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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday spoke with media after delivering remarks during the 2023 Surface Navy Association in Washington DC, Jan. 10.
Below is a transcript of the engagement. (Moderated by Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, Public Affairs Officer to the Chief of Naval Operations)
CDR HILLSON: We have about 10-15 minutes. So we'll start with one question one follow up and then as time permits we will start with more questions.
REPORTER: Would like to clarify, when you were talking about DDG(X), SSN(X), Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD). I got the order as NGAD, DDG(X) and then SSN(X) is kind of the path that you're looking at.
ADM GILDAY: Yes. So yes, sequentially, but there's a parallel nature to that as well as you would imagine, in terms of how you how you build out those capabilities and the platforms, those platforms specifically. So yeah, it is cascading into the 2030s. Kind of…
REPORTER: So, just as a follow up for that DDG(X). Where does that fit into that, and how, how does that change, like fit in a multi-year deal that Congress put into the 23 bill?
GILDAY: So I think the multi-year, multiyear gives us more flexibility. As I said, up on stage, I think we really need to get stability in the DDG flight III line. And that'll help us I think, inform the transition timeline in the DDG(X). What I don't want to do as long as I'm in this job is to introduce is to introduce a new platform too quickly. That transition plan, in other words, needs to be graceful.
REPORTER: You mentioned that there was a Taiwan Strait transit in the last 24 hours. What's your plan? What's your vision for 24/23 in terms of pace, those kind of transits?
GILDAY: So the Fleet Commander, actually the INDOPACOM Commander really, really is driving that type of that type of tempo. We're just supplying the ship for him to do that.
REPORTER: Can you maybe address, you expressed a little bit of frustration on submarine shipbuilding to 1 to 2 a year? What’s your sense with Columbia still in development and just beginning production, what are major risks there?
GILDAY: So I'm optimistic with Columbia, that we're gonna stay on pace. We absolutely have to. So a lot of the submarine platforms that we're building, Columbia is the priority. So that the timing of Columbia is critically important to get those ships delivered by the first one by 2028 and around the 2030 I think and then into the first patrol.
REPORTER: When you said Taiwan Strait Transit you said [during SNA panel discussion] last 24 hours …
REPROTER: …it was five days ago?
GILDAY: Yeah. That's what I was referring to. [EDIT: referencing recent transit by USS Chung-Hoon]
REPORTER: Thanks for clarifying.
We hear while you're talking about a difficult situation, confrontation we hear a lot of stories. A little bit. I'm sure if the situation is pretty, still semiprofessional, professional. Situation in the air is a totally different thing. When are you're going to start to embark media to show what goes on a regular basis, the radio traffic, the sort of…
GILDAY: I will tell you that the vast preponderance of our engagements with the Russians with with the Chinese are safe and professional. I'll just say that on the sea and above the sea, safe and professional for the most part. We'll have to get back to you on the embed on the Embed policy. I'm not I don't have the details on that at the moment.
REPORTER: You have the Miguel Keith out doing some interesting ops right now. We are in [inaudible] waters in the South China Sea...
GILDAY: So I will say this, I have been a fan and proponent of embeds and transparency. I think I in fact, I took your criticism to heart when we weren't doing embeds on Ford and you wrote about that. And we took action on that.
REPORTER: And it worked out pretty well.
GILDAY: And it worked out very well for all of us. And so especially for the Navy, so I owe you, we owe you a better answer on this, we'll get an answer on that and we'll get back to you.
REPORTER: You've talked a lot about capacity the last few months. And today when you were talking about capacity, it sounded like you were talking really about the US Navy's capacity to maintain its ships. But there's also been discussion about what is the industrial base capacity. So how do you view capacity for both the Navy for maintenance and for capacity to build industries capacity to build ships.
GILDAY: So we have what we have with respect to new construction shipyards right. As I mentioned, we have the seven and I think we need to keep them as, we need to keep them at max capacity. It goes back to you know we have an aging fleet. Right. And it's time to reinvest the United States Navy, a larger, more capable, more lethal fleet. And so I think that Congress is sending a very good message with respect to our shipbuilding budgets, in terms of where we need to go to keep those shipyards at that max capacity. And as I as I explained up on stage, conversely, in the repair side, I think that if we get if we can have a steady, reliable, predictable estimate of what we need to build, it gives us a better understanding of what that battle force is going to look like in total, as we retire ships on time and that gives the repair side better insights in terms of what capacity is required. Right now there has been as I described a bit uneven based on based on top line fluctuation, and just
REPORTER: A quick follow up. So how do you see capacity, do you think the industrial base is at capacity right now for shipbuilding? Or do you think there's more that they can squeeze in?
GILDAY: So that that's a question that only they can answer. So all I can tell you is right now, I see them a little bit behind on some of our production lines. And so they would tell you is, I think that they have to some of you, that they can do more and so my message to them is proven.
Admiral, you sent Congress your 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan last year, it was a bit nontraditional. You have these three pathways. They've given you their NDAA, they've given you the approach so you know what their response is. My question for you is, do you feel that they have given you clear direction on which pathway they want to go down?
REPORTER: As a quick follow up, you know, you're building your FY or you're about to send your FY 24 budget, and you're about to start working on the 25 POM. You know, how does that respond? How does their response influence?
GILDAY: So the Congress has been very bullish on shipbuilding? I think they've been very clear in terms of what their expectations are. If I would take their messaging with respect to the 31 and a half billion right above 4 billion above what we asked for in the budget proposal. So I would put that into alternative three that shift, which, which requires 3-5% in terms of put us on a better a healthier glide slope to get to the 355.
REPORTER: You spoke very pointedly about suicide. And how that keeps you up at night. It reminded me of Admiral [Rear Adm.] Meier’s (Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic) remarks in the GW [USS George Washington] report where sort of his letter he talks about from his perspective, senior officers sometimes forget what it's like to be a junior sailor, and kind of hit a bit of a cultural problem within the officer corps. Do you, can you speak to that a little bit about that?
GILDAY: So one of the things we're taking a look at right now as a result of what happened on GW. One of the sprint's we have within Get Real Get Better is to take a look at quality of service, especially in the shipyards and especially on aircraft carriers. And so I would say that the Secretary of the Navy is very interested in the final investigation on GW that lays out in more detail what investments we should make to improve things.
REPROTER: Any chance you can preview or reveal anything [the invesitagtion]?
GILDAY: No, I can't.
HILLSON: Megan, next please.
REPORTER: You've spoken about prioritizing readiness and your budgets for the past couple of years. Here at this conference. We've heard new ideas of what readiness is the 75 mission capable ships or spare parts. And I just wonder I imagine that readiness will continue to be a priority but are there any examples of maybe how your readiness spending is shifting or evolving kind of as you work clearly define your goals.
GILDAY: Yeah, I think one of the best examples if you take a look at the unfunded requirements list that I submitted to the Hill [FY23], so that's a reflection of things that we just you know, that I felt that we really needed, but just couldn't get into the budget. And so the preponderance of that list are things like spare parts and informed by -- directly informed by where we have where we have problems out the fleet or where we need help out in the fleet… weapons and so weapons with range and speed of nearly every type. The message that I'm trying to send there is not only my trying to fill magazines with weapons, but I'm trying to put us production lines at their maximum level right now. And to try and maintain that set of headlights in subsequent budgets so that we continue to produce those weapons. Its one thing we've seen in Ukraine, and that I think is, is that the expenditure of those high end weapons in conflict could be higher than we than we anticipate.
REPROTER: And I know you can't get into the [FY]24 requests, but just in broad strokes that was all in the unfunded list. I mean, can we expect to see that more prioritized in the actual budget request to see or kind of how are you kind of racking and stacking the readiness spending?
GILDAY: Yeah, so we won't we will not see, we will not see a change in priorities. So I am highly confident that readiness, modernization, and capacity is going to continue to be my focus, and in that order. Because we have to be ready to fight tonight for all the reasons that you know, and I can't wish away that responsibility to feel the most ready capable fleet we can every day. So that's what's that's what's really driving it. And holidays that we've taken in maintenance as an example, years ago, that we are still paying for. Right? Ships we didn't put in drydock that we should have put in drydock. And, and so, you know, although I didn't speak about it, in detail up on stage that also that deferred maintenance, is also part of the catch up game or in and as you know, you let those problems fester and they become more complicated.
HILLSON: Christopher, please.
REPORTER: In May of last year, I think you told lawmakers that the US (inaudible) continues operating in the arctic, routinely since the war in Ukraine, wonder if you expect that base of operations to continue?
GILDAY: Yeah, I think I think it will, I think are and I think that I think it has to so if we take a look at Sweden and Finland as an example -- on the verge of joining the Alliance, as we relook Iceland strategic geostrategic position, right now we no longer just think of transatlantic security concerns. We now begin to think about transpolar. Right. And that over time, the trade, the trade routes between Asia and Europe are going to fundamentally change and so that's going to drive because the Navy does what it does in terms of keeping, keeping the sea lanes open, ensuring that trade can flow freely -- both goods and information under and on the see, I think you're gonna see more NATO activity up there joint activity up there in the arctic.
REPORTER: Arctic operations in terms of (inaudible)?
GILDAY: Yeah, that's a good question. So I think we continue to learn about what kit we need to operate up there. We have a pretty good sense. So I don't see any huge changes in terms of what we need on our ships right now to be able to operate in that environment. But the more we operate up there, the more we learn and improve
REPORTER: Your message to industry today was to pick up the pace, what incentives can the Navy offer the shipyards to get more stability?
GILDAY: I think the Congress just did. And so you know, as an example, Bath and HII are not producing a combined rate of three DDGs a year. The 23 budget gave them funding for three DDGs a year, so that's a bellwether for them and a new target to aim for. And I'm really anxious for them to aim for it and go for it. So that's why my you know my comment, prove it. So you got the money. So let's go to after it.
REPROTER: Bath can’t get one a year.
GILDAY: But I'm optimistic so, so as I mentioned, as I mentioned as part of the Q&A. Bath is now is now finished with the Zumwalt’s and they are solely focused on DDGs. So we get that single line, which will, in the not too near distant future be just flight three DDGs. At the same time, both HII and Bath are helping us with the DDG(X) design. Right and so what we've learned from previous shipbuilding lines is that we've had our greatest success when Navy's had the lead informed by industry. So we're working very closely with them right now. So we get that right. And that also means getting that transition plan and right from flight threes to DDG(X).
REPORTER: You talked about probably getting four more XL UUVs in 2024. To clarify that's on top of the five currently in the program.
GILDAY: No that's that that's inclusive. So one, one and 23 and four and 24.
REPORTER: How confident are you that the Navy will get past the budgetary and timeline issues in the GAO report last year?
GILDAY: I have to go back and take a look at each one of those. To be honest with you, I'd have to re familiarize myself in order to provide you a specific answer on that.
HILLSON: Diana, did you have a question?
HILLSON: Did I miss anyone? All right everyone, thanks for your time.
REPORTERS: Thank you. Thank you, sir.
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