An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

CNO: Defense One, State of the Navy Interview

28 March 2024

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti discusses the State of the Navy with Defense One Executive Editor Brad Bennison, March 22, at the Pentagon.

Brad Peniston: Welcome to Defense One State of the Navy. I'm Brad Peniston, Executive Editor, and I'm delighted to be joined today by Admiral Lisa Franchetti, Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral Franchetti, thank you so much for being here.


Adm. Franchetti: Thanks a lot, Brad. It's great to be here with you today, and let me just say that I am really happy to be able to talk to you about the Navy today. You know, I could not be more proud of our Navy team, or more focused on building the Navy that our Nation needs to do all the missions that they count on us to do every single day.


You know, as you look around the world, we're operating every day from seabed to space and in the information environment, everywhere in between, all around the globe, and I could not be more proud of our Sailors both active and reserve, our civilians and also our families who support all that work around the world. You see our see our ships our aircraft carrier and our aircraft operating today in the Red Sea, supporting and leading Operation Prosperity Guardian, a great coalition of nations that are really standing up for the rules-based international order as we work to preserve the free flow of commerce through the Red Sea through the Bab al-Mandab and on into the Gulf of Aden. We also are in supporting efforts you know, in the unified response to Ukraine, and Russia's horrific invasion of that sovereign nation. I'm proud of our team that's working on that as well. And then you can see us working every day in the Indo-Pacific. You know, we just had the Theodore Roosevelt and the Vinson doing a large deck exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. We have our team with the Marines doing exercises like Balikatan or Iron Fist with firstly the Philippines and then Japan. So again, we're building those partnerships that we need every single day.


I think you also might have seen in January, I put out my priorities of Warfighting, Warfighters, and the Foundation that supports them, and I'm really looking forward to working across the team with all of our stakeholders to be able to do that over the next four years that I'm here as CNO.


Brad Peniston: Well, thank you very much, Admiral. Let's start with warfighting then. And I guess let's start with the Red Sea where unprecedented things have been happening - missile duels between ships, drones attacking us ships. What lessons has the Navy learned so far from that theater of conflict?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, you know, Brad, thanks for asking that question. And again, you know, this is one of those important opportunities that our Navy has to learn and to practice innovation. I would say, you know, as we think about the things that we've seen in Ukraine and how the Ukrainians have been able to innovate on the battlefield, you know, this is a lesson that we take seriously every day. So I'm really proud again of the ships that we see there. You know, they are again supporting the rules-based international order, but as far as lessons go, I would probably talk about two.


So, first of all, you know, way back about nine years ago, we really did a transformation of our surface warfare community training. We set up weapons tactics instructors, learning from our aviation community, on how to bring that tactical edge and experience to the field. Now you see nine years later, as we've set up both those tactics instructors, we've set up reach back to our warfighting centers and to be able to really understand what's going on in the operating environment to be able to adjust tactics, techniques, procedure. And then the training that we've been able to do both across all of our surface platforms, but how they integrate with the carrier strike group and the airwing, and then the Air Force and the joint force, so you can see all of those things coming into play. So again, I think the investments that we made, they are really paying off and those great lessons that we're learning about how to innovate while we're out there in the same battle space.


I think the second one is the real importance of logistics. Again, I've focused a lot especially as 6th Fleet Commander on contested logistics and the need to think creatively about how to resupply our ships that are out there on the pointy end. And we've been able to do that. I think we've learned a lot about logistics as you know, we had to bring some of our ships out of the Red Sea originally, to be able to do some of the logistics things they needed to do but now we've been able to work with allies and partners to be able to do that right on station, and really keep everybody in the fight cycling them off getting their stuff reloaded getting their fruits, vegetables, supplies, all the things that we need to do and be able to stay right there in the battle.


Brad Peniston: Well, I think logistics is an area that doesn't get talked about enough yet. Definitely crucial, of course, to warfighting, and you mentioned reach back and the things that the people back at home are doing. It's got to be a tremendous effort to keep that force supplied in in the fight. What is that doing to readiness and the rest of the force, the surface community and the logistics community?


Adm. Franchetti: Yeah, well, you know, I like to think back to something Secretary Austin said, you know, which is “America is the most powerful nation in the world, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.” And, you know, again, I'm really proud of how our forces are set up across all of our different regions, to be able to respond, and to be able to pull together to provide the resources we need to keep our operations going in each region. So for example, we haven't decremented any of the work that we're doing in the Indo-Pacific, the Atlantic, in the 6th Fleet AOR, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and we're continuing to be able to operate in the Red Sea. So I think it's a real testament to the work that's been done in the past to enable us to do this work now and into the future.


Brad Peniston: Okay, well, speaking to the future and speaking of one of the striking aspects of this particular conflict, it is you know, the Houthis have been throwing relatively cheap drones and we're shooting them down with relatively expensive missiles and it's an imbalance that will only last you know, we can't do it forever. The promise has been that eventually directed energy will give us this kind of cheap magazine that we can use against cheap weapons. But recently the Navy's efforts on directed energy have been it's, it's not so much a focus anymore. Is that something that needs to be changed?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, first, I would say, you know, you can't really put a price tag on the 300 Sailors there on our DDG. So you know, we are postured to do defense in depth. That's what we trained to do. So, we have a lot of different capabilities at a lot of different layers. And again, I'm really proud of how the ships and the strike group out there are defending not only ourselves, but also the merchant ships that are going through the Red Sea.


As far as I would like to say on the different technologies that we need in the future, it really is a focus. And I think if you look now across the joint force of how we're working together to think about all these different technologies and how we can improve, you can think back to Azerbaijan, Armenia, you can look at the war in Ukraine, you see a lot of different unmanned technologies being used, so we know we need to have them. We also know we need to be able to defend against them. And this is a great focus area for me.


I think if you look at we just stood up our Disruptive Capabilities Office looking at you know, what are technologies that are out there that we can quickly scale and get into the hands of the warfighters in terms of things like directed energy or other types of weapons that we might need to have in the future? There's a full court press on in the R&D community to get those found, get them developed and get them out on our ships as quickly as possible. Well, again, working with the joint force, you know, how do we leverage the capabilities of each one of the services to see maybe we could put something that another service has on one of our ships and get that capability employed very quickly?


Brad Peniston: Oh, well, that's interesting. You mentioned unmanned and I would love to talk to you about demand for a little while. Let me just go back to directed energy for one moment, is will it be necessary to increase the Navy's investment in R&D on directed energy or do you think that that you're already doing enough and possible it'll come around the rest of the joint force, you know, something will arrive that will, will fill the bill?


Adm. Franchetti: Yes, you know, we have a laser that we're testing right now. We're going to continue to work on that. But again, we do need to look across all the other services and what they're doing so we can partner together. I think that's going to be the most effective way to get something out as quickly as possible, recognizing that things that we have in the land domain, they may need to be adapted to the maritime domain, similarly maritime domain into the land domain. I think again, great opportunity there.


Brad Peniston: Okay. Well, let's talk more about unmanned then. The Navy is of course, doing lots and lots of stuff with unmanned in in in 4th Fleet and 5th Fleet all around the force. How do you take all of that innovation and, you know, make sure it gets spread around. I mean, you've got to, you know, obviously, you've got to let individual commands have room to run so they can innovate, but once they come up with an idea, how do you get that all through the Navy from, you know, from the operator to the to the acquisition force?


Adm. Franchetti: Yeah, I'm really excited about unmanned technology. I think it can really expand the reach, the lethality of our conventionally manned platforms, and I think during my time as CNO this is going to be an area that we can make real progress in manned, unmanned teaming.


And again, as you talked about, each one of our fleets is doing their own experimentation. So 5th Fleet had taskforce 59 did a lot with maritime domain awareness, we pushed that down into 4th Fleet, some additional work there, you know, PACFLT is doing their own experimentation there. So the really great thing about it is you get all this creativity, all this innovation and all these ideas. But as you said, we do need to knit that all together into a big concept of operations, do some more experimentation on that and then figure out what are the capabilities we're going to really invest in? And again, how do we get them out to the fleet as quickly as possible?


I think if you step back and you think about the interwar period, where in the Navy, we went up to the War College, we had our fleets go out and do the integrated battle problems and then we learned a lot during that period. So I think one of my objectives during this tour, is to really be able to leverage the War College, leverage all that experimentation and then put together those concepts I talked about so we can better understand what are the capabilities we need to get out to the hands of the warfighters as quickly as possible.


Brad Peniston: Okay, there are a couple of rather large unmanned vehicle surface, below underwater vehicle programs that have slowed recently LUSV, MUSV, XLUUV, not moving as quickly as maybe wasn't originally envisioned. Do they need to be sped up? Also in one of the things that we're seeing in Ukraine and other theaters is a move towards smaller drones. The Army recently canceled its recon helicopter because of sort of the greater promise of the smaller drones. Does the Navy need to reconsider how it approaches unmanned systems?


Adm. Franchetti: So I think this is one of those “yes, and,” situations where we do need the larger platforms that we've been developing. And you know, where it does slow down. I think this is pretty complex technology. We want to work with industry to make sure that we can continue to learn and those spaces into that space and be able to have again those platforms that we really are going to need in the future but that's a “yes, and.”


I think we do also need to focus on some of the smaller capabilities and even these disruptive technology capabilities that our Disruptive Capabilities Office is looking at, because I think you're going to need all of those things in the very complex battlefield in the future.


Brad Peniston: So let's talk about one specific situation. Everybody is concerned with the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and you know what the US Navy could do in the Taiwan Strait should something like that occur? Replicator is one thing that the Pentagon has brought up the notion that we need many, many small drones. Admiral Paparo is proposing his idea with again, many, many small drones. Does this true era of the small drones many to many cheaper allow the Navy to think differently about things like the Virginia-class block five, the larger unmanned vehicles, you know, even FA-XX?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, again, I really think this is a “yes, and.” You know, we really have to step back and think about the whole complex battlefield that we're going to be fighting in, alongside the joint force and with our allies and partners. And what are those best capabilities that we need to have both to deter our adversaries, which of course, is job one, you know, to deter them, so we never have to fight a war is you know something that we're very focused on. And then how do we have those capabilities like you talked about to be able to get after any challenge that we face regardless of where it is in the world.


Brad Peniston: “Yes, and,” will probably take more money and we're in a budget, famously in a budget constrained environment. The Navy's recent shipbuilding plans have seemed to pull back on procurement, increase ship retirements, all these sorts of things, because Congress isn't allowing a yes and how do you choose in a resource constrained environment?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, I think any service chiefs has to look pretty hard at all of the things that they need to do. You know, we are designed and our title 10 mission is to provide for combat operations incident to sea and also provide for the peacetime security of the nation. I think in a fiscally constrained environment in this decisive decade, just like Admiral Gilday before me, I'm very focused on readiness, and making sure that we have ready platforms. I've talked a lot about getting more platforms on the field.


Every study since 2016, has said that we need a larger Navy and we do, but we also need a Navy that's ready to be able to do its job. So you know I focus on doing the things that we can do right now. And I am very focused on the database, both for the shipbuilding industrial base for our weapons industrial base, and making sure that we are making the investments that we need to make to be able to speed production to be able to get our ships in and out of maintenance on time. And again, I think that's how we're gonna get more players on the field as quickly as possible.


Brad Peniston: And one more “yes, and,” you've talked about warfighting, you've written about looking at everything with a warfighting lens, but at the same time you talk about things that happen in peacetime protection. Protecting maritime commerce, all the things that the Navy uniquely does, how do you balance the Navy's warfighting role with its role and doing all the other things that the Congress charges the Navy alone with doing?


Adm. Franchetti: Yep, you know, first, as I talked about earlier, being a global force is very important to us. And being forward is very important to us. And that always gives us an opportunity to provide a lot of different options to the Secretary of Defense and of course, to the President, to use us as a lever, as a tool in the tool bag for whatever our nation needs us to do to support our national security interests.


But as far as training goes, I mean, our job again, is to provide for combat operations. So as we look at our training objectives and the things we need to do, both with the Marine Corps, with the joint force and with our Allies and partners, I think when we focus on the high-end fight, that's what we need to do first. And I think we can also do the peacetime missions, the national security missions, as a subset of those based on the training that we're already doing sort of through the building block approach from unit level training, to integrated training to strike group training to big joint exercises. I think that prepares us really to do any mission we're asked to do.


Brad Peniston: Okay, you also mentioned readiness as a big focus and a lot of a lot of people talk about sort of the life of a ship or a unit as being a bathtub. You get ready and your way up here. And then you come back from your deployment and then you your readiness slumps, and then you spend some time down there and eventually you start working your way back up. Your predecessor focused a lot on the shipyards as a key driver of just how low that bathtub was and how much effort it took to get out of it again. What trends do you look at when you see readiness and think about this bathtub is you know what, what needs to what needs to be better?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, I would probably say two things, and I don't really look at as a bathtub.


Brad Peniston: Okay.


Adm. Franchetti: Because we do really want our forces to be ready. We want our Sailors to be trained and ready to do their jobs whenever they're called to do them. Recognizing maintenance is a mission. Just like deployment is a mission. I think that's the first thing that we need to do, which is to really define those work packages, get our ships modernized, get the maintenance, get them back out there as quickly as possible and we do need to be able to do that.


I think the second piece is something that's new really, since I was a junior officer, is the amount of simulation that we have available to our Sailors to be able to continue to do their training. And there's been a lot of investments in live, virtual, constructive training of individual simulators. So people can even when they're in a maintenance period, go over and maintain some of their professional skills, their team skills, and I think that that will help us sustain that professional warfighting edge. When people are in a maintenance availability. Of course we have plenty of opportunities for people to cross deck, you know, from a ship in the maintenance availability and get them out operational and learning and bring that expertise back into their ships, or submarines, or in their squadrons.


Brad Peniston: Okay, well let's talk about people then. The Navy is doing well on retention, not doing so well with recruiting you know, certainly is not a thing that’s unique to the Navy. There are a couple of initiatives that have been introduced over the past couple of years to address the recruiting challenges. You know, what's  coming up next. You know, what, how do you how do you address the challenge,


Adm. Franchetti: Well first, I have to say I'm really happy about our retention. We are doing well in retention, but it is something [you can’t take] for granted. And you know, we know that our people are our secret weapon. They're our most important resource. And I'm very focused on making sure that they have a great quality of service that's kind of a combination of a quality of life, plus a combination of quality of work.


And we've put together a cross functional team of all stakeholders. Led really by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations reporting to myself and the Secretary of the Navy to really do a deep dive on what is it that people need to be able to have all the resources they need both at work. To be able to have a good work life, but also have that same quality of service that they really appreciate?


So we've taken a lot of initiatives. I've put 100% funding in the sustainment of our barracks, I'm very focused on making sure people have a quality place to live. I'm also putting 100% into our gyms and fitness facilities and we've also made them available 24 hours a day again, because we know people like to get out and work out to take care of themselves and recharge their batteries. We also know that Wi-Fi is really a necessity today and we want to try to make Wi-Fi accessible to everyone. So we have started a Wi-Fi pilot in some of our barracks so we can see what type of service is best for our Sailors, and how can we provide that to them as a utility.


When you think about barracks life too, people will really want to have access to high quality food, and we're making sure that now they can cook in their rooms, which is a new thing for us, as well as have access to kitchen and equipment. So again, people want to be able to take care of themselves.


We know another priority item for a lot of our Sailors is childcare and high quality childcare. So we've made a lot of improvements in our ability to provide that childcare. We've invested in a lot of new CDCs -you'll see them in our budget, but more importantly than just the new facilities, we are making sure that we have trained a high quality staff to be able to man those facilities. So we've taken some steps over the last year to make sure that we attract people who want to work in our CDCs by paying them at least as much as they're getting paid in the outside area, or providing discounts for them for their own children to be able to be in the CDC while they're working, and also making sure that they have an incentive structure to stay with us that they can work in one CDC but if they transfer to another area, they'll be able to get a job and another one. So again, these are some of the things we're doing to help support our Sailors have better quality of life, better quality of work, and stay on our Navy team.


On the recruiting front. This is the one thing that I'm very, very focused on beyond maintenance. And getting more players on the field is about the players on the field that are our people. You know, we got 6,000 more Sailors recruited last year in 2023 than we did in 2022. So that was actually moving in a positive direction, and the trends we're seeing this year are continuing to move in a positive direction. And we need to continue to pull every single lever available to us so the people know what their Navy is doing for them every day. Getting them to see that they could be part of our team and their son or daughter, or the person that they coach would be a good fit for our team. So I'm excited to be able to tell that story and I think our Sailors do that best themselves.


But we have put in place a lot of different initiatives to be able to expand the pool of people who are eligible to join the team and as long as they meet our high standards and our qualifications that we require. I'm excited to have them there. But you could think of things like, how old are you? Are you 42? So, if you were up to your 42nd birthday, you could still join our Navy team. So that is bringing in more people.


We've also taken a page from the Army and we've stood up our Future Sailor Preparatory Courses, both for physical fitness and for academics. And physical fitness one has basically seen 100% of those Sailors go on to complete boot camp successfully meeting all of our standards. The academic one is designed to give them some more skills in math and in English, so they can perhaps pursue a lot of different rating choices in our Navy by raising their test scores. So that's another great opportunity.


I think another one is we are taking people that do not have a high school diploma or a GED but have an AFQT score of 50. And again, so they meet that requirement, a very high standard requirement, but for whatever reason they weren't able to finish high school or get a GED. And we're really excited about bringing those folks onto the team as well.


I think another piece not just on the initiative side, but some things that we've done internally. We've just put a two-star flag officer, or about to put a two-star flag officer in charge of recruiting. Someone very experienced, who's gonna bring an enterprise look across the entire recruiting nation to better understand what's going on in our small, medium and large centers, and how we can flow resources differently to help our recruiters meet their goals for their month. The other one is making sure we have enough recruiters out there. Those are also players on the field. We put a lot of those players out on our ships, and now we're pushing them back out into the field and we're really excited about the opportunity that's gonna give us to get more reach. And really, there's talent in every zip code. How are we getting to every zip code? How are we using our Fleet Weeks, our executive engagements to tell people about our story so they can see themselves in our team?


Brad Peniston: Must be a difficult choice to figure out whether the Sailor is on the ship doing his or her job, or out there trying to bring in more Sailors?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, you know, if we don't have the Sailors to bring in, we're not going to have the Sailors on the ships that we need. So I think that has to be job one, bringing in the best talent for our team every day.


Brad Peniston: All right, I think we have just a few more minutes. Its budget season, the 30-year shipbuilding plan just came out. You're obviously fairly new on the job and so much of the planning for that 30-year plan was already in place by the time it came up. Is there anything you'd like to highlight from that, and also given your warfighting focus? What do you think the 30-year plan will be like through the rest of your year of your tour?


Adm. Franchetti: Again, you know, this shipbuilding plan is our vision of how we're going to get after that larger Navy, you know, that we need over time. It is a recognition that there are really tough choices to be made with a budget that we have with this Fiscal Responsibility Act. And, you know, I think it represents a good budget, good shipbuilding plan to get after that. I think during my tenure, my job is going to be to really invest heavily in our defense industrial base, in our weapons industrial base. Really working with ship building industry on workforce development, on getting the long lead time materials they need, on having the infrastructure they need to be able to really speed up production. That will help us procure more ships, more submarines, and everything else we need in the future.


Brad Peniston: So on the topic of defense industrial base, one way to invest is to buy ships and subs. Do you have other things in mind?


Adm. Franchetti: Oh, you know, we're making a lot of investments in the submarine industrial base. We also have our shipyard infrastructure optimization program going and again, as I talked about foundation, these are things that we really need to invest in the foundation of our American shipbuilding arsenal to be able to produce those ships and submarines that we need, on a pace at which we need them.


So submarines are one of our most important critical advantages that we have and we are really investing heavily. First, we're investing in the Columbia-class submarine, the most survivable leg of our nuclear deterrent capability. We want to produce one Columbia submarine per year, plus 2.33 Virginia-class submarines a year and this will really get us up to the number of submarines that we want to have as well as support our commitments under the AUKUS agreement. So we're really excited about the opportunity to work with Australia, the UK and ourselves to uplift the submarine industrial bases of all three countries, as well as develop other capabilities that we can share together. So, as far as the submarine industrial base goes, we're making extensive investments working alongside industry to develop the workforce, provide training and certification programs, also to support infrastructure changes that will help them help us get our submarines out onto the field much faster.


Brad Peniston: So it's easier to keep a good workforce than it is to build a good workforce. And so I'm thinking about the carriers. I believe the Navy's most recent plan adds time between the furthest two out carriers and that doesn't sound like a recipe for easily keeping a workforce. Will the Navy be able to bring that back? Or is that where you think it should go?


Adm. Franchetti: Well, you know, again, these are some of these hard choices that we need to make. And I'm committed to working with the Administration, with our Secretary of Defense, with industry partners, to understand how to best put that together. You know, I think you know the budget that we also provided some advanced procurement for that. So we're going to be able to keep the smaller suppliers in the game. And we know that that's a concern on industry's part. And again, we want to get after that.


Brad Peniston: All right, well, Admiral Franchetti thank you for sharing your time and your thoughts with us today. Everybody, thank you for joining us. Please stay tuned for the rest of the State of the Navy. Next up is going to be Patrick Tucker talking to the commander of the US Navy's 4th fleet.


Google Translation Disclaimer

Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon