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Thank you and good morning everyone! It’s great to be here. To all of you here in person and joining us virtually, thank you for all that you do for the Secretariat, for our Department, and for our Nation.
You and your families are indeed the foundation of our success in every possible way. And I have said this, everywhere I have traveled.
On behalf of myself and my wife Betty, I want you to later on this evening, take a moment and thank your families, your children, your spouses and your relatives for their continue service in support of you and the service to our nation.
I have now been your Secretary for a little over a year, having been sworn in on August 9th and every day I find new reasons to be truly amazed by the service that I see by our Sailors, our Marines, and Civilians of the Department of the Navy. It has really been impressive.
During the last year, I have had the privilege of meeting with many of you here in the Secretariat, out in the Marine Corps and the Navy throughout my travels. From the deckplate to the tarmac, from the office to the range.
In our time together, you have shared your concerns. You’ve shared your priorities with me which is extremely important, and you have given me the opportunity to earn your trust. Because, as I often say when I’m out there traveling, I work for you.
As the Secretary of the Navy, my chief responsibility is to provide combat ready forces to our combatant commanders.
But, it takes a team to do that. And it’s important for us to all work together. And for us to do it effectively, I have to earn your trust and I hope I have done so this past year.
But I also trust you as well. And I am depending on you to lead with integrity and professionalism at all times, whether anyone is looking or not.
To me that is the essential definition of integrity. Always doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do whether anyone is looking or not-or any personal consequence to yourselves.
I know you are doing amazing things for our force each and every day. But today, I want to continue to hear about your problems and concerns and how we can make our beloved Department of the Navy that much stronger.
I want to find out what issues are obstacles, so I can better understand them and take further action to support each and every one of you.
Please consider the following three questions as they apply to your organization, and our entire Department today, as we move on from this discussion:
What is it that we need to start doing? What is it that we need to start doing differently in our organizations to make the institutions that much stronger and provide the American taxpayer an even greater return on investment.
What efforts should we sustain? Those that make sense. And what should we stop doing? Because I know that it’s often tough to do more with less, and we shouldn’t. Sometimes, we need to figure out what’s necessary to stop doing in order to do more things more effectively moving forward.
So consider how these questions apply to the way that we support our people and their families.
Think about how they apply to our business processes and the decisions that you make every single day.
Think about the role that your organization plays in furthering each of the three guiding principles that support our Department of the Navy Strategy.
And I always say, that to be really effective in an organization, you have to understand the role that your division plays. But even more importantly, you have to understand the role you individually play. Because the role that you play in the Navy, quite frankly, is as significant as the role that I play as Secretary of the Navy.
The role that the Chief of Naval Operations plays or even the Commandant of the Marine Corps. That new enlistee that comes into the Department of the Navy, swears an oath and shows up on the deckplate is as important as the three of us. And it takes a team for us to be fully effective.
First, maintain and strengthen our maritime dominance so that we can deter potential adversaries, and fight and win decisively. This is incredibly important to what I said my mission was: To provide combat ready forces for our combatant commanders to be able to do their jobs effectively around the globe, in defense of our national security interests, support of the Secretary of Defense and in support of the President of the United States.
Secondly, empower our Sailors and Marines by fostering a culture of warfighting excellence, founded on strong leadership, dignity, and respect. And in many ways, this perhaps is even more significant, then the other two guiding principles. Because the foundation of the success of any organization is our people. And we must take care of our people. It’s a culture that’s been engrained in our military service for decades. We constantly have to develop ourselves to understanding their needs and requirements so that we can take care of them. So that they can do their job more effectively in support of our national security interests.
And third, enhance our strategic partnerships, across the Joint Force, industry, academia, and nations around the globe. Those partnerships are critical in everything that we do. There’s no doubt in my mind about it.
I don’t know that we’ll be able to ever match one for one, the number of ships that China is producing. But what I do know is that we can build a very large ‘Navy’ made up of all the ships of all our allies and partners around the globe working together collectively as one, in support of our mutual interests. Which is why building these alliances and partnerships with other countries and with our industrial base is so incredibly important to our mission success. But many challenges remain and each of you know there is a very important part for you to play in overcoming significant challenges.
We have made progress in each of these areas, thanks to your hard work and professionalism during this past year and well before I even came here.
But many challenges remain.
And each of you has a part to play in overcoming these challenges.
So for example, strengthening our maritime dominance requires us to ensure that we acquire, we maintain, and deploy the right platforms to meet the right pacing threat.
That’s a responsibility that demands the best efforts of everybody involved - from the acquisition official looking ten years ahead, to the Sailor standing today’s watch. And I’ve had many meetings throughout the past year with industry and with our acquisition professional corps to try to bring down the cost of our acquisition programs, and to try to keep them on track.
To try to improve the ability to maintain our ships, our aircraft. And I’m very pleased by the progress that you all have made this past year and well before I even got here, to get us to a better place. I think we are starting to see some really tremendous accomplishments in this area, backed by metrics.
Through efforts like Performance to Plan, also known as P2P, we’ve reduced maintenance delays in our surface fleet already and increased availability across our aviation enterprise.
Last week, when visiting Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego, I saw first-hand how P2P translates directly into warfighting capability – and the protection of our Nation.
We must keep it up. I applaud the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and the Assistant Commandant for the efforts that they’ve made with regards to P2P, improving all these maintenance issues we’ve had in the Navy and Marine Corps.
I know it’s something that has to be institutionalized, so that long after they are both gone, we can continue to do this both in the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Maintaining cyber security, increasing efficiency, and streamlining processes are all critical efforts that start with your actions today.
We need problem solvers at every level, with the training and opportunity to stay ahead of the speed of technological innovation, and the constantly evolving threat environment, which is significant.
And we need innovators and strategic thinkers who know not only how to fight wars—but more importantly how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
That’s why we are making strong investments in our education enterprise, to promote a culture of lifelong learning for all of our people.
Education is not just about attracting and retaining high quality Sailors, Marines, and Civilians.
It is about creating a force of strategic thinkers and emotionally-intelligent leaders, capable of winning in combat, and fostering work environments rooted in collaboration, integrity, and respect.
Respect is at the core of our mission.
It is the heart of leadership.
And it is the firm expectation of all who serve in our Department of the Navy.
We all share a responsibility for building a culture of warfighting excellence, founded on leadership, dignity, and respect. And I’m proud of the many accomplishments both the CNO and Commandant have made the last three, five years to focus on building this culture of warfighting excellence, through the investments they’ve made in training systems across the board.
The surface warfare community alone, since the 2017 accidents we’ve had, we’ve taken this challenge very seriously.
We have invested millions upon millions of dollars into our people, training solutions, so that our surface warfare officers know how to fight those ships effectively. And we have made tremendous progress and are so much stronger today, than we have ever been before and I’m proud of those efforts across the board. We all share a responsibility for building a culture of warfighting excellence.
As part of that mission, we must all speak up, speak out, and take action to eliminate sexual assault, sexual harassment, and racism from every part of our force.
Disrespectful remarks, jokes, and actions contribute to an environment that increases the risk of assault, it weakens our force, and puts our Nation at risk.
It must be clear, at every level, that failure to take action in the face of destructive behaviors betrays our oath, it betrays our warriors, and it betrays our country.
And it must be clear, throughout our fleet and our force, that all who serve must have an equal opportunity to succeed and advance and feel valued.
To meet the demands of our complex security environment, we must recruit, educate, retain, mentor, and promote the very best of all of America has to offer, from every background and from every region in the United States.
I ask for your committed involvement in this effort.
Reach back, mentor others, and help build the strongest possible Department of the Navy for the future.
I also ask you to be cognizant and look out for the mental health of yourself, your teammates and shipmates.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, and a critical part of our resiliency as a force.
That’s why we are expanding mental health resources to ensure that we respond to the needs of our people.
From housing, to child care, to keeping costs down, we are investing in quality of life issues across the force, but we still have a lot of work to do.
I encourage you to continue raising issues and forwarding your questions, comments, concerns, and observations. I talk about it everywhere I go.
Throughout the chain of command, leaders are expected to take action where they can, and communicate early and often when there are barriers to improvement.
As we work to build maritime dominance and empower our people, I also want you to remember the importance of strategic partnerships as I said earlier.
Some of our most important partnerships are right here in the Department: Navy and Marine Corps, Civilian and Military, headquarters and the front lines of the Department of the Navy.
Build and maintain clear networks of communication, and share information across the enterprise.
Do not let “stove piping” deter us from building the fully integrated, all domain naval force our Nation demands.
Reach beyond the Department of the Navy – work with the Joint Force and across the Government to build efficiencies and capabilities.
Within ethical bounds, I also want you to help streamline acquisitions across the department, and nurture the critical links with the private sector and academia to keep us on the cutting edge of innovation. It’s so very important.
Finally, I ask that you work to strengthen the bonds with our critical Allies and Partners across the world.
I recently returned from RIMPAC, the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise, where I saw our Sailors and Marines working side-by-side with their counterparts from 26 nations from around the globe. It was truly impressive beyond anything I’ve ever seen in both my naval career and my private sector career.
And next month, I will travel to South America for the kickoff of UNITAS, to join the many Nations of our own Hemisphere in defense of our common values.
It is always an honor and a privilege to attend these exercises, because I get to hear from the leaders of foreign nations and navies about how much they respect our people, and how much they value the work that you all do to ensure freedom, security, and prosperity.
I am proud of the hard work and sacrifice that each and every one of you continue to make to defend our Nation and our world. I know it’s not easy and I know that there are many challenges, but I’m confident we can work together as one team to overcome those challenges.
Serving as your Secretary over the past year has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.
I look forward to serving alongside you in the years to come, as we work together to build an even stronger Department of the Navy.
So I thank you and I’m prepared to answer any questions you may have.
Carlos Del Toro
24 August 2022
25 August 2022
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