly up the chain of command. We need that feedback, particularly now, as the commandant said, at a time and a decade when we’re really trying to get after things with a sense of urgency, given the pacing threat that we’re facing.
I think there are good news stories out there. I would point to COVID. There were silver linings during this pandemic. I think part of that that we saw in our services is the individual responsibility that sailors and Marines at a very junior level took to follow protocols to ROM before they deployed, because if they didn’t do that right there’s no way we would have had COVID-free ships, squadrons, and submarines, and we have been deploying during the pandemic at a rate that is at or exceeds our historical norms.
Navy and Marine Corps has been continuing to go, go, go. It’s not because of us. It’s really because of that individual responsibility, and I think we’re both very proud of that and those are the types of signature behaviors, the types of attributes, that we should celebrate. We too often focus on the negative and trying to go after destructive behaviors. And not that we shouldn’t. We need to. But when we see good stuff like that happening, I think that’s a really good sign of the force that we have out there serving the country.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Thank you.
GEN. BERGER: Probably just two challenges come to mind, one on the modeling and simulation front. We envision our adversary thinking and operating and fighting like we would, which is a big mistake. We need, in other words, modeling and simulation that helps bake in how we think the adversary is going to fight, how they’re going to operate, which is not necessarily how we will.
So we need help in this in creating the software, the simulation, that doesn’t replicate us. It replicates the adversary, whether it’s Russia or Iran or whether the PRC, the PLAN. It doesn’t – they are all going to operate differently so we need the fidelity there that allows our practitioners to see, OK, they’re not thinking like we are.
The second part, I think – a second challenge is how – I think to get to the point you’re at where you’re talking how do you drive the leaders to think, it’s force on force against a thinking adversary. But the thinking adversary, of course, is not playing like you’re going to play with your rules and your capabilities like they are.
But how do we, in a live virtual constructive environment, go force on force, true force on force, where I have no idea what you’re going to do this afternoon? We do that now. We have done that historically by you playing red. But your 30 years of background – you can’t separate yourself from how you were trained and how you were brought up.
We need help creating a force on force construct that allows us to train against each other, free thinking but replicating the adversary we want to plug into the model. We don’t have that yet. We need it.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Right. That’s a great point. So a lot of what we’re seeing in terms of transformation of education and training within the services is an idea of trying to train to the individual rather than a block of people and accelerating training for those that can be accelerated, and then remediating, allowing others, you know, to take the time that they need to get through.
How do you think we’re doing on that in terms of putting that into the process of training a session?
GEN. BERGER: We’re moving too slow, and I know I’m being self-critical. We’re moving too slow. But we are moving. I think here’s where we’re learning from academia, as you’re kind of hinting towards, where it’s not maybe truly self-paced but it’s a lot more self-paced than it is – here’s the curriculum, everybody shows up on the same day and everybody graduates on the same day. That’s terribly inefficient.
We’re moving away from that but not fast enough. I think we’re probably farther ahead in aviation than anywhere else, where all three of us could start flight school next Tuesday but we might not all graduate at the same time. We need to do that more and more and more, where the – those Marines, sailors, who can learn at a different faster rate the system will allow them to go at speed, not this lowest common denominator because the curriculum says.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Right.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. I’d just add that – to that point where technology helps is understanding where those deficiencies are so that by the time you put a pilot in a cockpit, right, he can focus on those areas of deficiency and get much more bang for the buck out of that training sortie. And so he’s in the sim as an individual, understanding and, if you will, having a baseball card on himself that self-grades him so that – you know, and we’re not embarrassed at what those grades are. It’s areas that we have to work at to be a better teammate, and then collectively looking how a team would operate. A baseball – you know, a baseball card may be on that force ship, let’s say, or on a squadron of ships.
I think the technology exists to be able to do that, and I think that you begin to take a much deeper look at human performance factors, right? We’re doing that now virtually with EOD sailors – ordnance demolition sailors – that are deployed where we’re putting them in a virtual environment to take a look at their vitals, to take a look at – to, basically, do a mental health check on them and a physical check on them, to do that continuously.
And I’m wondering – you know, I talked earlier about, you know, over the horizon. Potentially, we can look at taking those human factors. How does that affect training? How does that affect this operator’s well-being? Is he or she at their peak to send them out there on a mission? It gives us a better understanding, again, of where you really stand with respect to readiness.
GEN. BERGER: Just one other thing, since you brought it up. We also don’t incentivize anybody to learn faster or learn more. In other words, if we all – let’s say we all graduate from the same course in jet mechanic school on the same day and you get a 92 in your final, you know, whatever cumulative, and mine was a 91 or an 88. It doesn’t matter. Or if we were allowed to train at different speeds and you graduated, let’s say, three weeks before I did, no incentive for you to do that. As services we got to incentivize that kind of learning. But we’re not built for that right now. There is no incentive for you to learn faster or learn more right now.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Well, we’re finding the translation or transition within, say, academia to learning sort of at the time, at point of need, and to go away from sort of the block training of everything you needed to know that you’re going to forget, and try to use the technologies to find where you can find things rather than try to memorize everything.
So we, at least in this community, feel like memorization is, you know –
GEN. BERGER: Gone.
REAR ADM. ROBB: – give that to the AI and then let’s move forward with providing an incentive for people to go learn what they need to learn kind of at the point where they need to have and use it. So there’s – I think there’s tremendous potential there to take a lot of time that we spend doing things to train people, you know, to allow them to forget it, to go to a different cycle, right?
ADM. GILDAY: If I could just make a comment on that. When Secretary Mattis was secretary of defense he challenged the services, and the Navy in particular, to increase our mission capability rates of our Super Hornets, and for a decade we were at 50 percent. And so without lathering it with much money, as you would expect – if somebody directed you to go from 50 (percent) to 80 percent readiness you would expect a senior aviator to come in and say, I’m going to need a lot more money. We said, you’re not going to get any more money. You need to figure out why our maintenance processes are circa 1985 instead of 2020.
One of the things we learned from that – and we’ve been maintaining 80 percent readiness rates of the aircraft for the past two years – is we learned that we weren’t paying enough attention to the proficiency of our maintainers, and instead of just taking a look at, OK, this sailor has been through these schools and they have these codes that identify them as – we fooled ourselves into proficiency, right?
They really weren’t because they weren’t current in, let’s say, an engine change out. They hadn’t – if somebody hadn’t done an engine change out in three years they shouldn’t be running a shop that does engine change outs.
And so we began to come up with an index based on OJT, based on performance, based on currency and quality of work, that we began assigning sailors, and we now have a maintenance index code that’s assigned to a sailor that has driven our assignment distribution process. We find it to be much more effective. We’re trying to scale that to other communities.
But it’s an example, I think, sir, to your point about it can’t just be one and done with respect to the training. There has to be follow on, to the commandant’s point as well, in terms of tracking and staying with it.
REAR ADM. ROBB: So, CNO, I want to shift a little bit to one of your projects that I know you’re high on, and that’s Project Overmatch. Can you give us just a little primer on that? I don’t think a lot of people know what it is.
ADM. GILDAY: Sure. So the real problem statement was that we – we’re ever more connected but we’re limited with – we’re limited in bandwidth out at sea, right? You have more bandwidth in this building than we have on an aircraft carrier, by a long stretch. And so as we invest more in unmanned systems, particularly on the sea and in the air, we’re not going to be able to command and control that number of things, given the network’s framework that we have right now.
So the problem statement began with that in terms of we need to design a better operational architecture, and so the Navy’s effort, which I call Task Force Overmatch, I put a two-star officer in charge of an effort to essentially deliver a software-defined communication as a service framework.
So think of it this way. It is a software-defined network of networks where you can take any piece of data, containerize it, and move it across any network. We’ve done – we’re at the end of our third spiral in a year. It’s going very well. We’re moving with a sense of urgency and speed. But it’s also – the key to this is be able to scale it beyond a Carrier Strike Group, beyond an Amphibious Readiness Group, to the fleet Marine force out there much more broadly.
The Navy’s effort, along with the Marine Corps as a partner, as a very close partner, will deliver the Joint Tactical Grid for the Joint Force that’s actually part of JADC2, or Joint All-Domain Command and Control. In simple terms, if you’re watching a video on your phone as you walk out of this building, your phone is automatically going to shift from some wi-fi network to a network provider out there, 4(G) or 5G. You’re going to continue to watch the video and you’re not going to see any change. That’s where we want to be with our network of networks.
REAR ADM. ROBB: So in the training business, we have a problem where we get this fairly high-end operational network of networks, and how do we go about simulating that in the training environment? Because often they are not allowed to be the same – on the same network. So do you think, like, NCT and things like that are the solution or is there a joint –
ADM. GILDAY: It has to be part of it. As the commandant said up front, the stuff we buy, the stuff we develop, the stuff we’re integrating operationally, it’s got to all come together, whether it’s – whether in a live firing exercise or an actual operation or whether we’re training, and I think it has to somehow come all together. And I don’t think that technically that we won’t be able to integrate the training into what we’re developing with the naval operational architecture.
REAR ADM. ROBB: OK. Otherwise, we’ll end up –
ADM. GILDAY: There’s no way it can be separate. It’s unaffordable. It’s inefficient. It’s probably – it’s just another security issue for us as well.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Right. Right. So –
GEN. BERGER: What it does – I would just follow on. I would say – he and I have talked about this – it also – the value – part of the value of a synthetic training environment is you can do things where you don’t want the adversary to see. So in the Project Overmatch and the larger JADC2 kind of environment we have to bake in ways to train that are resilient because we assume they’re going to go after our networks, and it’ll be in a denied and degraded environment, without being seen.
How do you allow your force to train, fight back through all that, without it being out in the open?
REAR ADM. ROBB: Yeah. That’s a big deal and I think –
GEN. BERGER: It is.
REAR ADM. ROBB: – if you can integrate it up front, which is – you know, that’s critical to us being able to provide the system support – you know, the training system support behind it, which is integration is one of our biggest problems.
ADM. GILDAY: I mean, realistically, we’re challenged in the physical environment to train with fifth-gen aircraft now and, certainly, it’s going to get more complex as we introduce the next generation of carrier air wing over the next several years and so we need to lean on live virtual more and more and more. We can’t have combat be the first place we’re trying out TTPs and new weapons.
You know, the physical ranges just aren’t big enough anymore. There’s encroachment issues everywhere you look. It’s just a fact of life. Even off the coast with wind farms it’s getting – the training environment off the coast of some of our states are becoming more congested.
REAR ADM. ROBB: So if we just sort of pick up on the training range problems and LVC as a potential piece of the solution, General Berger, do you have range issues, I know, and how are you approaching those?
GEN. BERGER: An example. When I was a captain, I was an instructor in Yuma, Arizona, which is where our, like, advanced aviation training place is, and we had electronic emitters, really basic ones, and we had Smokey Sams that simulated surface to air missiles, and that caused air crew to react, right, and they were great. We were great 30 years ago.
Right now, I think we haven’t moved far enough beyond that where we’re trying to figure out what else it is that we should put on the desert floor or wherever our training area is that simulates something like a threat would emit, when what we’re actually looking for is something, in effect, in a cockpit. Does that require a thing on the ground is my point. Do we still have to – or are we still driven in our same construct?
Well, we have to put a machine down there that creates this signal that causes the pilot to do something, when really what we’re after is a visual in a cockpit that causes the pilot to make a decision. Does that really require something on the ground? We are behind in modernizing our ground training systems, surface to air systems. We’re behind.
We know the threat. We’re trying to figure out how do you replicate – how do you create the effect for whoever the training audience is that doesn’t require 500 systems that need to be upgraded every 12 months? How do we do that? In a software-driven world, there’s a way, right? There is a way. The pilot doesn’t need to see the thing on the ground. What he needs –
GEN. BERGER: – is the indicator in his cockpit.
ADM. GILDAY: If I could just add on to that. I think that part of the solution, obviously, is priorities in where we put our money, and as the commandant said before, yeah, we need to train force on force but we also need to come at an adversary in an asymmetric kind of fashion. And I think that we’re not going to outspend the Chinese. We’re not going to, you know, put more ships in the water than they’re going to put in the water.
The bottom line is we can’t have a force bigger than we can sustain and a critical part of that sustainment has to be training. You know, readiness of the force that we have today, which, for the Navy, 70 percent of the ships in the water today we’re going to have 10 years from now. You know, we have to take care of those ships and those sailors, and we have to modernize that equipment as well.
So I think that those are key aspects in terms of priorities that we absolutely have to get right this decade, and we can’t just chase the shiny object and we can’t just buy more hardware.
REAR ADM. ROBB: So I think that the – another key enabler to the human performance assessment and collection and feedback are data strategies, and how do you actually go about converting. I mean, there’s a lot of data that came out of simulators when I was – and it kind of went on the floor somewhere.
But we see tremendous value to being able to do this xAPI to come out, give you an assessment real-time and collect that data over the life of a sailor or a Marine in a profile. That becomes much more granular than the current HR would. Do you have any thoughts on whether we’re moving in that area?
ADM. GILDAY: So, you know, I said up front one of the four Rs that I think we’re looking for in live virtual constructive training is a recording capability. That’s absolutely essential. The commandant can speak to this more deeply. But we saw this at a war game he and I were at in – at the Naval War College two weeks ago. You need that kind of recording capability so we can go back and – for all the reasons that you know too well.
In terms of data strategies, so we’ve got a lot of legacy systems, right, and I mentioned Overmatch and trying to try to leverage those systems in a way that takes us to a new way of communicating, a new way of moving data. So our data strategies are both looking over our shoulder at the systems that we have and the data standards that exist right now, and as you can – as you would expect me to tell you, every one of those data standards for every one of those systems is independent, and then also looking forward to new acquisitions and how a data strategy ties all of that together in a much more holistic way that makes sense and it’s integrated.
I don’t have the answer for you. I don’t have the answer for you up front, except to say that we are working on it. I don’t think that we’re satisfied yet with – I can say we’re not satisfied yet with where we are.
But I also know that the solution isn’t just the services or actually DOD. It’s every one of you sitting out there that has a hand in this. It’s academia as well.
Probably an unsatisfactory answer, Admiral – (laughter) – but it is a challenge. It’s going to be a team effort.
GEN. BERGER: We’re taking lessons learned, an approach that Special Operations Command uses for their baselining of an operator. It’s thorough. It’s more than a week long. In other words, once you’re in that level of a unit then the first step is not to go train. The first step is complete baselining of your human performance and that begins the, to your point, this sort of – this is you and that’s tracked because there’s a huge investment in your training and they’re going to monitor it.
So the level of investment they put in baselining and in monitoring an operator’s performance over time, we can’t afford to replicate that in pure – in the same fashion. But that’s the right model. It strikes me that this morning if you went down to the gym, like, is at the other end of the hotel, right, and they were very proud to tell us yesterday there was, like, two Peloton bikes here. Really proud of that. And I thought when you were asking that question you can get on that Peloton bike this morning here in Orlando, plug in your profile – if you live in Illinois – and continue your training and your whole training for the past three years on Peloton bikes is there.
Why can’t we do that for jet mechanics? Why can’t we do that for any occupation? If Peloton can do it – and you can travel around the world and jump on a bike anywhere and your whole profile, your whole history, is there, and it’s an incentive, a driver, to do better. Why can we not do that? It’s not a high cost, right?
But to your point, if you move from one unit to another you’re going to start all over again –
REAR ADM. ROBB: Start over.
GEN. BERGER: – and your staff NCO is going to say, well, I got to see what you can do. Well, why does he have to see what you can do, right? To your point, there’s a way to capture that.
REAR ADM. ROBB: I think at the OSD level they’ve really caught on to this idea and they were spending a lot of money doing – trying to do data strategies, and a lot of our folks here are involved with that. But it’s the good ideas about going faster, individual profiles. But the data – how do you manage data, how do you put it together, organize it, convince people that it’s safe – you know, that all becomes critical to enabling that idea. So we see that that’s an important thing for us.
GEN. BERGER: That’s all important, but I don’t see anybody hesitating to get on a Peloton bike and worried about maybe somebody else knows my – you know, my human performance profile. It’s cloud based. They’ve figured it out.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Good. So we’ll see what we can do there.
Let me shift to – (laughter) – everybody got a Peloton or something equivalent. Competitive.
Let’s talk about people, and another version of people questions are there’s a lot of competition for a workforce. What we see in this community as well as the technical community and the aviation community, and we communicate routinely with the commercial aviation, that we’re all competing for high-quality folks and a lot of them are technical, and it really has brought forward the idea that we’ve got to go much farther down into the talent pool.
Much of that involves diversity – you know, embracing and seeking, helping, encouraging, resourcing a – you know, the next level or even farther, which talks about and, you know, STEM and we have a big STEM program here. But also, you know, to get your thoughts on what your service – how is that important to your service and, you know, what’s going on in that area.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So I think the Navy and the Marine Corps has the opportunity to be the most diverse services in the Department of Defense and I really think that we’re working hard to change the way we attract and recruit talent, and once we have that talent in our force, the way we manage that talent, the way we cultivate them, the way – we talked a little bit today about training and education in a much more focused manner than we ever have before.
It’s not taking people for granted and it’s valuing that diversity and then, you know, it’s – and it’s not just race and ethnicity. It’s also experience, right, life experiences and being able to value that and to welcome it.
In terms of a competitive workforce, I think that if we don’t embrace diversity by mid-century we’re going to be in real trouble. I’ll say this as the Navy. We’re doing pretty good. We need to do much, much better in order to compete against the – not just the other services in terms of attracting and retaining talent but in terms of the more broader workforce in the United States.
One of the things that we’re taking a look at is where is the talent inside the Navy that we’re not utilizing at the level that we should, and a good example are those that might have the aptitude for cyber work and to give them an aptitude test. We’re not looking for skill levels. We’re looking for the aptitude to do the job.
Another example would be, if I would stick with a highly technical and competitive area like cyber is, we typically in our job descriptions for civilians require a four-year degree in many of those – you know, with a computer science background, and in many of the cases where if we need a hacker on a cyber team those hackers we’ve found don’t really care whether or not they have a degree. They just want to hack.
And so there are a lot of good hackers in community colleges that really don’t care about a four-year degree. So it’s just kind of – you know, it’s kind of taking a different look at the workforce out there, at the demographic, the opportunities that exist and thinking more creatively. We talked a little bit before coming on stage about the value of our online recruiting effort, the value of our Esports teams and educating that demographic about the military. We’re a small percentage of the U.S. population these days, right – 2 million out of 330 million – and so we got to approach it differently.
GEN. BERGER: Acknowledging the trend towards skill sets that we’re going to need in the future that may require some more technical aspects. No question. However, you know, our caution light is always that’s not why people come into the Marine Corps or the Navy, to get a skill. They come into the Marine Corps because of the ethos, because of the culture, because of – there are other things that our recruiters talk to them about before they ever get to a skill set.
We need to anchor on the reasons that Americans come into the military and, more narrowly, the naval services. Why? And not lose – not come adrift from that, but the – not lose our ethos-culture focus. That’s the centerpiece. That’s why they want to join an elite team, right?
That said, I think, as you pointed out or somebody pointed out earlier, they are digital natives anyway. They’re going to pick up skill sets very quickly, I think, faster than we imagined they would. We need to provide them the opportunity to do that, to reinforce that, to allow them, to your point, no matter their background, and to actively, deliberately, intentionally diversify the force because it is demographically shrinking.
That’s not a good sign for our nation. When we’re drawing from a smaller and smaller and smaller portion of our population, not healthy. We need to broaden out. But at the centerpiece, don’t lose sight of why they came into the service in the first point, to join an elite force, to be challenged, to try to become part of a team, something bigger than – those are things that should not – we shouldn’t – we can’t come adrift from at all.
ADM. GILDAY: And that’s why they stay in.
GEN. BERGER: Yeah. It’s why they stay in. They don’t stay in because of an opportunity to go to a course that gets them a certification. They stay in for different reasons.
REAR ADM. ROBB: I think that’s great.
So we only have a couple of minutes left, but I want to ask – we had a congressional panel here with three members yesterday. It was a great session. And we asked them about, you know, what are you all doing in terms of CRs and funding in the government and they sort of gave us a little bit of a circular answer. (Laughter.)
But if you could have one thing for Christmas what would it be, and would it maybe be a budget? (Laughter.)
ADM. GILDAY: Steady and predictable funding is important, not just for us but for all of you out there as well. So there’s a ripple effect with, you know, prohibitions on new starts, and at a time when we’re trying to move at a sense of urgency you can’t.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Yes, sir.
GEN. BERGER: I would agree. This is the life that the CNO and I live, right, is to fight to get the resources that we need. And I used to think that – I used to describe the bad nature of Continuing Resolutions in terms of how much money we wasted. But now I’m thinking more in terms of it’s an erosion of confidence in our system.
GEN. BERGER: If we can’t pass the budget and get things done on time, confidence starts to fall off. Yeah, we’re wasting money because we don’t have a budget on time and we don’t know what our budget is going to – all that is also true. Take another view, a different lens. How do other countries view us? When we can’t pass our budget on time they don’t know – we’re writing a strategy, are we going to get a budget to support the strategy?
So I think the confidence part, I’m learning more and more, is important. Getting a budget done on time so that we know what resources we have to work with matters –
GEN. BERGER: – both within the U.S. but also look from the outside. It’s important.
REAR ADM. ROBB: So, finally, what can we in the training systems community, industry, do for you and then what should we focus on, spend money, IRAD? What can we help to help you help the warfighters?
ADM. GILDAY: Let me just make a plug for entryways into a complicated acquisition system. And, certainly, we have our typical acquisition paths to pursue, but for about two and a half years now we’ve started up this entity called NavalX with their Tech Bridges and we have them across the country. They serve both the Navy and the Marine Corps.
We really try to – we really would invite you, particularly smaller companies, to try that path and to give us your honest feedback on whether or not it’s fruitful. Earlier, I talked about the need with that development operations kind of mindset to be developing stuff with industry while we’re fielding it, right, and I don’t think we get there unless we have an easy entryway.
So that would be my – kind of my closing comment. I really didn’t want to leave the stage without making a plug for NavalX. But we need your feedback on how we can improve it as well. Two and a half years, still learning. Probably not where it needs to be yet but it’s a potential path.
REAR ADM. ROBB: Yes, sir.
GEN. BERGER: I think we need people in this room to hold, like, two different flashlights. One is the kind of headband flashlight that’s right – sees things that are possible right in front of you. But they can’t put down the Maglite that can see way down the road. If we do that, we’re in real trouble. As hard as it is, we need, like, two flashlights in their hands all the time to tell us what’s possible in the next six months. Doable now, move fast, achievable.
But we can’t put the other Maglite in the glove compartment or in the toolbox and say, well, we’ll get that later on. This is the CNO’s point. We need their headlights down the road to tell us what’s in the art of the possible 18, 24, 36 months from now – what is possible – and then work with us. Like he’s saying, pull forward the IRAD. Pull forward the engineers and operators in the same space to get us something two years from now that we’re going to need.
Well, thank you for your time. I hope this is the beginning of a conversation, that, you know, we stay in touch, and I know we are here to help and I think that NDIA and NTSA are a good neutral – you know, we’re not industry. We’re not trying to sell you anything, and we are really made to try to help you solve your problems as well as industry’s problems.
So I can’t thank you enough for being here and I think it’s very impressive.
So please help me thank the CNO and the commandant. (Applause.)
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