Below is a transcript of the discussion:
COLONEL JAMES GEURTS (RET.): Oh, Admiral Gilday, come on out. Here we go. (Applause.) Good to see you. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger. (Applause.) And the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral David Schultz. (Applause.) And moderating today’s panel will be the former CNO, Admiral Richardson.
ADMIRAL JOHN RICHARDSON (RET): Good to see you again, sir. (Applause.)
COL. GEURTS: Thanks.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Well, good morning, everybody. And let’s give it up one last time for Secretary Geurts. I can’t think of anybody in the maritime services really who has done more to just be completely transparent. Every molecule of Hondo Geurts is dedicated to doing the right thing. He’s got the confidence of just about everybody who touches the maritime services. So let’s give a nice, great round of applause to Ron. He’s really done a terrific job. (Applause.)
OK, well, it’s absolutely fantastic to be here, and to be here in person. We’re all our of our caves. That bright light that you see is the sun. (Laughter.) And so welcome, everybody. And my hat’s off to the Navy League of the United States. As you can imagine, you know, the level of commitment to put something like this together is tremendous. And as we’re, you know, projecting into the future, you can imagine that it is not without some uncertainty and risk that we would, you know, pull this off together. And so, you know, just another round of applause for the Navy League for really pulling it together, staying committed, and making this happen. (Applause.)
OK, so I’m going to quickly move through some logistics here. What we’re going to do is we’re going to have a nice, moderated discussion up here. I’ve got a few questions that I’d like to ask our panelists. And then, of course, we’re going to turn it over to the audience to ask questions. We’re going to do it a little bit differently this time, where there should be some cards at your table. We’d ask you to write your question on the cards, OK, and then what will happen is towards, you know, the midpoint of the discussion I’ll collect the cards – the cards will be collected, they’ll be passed to me. I will sift through them. I will pick the questions that I really identify with. (Laughter.) And we’ll relay them to the principles here that way, OK? So as you’re going through, please just write your question on the card, OK? Everybody understand that? OK, good.
All right. Well, listen, what a timely panel – time to have this panel. There’s been so much energy and thought around the maritime domain, around how to approach that strategically. And that should come as really no surprise to anybody in this room, right? The United States from its very inception has always been a maritime nation. Our strategic trajectory as a nation, our success as a nation is intrinsically tied to the seas. And as I said, it’s been that way from the very start. Our prosperity is linked to the oceans.
And while so much of that remains true, even from, you know, it’s in our DNA, I don’t think anybody can deny that there’s a lot of change afoot as well. In fact, if we think about, you know, the magnitude of the change that we face, it’s difficult to find too many historical precedents, right, where we have a geostrategic change, a return to true multipolar great-power competition, right? That’s the strategic change that’s underway. And coincident with that is a technological change as we move into a digital age, an information age characterized by much more powerful algorithms, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and a host of other things that are really going to – they’re going to change the world as much as the industrial revolution changed the world during that revolution.
And to help address these challenges, to navigate these changes – even as we stay true to our founding principles – we could not be more fortunate to set the trajectory for the entire Sea Air Space event than to have these leaders here with us. We’re very fortunate. And so what I’d like to do is really allow them some time to provide some context, from their perspective, in terms of how they’re thinking about these challenges, how they are addressing this. There’s the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy out there. Each of these leaders has signed that.
And so, you know, for each one of you – first, thanks so much for taking time. I think for at least two of you, just coming back from a demanding trip in Asia. So for whatever 15 minutes of sleep, or whatever you got last night, I know you’ll be as sharp as ever. But perhaps you could take, you know, a few minutes just to describe, you know, how do you think about these challenges? Provide some context and some trajectory to the audience.
Admiral Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard. Great to see you again, Karl. Thanks so much. Perhaps you could lead us off.
ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ: Well, thanks, John. And it’s great to see you. Thanks for moderating this important panel. I would say, always a pleasure to be here with the other commandant, and the CNO. And Mike and I had the chance to see each other briefly in Guam. To the Navy League, I’d just echo John Richardson’s comment. It is good to be here together. Thanks for putting together this important symposium. I think it’s been a long time in coming and we all derive a lot of benefit from that. And I want to thank Mike Stevens on that. I want to thank Dave Riley and just the entire team.
So, John, you talked about a lot of energy, a lot of discussion around maritime strategies, shipbuilding, free and open waterways, and you mentioned the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy that the three of us gentlemen signed back in December here. I think that’s really been a good framework. Advantage at Sea, it’s called. And it talks about integrated, all-domain naval power. And it’s a mindset. In my mind, it’s a mindset where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And we look at day-to-day competition that looks at conflict and it looks at crisis, and it really talks about how greater integration allows the United States all-domain naval power to prevail in time of need here.
And I think about, as a Coast Guard lens, in a world that’s covered, you know, approximately three-quarters by water, 90 percent of all the world’s trade occurs on those waterways. We go back to Mahan, who talks about “Whoever rules the waves rules the world.” And I think Mahan saw the critical linkages that go with vigorous foreign policy, prosperity, and really the importance of the sea and the new markets it offers. And here, we find ourselves in 2021 with some pretty challenging opportunities here. In the TSMS, the Tri-Service Strategy, you know, the Coast Guard, I think it looks at us through the unique authorities we bring to the table, the capabilities, and really how we contribute to the national security conversation.
We’ve been a blue water Coast Guard, but increasingly so. An increasingly blue water and a global Coast Guard, as I like to refer to it. And, you know, inside the Department of Homeland Security, we’re a little bit unique. We can bring law enforcement authority that the DOD service through posse comitatus cannot. But our limited statutory mission is protecting the homeland, keeping us engaged – you know, whether it’s enabling $5.6 trillion of economic activity in America’s ports, 361 ports, 25,000 waterways, search and rescue, regulatory stuff, regulating shipping crews, environmental. And then there’s the away game. I think that’s really, you know, what I’m going to focus on today.
For us, we support the DOD geographic combatant commanders around the global daily. You know, not in large numbers, in terms of platforms and contributions, but in key, niche capabilities. And I think about our role as bridging Department of State diplomacy and Department of Defense lethality. We sort of sit as a bridge between those two worlds of work. And I think what we bring to that is really maritime security. You know, one thing, you know, amongst the world’s best Coast Guard, I think, recognized as such, I think folks see us an honest broker, the rule-based order, modern maritime governance. And I think that maritime security, we are purveyors of that. We are purveyors of adherence to international standards.
And when I survey the world’s naval forces, coast guards, maritime forces, an awful lot look like the United States Coast Guard. You know, you see – you go to the ASEAN region, the Chinese, the Philippines, the Vietnamese, the Indonesians doubling down on their coast guards in terms of raw tonnage. So they see the constabulary functions, the regulatory functions, protecting their waters from IUF fishing and sustainment of natural resources, that’s big stuff for us. So they look to us as partners, and they look to us to help them develop their capabilities and their capacity. And I think that’s one of the key roles we play in the Tri-Service Strategy.
And, you know, if you look across the globe most coast guard, white hull, some form of a 45-degree racing stripe, and the words “coast guard” emblazoned on the side. I think that speaks to the credibility we bring to the table. You know, Vietnamese, growing their coast guard exponentially. Philippines went from 5,000 to probably 35,000 by the end of the next decade in their coast guard. The Indonesians, that’s the Bakamal. The MMEA in Malaysia. These are all maritime forces. So we’re partnered with four of the 10 big ASEAN region countries right now.
And then I – you know, to kind of bring it towards the end here – I look at where we are on the globe, from the high latitudes – the Arctic and the Antarctic. The polar regions. We’re building out capabilities there. Supporting Craig Faller in SOUTCOM with the counternarcotics fight where, you know, you’re upwards of 100,000 deaths on American streets, to the Indo-Pacific where Mike and I traveled separate trips last week but some common touchpoints. But I think, you know, it’s that Oceania region, which is not where the Indo-Pacific commander, you know, focuses on every day, but it’s part of the broader conversation. That’s sort of the complementary piece. And then we got national security cutters, one sail here shortly that’s going to be working in sort of the main threat area, in the South China Sea area.
So I think that’s our contribution. And, you know, I look at the lens through this cooperate, compete, and lethality lens. And it’s a bit of a Jim Mattis thing, I think I stole from him. But where we win and contribute the most is on that competition phase – the cooperate and competition phase. And we’re just position Coast Guard with the largest shipbuilding program since the Second World War. We got two National Security Cutters with Fleet 11 that’ll be built out in the next couple years. We’re on our way to build out the first two OPCs, Offshore Patrol Cutters, in a fleet of 25. Forty-five of 64 FRCs are on the water operating. We commissioned three in Guam the other day. Waterways Commerce Cutters, aviation.
It’s kind of an exciting time to be in the Coast Guard, but it’s an exciting time to contribute to the joint service fight. So let me wrap it up there, John. Thank you.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Karl, thanks. What a – you know, what a great way to kick us off. Just everything is so exciting in the Coast Guard as you contribute in very unique ways to this maritime force.
I want to turn now to the chief of naval operations. You know, we got a little bit of a terrific preview in the Cohen breakfast. Admiral Lescher here talked about how you’re manifesting the Tri-Service Strategy through the Navigation Plan, distributed maritime operations, naval operational architecture and overmatch. You know, give us your perspective on all those things, CNO.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: John, thanks a lot. Thanks for moderating this morning. It’s always a privilege to join the stage with the two commandants. I’d like to thank – I join the chorus in thanking Dave Riley and Mike Stevens, and all the members of the Navy League for your advocacy on the Hill and across the country for what you do for the sea services. So thank you very, very much.
As Admiral Richardson mentioned, I just came back from a swing out to Southeast Asia. Actually, I was in Tokyo first, and then spent some time in Singapore, before heading out to Guam. If you want to learn about the region, if you want a regional perspective, you have to go to the region. You can read about it all you want, but it was very instructive for me to spend time with other heads of Navy and to learn so much in that region. There’s so much to learn.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about the Navigation Plan, and what’s going on inside the Navy, to give you insights about things that we don’t talk about very much, at least in public. We haven’t put a lot of emphasis on it. Certainly, there’s been a lot of emphasis on shipbuilding, and those ships that we’d like decommission. But there’s so much more going on inside the lifelines that I think you deserve to understand.
The Navigation Plan itself is nested underneath the Tri-Maritime Service Strategy. And really, the Tri-Service Strategy, obviously, called out China as a strategic threat, and also identified this decade as one where we really need to go after issues with a sense of urgency. And so in the Navigation Plan we identified just shy of 20 areas that we feel that we have to deliver on in this decade. And they fall in four bins, and they wouldn’t surprise you. It’s readiness and training. It’s capabilities. It’s capacity. And then it’s sailors. And those four bins – or, further, the problem sets are separated into two key areas.
One are execution problems. So some examples would be aviation maintenance, private shipyard maintenance, public shipyard maintenance, supply chain, manpower – closing down gaps at sea, as an example. And so those are really root-cause focused and outcomes driven. Or, really, root-caused driven and outcomes focused, with supported and supporting commanders identified for reach of those problem sets, cross-functional teams established so we really come after them in a holistic way.
Giving ourselves specific timeframes in order – and deliverables. And a cadence of accountability that requires those supported commanders to come in front of Navy leadership once a quarter and lay out where we are. And that informs next steps over the next year. To put us in a place – to put us in a better place with respect to many of those – many of those areas. Some of us have been plaguing – some of those have been plaguing us for a while.
There’s a separate set of challenges – and John talked about challenges and opportunities. And the Nav Plan’s really about trying to turn challenges into opportunities. The second set are not really execution problems. They’re innovation problems. And so they’re handled differently. These won’t surprise you. It’s unmanned. It’s live virtual training. It’s the Navy’s operational architecture and Taskforce Overmatch. It is those kinds of innovative areas that require a different approach.
So instead of root-cause focused it’s much more focused on development, testing, experimentation, learning. Both of those problem sets really require a learning environment, but so much more so in the innovation piece where we’re trying to turn things really quickly in order to – in order to generate outcomes. And so it’s our hope that those areas do produce for us a more capable, lethal, ready Navy by the end of the decade, and to close gaps that we can’t afford to let get – either maintain a – maintain overmatch that we have against key competitors, or close those known gaps that we have to close.
And the priorities we’ve consistently talked about in the Navy over the past few years remain readiness and training, and then capabilities – or, you read that as modernization. Capacity at an affordable rate, and of course sailors. So let me just set the table there, of course, with some follow-on questions.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Thanks so much, CNO.
Commandant, we had a chance to connect in the green room. Right now we’ve got some skin in the game together. Midshipman Matthew Richardson is down in southern Virginia just getting the snot beat out of him by Marine Corps training during his summer training. So that was just great to share. But I think, you know, you’ve been so forward leaning into this new era – you know, new ways of thinking, new ways of fighting, connecting that gap between the sea and the shore. Commandant, your thoughts on where you see the Marine Corps in this Tri-Service Maritime Strategy?
GENERAL DAVID BERGER: Oh, I’ll echo my partners up here, my battle buddies. It is really – we haven’t been on a stage together and bounced off of each other, other than in the Tank. This is a great opportunity. So, like the others, very grateful for the Navy League putting this together, and yourself, sir, for kind of running herd on us. Admiral Richardson wrote to each of us asking us what we would like to focus on, which is very kind of him. And I wrote back to him that I figured that people would be discussing concepts and capabilities and technology, probably that would be covered. What I’d like to focus on for a minute or two is the human element.
So with that in mind, then, I think a discussion of what a maritime leader might be, how do we prepare them for the future, the challenges that the commandant and CNO talked about, I think that’s what I’ll focus on for a minute or two. For context, it occurred to me, driving in this morning, that – you all will remember this – today is the day 31 years ago that Iraq invaded Kuwait. And I only bring that up because those – all of us were in uniform then. And we all deployed then. And we didn’t know it on the 2nd of August, but we had almost six months to prepare before conflict. Six months to build up our stocks in Saudi Arabia, six months to rehearse, six months to train, six months to man everything.
We had 167 days. I don’t think anybody on this stage thinks we’re going to have 167 days. We’re not going to be allowed to. So now the human element, to me, becomes more important. And how we train and how we educate becomes even more important, because we were tested then. We thought we were going to be tested, but we had five months-plus to get ready. We’re not going to have that kind of time going forward. So a maritime leader, you know, to me, what does that mean?
I think it is the combination of training and education that allows a leader to fight at sea, and fight from the sea, and compete, and win, and deter. The same things that my counterparts said. The difference, of course, is that in our domain there aren’t any do-overs. So for us, I think the consequences are a little bit bigger. The mindset, in other words, is what we’re after. Are we developing the leaders that we’re going to need that are willing – that understand the risk and are willing to take that risk? Are they comfortable with that? And I think the only way that we’re going to get ourselves to that point is this – is what CNO mentioned. It’s the wargaming, it’s the experimentation, it’s the exercises. That’s how we’re going to do it when we have limited resources to work with.
But the way to do that, the methods, I think, here really matter. And all three of us are pushing hard for wargaming, experimentation, exercises that force our leaders into circumstances where they have to make decisions under pressure, they’re fighting against an adversary that’s thinking, that has a lot of latitude to make calls on their own tempo. And then our job, with our leaders, sort through the decisions that they make to analyze and to figure it all out, while there’s no lives really at risk right now. Because the do-overs aren’t going to be available to them in real life.
I think the learning by doing, the getting back to sea for Marines, all that’s good. And that’s going to help us. But it’s not going to be enough. I think that the formal education and the training and the wargaming are what’s going to put a foundation underneath us. I think the blending together of the skillsets, the mindsets of Navy and Marine Corps leaders going forward is what we got to have. And all those topics will be covered. But we have to be equally versed in all the domains – everything from integrated fires to C5ISRT. All that’s important.
And I’ll just finish up, sir. It probably would surprise some people, maybe not everybody, but in the desk in the commandant’s officer, where I am privileged to go to work every day, there aren’t any quotes from any, like, famous Marine generals or anything that motivate me in the morning. The one thing that I’ve kept for several years – it’s the only thing in the top drawer of my desk that I refer to. Y’all are going to be very familiar with this. It’s not even a Marine. It’s Serial 53 from 1941. And this is what grounds me.
This is Admiral King before World War II. He’s communicating to his leaders about a concern that he has. And I’ll paraphrase. His words are better than mine, but he’s talking to his flag officers, really, and other group commanders, because he senses that they’re starting to be prescriptive. They’re telling them how to do things instead of just what. And the custom of the service that he talks about in that serial – the custom of the service is commander’s initiative, which he senses is waning, because it’s being pushed out of the way.
And he goes on to say, if the subordinates are deprived of that opportunity, as they are now – I mean, he was very pointed – they’re not getting the training and experience to act on their own. If they don’t know by constant practice how to exercise initiative of the subordinate, if they’re reluctant to act, if they’re not habituated to think, judge, decide for themselves, then in his mind, we’re going to be in a sorry case when the time of active operations arrives. That’s our concern right now.
He goes on to say, how did we get that way? This is how diagnosis – powerful, because I think you could lift this out of 1941 and put it in 2021. How did we get this way? Anxiety of seniors that everything in their commands has to look good, has to go smooth. Second, energetic activities of staffs, which lead to infringement. That sets you back. On subordinates, anxiety of subordinates, less their exercise of initiative – even in their legitimate fears – should result in them doing something that could prejudice their selection for a promotion. Wow. This is 1941. And then goes – the fourth one he talks about nursing and being nursed. Really powerful.
He uses as his illustrative example submarines, which you all will relate to. He’s saying, we trust submarines commanders to leave port, make all these decisions at sea. And then when they get promoted to admirals, everything changes for them. And now they’re prescriptive. And he wants – he’s driving his leaders to turn that around. So his solution set, and I’ll just finish up there, he says: Adopt the premise that echelon commanders are competent in their several command echelons, unless and until they themselves prove otherwise. Train them by guiding supervision to exercise foresight, to think, to judge, to decide and act for themselves. Stop nursing them. Train ourselves to be satisfied with acceptable solutions, even though they’re not staff solutions or other particular solutions that we ourselves prefer.
Like my counterparts, Admiral, I’m driving by a sense of urgency. But the human element, I think – the training, the development of maritime leaders – has to be part of the – part of the solution. I’ll turn it back over to you, sir.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Commandant, what a great contribution here. I think we would all agree that, you know, at its heart war is, and remains, and will remain a human endeavor. This is a competition, a battle really, between two thinking and adapting enemies.
CNO, I’d like to just maybe come to you now, pick up on this message that the commandant shared with us. What’s the modern version of Serial 53 right now from Admiral King? How are you, you know, instilling in your leaders the balance between compliance and creativity, measuring risk, seizing the initiative. There’s been a lot written about that recently. The vice chief talked about, you know, conversations where we’re training our leadership to embrace the red, get to, you know, the problems, feel comfortable about talking about problems. What’s your perspective on that? How are you addressing that?
ADM. GILDAY: I’ll speak to it through some examples of things that we’re working on. So at an individual level, and then more collectively. That really – reading Serial 53 was a great table setter.
So on an individual level, we have established, or are establishing, what we call a culture of excellence in the United States Navy. So if you’re part of a team, you all ought to be shooting towards the same target. And that target, for us, can’t just be compliance. It’s got to be excellence. And so we’re not settling for mediocrity. And a good example of that, I think during COVID, is the individual responsibility that sailors took – and Marines, and Coast Guardsmen – in deploying at an op tempo that we’ve been maintaining for the last – matched the op tempo we’ve maintained the last several years.
But we weren’t able to do that just because we put out good guidance from the Pentagon. We were able to do that because individual sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, were responsible enough to maintain the standards that were promulgated and then hold the sailor or the Marine to their left and their right to those same standards. We would have never been able to deploy at a 30 percent like we’ve been – like we’ve been able to sustain over the past year and a half. And again, I’m very proud of fleet leadership, but more so of individual sailors and this culture of excellence, which I should probably just call Navy culture, that doesn’t just emphasize the behavior that we want people to abandon – those destructive behaviors – but also to embrace signature behaviors that we all want to aspire to. So that’s kind of foundationally an important way forward for us.
Another piece of this, I think, is we want everybody to show up to work and understand their job, and to be the best, you know, technician that they can probably – they can possibly be, the best warfighter they could possibly be. With respect to the – with respect to Navy leadership, our responsibility there is to revolutionize training. And I know you’ve heard that word before, but the ready, relevant learning initiative that began under Admiral Richardson, that we’ve continued to fund and press ahead on, delivers the right training, at the right time, to sailors aboard ships.
The feedback so far has been really, really positive. And again, our goal here is to make sure that our technicians and our warfighters, as they’re training in that virtual environment, as they’re doing that OJT, that they’re at a level that surpasses their Russian and Chinese counterparts. As the commandant said, our asymmetric advantage in this great power competition is people.
Live virtual construct or constructive training, we’re about to – we’re about to – tomorrow we’ll start a two-week live virtual constructive exercise that involves 25,000 sailors and Marines in the Atlantic and the Pacific and in the Mediterranean. It’s the biggest exercise that we’ve done in a generation. Certainly, we want to test – we want to continue to test our warfighting concepts, distributed maritime operations, EABO, LOCE. We will continue to test those through this large-scale exercise. But it also, on an individual level, allows sailors, allows lieutenants and lieutenant commanders, to experiment with concepts and to learn from it.
That’s the – that’s the key to this, is to take this warfighting concept – which quite frankly is going to – is going to be foundational to everything that we buy. Everything that we invest in is going to be informed by how we’re going to fight. And so we think that this constructive training is really a path to the future for us, where if you can imagine sailors and those lieutenants and lieutenant commanders and their COs can run integrated training with airwings and submarines and surface ships and cyber units anytime they want, thousands of repetitions, right, where we can learn from that, and then bring back those lessons learned and improve upon how we fight.
So I would tell you – I’ll give you a couple more examples. The SEALs had some rough spots a couple of years ago. We did a comprehensive review, much like we did with the surface community after the collisions. And we learned so much. With the SEALs, it wasn’t professional competency, like it was in the surface community. It was character and ethics, right? That’s where they were falling – that’s where those high-performing teams were falling short. And so they placed great emphasis on that in terms of their – in terms of their mentoring and their training at every level.
I just spoke with the naval special warfare commander. And he had just finished interviewing a number of chief petty officers to go overseas in a high – into a high – I don’t want to say a high visibility, but a high risk – high risk operation. And he was essentially hiring a chief to lead the mission. And so there were, obviously, chiefs that he didn’t select. And what he did with those chiefs is he tried to understand why they fell short. Why didn’t he select them? Why didn’t they make the cut? And now they’re going through remedial training to get them back to the level where future missions they will compete, and they will be able to go. So you can – you can fail without being a failure, I guess is the point.
But at its core, this is all about warfighting. Things haven’t changed where when you report aboard a ship you still get a card. And on one side of that card, it tells you your day job. And that goes back to that warfighting technician piece that I spoke to earlier – ready, relevant learning. On the other side is your general quarter station, your battle station. You still have to understand, and you have to be an expert at how to handle flooding or how to handle a fire. So that hasn’t changed. But the focus and prioritization of it is certainly at the top of the list for us.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Thanks, CNO.
Commandant, I always have to say that I always treasured the chance to collaborate with my Coast Guard counterparts, because it seemed like you put your leaders in command positions and such, you know, much earlier that our Navy officers. And leadership and decision making, always tougher in kind of ambiguous situations, the more incomplete the information is, et cetera. I know that you’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this, particularly as it pertains to gray zone types of challenges, right? I mean, this – we just hear that all the time. The very term “gray zone” implies that we’re still struggling to figure out how we’re going to think about this. It’s not black, it’s not warfare. It’s not white, it’s not peacetime. It’s something in between.
And, you know, I think I’d have to say that in the eyes of our competitors, really, that there’s nothing gray about it. That this is deliberate, this is systematic. They’re deliberately exploiting what might be our structures and our seams. So much of what you do is enforcing good order in those seams. And I know that you highlighted the gray zone challenges in your input to the chairman’s joint assessment. You know, could you share your thinking on how the Coast Guard is responding to the gray zone challenges?
ADM. SCHULTZ: Yeah. I can, John. I think, just to sort of take the last question and roll it into that question, I’ll tell you for us disaggregated workforce – a lot of small units, a lot of command at the lieutenant level, O-4, O-2 level. Chief petty officers really leading through leaders is the Coast Guard model. And I think what we saw in COVID, building off the CNO’s comment, you know, was really we sort of coined the term “decisional agility. You know, the first cases for us were up in Seattle. And, you know, the pointy end of the spear was our rear admiral district commander.
And you know, the sight picture in Washington was very different than being on the ground in Seattle or being on a cutter down off the north shore of Colombia. So we really, really led through leaders and looked at this – you know, if you made a bad decision, don’t stay wedded to it. What are the facts that changed? How do you change that? When you sort of roll that into the gray zone, I think, you know, I did input to the chairman’s annual joint assessment, the unclass version, and talked about, to me, gray zone ops is a place where I think we bring something to the fight.
You know, let’s look at the South China/East China Sea for a second. So China loves to stand up and call out, you know, the U.S. Navy, now the U.S. Navy and allies, for militarizing it. What do they do? They take their coast guard, China coast guard – which until 2018 was a civilian-run organization under the minister of public security. They moved it under the armed – you know, People’s Armed Police, PAP, which is a direct report to the central Chinese commission. And, you know, you take a Chinese Coast Guard cutter, you take a maritime militia vessel that’s arguable state purchased, sponsored, and running down folks in disputed areas, that’s very ambiguous. And how do you – how do you compete there? How do you counter that?
I think one of the things that I think we do – and I talked about that continuum to cooperate-compete – where we compete in that space is we showcase, whether we’re operating in the theater or through our narrative, this is not how the world’s coast guards act. You know, world’s best coast guards aren’t antagonistic and coercive in their behaviors. We’re out there rescuing people. We’re not using Coast Guard cutters to challenge disputed areas. There’s a new coast guard law that was passed on 1 February this year. It’s been very interesting to see. So it models or mimics the United States Coast Guard’s authorities, but then it takes it a step further and say you can tear down structures on disputed spaces. And that’s different behavior.
So for us, John, I think it’s – gray zone ops is very important. You know, I kind of stretch it a little further. It’s not gray zone operations, but I look at distance water fishing. So you got – you know, we saw in the press last year, 350 China, China-characteristic vessels fishing off the Galapagos. It’s a pretty important area ecologically for the Ecuadorians. You know, responsible flag states might be there ensuring their ships are operating responsibly. You know, that, to me, is where, you know, you see maritime security, maritime governance, the way we project it on our U.S. fishermen. You know, about a third of all the fish we buy in this country is harvested from illegal means. We hold our fishermen to standards. That’s how responsible states act.
So that’s a little off the gray zone, but it sort of stretches it in the same direction. It’s, like, how do, you know, leading global forces for good behave in, you know, the free and open spaces that we all profess to want to push forward as the global standard?
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah, absolutely. You know, when I think about gray zone operations, the need to make – you know, assess your environment and make decisions, we always go back to this concept of the strategic corporal, right? And how that Marine, that sailor, that Coast Guardsman will have to – much more responsibility on that one individual to make accurate and well-informed decisions. How do you think about that, Commandant? Kind of picking up on your theme there in terms of the centrality of our people in this. Bu you’ve also written extensively on information systems and those sorts of things that will enhance that thinking. How do you see that teaming going on between, you know, that person and the technology that they’ll employ?
GEN. BERGER: I think the level of echelon that you’re referring to, they are ready to run if we just get out of their way. They are ready to make decisions. They’re used to information systems providing just overwhelming quantities. They’re used to it. It’s overwhelming to me, not overwhelming to them. So I think we’re – the problem is us. The problem is not them. I think they’re ready to make decisions. I think at their level we’re shackling them. We even run the AARs in a way that critiques the decision instead of saying: You made a decision, good on you. You know? We start off with the decision. We should start off with: Glad you made a decision. The way that we’re – our construct sometimes isn’t a good fit.
I think they’re more than ready, but I think at my level we’re the problem. We grew up for the last 15-20 years enamored by big screen TVs here that gave us situational awareness of every square inch of our assigned area. That’s not situational awareness. And I think the best commanders I’ve seen actually sit outside their command centers because they sense I can’t – I’ll get overwhelmed by what’s happening in the moment. I need to think ahead. I think if we give them broad guidance, let them make mistakes, let them run, we’ll have much better small unit commanders. And I’m with you, we’re going to need them. If you believe in distributed, then you must believe then – the corollary is they will make decisions.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Absolutely. You know, CNO, just again kind of coming back to something that’s been – something very important to you. And a lot of the messaging of that has come during the time of COVID where – you know, so now we’re here live. You’ve got an audience of every, you know, element of the supporting network that’s leaning forward in their chairs to help you with every molecule of their body. What can you tell them about overmatch? And, you know, how are we going to bring those technologies – you know, what’s your vision there? How can they best fit in?
ADM. GILDAY: Thanks. Before I get to that, if I could just make a comment about gray zone. So I am extremely proud of our COs who are in contact with Iranian, Russian, and Chinese units every single day, day in and day out, whether it’s in the air or on the sea, we’re in contact. And so we have modified our training to give them the ability to handle that at their level. You know, a lieutenant on a PC, patrol craft, in the northern Arabian Gulf at night, up against an IRGCN vessel with no lights, not communicating, weapons uncovered, he fires warning shots, handles it really, really well.
Same thing with, you know, we’re distributed now, as John Richardson mentioned. And so CSGs and ARGs aren’t necessarily the center of the universe anymore. It’s the fleet. It’s integrated and distributed. So I do think that – I do think, as I step back and I watch COs making decisions, and I take a look at CO relief numbers, you know, 10 years ago. Eight years ago, we were at 25, 22, 21 a year. Now we’re at 10, eight, we have four this year. And part of that has to do with much more rigorous training. I will tell you that we have not – have not let up in the standards of command.
I will tell you that we are less risk averse than we used to be, in my opinion. And, you know, I can’t – I can’t say that that risk – that that reduction of risk aversion has everything to do with those numbers, but I think it has to do somewhat with those numbers. And the feedback I get from COs out there is they’re more comfortable operating and making decisions without feeling that somebody’s breathing down their neck.
Overmatch, real quick. The whole idea of overmatch, for those that understand frequency hopping, this is network hopping. It is wrapping data and pushing it on any available network. The software determines how – the path by which that data is going to travel. But no longer will data be confined to a single network for which it was designed to operate on. That data can be pushed on any network. We are into our fourth – actually, our third spiral in less than a year of testing this. This is the Navy’s piece of JADC2. We’re not satisfied with where we are. We have a ways to go before we get to the point where we go strike group wide in early 2023.
But the concept is communication as a service. And it’s more resilient. It takes applications out of operating system, as an example, and it puts them on the backbone of an IT system of a ship. And the reason why that’s important is because now – if you want to get back to, you know, sailors, and creativity, and innovation – those battle management aids that are such an important part of overmatch, the naval – actually, Overmatch delivers the Navy’s next operational architecture – is it allows sailors to actually propose changes to those applications in real time. And they can be tested in real time, just like industry does, and then pushed out to other units across the fleet. We’re very excited about where it’s headed. We’re not satisfied with where we are. But we’re heading in the right direction. And again, an effort that we want to deliver on in this decade.
ADM. RICHARDSON: OK, thanks.
Just a couple of administrative notes here. I just go the signal from the CEO of the Navy League of the United States that we’re going to extend this session till 10:30. And this’ll give us a chance to really dig into your questions. And so if I could ask the room captain to bring those questions up to me, the cards, we’ll shift.
But while we do that, I’d like to just ask kind of, you know, a service chief job description question. We do need to transform and move into the future, as we’ve just talked about. But we need to do that also in a way that recognizes that, you know, our resourcing is going to be relatively flat, right? And so what are those – you know, just kind of the big muscle movements. What are the – where are you placing your bets in terms of the future? And how are you making room to invest in those wagers? General Berger?
GEN. BERGER: The shift for the Marine Corps? I think, where we can make the greatest contribution to defense going forward is as part of a naval expeditionary force. So for us, it’s the bets that you’re referring to, the investments, where do we place them? We place them in an area that’ll help the fleet commander fight, the way the CNO believes they’re going to need to. Some of that is the tools that we’re going to need to deny certain areas, deny certain domains for given periods of time. But it all has to be integrated. It can’t be separate Marine Corps stuff. It must be completely integrated, or it’s clearly not going to work.
I’m in the camp that says that one of the humbling parts of strategic competition is you’re not going to dominate in all domains, all the time, everywhere. So where is it that we need to maintain the margin of advantage that we have, and even stretch it out going forward? That’s where we need to put our money. Where do we need to just hold what we got? And where are we comfortable being a little bit behind? Knowing that, conscious of that? That’s where you’re going to move your money away from and put over in the areas where you have to have a tactical advantage. You’ve got to give the operational commanders the advantage going forward.
So it's in sea denial. It's in the kind of fires that hold a surface and subsurface force at risk. And it’s the center systems for that stand-in force that paint the picture forward for the joint force commander, what is going on forward of us? That’s where we need to invest.
ADM. RICHARDSON: OK. But where do you think you’ll – you know, what do you give up in that transition to make room for those investments?
GEN. BERGER: Giving up the heavy armor. We’ve given up half of our total artillery. We’re shrinking, contracting the size of the Marine Corps, because I’m – our game plan going forward is we’re going to – we’re going to right-size ourselves for the naval force we need going forward. And we’re going to pay for it internally. Because I don’t sense that we’re going to have rising budgets going forward.
ADM. RICHARDSON: No, I think we’re all in agreement there, yeah.
Admiral Schultz, every time I’ve got that, you know, we had budgetary woes you would set me straight in the Tank and say, let me just tell you about budgetary constraints. (Laughter.) Right? So how do you think about that? Where is the Coast Guard moving forward? What are those things that you’re investing in? And perhaps what you are divesting from to pay for it?
ADM. SCHULTZ: You’d be surprised how much pocket change falls out of the commandant and the CNO’s pocket in the Tank. (Laughter.) I got pretty good at discretely rolling that up. You know, John, we’ve – I took over 1 June 2018, and been on sort of a readiness crusade for the Coast Guard. And I will tell you actually, as the concerns of the top line across the Department of Defense are very tangible and palpable. I would tell you, inside the DHS budget I think we’ve actually made some progress there. The ’22 budget that the president sent to the Hill has the first real plus-up to start the year. And there’s a good conversation.
Back in 2018, the Trump administration fairly new, 12 percent bump. We weren’t part of that. So we’re playing catch up. About eight years when we lost 10 percent of operating support, O&S, O&M purchasing power. And that’s tough. So we’ve been on this readiness crusade. A key part of that, as you heard from the CNO and the commandant, is really the people piece. We’re trying to be a Coast Guard increasingly reflective of the nation we serve. We’re trying to be a Coast Guard that, you know, connects the Coastie to the frontline operator. The Simon Sinek, you know, how many levels from the “why” are you?
And we modernized the Coast Guard about a decade ago, and now we’re trying to – it really builds off Bill Lescher’s comments. Sort of that speed of need. The mission support element really has to match the frontline operator. How do we enable that young man or woman that’s turning a wrench on a small boat up in Coos Bay, Oregon to be efficient at that? And, you know, we layer a lot of oversight on acquisitions, and how many levels of scrutiny, and audit the accessibility we do. We got to do that, but we got to think about that young man or woman that’s trying to get something done. We’re thinking about as we’re increasingly a blue water global Coast Guard, you know, how do we do parts forward? How do we do logistics forward?
We’ve had great support from the Seventh Fleet. I was out there with INDOPACOM command, really thanking, of course, Aquilino, and thanking, you know, Blake Converse, the deputy at Pac Fleet about that forward support they’re giving to Coast Guard, John. So for us, it’s readiness. A big part of that’s the people. We will stay creative. But I’m encouraged that former White House, this White House seems to see the Coast Guard as part of the solution set of some of these global challenges, particularly in the competition space. So I think we’re actually – I’m guarded optimistic moving forward. We just got to keep the narrative sharp, and we got to continue to take some risk and deliver Coast Guard capability. And say, hey, the nation needs more of that.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah, OK.
ADM. GILDAY: Could I pitch in there while you’re sorting through the stack.
ADM. RICHARDSON: There’s a flaw in this system. (Laughter.) I just 257 cards here, so. (Laughs.) Anyway, I’d be very grateful CNO. I was going to go to you anyway, but yeah. (Laughs.)
ADM. GILDAY: Let me give you a second. I think this is a really important year inside the – for the Department of Defense. We just finished up the China Taskforce. We’re going through a Global Posture Review. And the Joint Warfighting Concept is in its second turn. About a year ago the Navy spent a day with industry leaders showing them the results of some of our wargaming. I think that was really, really instructive. We need to do that again. But – and we need to do more of it, not only with industry but with the Hill.
But back to those three items that I mentioned, they’re really going to define what we buy in the future, what we invest in, because they’re going to have a significant effect on how we’re going to fight, how we’re going to shape the fight. And one of the things I think where industry can really help us is to be a bit more agile in pivoting to new technologies and new platforms. And so it’s not the ’90s anymore. If you go to the Tri-Service Strategy – and we really tried to punctuate the sense of urgency that we feel every day against China, to move, the move the needle in a bureaucracy that’s really not designed to move very fast.
And so although it’s in industry’s best interest – and I just saw your second – your second quarter reports, and I know it’s a happy audience out there for the most part. Building the ships that you want to build, lagging on repairs to ships and to submarines, lobbying Congress to buy aircraft that we don’t need – that are excess to need, it’s not helpful. It really isn’t, in a budget-constrained environment. I think that we owe you a set of headlights in terms of what we need. I go back to those elements that I talked about. But everybody in this audience is affected by this competition, not just us in uniform. And you know that too well.
This is about the prosperity of this country, the economic security of this country, the national security of this country. And for this audience, it’s going to take a new approach, I think, in terms of what we build and how we build it and the timelines on which we deliver. It has to change. And I know we have to do it together. And I know that, hey, there’s a lot of blame. We have to get beyond the blame and look forward in terms of how we’re going to do this better. Thanks.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Thanks, CNO. That’s great.
You know, all of you have spent a fair amount of your time and energy working with allies and partners. And, you know, two of you just got back. You said that you got to kind of visit the theater to understand really, and to get a feeling of what is going on and what the other service chiefs and leaders are contending with in that theater. Admiral Schultz, a big part of this now is coordinating with other Coast Guards.
I can’t tell you the number of times where I’ve spoken to foreign leaders and they say, hey, you know, we – what can we do to, first, grow a Coast Guard like yours. Everybody – you know, your force is the envy of everybody’s. But also, what can we do to partner? Maybe share a couple of thoughts about sort of, you know, how you think internationally with allies and partners the importance of that role. And I’ll ask each of you to kind of give a sense of that.
ADM. SCHULTZ: Yeah, John. Just very quickly I’d tell you, what a lot of folks don’t understand about the Coast Guard is we do have a very active international arm. So it’s MTTs, Mobile Training Teams, that deploy across the globe. I think – I forget how many countries we’ll touch, somewhere around 100 this year. These teams take maritime law enforcement, engineering support to places. And they teach these nations how to do that, how to stand up their schoolhouses. Some of the projects we’re doing with the Malaysians, the Indonesians, the Vietnamese, the Philippines, is standing up their own schools. How do they have their organic capability to bolster their own forces?
You know, the Philippines just announced they’re taking acceptance of a couple OPVs from the Japanese. They got some Japanese patrol boats. We have a defense threat – DTRA advisor there. So we got key placed Coast Guardsmen who bring back some of these foreign folks to our schoolhouses here in the United States. We have an international maritime officer course where, you know, I’ve traveled the globe in my, you know, recent years/assignments. And the first thing some of these folks come up to me in Chile, they give me their IMEC (ph) pin on their – you know, on their collar. They went their 30 years ago, and they’re a flag officer. But that was seminal for them. They developed relationships that played forward over the course of multiple decades.
So I think it’s that ability to partner. Folks do look to us. So our challenge, you know, 42,000 active duty force. There’s only a finite amount of Coast Guard to allocate. So we’ve got to be very efficient. You know, we’re looking into the Indo-Pacific region. How do we potentially layer in with the Australians and their Pacific maritime strategy on the patrol boat delivery? Can we help them on the law enforcement training, on the maintenance front? I think for us it’s about – again, back to that whole or sum of the greater parts, where do we complement others? How do we help nation-states develop their own capabilities? And the capacity is a little bit on them, but, you know, we do a lot of stuff with EDA and foreign military sales on Coast Guard-like platforms. And I think as you survey the globe, you see those making a difference on these – particularly these smaller coastal nations protecting their own sovereign interests.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah. There’s also just a real great feeling about how you manage the authorities – the unique authorities; the law enforcement authorities – that you’ve got, how you team with the other services. You know, maybe, you know, the Marine Corps provides the capability, you provide the authorities, and it gets really –
ADM. SCHULTZ: I think our secret sauce, John is people to people.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah.
ADM. SCHULTZ: I mean, you know, you can bring somebody to school, but it’s when you interact, when you train, when you go out and do a joint operation. I think that’s what we bring across the Indo-Pacific region, particularly the Oceania region, as an alternative to the checkbook diplomacy. It’s that people to people, Western democratic values. And I think that’s part of our special sauce as the Coast Guard to deliver some of that.
ADM. RICHARDSON: No, I couldn’t agree with you more.
General Berger, you know, I think you do a lot of this type of partnership as well, which these partnerships become strategic. You know, as we grow up together with our foreign counterparts, we become senior leaders, the trust and confidence that is inherent allows us to work much more seamlessly. How do you think about the allies and partners? You know, I think it’s kind of a mistake if we just think about bilateral U.S.-China or U.S.-whoever. We’re really going to be coming at this from a team perspective.
GEN. BERGER: I imagine a lot of people here have lived in the countries that you’re talking about, me included. I think painting the extremes, there’s a hubris on one extreme of: Here’s out doctrine, here’s our equipment, here’s how we’re trained. In order to work with us, to be interoperable, here’s what you have to do.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah, just do what we do. (Laughs.)
GEN. BERGER: The U.S. way, right. Just do this and then we’ll be good partners.
GEN. BERGER: We have to meet them – like, I agree with the commandant and the CNO. You have to meet those countries exactly where they are right now. And first, before you open your mouth and start telling them what they have to do, you should start listening to where do they think they’re going and how can you help them go on the path that they’re on. It’s upside down, but that’s what endears them to the U.S. It’s not marching in there with a solution set, here just do this and you can be interoperable. It’s just listening what path are you guys on, how can we help you, and not overmatching them with – you know, if they have 100 people, not walking in with 1,000, kind of. You have to scale it to where they’re ready to accept you.
And then the CNO and commandant just got back. The nuances of where they live – the CNO highlighted it before we walked in. we can look at the region from the outside and gain a perspective how a Quad might work. CNO relayed to me, he goes, yeah, but we’re inside the neighborhood. We’re inside that. It looks marvelous to you to be on the outside. We’re inside. So the humility part, where we need to just listen, figure out how to work with them instead of dictating how they must be interoperable with us, that’s the approach we have to take.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah. And not only just enabling them, but I always found that I learned a tremendous amount from them. You know, we could improve the way we do business by virtue of listening as well.
GEN. BERGER: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
ADM. RICHARDSON: CNO, great set up that the commandant just gave you. You just got back from Singapore. You had a chance to talk to a lot of your counterparts. Certainly the Quad is getting a lot of attention. But there are other voices in that room. Could you share that with us?
ADM. GILDAY: Many, yeah. So in a nutshell, I would just say: Nobody sits the bench. Everybody plays. And so when I take a look at – we’re very accustomed to working within NATO. When I take a look at the Middle East and I take a look at the Coalition Maritime Force, 33 countries a year ago, now 34 with Egypt. This is a coalition of the willing, with taskforces that are commanded by a number of nations. Not the United States, but a number of other nations that act collectively together to provide maritime security in the vial waterways of the Strait of Hormuz and Bab-al-Mandeb. We can’t do it alone. We can’t kid ourselves.
And the Western Pacific, there’s a variety of different security arrangements. Some are bilateral. Some are trilateral, quad. Some are multilateral. And so they’re stacked on top of each other. And so you can’t just bust in there, you know, as the ugly American thinking you’re going to be in charge. Many times, you’re facilitating. And the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps, really good – really good at doing this. And we learn a lot from them in terms of how they partner. But there’s so much opportunity out there with respect to – with respect to partnering to maintain free and open – free and open maritime commons.
And as I watch China, China is becoming more and more isolated. You talk about the gray zone and the stuff that we do together – the tri-services, but also our partners – we’re calling out that activity. And, yeah, stuff gets, you know, dictated in international courts, and the Russians and the Chinese may not abide by those findings, but everybody sees that. And that’s really important, because we’re together, we’re on the right side of this, we’ve got the moral high ground, and we’re not giving any – or water – and we’re not going to give any space to those people that abuse it.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah. And I think that, going back to your Overmatch, these software-based systems I think will allow us to really dovetail our capabilities together, share information much more dynamically, you know. And so just a tremendous amount of opportunity there.
ADM. GILDAY: Absolutely, yeah.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Well, I’ve got a cry for help from a commanding officer in the room. And so, you know, those folks have to wrestle with so many things. You know, everything flows downhill until it hits the unit CO, and then they’ve just got to contend with it. He or she has got to move it. And so it’s a little bit of a maritime ship question. How do we move the needle on getting ships and submarines out of private shipyard maintenance on time so that we can protect our nation on a predictable resource schedule?
So something that, you know, the CO just wants to get out. They want to just fight their unit, fight their platform. How do we enable them to do that, get them through their readiness phase on time?
ADM. GILDAY: So a lot of this is, obviously, partnering with those – with those private yards. But for the Navy, one of the things I didn’t mention in my introductory remarks as we get after ship – delay days in private and public yards, is the fact that we are heavily leveraging data, and data analytics, to take us to a better place. To see ourselves and where those problems are. As an example, inside the Navy we know that at least 30 percent of those delay days are attributable to poor planning and forecasting up front. That’s on us to fix, and we’re getting after that, and we can measure that progress. We can see it.
Likewise, the shipyards are interested in what we’re learning. And they are actually leveraging the work that we’re doing through CNA and some outside help we’re getting on data analytics. But our goal last year – actually, in 2020 – was to drive delay days down by 80 percent. We did that in the public yards, but in the private yards we’re still in the 60 percent range. So we have a ways to go. COVID had an impact on that. We’re not satisfied with where we are. But, again, you know, getting ships out of maintenance on time, that falls right in that readiness bin. It’s among our highest priorities. We are putting heat on. I hear the COs, and they shouldn’t be the ones who bear that risk and that blame when we – when we fall behind.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah. Commandant, how do you do that? You know, to your credit, we don’t hear a lot about – but it must be the same struggle, you know, the same thing, the levers are involved. You know, how do you think about –
ADM. SCHULTZ: Yeah, I’ll tell you, John, it’s shipyard capacity is somewhat stretched. You know, for us, we just go some new two-year or multi-year authority for what we call 4X maintenance money. So when you’re trying to – sitting in the Department of Homeland Security, the right place for the Coast Guard – not necessarily an easy place, because that’s generally the last appropriation that gets done every year. So when you can’t contract in the first quarter, sometimes into the second quarter of the fiscal year, you starting to do, you know, a year’s worth of ship repair work in an eight-month, nine-month calendar, that’s tough. So that’s multi-year money. That’s a portion of our maintenance funds. But we’re going to go back. We got to renew that. That’s game changing.
You know, we don’t come in with as big contract value projects as the Navy does. So some of the shipyards will sort of wait and see what the work is, or they do commercial work. But I think writ large, we got a great team of maintainers. They’re very strategic. You know, for us, the scope forces us to kind of drive the schedule hard. The schedule sort of came here because of the cost, and because of those finite amount of days. And, you know, one ship runs along, it’s probably the place where we got a second ship, a third ship scheduled after that. So we really work hard to stay on schedule, get our ships out, John. But I’ll tell you, this multi-year thing I think is going to help us. And I think watching, you know, the conversation the COs having with industry and the conversation we’re having about, you know, the need for capacity out there, I think we can turn this and head in a better direction in the years ahead.
ADM. RICHARDSON: OK, yeah. You know, as I go through these literally hundreds of cards – (laughs) – there’s a theme that emerges in terms of the emerging role of unmanned. And I would say that, you know, the sentiments that are expressed here range from enthusiasm and a lot of optimism in terms of what it offers going forward, but also a little bit of frustration. Like, hey, how can we get this to move a little bit faster? General Berger, how do you see this, you know, going forward? You’ve been giving this a lot of thought, I know.
GEN. BERGER: Perhaps a couple thoughts. One, we need to be willing to use what we have right now as a surrogate for something that might come later on. It might not be the perfect thing that we’re going to need five, six, seven years from now, but it’s available now and we can learn quickly from it. I think the overlay of artificial intelligence on top of unmanned, I mean, that’s – clearly those paths are converging in a way that can give us the cycle of decision making that we all want faster, inside the adversary’s cycle, whatever that is.
In other words, not just a better version of what we were last week, but now we’re in competition, OK? So our yardstick is a little bit different. I think the unmanned campaign plan, for lack of a better word, that the CNO’s put together has – gives the path. OK. This is where we’re going. Undersea, on the surface, in the air. It’s broad enough that it gives us in industry room to wiggle, but it’s clear enough to tell us where we’re – where we’re headed. I don’t – I’m not in the camp that says in the near term, you know, get everybody – all the humans aside, and it’s time for machines. The magic, of course, for us, is how do you marry the two together to make a more formidable capability?
And there, again, I think we’re at a disadvantage at my grade and age. I think my son, who’s a major, right in – you know, a captain – that’s the sweet spot. You just give them the tools. Don’t tell them how to use them. They’ll probably by the end of tomorrow figure out, you know, seven ways you had never envisioned. You just kind of give them the capabilities and let them go practice with them.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah. In some ways, just our current structure are inhibiting that type of –
GEN. BERGER: Yeah, it is.
ADM. RICHARDSON: You know. So, CNO, you know, the commandant mentioned artificial intelligence. There’s been a big push and imperative, in fact, to get after artificial intelligence, employ it. Where do you see the near-term uses in the Navy for AI?
ADM. GILDAY: A lot of projects ongoing right now. Some of them I’ve been as warfighting initiatives that I really can’t talk about, but some of them are absolutely groundbreaking. In terms of – in terms of helping us decide and act potentially faster than an adversary. Some of them – some AI/ML – machine learning – capabilities, we’re applying to business system. Manpower systems is another example. I think we have to be realistic, though, when we – when we talk about AI and unmanned, as an example. It’s one thing for us – and we’ve done this a couple of times – is to bring an unmanned vessel from the Gulf Coast through the Panama Canal and up to Port Hueneme, California, 4,000-plus miles, and do 98-99 percent of the transit autonomously. It’s able to figure out the COLREGs and maneuver safely.
It’s a whole other to give an unmanned vessel commander’s intent to direct it to go out to perform a mission, to come back and report mission complete. This is going to – it’s going to take us a while. We got to be realistic and thoughtful about moving through this. And the same thing with unmanned, if I could. We really got to crack the command and control issues. And Overmatch will help us get at that. But also, the reliability issue before we put ourselves in a position, we hope later on this in decade, where we can actually scale. But we need to nail that stuff down with industry.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Commandant, how’s the Coast Guard thinking about unmanned and the combination of AI and –
ADM. SCHULTZ: Yeah. So, John, we’ve been really UAS-aviation-centered – ScanEagles, National Security Cutters, small drones to our – to our – what we call our sector commands – 35 sector commands distributed across the country – oil spill response. You know, you can basically get out there and get some situational awareness and decide what kind of a launch you got to do, what kind of partnerships you have to bring in, what spill response organization. What we stood up in our requirements shop at headquarters is a UxS office. So we’re looking at other subsurface/surface type capabilities. We partner on the air piece, again, with our CBP counterparts, with the maritime guard and MQ-9. And not a lot of investments happen there, but I think there’s some big wing options for longer-range surveillance that excite me.
I think for us, you know, we stood up a cell in headquarters where some AI type stuff, data analytics. We’re using that as we look at our regulatory functions. Small passenger vessel safety. We got a lot of attention on the Hill due to some national catastrophes – a big ship fire in an overnight dive charter in southern California here – mid-California coast, with a loss of 34 lives. You know, how do we look at our regulatory roles and assess where the highest risks are? So we’re doing that. We’re doing that in our maintenance. Can we do some more condition-based maintenance, using some of these data analytics, John?
So we’re standing up small elements of that and getting going on that. We’ve been fortunate to get some resources. And I think the sky’s the limit. You know, we’re sort of scratching into it, but we got to be part of that conversation. And we’re bringing that capability into our headquarters right now.
GEN. BERGER: If you tied together two – a question you had earlier about how can industry help, you know, and artificial intelligence, and the CNO’s point about some warfighting and some business systems. You look at an area like logistics, which the commandant of the Coast Guard touched on. If you assume that you need to be capable of operating distributed, then logistics becomes to the fore now. How are you going to sustain that force? How are you going to maintain it? How are you going to repair the gear forward?
And if we think we’re going to do it in a human endeavor, in a human mind, that ain’t going to work. The tools are there right now to tell us – to forecast how we’re going to support that distributed force. So to me, there are natural fits here if we just unleash what industry is already working on to the problems that we’re challenged with, there’s a marriage there.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Yeah. Commandant, thanks. That’s exactly how I was going to try to take our last few minutes, even of this this extended sessions is, you know, what a lot of industry in the audience – of course, they’re here. Commandant Schultz, what would you tell – what’s your commander’s guidance to industry here, assuming that you had authority there? You know, what could they do to help, right? What’s the three by five card that they want to walk away with?
ADM. SCHULTZ: Yeah, I think Bill Lescher hit it this morning. I think there needs to be transparent exchange with industry. Like I said, we’re in the biggest shipbuilding program we’ve been since the Second World War. So it’s – you know, we scratch for every – scratch and claw for every dollar with the Congress. So we build a ship, we got to stay on schedule, we got to stay on budget, we’ve got to – we’ve got to come in with very strong, detailed design. We’re a little bit delayed in our Polar Security Cutter, but we haven’t built that ship in a half-century here, so the like ship there. But we got to get going on that.
You know, we’ve got some challenges. We fly a fleet of 98 Aerospatiale Dolphin helicopters that we’re waiting for a future vertical lift. That’s sort of creeped right. We’re not going to push the composite aircraft probably in 2040. So we’re going to drive up our fleet of MH-60 Jayhawks, drive down that fleet of 98. So we got to have very open exchange. You know, we do some depot level work in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. We get some of Mike’s, you know, 8,000-hour SH-60s, and we can convert them and put 20,000 fresh hours. But now with some industry new cabins, we can put 20,000 new hours on that. And we’re looking at other alternatives.
So I think it’s just that transparent exchange of ideas. You know, what can industry offer? How can we bring that into our wheelhouse of where we have sort of budgetary maneuver space? And we come up with solutions.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Sounds great.
Commandant, you gave, you know, a little bit of your thinking in terms of AI, how industry can help. Any other closing thoughts for our audience here in terms of what they can do to really pitch in and help the Marine Corps?
GEN. BERGER: Training, where I began, I think. We haven’t – we’re 25 percent – you know, in other words, I think there’s another 75 percent of collaboration we can do to get to where we can train as a fleet, as a numbered fleet. We’re not going to do that organically. We need – we need that collaboration to get there. The second part, which the commandant of the Coast Guard touched on, perhaps, is going to sound a little bit out of the – out of left field. But I think if we approach Congress together sometimes to try to break – to break down the bureaucratic rules that slow us down, we’d make some progress. Sometimes we come at them individually from different perspectives. But I think there’s ground to plow there if we were to talk to them collaboratively about, OK, what is actually slowing us down? And then work with Congress together to, OK, what are the 17 things that if we could just move them out of the way we could go faster. I think there’s room to maneuver there too.
CNO, you’ve got the mic drop moment here, so. (Laughs.)
ADM. GILDAY: That countdown clock is ticking.
ADM. RICHARDSON: Don’t pay any attention to that. Stevens will give us 30 more minutes. (Laughter.)
ADM. GILDAY: So let me go back to where we began with China as a strategic threat, sense of urgency in this decade, and that the way we’ve been doing things in the past isn’t going to work in the future. The vice chief leads some incredibly important work in the Navy implementing the Nav Plan. And he showed me some data where we took a look at 11 programs over 13 years. Ninety-eight years of delay time in those 11 programs. That’s an example of unacceptable outcomes that we cannot live with in this decade. We can’t keep going down this path.
I’m not saying – I’m not talking down to industry. This is a shared responsibility here in terms of improvement. I do think, you know, there’s silver linings in COVID, and we all know that. One of them has been the lifting to a great degree of this opaque curtain that runs down 395 between Crystal City and the Pentagon. And the transparency in the supply chain, as an example, during COVID has been absolutely phenomenal, where we had really good insights, both on the repair side and on the production line, where industry was having problems. Expectations were set. We got it. We need to continue that. We need to continue that transparency that both of the commandants talked about.
ADM. RICHARDSON: OK. Listen, why don’t we all just express our gratitude. Not only did they come and agree to spend an hour, but we asked 30 more minutes of their time. I hope we didn’t destroy your schedules. I can hear the dominos falling all around the Washington metropolitan area. (Laughter.) Thank you very much to our service chiefs for spending time with us. (Applause.) Thanks a lot.
Adm. Mike Gilday
02 August 2021
05 August 2021
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