ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Hi. Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us and giving us the opportunity to talk about the NAVPLAN for a few minutes with you—perhaps provide a little bit of context beyond the document that answers any questions that you might have.
I came into the job, as you know, in August of ’19. I came into the job fairly quickly, without a transition team and after about 10 years of solid joint service. I initially put out a fragmentary order, or an update, to my predecessor’s standing guidance in December of that year. And just over a year later, in January of ’20, I issued my first NAVPLAN 2021. And I’m following up now in July with this update.
My priorities over the past three years have been consistent in terms of sailors and readiness, modernization, and then capacity -- or size of the fleet -- as my third priority. In terms of this particular update to the NAVPLAN, there are a few things that have transpired over the past year that have certainly informed it. The first and foremost would be the new National Defense Strategy. And so that has caused us to ensure that we’re aligned with the secretary of defense’s priorities of integrated deterrence, and then campaigning, of course, and also focused on key technologies as the means to the end.
Also, the NAVPLAN Integration Framework, or the NIF, is something that has also come into its own in the past year in order to bring this document to life. So it’s not just simply something that sits on a shelf and collects dust, but across 18 lines of effort – of which we prioritized eight of those – it actually puts great focus on them, with each of them having an aim point or a north star that basically has a date – an aim point with respect to a date, as well as substantively what we hope – what we’re aiming to achieve along each of those lines of operation.
And the last thing I’d say is in this particular version I’ve also included a section on force design, which I call Force Design 2045. That’s an aim point that’s out there, obviously in the future, with an eye towards delivering a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned platforms. But it also gives us the opportunity as we’re seeing right now, whether it’s the Middle East with our Task Force 59 under [U.S.] Fifth Fleet or the ongoing experimentation with unmanned during [Exercise Rim of the Pacific] RIMPAC, it gives us the opportunity to accelerate unmanned platforms and associated technologies as well.
In terms of how this document has come together with respect to priorities and aim points, I’d say, first and foremost, it’s been informed by the rise of China, where they’re headed. And so essentially, it’s informed by the path that China and the Chinese Navy are on. Secondly – those developments over the past couple of decades with China – in China – have also informed how the U.S. Navy thinks about how we’re going to operate and potentially fight in a more distributed manner.
So the how are we going to fight has absolutely informed what we need to fight with. And so that manifests itself not only in the 18 lines of effort in the NAVPLAN, but also in the design of the future fleet. I talk about six different force design imperatives that are informed by the challenges that we’ve seen based on the rise of China. And that roadmap to the future fleet is roughly – I would say, roughly divided into three timeframes. And they’re roughly associated with future years’ defense plans, in terms of timelines.
So with that, Courtney, I’ll pause there. And we can go as deep as anybody would like with respect to questions that will be the heart and soul of this next hour.
CMDR. HILLSON: Thank you, sir. First question, Luis Martinez from ABC.
Q: Hi, Courtney. And hi, Admiral. Thanks for doing this.
When you spoke at the top about the update to the plan, did Ukraine factor into that update at all already? I mean, I know the focus is on China, as it was in [NAVPLAN 2021], but what we’ve seen recently with the Russian Navy’s actions inside of Ukraine – has that affected the calculus at all? And there’s kind of a newsy element today that I don’t know if you can touch on, but the Russian defense minister said today that they were going to establish a zone in the Arctic, and what they call the northern sea route, that where any other ships that operates there would require advanced notification by 90 days. I don’t know if you can touch on that. But the real question is, how does Russia factor into this new plan? Thanks.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. Good question. So with respect to what’s happened between Russia and Ukraine and this plan, I will say specifically with respect to kind of four very important lines of effort that we’re keyed in on in terms of how we maneuver, how we shoot, how we defend, and how we resupply. In terms of how we defend, definitely the sinking of the Moskva has my attention in terms of terminal defense, defense of the fleet. And so our investment in next-generation technology with respect to… whether it’s directed energy – in other words, laser weapons – or high-power microwave, what’s happened in the Black Sea has informed my thinking on that particular line of effort and the resources we’re putting against it.
In terms of the Arctic Basin, I’d just say this: I was recently in Iceland. And the reason I went to Iceland, its geostrategic position, of course, at the gateway to the High North as you enter the Arctic Basin. But most people tend to think of Iceland and they tend to think of the transatlantic importance of that nation and how it plays in the NATO alliance in a key way. But with the recession of the polar ice cap and ultimately significant changes in trade routes between, let’s say, Asia and Europe, over the High North and the Arctic Basin, the inclusion of both Sweden and Finland in the alliance, as two of the eight nations, you know, on the basin, fundamentally will change things in the High North.
Just as we’ve seen, to your comment about Russia, I’ve not read the article but if it is true, if that statement is true, it would be akin to the Chinese saying that the – that the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea is their waters and not international waters. And the U.S. Navy will continue to sail, fly, and operate in international waters, as we always have.
CMDR. HILLSON: Up next, Caitlin Kenney, Defense One.
Q: For the force design section, I guess, can you just kind of talk about, like, how that’s really structured? Like, how will we kind of see this kind of play out within the Navy? And then I have a follow up.
ADM. GILDAY: Sure. So if I could – what I typically think of across those three [Future Years Defense Program] FYDP – that three FYDP timeline that I talked about in terms of a path or road map to delivering a hybrid fleet, I tend to think about the undersea, on the sea, in the air. I also think about the human weapon system and what we’re investing in people, as well as information warfare. And so with respect to delivering platforms, I think – I think, if I could use the undersea as a model for the to be in the surface force.
Right now, with a high degree of predictability, looking out almost two decades, we are funding attack submarines in a cadence of two a year, predictably, as well as Columbia, which we’ll deliver in 2028 and during that transition FYDP. And so as I take a look in the undersea, we’re in a good cadence right now, delivering Block IV submarines. We’re on the cusp of delivering Block Vs mid-decade. Then that brings us into the transition timeframe where we’re talking a look at potentially Block VI. We’re then looking at the transition to SSN(X) in the mid-2030s.
With respect to the surface fleet, I would like to get to a place where, with destroyers and frigates as an example, we build the trust and confidence with the – with the defense industrial base, so with those shipbuilders, also with the U.S. Congress, and here in the Pentagon, at [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] OSD, to get in a cadence, let’s say, of two or three DDGs and frigates a year. Which are kind of – which are really important in a force design where, for the surface force, we’re tending towards smaller, yet still multi-mission, platforms.
I’d say we need to – we need to build a cadence as well on logistic ships as we see that the trends in the force design tend to point towards a bigger logistics force, a bigger undersea force. So those are – those are some examples. I hope that’s helpful. If I could just go on for a second on the surface force. So that would lead us to a transition from, let’s say, Flight III DDGs to DDG(X) in the early to mid-2030 timeline. And then, of course, with unmanned, we are in a – this past year, with Task Force 59 and Fifth Fleet, and now the work we’re doing in the Pacific, we have created a DevOps environment that will hopefully accelerate capabilities that we’re delivering to the fleet and get us to a hybrid fleet in a much more accelerated timeline.
And my follow up is on Congress and just trying to get the support – I mean, the plan doesn’t necessarily kind of go into how you go about, like, really going to Congress and to, you know, the White House and saying, look, this is the budget we need, this is, you know, how – our plan. Like, what is kind of your strategy to really make this kind of happen? Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, so this will help lay out our requirements to Congress, right? So it’s important to note that the force design – the force design that appears in this in NAVPLAN ’22 – is consistent with the Battle Force Assessment that I was just required to present to Congress in June, meeting the requirements laid out in the 2022 [National Defense Authorization Act] NDAA. And so that begins a deeper conversation with respect to requirements and, as I mentioned, the path over three FYDPs to deliver.
Now, that’s separate and distinct – let’s separate requirements from the shipbuilding plan. So the shipbuilding plan is further informed by – let’s say if we take a look at alternative three in the shipbuilding plan. It’s informed by the capacity of the defense industrial base as well as the caveat that in order to deliver, let’s say, 355 manned ships in the composition that we’ve laid out in the NAVPLAN in the late 2030s would require 3%-5% real growth in the budget.
Now, if we take a look at the proposed shipbuilding budget for 2030 that’s with the Congress right now, that proposal is over $27 billion. It’s the highest shipbuilding – possibly the highest shipbuilding budget ever, if it’s able to come through. That does put us on – put us on a glide slope. That said, more work to be done with the Hill, particularly with respect to composition of the force, explaining ourselves better with respect to that composition, the “why” behind it.
And the “why” behind the composition and the size is grounded on how we’re going to fight. That’s a classified briefing, but it is – in short, it is our intent to face any adversary with our forces spread out, with our effects masked, across multiple vectors both physically and virtually in all domains from the seabed to space.
CMDR. HILLSON: Megan Eckstein, Defense News.
Q: I wanted to follow up on the last point, Admiral,that you made to Caitlin. Sort of the “why” behind the composition of the force that you lay out. You know, Congress has been pretty willing to give you additional funds for additional ships each year, but it seems like within the OSD process is maybe where things struggle, you know, to get a bigger piece of that pie, if you will. And I wonder if this new document, kind of tying in the updated National Defense Strategy, tying in some of that, you know, integrated deterrence and some of the new buzzwords – I wonder if this maybe moves the needle in any way? Or if you have any expectations that this updated NAVPLAN may change the discussion within OSD?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, thanks. And so I hope that it does. The timing was important for us. I think we’re probably the only service that’s come out with a – with a force design that we feel is stitched with the [National Defense Strategy] NDS in a way that’s pretty apparent. Particularly when we – when the secretary talks about campaigning as the means to the end, the ends being – the ends being integrated deterrence. And so with respect to campaigning, the value of the Navy is a forward presence, right? It is keeping those sea lanes open. It is protecting those slots for the – for the free movement of trade.
I’d also say importantly, with respect to campaigning, that the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps are not just operating in the military lane. We also operate in the economic and we also support the diplomatic. And I think we’re unique in that regard in terms of doing that on a day-to-day basis, in terms of what the expectations are of the nation and pushing us forward. So I think, as the secretary discussed as campaigning, and how that’s intended to not only compete with China in the gray zone, if you will, but also put us in a position of advantage should the nation need us in a pinch quickly. I think it absolutely plays in the new NDS in a powerful way.
Q: Okay. And can I follow up with just one minor point? So you have a Battle Force 2045. And it, obviously, kind of harkens back to Secretary Esper’s 2045 plan. I know there was some debate over whether that was the proper timeline, versus what the Marine Corps is doing with Force Design 2030. And I just wonder kind of what the rational was in looking at, you know, a Force Design 2045 plan, and kind of having that timeline as your north star.
ADM. GILDAY: I think it’s realistic in terms of where we are right now. Let’s just say in terms of capacity and capabilities and where we need to get. I think it’s going to take – I think it’s going to take a couple of decades to get us to yield that hybrid fleet that we think that we ultimately need in order to fight the way we think we want to fight, which is in a distributed manner, leveraging networking like [Joint All-Domain Command and Control] JADC2 and the effort that we have ongoing with Overmatch. All that’s going to take time. I’m being realistic, you know.
You can’t turn the – we don’t have the capacity in the industrial base to pump out that number of ships in a short period of time. So it's going to take – it’s going to take a couple of decades, really, to deliver, to mature the fleet in a manner where you get that composition that you’re looking for over time that gives you the kind of power that you need to fight in a distributed way. It gives you both the volume and the capacity. I mean, unmanned is an important part of this as well. And we’re early in those stages.
CMDR. HILLSON: Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg.
Q: Hi there, Admiral.
I was looking at your document here. Can you address this whole notion of China has a larger navy than the U.S. Navy? To what extent does the plan address that disparity? And is that the proper way to look at it? Isn’t missile – aren’t the missile – number of missile tubes, aren’t those the greater judge of capability than simply ships?
ADM. GILDAY: So I think, in order to look at this holistically, you’ve got to take a look at what we’re bringing to bear. In fact, I can talk about what we’re delivering mid-decade in the 2020s from under – from under, on and above the sea, right? I think you need to consider all of those vectors together. Standing up an Information Warfare Task Group in the Pacific under Admiral Paparo right now. There’s a lot of work going on in that dimension in the classified realm that I can’t talk about.
But under the sea, as I mentioned, we’re delivering Block IVs. Mid-decade we’ll be delivering Block Vs. We’re also delivering an advanced weapon – an advanced torpedo that continues to evolve. We’re also maturing our undersea unmanned. On the sea, at that point in 2026, we’ll be delivering our first frigate. We’re delivering Flight III DDGs. And those will be – those will be significant with respect to firepower and sensing. I’d like to be in a position in the mid-to-late 2020s where we’re deploying a large unmanned with a – with a carrier strike group. And of course, the future idea with large unmanned is that that be a – that that be a missile carrier.
When you take a look at the missiles that we’re investing in from ships with maritime strike, Tomahawk, as an example of advanced weapons, SM-6, as an example. If you take a look at in the air by the mid – by mid-decade, half of our airwings will be fourth-fifth gen integrated. We understand the power of that, just based on the last two deployments we’ve done with F-35s on aircraft carriers. MQ-25 is blazing the way into the next generation airwing. That will be at [initial operational capability] IOC in 2025. The investments we’re making in [long-range anti-ship missile] LRASM and [joint air-to-surface standoff missile, extended range] JASSM-ER, so in other words weapons with range and speed that we’re delivering now – we’re delivering now and will be – will continue in the – through the next FYDP.
So I think those are all examples of things that we’re delivering on now. And so, again, Tony, I think you got to look at those three dimensions. I think that surface [vertical launch system] VLS tubes don’t tell the whole story.
Q: All right, so what’s your timeframe then? The timeframe you laid out, that’s the realistic timeframe for what the Navy could bear against China in Taiwan contingency, that’s the way we should look at this?
ADM. GILDAY: I wouldn’t just look at it against China. I’d look at it against Russia as well in terms of – in terms of what we could bring to bear. So it’s against who – you know, I would look at it with respect to Iran. It is whoever presents a threat that we have to respond to. So China’s the pacing threat, of course. And so they are certainly pacing in terms of what we’re doing.
And, you know, so if you take a look at China, right, the size of the Navy’s tripled over the past couple of decades. They’re expanding their strategic nuclear capability and their capacity. Long-range detection and targeting is no longer a U.S. – the U.S. no longer has a monopoly on that. They have distributed network sensor grids – long-range, unmanned. Weapons – long-range weapons with decreasing signature and increasing speed.
So all of those things together, of course, make them the pacing threat. And then when you take a look at the NAVPLAN, you take a look at those 18 [lines of effort], if I could, just for a second. So, of those 18, there are – there are eight driving – or, really, nine driving priorities. So the priority capabilities are going to be maneuver, shoot, defense, and resupply. And so with respect to maneuver, that’s counter [Command and Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Targeting] C5ISRT. And so that’s essentially blinding the adversary, potentially early in a fight, so we can put ourselves in a position of advantage.
With respect to shoot, I talked about some of the weapons that we’re investing in. I didn’t mention hypersonics. So we’re putting hypersonics first on Zumwalt. We’re also looking at an air delivered hypersonic variant as well. In terms of defense, the investments that we’re making in directed energy – in other words, laser technology – that we’ve deployed already on a ship, and the investments that we continue to make in high-powered microwave so that we can defense the fleet – a distributed fleet – in an affordable kind of way and in an effective way. And the last would be resupply.
So those are four key focus areas for us this decade. And then they are supported by things like cyber, [artificial intelligence] AI, unmanned, networks – so Project Overmatch – and then live virtual constructive training. So those are – you know, when I first wrote the NAVPLAN – or, when we first wrote the NAVPLAN that was released in January ’21, my focus was things that we needed to deliver this decade, we needed to get – we needed to get focused on to either, A, maintain overmatch against a leading threat or, B, close gaps – known gaps against the leading threat. I hope that’s helpful.
Q: That’s very useful. Thank you, sir. Thanks, Courtney.
CMDR. HILLSON: Justin Katz, Breaking Defense.
Q: Hi. So I wanted to follow up on some of the questions that my colleagues have asked about Congress. Earlier today Congressman Mike Gallagher, who as I’m sure you know is a pretty big Navy hawk, put out a statement basically criticizing the Pentagon for kind of shifting the goalposts over the past several months on what the Navy’s fleet should look like in different reports and studies. You know, your NAVPLAN seems to pretty clearly lay out the fleet that you believe the Navy needs in 2045. I’m wondering, what do you say to lawmakers who are going to see this and they’re going to think, you know, is this the plan or am I going to see another study in six months that says, you know, this isn’t right either? Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So here’s what I’d tell you: This is not a perpetual end state. It can’t be, OK? We’re talking about – if this is going to be threat-informed, we have a threat that’s evolving, right, that is gaining with increased capability. Take a look at the experimentation we’re doing. You know, by next year we’ll have a – we’ll have an unmanned fleet of 100 platforms in the Fifth Fleet – in the [Central Command Area of Responsibility] CENTCOM AOR. You look at the experimentation, what you’re doing with surface unmanned, some of them unmanned and minimally manned in RIMPAC right now with respect to separating the sensor and the shooter and doing some phenomenal work that’s informing future investments in those types of platforms.
So based on that experimentation, based on the fact that every time we push a carrier strike group out or an [amphibious readiness group] ARG we’re doing fleet battle problems on the way out, we’re doing fleet battle problems on the way in to test key elements of how we’re going to fight or distributed maritime operations, DMO. So that’s absolutely, on an annual basis, going to inform those assessments in terms of what we need. Now, so if the numbers change, let’s say, from 355 to 370, OK, I still think – you know – we still got a ways to go before we get there. And so take a look at the composition of the fleet that we’re talking about.
In the most recent assessment that I gave to Congress, that’s also reflected in the – in the NAVPLAN, includes the amphibious assessment, the amphib study that we did with the United States Marine Corps earlier this year. This is the study that was directed by the Secretary of the Navy. So those studies are useful in terms of refining and refining those numbers, that end state. But, again, this kind of does support my argument for being realistic about 2045. However, also based on the DevOps kind of environment that we’re establishing here, accelerate where we can accelerate. As we build trust with the Hill, right, see if we can go from two destroyers – and we – and we build capacity in the industrial base – see if we can go to three destroyers a year. See if we can go consistently to two to three frigates a year. So where we can accelerate, accelerate. Does that help?
Q: Yes, sir. And if I could just do a really quick follow up, I’m sure you are aware there’s been quite a bit of reporting around that June report that you gave to Congress. And at least one report indicated that the assessment that was given to Congress did not take into consideration shipyard capacities or, you know, budget constraints. Can you comment on that reporting?
ADM. GILDAY: Sure. So from this office I am providing requirements. This is what I see as warfighting requirements and also requirements to steam forward and provide forward presence on a daily basis in support of those things that I spoke to earlier, with respect to campaigning, as an example. Now, the shipbuilding plan, where you begin to fold in, or factor in, both the capacity of the industrial base as well as what the nation can afford with respect to budget, yeah, those numbers are going to be different. That timeline’s going to change a little bit. But it’s – but the shipbuilding plan is informed by the requirements that we’re generating through my office. Does that help clarify?
Q: Yes, sir. Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: You bet.
CMDR. HILLSON: Up next, Mallory from USNI News. USNI News?
Q: OK. Thank you so much. Sorry.
Admiral, I want to just follow up on your – on the timeline. And I understand 2045 you say is a realistic timeline, given the ability to field technology and the industrial base capacity. What we’ve been hearing… is really that the timeline for China is much quicker. It’s more in the next five to seven years. I wanted to ask, how are you balancing that? And if this is the kind of the fleet you need to … China but you can’t build it till 2045, how do you expect to counter China in this decade?
ADM. GILDAY: So you field the most ready, capable, and lethal fleet that you can. And that’s exactly why our priorities have been readiness, modernization, and capacity, in that order. You can’t have a fleet larger than one you can sustain. If you take a look at my unfunded list, it gives you an indication of, as an example, you take a look at my priorities in that unfunded list. I am trying to maximize the production – the domestic production capacity for weapons with range and speed – JASSM-ER, LRASM, maritime strike Tomahawks, weapons that are going to make a difference out there. Why? So that magazines aboard ships are actually filled with weapons.
Investing in people. So I closed the gaps at sea issue that we’ve been struggling with for a while. Maintenance, as you know, has been my priority for a long time, so that we’re fielding a fleet that is capable and ready. And so the – again, in short, we need, the nation needs, a ready, capable, lethal fleet more than we need a bigger fleet that’s less ready, less capable, and less lethal. I hope that clarifies that dilemma with respect to – you know, you’re not going to snap your fingers and grow a navy of 355 ships by 2027. You’re not going to do it.
Q: Understood. But just to follow up real quick and referencing back to Justin’s question from – you know, if you’re talking to Congress, you know, they’re really concerned about that timeline still.
ADM. GILDAY: So am I.
Q: So if lawmakers came to you –
ADM. GILDAY: So am I. And I’ve never, ever got any pushback on my priorities of readiness, modernization, and capacity, because it’s responsible. It makes sense. But go ahead back to the – there is tension there between – you know, between the tension that you’re speaking to. Go ahead and finish your question.
Q: No, I just wanted to ask what you would say to them, you know, if they came to you, you know, expressing those concerns and, you know, maybe criticizing your timeline. Because, you know, we have seen that tension play out.
ADM. GILDAY: I think I’m being responsible, okay? And so as an example, I talked about where we need to get to with the surface ship line. That’s not going to happen overnight, okay? Industry has to have the capacity to push out two to three DDGs a year. And we have to have confidence in the frigate line before I’m going to get to the point where I’m going to say, hey, I feel completely comfortable about funding two frigates a year. Let’s – or, pushing out two frigates a year on a consistent year-to-year basis. Let’s prove ourselves first. There’s trust that we have to gain with Congress, and we’re working really hard to do that.
If you take a look at the path we’re on to unmanned, I think it speaks directly to that. We’ve completely changed our approach to unmanned. We are not treating unmanned platforms like we are ships or aircraft, as an example, where there’s a 10 to 15 year, let’s say, timeline from drawing board to delivery. That’s why we’re in this DevOps environment right now where we are spinning very quickly to solve key operational problems with unmanned platforms that are directly integrated with AI and software, so we can put capabilities in the hands of warfighters in this FYDP, and accelerate the timeline for delivering larger platforms, like medium unmanned surface vessel and large unmanned surface vessel.
So we’re approaching it differently with respect to unmanned because we know that we need that volume. We know that we need that capacity in order to operate and fight in a distributed manner. In order to – as Tony mentioned, in order to bring more firepower to bear, right? So we’re trying to –I think that we’re being more – while we’re definitely being more evolutionary than we are revolutionary, right? We are being deliberate and responsible, I think, in terms of building trust with the industrial base, to give them stability and predictability in the future, as well as with the Congress. So this is everybody coming together to deliver the fleet of the future. If we can accelerate that 2040 timeline, great. But we need to work on that.
CMDR. HILLSON: Up next Chris Cavas.
Q: So, you know, as you read through this there’s a sense of urgency or even alacrity that this seems to be lacking in the NAVPLAN. And of course, this has been a year of very dramatic change in Europe, and with NATO’s focus. There are a lot of declarations in your outlook that sound very familiar. So what is really different? What can you point to, I mean, specifically, in this plan that you might not have put in if you had signed off on this in January?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So, I mean, if I went through each area, Chris, we’re definitely making gains with respect to readiness and surface ship readiness in terms of driving down delays out of shipyards. We’re absolutely making progress in end-to-end supply chain transparency and cost savings, as well as getting a better understanding of where our vulnerabilities are. In terms of manpower, we have closed the gaps at sea and continue to work on that problem. With respect to capabilities, so we’re on our third or fourth spiral of Overmatch, heading into 2023, when we’re going to scale that capability to a carrier strike group. And that eventually will deliver, I believe, the solution set for a joint tactical link for the joint forces part of JADC2.
I spoke to the fact that we deployed a ship with directed energy and actually did live fires forward in two AORs to test that capability. Counter-C5ISRT, that’s a highly classified area that I can’t speak to on this net, but I would say that we’re absolutely making gains there. Our testing with hypersonics with respect to long-range fires. We still remain on track to put that capability on Zumwalt in ’25 and Block V submarines in 2028. We’re making progress in artificial intelligence, not only in warfighting areas – on our submarines would be one example – but also we’re applying that to other areas, whether it be manpower or supply, to help make us more efficient and more effective.
With respect to unmanned systems, we stood up Task Force 59. We had the largest unmanned exercise in the world in the Fifth Fleet AOR this spring. We just had another one with the Australians a month and a half ago. Right now, we have 30 unmanned platforms operating in RIMPAC. Four of those are surface vessels. So they are directly tied to live fire exercises. So those are some examples of, you know, when you make an assertion that we’re not trying to get after this stuff, the whole point of the NAVPLAN to begin with was to get after stuff in this decade.
You know, and I kind of tie it up at the end with Get Real, Get Better. And the fact that the NAVPLAN isn’t a document that sits on a shelf. What brings it alive is the NAVPLAN Implementation Framework where, if you take a look through the document, Chris, I’ve got supported commanders for every one of these efforts. I have a three-star officer that owns every one of these lines of operation that is driving – that is driving towards a specific north star or end point or goal for each of these. And so every one of these [lines of effort] has an aim point that’s defined in time, with a substantive delivery.
Q: I guess kind of – with respect, can I push back a little bit? This isn’t about people saying you’re not getting after it. But everything you just listed are things that have been in the works. They’re all ongoing efforts. Some of them are going on for quite some time. Nothing wrong with that. That’s not a criticism. The question is, this year has really taken a major jump in how dangerous the world is. People are killing each other right now in combat that shows no signs of diminishing and could easily grow. What is in this – can you point to anything that wouldn’t have been here in January that’s responding to a heightened, dangerous security environment? That’s all.
ADM. GILDAY: So, okay. Well, that’s a bit of a different question then. One example I would give you is terminal defense and the heat we’re putting on that. So if I take a look at what happened at Moskva in the – in the Black Sea, that underscored the need for us to put more resources against defense of the fleet. And so that next generation is definitely going to be defined by, I believe, directed energy and high-power microwaves. What the – none of this stuff just happens overnight, where you snap your fingers and, voila, you have a capability that’s delivered – that’s delivered off the shelf. It does take time.
I think the important thing is, we’re focused on these 18 areas. And if you take a look at our budget submission, you can see – you can see resources that are proposed to the Congress against each of these 18. And why is that important? Specifically for the reason you mentioned, that the world’s a dangerous place. And this helps deliver a more lethal, ready, capable fleet in this decade. Seventy percent of the fleet we’re going to have a decade from now. And so we are trying to make the fleet that we have today as capable and as lethal as it can be, based on not only what you’ve just said but the comments from – related to earlier question that kind of pointed to the China 2027 concern.
Q: All right. Thank you, sir.
CMDR. HILLSON: And, sir, we have time for about one more question.
Politico. Laura, Paul, can you hit star-six and ask your question?
Q: OK, great. I mean, growing the fleet, I wanted to sort of turn to some of the recruiting problems that the Navy and the armed services have had overall. And this has been a question for a while. So if you want to grow, you know, 70-80 ships over the next two decades, how do you recruit more people and keep them in the challenging environment, even if it gets better? How do you – how do you get the people part right?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. I think – I think retaining sailors is a – is a very important effort. And I’ll tell you, we are sighted on just that. So with respect to the – I’d say in the budget, the investments we’re making in quality of life for our families, childcare would be an example. Double-digit additional childcare facilities over the FYDP. With respect to recruiting, as you’re aware, as reporting has kind of underscored, it’s a challenge right now. And so we are looking at – the Navy’s been making – we have been making our numbers.
During COVID, the Navy completely shifted from traditional media, like TV, to 100 percent digital. And so you no longer see any ads on television for the United States Navy. We’ve gone completely digital, including the gaming community, where we make significant advances in terms of outreach to young people who are interested in high technology and kind of some of the attributes that – or, some of the skillsets that they can pursue in the Navy.
We’ve also tried to be a little bit more lenient with respect to our policies on tattoos, as an example. And so we also have a pilot program for single parents, where if you have one or two children older than 12 months old, and you have a childcare plan for them, that we will work with you to find a skillset and a career path that’ll work with you. We have taken a look at prior marijuana use an example, and given more consideration to that policy, which in the past has been zero tolerance.
So there are ways that we are trying to be, you know, more attractive to young people. We key on things like the fact that you can have a really neat job and be part of a winning team. The fact that you can be a leader and the fact that you can serve your country. They’re somewhat appealing to these people. We find less so – they’re less interested in health care plans. And they’re somewhat interested in education plans, but we are – we’re in a competitive environment with respect to education plans because you can work for Starbucks and – or McDonald’s – and they have education plans as well.
So we’re trying to – we are trying to put a big emphasis on doing things a bit different with respect to attracting people into the front door of the Navy, and then retaining them long term. So, you know, I mentioned sailors being an absolute priority for us. We’re changing the way we’re training people with ready, relevant learning. So we’re trying to – we’re trying to make sure that we’re keeping pace with – you know, where one would expect a 21st century force to be.
Q: And overall, how do you think the Pentagon can – you know, as a member of the Joint Chiefs, how do you address the fact that a smaller and smaller pool of young people are even eligible to join, you know, just because of health issues and weight and things like that? And are there (enlargement programs at work ?)?
ADM. GILDAY: So it’s a concern. It’s reality. It’s a competitive environment in terms of – in terms of recruiting, particularly, you know, with a low unemployment rate. This isn’t the first time that we face these challenges. We just can’t rest on our laurels. We have to be more innovative. We have to be more creative. Our outreach has to – has to – improve. We just can’t count on family members of those who have served today. We need to try and break through to new demographics that don’t have any history of service in their family.
So the outreach to gamers is an example of that, where, you know, 10 million hits. Two million of them – 10 million hits, where people have expressed some interest, that have led to a couple of million follow ups with recruiters. And I forget off the top of my head how many – how many enlistment contracts that’s led to, but that has been an area that has been an area that has proven to be useful for us in terms of attracting people. But, you know, it’s an area that continues to evolve. And we have to evolve with it. We can’t just be stagnant in terms of our policies and in terms of our approaches.
CMDR. HILLSON: Thank you very much, sir. That’s all the time we have.
Q: Cortney, it’s Barbara. Would you have time for one more quick question?
CMDR. HILLSON: Yes, Barbara, go ahead. And that’s the final question.
Q: I’m so sorry, Admiral Gilday. Admittedly I dialed in late, so I fear I might be a bit repetitive. But could I ask you to address in this plan, let’s say it all goes into effect, how does this improve the U.S. Navy’s capability against the pacing threat of China compared to the U.S. Navy today, somewhere in that 2027 timeframe that the Chinese have talked about? How does it improve for the U.S. Navy? Thank you, sir.
ADM. GILDAY: So I think if we get the resources that we need, Ms. Starr, what this yields is a larger, more lethal, more capable, better-networked fleet. And so if you take a look at the 18 lines of operation or investment areas that we’re focused on, if you take a look at the path that we could potentially are aspiring to with respect to unmanned and delivering those capabilities on a – on an accelerated basis, I think what this plan ends up yielding is a larger, more capable, ready Navy.
Q: Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: Thanks for your time today, folks.
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