Below is a transcript of his remarks:
VICE ADMIRAL RICHARD W. HUNT (RET.): Admiral Mike Gilday is the son of a Navy sailor. A surface warfare officer, he is a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He holds master’s degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School and the National War College. At sea, he deployed in Chandler, Princeton, and Gettysburg. He commanded destroyers USS Higgins and USS Benfold, and subsequently commanded Destroyer Squadron Seven, serving as sea combat commander for the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. As a flag officer, he served as commander of Carrier Strike Group Eight, he embarked aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
And as commander U.S. Fleet Cyber Command in U.S. 10th Fleet. His staff assignments include Bureau of Naval Personnel and Navy Staff. Joint assignments include executive assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and naval aide to the United States president. As flag officer, he served in joint positions as director of operations for NATO’s Joint Force Command, Lisbon, as chief of staff for Naval Striking and Support Forces, NATO, director of operations for U.S. Cyber Command, and director of operations for the Joint Staff. He served as the director of Joint Staff.
An outstanding surface warfare officer, an exceptional joint experience, and a true cyber leader, our 32nd Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Gilday. Admiral, welcome and over to you.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Rick, thanks so much for the introduction and for giving me the opportunity to kick off this year’s symposium of the greatest surface navy in the world. I still believe, and I’m a bit biased here, but I still believe that the United States Navy is the nation’s most versatile and persistent instrument of military influence. And I carry that thought into work every single day.
I’m honored to be speaking to you today from Naples, Italy, along the historic Mediterranean Sea, a body of water that our Navy has proudly sailed for hundreds of years. And I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today – our flag and general officers, our partners in industry, our government leaders, and our international allies and partners. This year has truly demonstrated the power of those partnerships at every level. And we’re honored to sail with all of you.
If I could just ask, Admiral Hunt, can you still – am I still transmitting? (Pause.) All right, I apologize for the – for the slight delay. It wasn’t apparent to me that I’m still transmitting to all of you, but I just got a thumbs up that I am, so I’ll continue.
I want to thank the Surface Navy Association. I am member 484, a proud lifetime member of this organization. Thanks to Bill Erickson, and Julie Howard, and the rest of the team for making this week happen. We all know that it wasn’t easy. But most of all, I’d like to welcome the true source of naval power to this symposium, the sailors and the Marines joining us today from around the fleet.
This has been a year unlike any other. It’s required us to take extraordinary measures, adapt, and to lean in and support each other. Through it all, you – our sailors and Marines – answered the call when America needed you most. I’m inspired by what you do every day. You have my thanks. And your families do too. They’ve demonstrated grace and resilience every single day. Holding our lives together when we are underway is tough. And they did it during this global pandemic. I am grateful for their service too.
Forums like this are really important. They give us an opportunity to glance at our wake, discuss the challenges ahead of us, and refresh our common purpose to protect America and to defend our way of life. Today I’m proud to announce the release of a new navigation plan. It builds off the progress that we made under the FRAGO over the past year and lays out what I think we must do in this decade ahead to deliver the naval power that America needs to compete and to win.
Why do we need naval power? Well, America is and always will be a maritime nation. Our geography, combined with an intricate system of trade on the oceans, sustains our way of life. And decisive naval power underpins every bit of that. Since the end of World War II, the United States, alongside our allies and partners, have upheld the rules-based order at sea. This order guarantees the free flow of shipping and information across the globe.
Today, as all of you know, 90 percent of global trade travels by sea, facilitating $5.4 trillion in American commerce annually and supporting 31 million American jobs. And 95 percent of the global internet traffic travels along undersea cables, fueling our digital economy and accounting for $10 trillion in financial transactions every day. Our dependence on the seas is only growing with the surge in offshore energy exploration, a global goldrush in deep-sea mining, and new trading routes opening up in the Arctic. Now more than ever, our lives and our livelihoods literally float on seawater.
But now this order and our collective security is under threat. Today China and Russia are undermining the free and the open conditions at sea. Optimism that they might become responsible partners has given way to the realization that they are determined rivals. Both unlawfully claim sea-based resources outside their home waters. Both nations intimidate their neighbors with the threat of force. Both have constructed networks of sensors and long-range missiles to hold important waterways at risk. And now both are attempting to turn incremental gains into long-term advantages.
China, with its aggressive military growth, expanding economy, and demonstrated intent to challenge international norms, is the most pressing and long-term strategic threat to the United States. For our part, we must deliver the naval power the nation needs. There is no time to waste. Our actions in this decade, I believe, will likely set the maritime balance of power for the rest of the century.
Ultimately, the strength of our Navy is measured by our ability to control the seas and to project power. Those missions are timeless. And for 245 years, our Navy has carried them out to protect America, to deter aggression, and to preserve freedom of the seas. And while America’s need for sea control and power projection has never changed, how we compete and what we compete with has changed.
The playing field today is vastly different from those days when Admiral Kitchener and I set sail as ensigns. Emerging technologies have expanded the fight at sea into every domain and have made contested spaces more dangerous. Persistent sensors, advanced battle networks and weapons of increasing range and speed highlight the need for dispersion. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning require faster decision making in combat. The navy that incorporates these technologies first and adapts the way we fight will have a critical advantage.
So the challenge before us is clear. For America to retain command of the seas, we must maintain a clear-eyed resolve to compete, to deter, and to win today, while we accelerate the development of a larger, more capable future fleet. My navigation plan outlines how we will grow our naval power to control the seas and project power across all domains, now and into the future. We will do it by focusing our efforts across four key areas – readiness, capabilities, capacity, and our sailors.
Readiness: Mission one for every sailor remains a ready Navy, a Navy ready to compete today and a Navy ready to compete tomorrow. A focus on readiness acknowledges the reality that what we build has service lives that are measured in decades. We have made tremendous progress over the past 17 months on improving ship and aircraft maintenance. But we can, and we must, and we better, improve. We are expanding the use of data-driven reforms to reduce delays and get our ships and aircraft back to sea on time. Expertly taking care of our platforms is part of who we are. It is in our DNA. We have to own it.
We will also have to make strategic investments in critical readiness infrastructure – our public shipyards, our aviation depos, our global networks, and bases in place are our readiness engines. They are long overdue for restoration and remain a focus of mine. Readiness also means fielding forces that re masters of all domain fleet operations. Fully integrating information warfare, space, cyber and special operation unleashes the full power of our Navy. By executing our series of experiments, fleet battle problems and exercises – like Large Scale Exercise 2021 – we will better refine those warfighting concepts.
This cycle of learning trains our sailors for high-end warfighting and drives updated joint and combined naval concepts, fleet requirements, and future naval capabilities. And by continuing to sail and fly with likeminded navies from the high north to the Western Pacific, we will demonstrate our collective resolve to keep the seas free and open for all. This includes combined operations like the international maritime security construct in the Middle East and in multinational exercises like the Rim of the Pacific, Malabar, and Sea Breeze.
Capabilities: As we organize, train, and equip today’s Navy we must modernize our capabilities faster than our rivals and make divestments that do not bring sufficient lethality to the fight. In the near-term fight, adversaries will attempt to contest all domains and deny us safe haven. The fight for control of the seas will take place in the information and space domains, and across the electromagnetic spectrum. We must close the find, fix, and finish chain faster than our rivals.
It starts with fielding a robust naval operational architecture that supports the joint all-domain command and control concept. The NOA is a collection of networks, infrastructure, data, and analytic tools that connects our distributed forces and provides decision advantage. Beyond recapitalizing our undersea nuclear deterrent, there is no higher development priority than this. We launched Taskforce Overmatch a few months ago in the same spirit of Polaris and Aegis to get after it this decade. There can be no delay.
The number and type of munitions also matter. We are developing hypersonic missiles and fielding more options to deliver lethal and nonlethal effects at all domains. I have brought together the best and the brightest from our warfighting labs under Task Force Novel (sp) in helping to do it.
Our rivals are attempting to deter us with massive numbers of sea-based and shore-based missiles. So we are investing more in directed energy and electronic warfare systems. This is the heart of our future fleet survivability, potential gamechangers that we are investing in heavily. These will increase the defensive strength of the fleet and open up space for more offensive firepower.
Fielding a logistics enterprise that can operate and sustain us in contested space is imperative. Effective DMO relies on our ability to sustain our distributed force. So we are modernizing the logistics chain and revitalizing our strategic sealift capacity by repurposing commercial vessels. It’s the fastest and most economical way to close that capability gap and to get after that problem in this decade.
Divestments will also be necessary to build back the naval power America needs. That includes the first four experimental LCS hulls, legacy cruisers, dock landing ships, and transferring non-core Navy missions like Aegis Ashore to our ground forces. Our sailors have put years of exceptional service into these platforms but pivoting to the future requires tough choices.
A little bit about capacity. As you know, we just wrapped up the Future Naval Force Study and the 30-year Shipbuilding Plan. It was a rigorous, collaborative, and threat-informed process. I’m really proud of the end result. The Navy and our partners in industry have the targets we need to guide our decisions into the future. More capacity is essential to meet the strategic demands of our Navy. But to be clear, numbers are not the only target. The composition of the fleet matters to us the most.
To maintain control of the seas and to project power we need a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned systems capable of projecting larger volumes of kinetic and non-kinetic effects across all domains. And as we build this fleet, we are determined to deliver the Columbia-class submarines on time. Ohio-class boats are nearing the end of four decades of service, and they must be replaced, making Columbia our top acquisition priority.
We need to pursue unmanned systems, pure and simple. They expand our ISR advantage, they add depth to our magazines, and they can operate inside highly contested areas. They will provide affordable solutions to grow our Navy and to provide lethal combat power. By the end of this decade, we must deliver on unmanned. We must put ourselves in a position where we can scale those systems. Our sailors must have the confidence and skills operating alongside proven unmanned platforms at sea.
The future fleet design places a premium on expanding our undersea advantage. We will not yield any ground to our competitors. This means building Virginia-class submarines at a sustainable rate while developing a full-on attack submarine program to sustain our sea control and sea denial capabilities. Aircraft carriers remain the most survivable and versatile airfields in the world. They provide our national leaders valuable options, which is why we’re extending their reach through the airwing of the future strategy.
As surface warriors, you should be energized about the direction of the future fleet, which places a greater emphasis on numbers of small surface combatants – like the new Constellation-class frigate. I’m also enthused about our approach to shipbuilding because it will be critical to making the future fleet as reality. We decoupled new technology development from building ships. Instead we’re designing them with program of record systems in their baseline and margins to insert future technologies when they’re tested and ready. We took this approach with the new frigate and we’re now cited on the lead ship joining the fleet by the summer of 2026.
Using that same approach, we’re also designing a versatile large-surface combatant. After 30 years of upgrades, there is simply not enough space left in the Arleigh Burke-class to accommodate future warfighting capabilities that we need. You’ve heard me refer earlier to the follow-on class as DDG next. Well, I’ve just approved re-designating the ship DDG-X, consistent with its future mission. DDG-X will have the space, weight, and power to incorporate future capabilities that pack a punch over its entire lifetime.
Our ability to compete, to deter, and fight is amplified by integrated all-domain naval power, in addition to the close relationships we have with our allies and partners. United in common purpose, our collective naval power expands capability and capacity, which the recent integration with HMS Queen Elizabeth proves without a doubt.
Sailors: Most importantly, we need a – we must focus on developing a seasoned team of naval warriors. Our sailors remain the true source of our naval power, and they must be able to out-think and out-fight any adversary. We take our core values of honor, courage and commitment into every task, every mission, and if need be every fight. These values are the bedrock of our Navy, and they’re underpinned by respect. That’s the connective tissue that binds our diverse and our talented force together.
We’re invigorating our culture of excellence and shaping a more inclusive Navy by listening and learning from each other, removing bias and prejudice, and eliminating discrimination. We may all come from different backgrounds and different experiences, but every sailor ought to share the same opportunities. Over the last three years, the surface force has renewed their enduring culture of personal character and professional competence by implementing all the recommendations of the CR and the SRR.
You’re achieving new heights. And initiatives like the Comprehensive Endurance Fatigue Management Program will keep making us better. Our sailors must continue to be the best trained and the best educated force in the world. So we’re emphasizing a mission command mindset, scaling ready, relevant learning, and expanding live virtual constructive training. We just initiated a pilot for the Naval Community College.
I’ll close with this: Investing in naval power is an investment in America, and the security and prosperity of the entire world. It must be preserved. Only a larger, more lethal, and more ready fleet, manned by the world’s greatest sailors, can preserve our advantage at sea and protect America for the years to come. Naval warfare is come as you are. The down payments we make this decade will shape the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century. The stakes in this competition are high. It’s time to get after it. We can accept nothing less than success.
It's important to remember that we cannot deter, compete, and win alone. It takes teamwork. So I want to thank you for answering the call and for taking an active role to enhance our naval power. From our incredible government leaders, our partners in industry, civilian employees, and steadfast families, to our sailors and Marines and our navalists out there, our advocates, we deploy to far sides of the world in defense of our nation. Together we will deliver the naval power the nation needs.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today, and I’m happy to answer any of your questions.
VICE ADM. HUNT: CNO, that was great. On point, very direct, wonderful words to get to our sailors in the fleet. A question, I think focused and it fits very, very well with the themes – the train, maintain, fight, and win – that we are using for this symposium, can you give me some of your thoughts on how industry can help you achieve those goals that you just articulated?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. We really need – we need industry’s help in a couple ways. One is in the readiness piece. And so it’s a real partnership right now through an analytics-based process that we call perform to plan (P2P) that has helped us in the public yards, as an example, Admiral Hunt, to reduce our delay days over the past 15 months by 80 percent. In the private yards it’s been about 65 percent. And so some of the improvements that we’ve found through the work we’ve done, taking a deep dive into data, has solely resided with the United States Navy. It’s our lifelines, things we had to get after.
But there’s also processes and efficiencies inside the shipyards that also need attention by the private yards. And it differs by – as you can imagine – it differs by yard. But if we all are cited on the same goals, and that’s to get ready ships out to sea on time as quickly as possible – then we need that partnership on the readiness aspect to be able to help us get ships out on time. And so it’s a shared – it really is a shared responsibility.
On the – on the production side, I’ll tell you I’m very proud of – I’m very proud of our ability to keep ships rolling out the – rolling out the production line during the pandemic. The workforce’s commitment – and I visit those yards and I talk to those shipyard workers. And they really are the heart and soul of America. And they really are a national treasure. I think that in the future we’re really going to have to team closely together to deliver platforms like the Constellation-class and the new DDG-X on time. That has to be our space – those have to be our SpaceX projects in this decade. We have to get them right.
We cannot afford to have delays. We cannot afford to have big mistakes. We can’t afford to have cost overruns. We really have to deliver those on time, on budget, and with the kind of capabilities that work the first time. And so that’s going to take a partnership as well, design right through build. And so I ask industry to really roll up their sleeves and help us there. And that would also, I think, translate to unmanned as well. We have a number of horses in the race right now, and some of them are doing very well.
Our unmanned campaign plan, which will be released publicly in just a few weeks, explains how we’re taking those programs in – those programs in the air, on the sea and under the sea together to try and get us to a point by the end of the decade where we can scale. And potentially, let’s say within 10 or 15 years I have a quarter of the fleet be comprised of unmanned vehicles.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Excellent. The audience, I strongly encourage questions to come in. We’re getting a couple of them now, but your questions – this is a great opportunity to talk straight to the CNO. We want to appreciate that.
So next question goes to 30-year shipbuilding plan and force structure. You talked about that a little bit. With the changing administration, do you see any impact? Is there concerns? Again, how can we as an organization help you, support you with the value of Navy getting the word out?
ADM. GILDAY: So as the administration changes, some will ask: Why didn’t you wait and release this navigation plan after you had a better fix on where the next administration is going? I’ll tell you, the reason I released it now is because I’d always intended, first of all, to release it on the heels of the tri-service maritime strategy, number one. But number two, this is what I really believe that we need to deliver in this decade. And so there will be fiscal uncertainties in the future. No doubt about that. There always is. But we have to have our priorities right.
And as I talked about in the beginning of my – of this session, we have to understand what we’re expected to contribute to the joint force. And that’s sea control and power projection. And we can never lose sight of that. And it seems like such a simple thing, but if you lose sight of those – if you lose sight of those main things you tend to drift off course. And potentially you acquire things that don’t particularly bring the kind of lethality and capabilities to bear that lend themselves to those two mission sets.
And so the nav plan reflects what I really believe. And in a budget-constrained environment, priorities will be – will be important. And we’ll make trades, and decide, you know, where we’re going to – where we’re going to fine-tune investments. But we’re going to fine-tune them in accordance with the nav plan.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Very good.
A question about some of the changes, the proposals out there – for example, renaming fleet forces to U.S. Atlantic Fleet. How do you think that’s going to change business there? Roll it into a second question, the introduction of First Fleet on the Pacific also. That kind of impact, both sides of the world. Your thoughts on that, and what the expectation’s going to be.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. I’ll take the second one first. So the secretary of the navy – the thoughts with respect to First Fleet is that there’s a – there’s a question or challenge to us really on whether or not we are covering down on the battle space of the Indian Ocean as sufficiently as we should, given the commitments and the time distance between both Fifth Fleet and Seventh Fleet. So we’re in the process right now, under Admiral Aquilino and his staff to take a much deeper dive into the merits of First Fleet, including what it would cost, so we can make value-based decisions on what those steps may or may not be. And we can put together COAs that I can present to the next secretary of the navy that will drive a final decisions with respect to First Fleet.
So I guess my main point there, Pete, is it needs to be a deliberate decision. It’s one thing to say you need a requirement, but in terms of fine-tuning that requirement. I want to make sure I get it right. These are big decisions that we’re going to have to live with for a long time. And so I prefer to just methodically take a deep dive and look at it, not just with Pacific – the staff of Pacific Fleet, but also with Admiral Davidson’s staff at INDOPACOM, and then of course with the staff at OSD.
Atlantic Fleet, the secretary of the navy made a decision under his Title 10 authorities and the president signed – the president signed paperwork last week to approve the name change to Atlantic Fleet. Now, we can argue on whether or not – you know, some like that, some don’t like that. But it’s a direction from our boss. And that’s – and we’re going to carry it out. And so if I could talk just a little bit about the pros of the name “Atlantic Fleet.”
So I think it underscores the importance of the Atlantic in a way that the title Fleet Forces doesn’t. And it actually – it actually is a testament to recent tangible decisions that we made to increase our power in that body of water that include bringing Second Fleet back, it would include standing up Sub Group Two. And it would also include standing up Joint Force Command, Norfolk, right, which is focused on the Atlantic. So I would say that’s on the good side, right? We’re focused on the Atlantic and it’s an important body of water for us strategically.
I think that in a day in age when the homeland is no longer a sanctuary and homeland defense is at the fore with respect to every plan the combatant commanders put together, that – the name Atlantic Fleet always carries some gravitas with respect to defense of the nation as well. However, that said, Fleet Forces Command, or the new Atlantic Command, also has responsibilities as a component for Northern Command in the Eastern Pacific that extend up to the Arctic, as well as their role as a component to Strategic Command. They really have a global responsibility with respect to the command and control of our SSBNs.
So on the negative side, Atlantic Fleet doesn’t really fully capture, in those two – in those two words – the geographic or functional – the broader geographic or functional responsibilities of Fleet Forces Command. But we are moving forward with that. Admiral Brady and his staff right now are putting together an implementation plan for my review. That will dictate the next steps. But again, we are walking through this very methodically and deliberately before we finally execute.
VICE ADM. HUNT: You talked about hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons entering the fleet. What do you think the timeline of that is? There’s some experimental stuff out there right now and it looks very promising. But how do you start training for that? How do you bring that in so the tactical mindset of utilizing that and defending against those capabilities gets into the fleet itself? And then I would ask you, especially with your background, how do you roll cyber perhaps into electromagnetic spectrum, and all of that? Where do you see that? Is that offensive as well as defensive? Really complicated fighting space here that our sailors are going to live in over the next decade or so?
ADM. GILDAY: So with respect to hypersonics – both hypersonics and directed energy are really my two highest priorities with respect to how we’re making investments in R&D. When you were the SWO boss, you always – you challenged a flag war room – your flag war room with, hey look, I want to talk about game changes. Those two capabilities are game changes for us, offensively and defensively I believe, and require laser focus in this decade in order to – in order to field them. In order to field – in order to scale them.
So with respect to hypersonics, we’re on a path right now for IOC on one of our platforms in 2025. There was some reporting in the press today about what we’re looking at in terms of expanding that – the Zumwalt, and that’s in the early stages. But it really begins with our undersea – with our submarines, with our attack submarines, and beginning with the capability there, in terms of – in terms of warfighting concepts in progress right now in terms of developing.
And what may or may not be visible to the broader public out there, those who haven’t been in uniform or out of the fleet for a while, is the fact that we’re doing fleet battle problems with every deploying and returning strike group and ARG. And so what we’re doing is taking elements of DMO. LOCE, EABO, and we’re testing those every time a strike group, you know, is headed out or returning to deployment. So we’re learning a lot with respect to how we integrate new systems like that.
Another example is Portland. Portland right now has a prototype directed energy system that we just used against a drone recently. So we’re folding that into – we’re folding that into our fleet battle problems under the broader DMO construct so that we have a better understanding of how we’re going to integrate those capabilities into the fight, both offensively and defensively.
You were a little bit broken up in the last question, but I think it had to do with the electromagnetic spectrum. Could you repeat it?
VICE ADM. HUNT: Yes, sir. My question is: How do we roll cyber into electromagnetic spectrum warfare, both offensively and defensively?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So the way we need to take a look at – the way we need to take a look at cyber, the electromagnetic spectrum and space is you need to consider them as a Venn diagram. And so what we did in our strike groups, as an example, is we brought together the two – the N39 and N6 together to form the IW commander, right? And so you really do need to consider how you’re going to fight in the electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace, and space at the same time. Because those circles – that Venn diagram, if you will – they have overlapping attributes.
As an example, if I’m going to do offensive cyber – if I’m going to do offensive cyber – space-enabled offensive cyber, I obviously have to rely on satellites. And I obviously have to rely on the electromagnetic spectrum that’s going to provide that connectivity to deliver that effect. And it’s the same thing with the relationship between cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum, where if I want to do offensive cyber – let’s say RF-enabled offensive cyber gets a Wi-Fi system – I have to consider both of those domains at the same time. And while we don’t call the electromagnet spectrum a distinct domain yet, we have to really consider it as one when we think about conceptually how we’re going to fight in that virtual space.
So we’ve done it successfully at the strike group level and at the ARG level. And what we’re doing now is we are prototyping what that IWC commander concept looks like inside a fleet model. Of course, he won’t be a commander inside a fleet model, but functionally tying those aspects together. I just approved a maritime designator for space, so we’re going to have our own. And on a handshake, I agreed, with the head of the Space Force – with the commander of the Space Force, to begin to transfer some of our space – some of our officers with space education and space experience to the Space Force – to critical billets in the Space Force.
But my priority really with respect to Space is putting those officers with space education and space operational experience – most of it from commands like STRATCOM – into our fleet models, along with our cyber operators and along with our EW approach.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Great. Sounds like terrific initiatives across the board.
We’re getting a couple questions from the audience in general. There’s a general trend just asking about a COVID update. You know, what I would ask on that is – there is good and bad. So there’s challenges that arose from COVID, but we’ve also changed the way we’ve done business, potentially to a long-term positive. Can you address some of your thoughts on that?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. First, I’ll tell you I appreciate the question on COVID. And I’ll say up front that the success that the United States Navy has had with COVID – so if I just take a look at the numbers right now, about 3,000 positive cases in the Navy in a force of 340,000. So we’re talking about less than 1 percent of the force. You know, a metric might be comparing that to the other services. The Navy’s doing extremely well. I would measure that by, A, the low number of positives that we have, relatively speaking, compared to the size of the force. And the second is the fact that we’re pushing ships, submarines, squadrons out on mission, on time. We haven’t skipped a beat with respect to that.
The success of that is all grounded on individual responsibility of sailors. This is leadership at the deck plates level. It’s not just chiefs. It’s not just officers. It’s third-class petty officers. It’s deck seamen who are not only holding themselves accountable to follow the protocols that we – the guidance that we’ve issued to the fleet, but it’s also holding their shipmate responsible to the left and to the right. And to me, that is – that’s been the silver lining of COVID, is the individual leadership we’ve seen out there, where we could push SSBNs out, submarines out there, you know, carrier strike groups on time, on mission, and basically, you know, in a COVID bubble. That’s been extremely effective.
So but that’s taken us – it’s been a journey. Back on the first of April the secretary of defense put out guidance. And the secretary of defense said – it’s about three-quarters of a page long. And the approach that he prescribed, that he directed for the joint force was to take an approach of mission command. So he essentially made the – made the argument that a ship is different than a submarine, it’s different than a tank, it’s different than an aircraft squadron. So each commander needs to take the guidance, the five or six, you know, tenets that the CDC was promulgating, and then apply that to the environment – to the physical environment that you’re operating and working in every day.
What we found out in the Navy, particularly in the surface force, is that that broad guidance was being implemented very unevenly across the fleet, and not very effectively. We weren’t seeing the numbers come down. We couldn’t put ships to sea and deploy them with a high degree of confidence that they were going to be COVID-free. We’re now on the third or fourth version of our standard operating guidance, and it’s very detailed, that not only prescribes how we – how we mitigate transmission of COVID, but then how every single unit would pivot to a containment posture should there be a positive case on board.
I hope that adequately answered your question on COVID.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Yes, sir. Very good answer. And it’s really great to hear us doing as well as we are. I know a lot of people did a lot of hard work on that. So thank you for your leadership.
From the audience, Tom Wetherald, NASSCO: Admiral, can you elaborate – (inaudible, technical difficulties) – improved logistics capabilities to support DMO of this larger fleet, and particularly the support of unmanned platforms?
ADM. GILDAY: So, with respect to the unmanned side, those concepts we’re still developing. So to answer your last question first. With respect to logistics and support ships, what we found through the FNFS – and if I could just talk about that assessment for just a couple minutes, because it really – it really is shaping how we’re looking at the composition of the fleet of the future. So when the commandant and I presented the Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment to the secretary of defense a year ago this month, he didn’t accept it. He thought the 2030 timeline was in too close and he felt like we needed to take a look at more options. He was also getting competing analysis from CAPE.
And so what we did under the deputy secretary of defense is we created a broader group of analysts. They came from – they came from OSD CAPE, they came from the Navy, they came from the Marine Corps. We put together a very robust red cell. And we also had a team from industry and some retired flag officers and general officers that gave their own view of – their own critique of the rigor or the analysis that was done.
The value of bringing those analysts together is that we had analysts with different backgrounds. And they’d done other studies before, but we brought them together under the same tent, if you will, to produce a single product. And so what we – what General Berger and I had dealt with last year is that we had the Navy and the Marine Corps analysis, but that was being compared to CAPE’s analysis. And OSD CAPE is using a different scenario, different threats, different assumptions, different facts. And so you are going to come out with two different outcomes based on – based on different inputs.
And so this got everybody into the same tent. I don’t want to make it seem like, you know, we were drinking our own bathwater and it was too collaborative, because with a robust red team and bringing in that team from the outside there really was a lot of give and take. And the secretary of defense, you know, we had a number of meetings – small-group meetings with him, going through those results in detail. And when – he was very, very skeptical and has been skeptical for the past year. But we think we produced a good analysis in the end. It’ll be the bedrock going forward that we need to – that’ll inform our budgets going forward. It’s helping us understand better what the composition of the future fleet ought to look like.
In terms of general vectors for the Navy, for the Marine Corps, for Congress, and for industry in terms of – as an example, attack – numbers of attack submarines needing to go up, number of ballistic missile submarines need to stay the same, number of large surface combatants comes down, small surface combatants goes up, large amphibious ships slightly comes down. Smaller amphibious ships, which are a piece of the log problem that Denny’s (sp) asking about, go up significantly to over 50.
When you’re talking about logistics and support ships, the assessment that we were previously working off of that was developed in 2016 I think recommended 71 logistics and support ships. Now this analysis, based on a much deeper look and a much better informed look at DMO, EABO, and LOCE, came up with nearly 100 support ships required to support the DMO. Now, we’re moving forward in the POM right now with respect to making investments now to increase the numbers of logistics ships. But that’s going to be a steady climb into the 2030s.
It has to remain a priority and hopefully we get the kind of funding that we believe we need and deserve to keep us on – keep us on a good – keep us on a good ramp into the mid-2030s to increase the size of the fleet. And that’ll contain large numbers of logistics and support ships.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Great.
Another question, a different slant, from Dave Steindl: We’ve come a long way – (inaudible, technical difficulties) – the sea-swap experiment in which you (participated in ?) – (inaudible, technical difficulties) – effectively executing multi-crewing on a single-mission ship. Will that work on a multi-mission ship, namely Constellation-class, in the future? And with manpower costs rising, does it make sense to multicrew the Constellation-class?
ADM. GILDAY: So I’m comfortable right now with the approach we’re taking with LCS. So after a number of years I think we’ve finally got the organization right. I think we’ve finally got the manning right, the crewing concept right, the training right to push out ready crews on those ships, and numbers that we need.
Just as an aside on LCS, while I’m talking about LCS, we are getting after the engineering problems. I just had a meeting with Secretary Geurts last Friday on a key problem that we’re having with combining gears, as an example, on the Freedom-class. We are going to fix those problems. LCS is our ship. We are going to get the most that we can get out of that ship and put lethality back – and we’re putting lethality back into it so we can get the most we can get out of the ships going into the 2030s. I am not wringing my hands over LCS. These are decisions that have been made. In this decade we need to get those ships out there in numbers deployed.
So to tie that to – to tie that to hulls like the Constellation-class or DDG-X, I’d just tell Dave, I’m going to move very deliberately and slowly in the crewing concepts for those. So with FFG(X) and if we’re taking a look at, you know, IOC in 2026, I am – I’m headed down the line of a single crew for that ship, at least for the first few ships. We got to get that right. I can’t afford – like I talked about earlier, this is the Navy’s SpaceX in this decade. We’ve got to get FFG(X) right, we got to get DDG-X right.
There was press today about – you know, I think Mr. Larter wrote a piece about unmanned, right, and the challenges we have out there in the Hill. And then we’re getting after it with the unmanned campaign plan and our approach there, right? And the naval operational architecture that’s going to tie unmanned together that the Hill’s been critical about. You know, talk to me about naval architecture – naval operational architecture.
We are learning from mistakes we’ve made in the past. We’re not wringing our hands. We are very optimistic. And we’re charging forward to solve problems and to fix stuff in this decade to sustain – to sustain the overmatch we have in some areas. And in those areas where we’re falling behind, to close those capability gaps as quickly as we can. We want the Chinese reacting to us instead of our reacting to them. I hope that helps, Dave.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Very good. A personnel question again. With COVID, with some of the demands that we have on the fleet, we’ve had some exceptionally long deployments. Can you give just your assessment – you’re out there with the fleet right now – what the morale is, what the retention is? How are our sailors doing?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. Our sailors are doing great. And so this has been such a challenging year for us, particularly with our deployed forces, right? So from the – from the perspective of we’re requiring them to ROM before they get underway from COMPTUEX. And then after COMPTUEX, it’s – some call it COMPTUEX and go. I call it ROM and go because they’re not coming home. Once you’re in that COVID bubble, we’re pushing them out, right? And they’re deploying. And then there are limited ports that they can go to.
And so on every destroyer now – we deploy every destroyer as an example with a chaplain, OK? Resiliency, toughness, self-awareness on anxiety issues, teaching people to be able to deal and cope with those problems that they face every day, destigmatizing that so that if somebody puts up their hand and asks for help it’s not a big deal, we get them the help. That approach – I just tell you, the numbers of unplanned losses that we see on the waterfront with forces that get that kind of help just go – (audio break) – really have been trying to get – keep the aim point at about seven months for our – for our deployments, and we’ve been between seven and eight months for most. Some of the carrier strike group deployments have gone longer.
And I would tell you that we’re in a very unique place right now with respect to carrier strike groups in the Middle East. And we’ve done three withdrawals that are ongoing at the same time in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Somalia. That, combined with some pretty significant threats with Iran, have forced us to maintain a 1.0 carrier strike group presence. And so we’re working through that right now with the Nimitz.
And so I’ll be talking to the Nimitz strike group this week as a head to Bahrain. And be talking them through next steps. And I don’t want to talk about operational schedules during this conference, but we are working our way through it. And I’m trying to clearly communicate with the fleet in terms of what the decision process is that’s driving deployment timelines in Washington.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Great, CNO. Terrific response.
I’ve got another question from industry. Francis Spencer, Philadelphia Gear. Question: What are your thoughts about increasing the number of ice-hardened small surface combatants for Arctic service. So certainly the Arctic is of key interest to many of us.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So I’ll tell you, we have been operating in the Arctic. The past year we’ve done more than 20 exercises or operations up in the high north. So it’s no longer rare for us to be operating up in the high north. In terms of making that investment, I’m not there yet in terms of – you know, in terms of armored hulls or, you know, turning our ships into icebreakers. I’m just – I’m not there yet. I think over time we can take a look at that.
But, you know, I am operating up there as best we can with the forces that we have to meet the demand signals of combatant commanders and national command authority. But I think we’re in a good place with respect to how we’re going to operate up in the high north. We’ve proven we can do it. We can do it with persistence. And I don’t see any need, at least right now, to shift our hull designs.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Admiral, we’re down to about our last five minutes. I would offer you the opportunity to make any closing statements that you may want to get out to the audience.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. Thanks a lot. I just – you know, I’d just tell you that I remain extremely optimistic about the track that we’re on right now. And I’d just like to publicly thank a number of admirals – including you, Admiral Hunt. But, you know, I have to talk – I have to thank Admiral Rowden, Admiral Copeman, and there’s a host of others – Admiral Davidson – who if you take a look at the journey of the Navy and the surface Navy over the past 10 or 15 years, who began to ring the bell about lethality, about making that shift from defensive systems to offensive systems. To open up discussions, I just recently went back to something that Tom Rowden wrote in 2015 about sea control.
And what sparked me – what sparked me there was as I was going through these FNFS discussions with the secretary of defense there was a very senior leader in the department who happened to be wearing a uniform who said: You tell me what the missions of the United States Navy are going to be in 2045. And I said, look, the missions of the United – the functions of the United States Navy are timeless: sea control and power projection. I gave examples of how Nimitz talked about that to a joint session of Congress in 1945 – in October of ’45, or how Kennedy said that after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Or if I take a look at the five mission areas right now of the NDS, how those two functions of the United States Navy play into all of those. And that’s how it’s going to play into the future.
As I said in my prepared remarks, what’s going to change is how we fight and – how we operate and fight and what we operate and fight with. But sea control and power projection, I just don’t see those as changing. And I don’t want to take our eye off the ball off those critical functions. As we – as I take a look at those priorities and I lay out of things we have to get after in this decade, they’re all tied to those two functions. And if I get those two functions wrong, somebody come in and tell me and school me and help me figure it out. Because if I have it wrong, that’s going to be a critical error. But I really have to have those two functions shaping our objectives.
But I can’t thank the – I can’t thank those admirals enough for the work that they did and for the criticism that they took many times as they laid out the arguments that our Navy had to shift, before the phrase “great-power competition” was ever – was ever – you know, was ever expressed. So I think that they have helped to put us on a very good path. There’s nothing transformational about what I spoke about today. The United States Navy needs to keep its eye on the ball and deliver.
That’s what we need to do. We need to deliver unmanned. We need to deliver the airwing of the future, DDG-X and the Constellation-class, the Columbia-class, the capabilities that I talked about like hypersonics and directed energy, the naval operational architecture. Those are the things that we can’t take our eye off, because if we do we may not recover.
Rick, thanks so much for the time today, for letting me kick off the conference. For all – for everybody out there, thanks for tuning in. I look forward to talking to you as I travel around the fleet.
VICE ADM. HUNT: CNO, thank you for your leadership. Great comments. It’s really impressive that you would make time during international travel to address us as the opening speaker for SNA. I think it puts us on a good course for the rest of the week. And as always, we are here to support. And don’t be bashful in giving us a call. Thank you very much, sir.
ADM. GILDAY: Thank you, sir. Have a great conference.
VICE ADM. HUNT: Thank you.
Adm. Mike Gilday
11 January 2021
12 January 2021
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