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Below is a transcript of his remarks as delivered:
REAR ADMIRAL SHOSHANA CHATFIELD: Well, I’d like to acknowledge our CNO, distinguished fellows, Adm. Nirmal Verma, Adm. Lars Saunes, thank you for being here. Our provost, Dr. Mariano, thank you for being here. Deans, chairs, faculty, and students, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce the 32nd Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Gilday.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Thank you. Can you hear me in the back? Great. Adm. Chatfield, thank you. If I could just talk for a moment about her, and my respect for her not only in this job but she’s had a phenomenal career. As I look back, and she’s commanded a squadron as an O-5, a wing as an O-6, as an aviator. She put her hand up to command a [Provincial Reconstruction Team] PRT in Afghanistan when that wasn’t necessarily on anybody’s career track that is in her line of work as a naval officer. She served two tours in Brussels. And I would love to get her back to NATO someday, because I just think that she’s such a, you know, positive force. She has a Ph.D. in education, and of course she is our president here at the War College. She couldn’t do this alone. Her husband David, who many of you met, is phenomenal. And so if you’d join me in a round of applause for our president.
Provost, it’s great to have you. Thank you, sir. Thanks for your leadership. Admirals, thank you for your time this morning. Our fellows from Norway, from India, Adm. Verma, and also our fellow from Colombia who couldn’t be here today, but I value what you do here. Thank you.
I appreciate the opportunity to join you today. And it’s always nice to come back to Newport, Rhode Island. So for all of you who have put your hand out to come to the Naval War College for your joint education, and for many of you that have done so with your families, I thank them. And please thank them for us, because you couldn’t do what you’re doing without their support. And hopefully this is a year or so to read, to think, to write, and to spend a little bit more quality time with those that you love.
I have the opportunity this morning to speak to you – to spend about an hour with you. And I thought what I’d do is talk about 15 or 20 minutes about the navigation plan that I released within the last month. And my hope is that, after that 15 or 20 minutes, that we have robust dialogue that will come about through a Q&A session. So please ask some hard questions.
I think that for those that might not be aware of my responsibilities in the United States Navy, I really wear two hats. So although my title says chief of naval operations, the word “operations” is a misnomer. I am a naval chief that does not command any forces. I prepare forces, man, train and equip forces, and then present them to our combatant commanders, who then execute on behalf of the nation. So that is my man, train and equip hat as the navy chief.
If I take a step this way, I also wear a hat as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And so in that role, I provide advice to the secretary of defense and also to the president, when required, on the employment of our forces. So that one hat has everything to do with building the force. The second hat has everything to do with employment of the force. And so as you ask questions, you may want to keep that in mind in terms of those two roles.
I came into the job in August of 2019, so three years ago. I didn’t expect to be the CNO. I came in very quickly. So I really didn’t have a transition. And so I had also spent the previous decade embedded in joint jobs. My fleet tour in command was as U.S. 10th Fleet, U.S. Cyber Command, the Navy Cyber Command. And so that isn’t exactly a navy-blue kind of job. It’s more purple than it is blue. I did have command of a carrier strike group. But my touches with the Navy were periodic. And so I wasn’t deeply into Navy programs.
So I had to spend a number of months re-bluing myself and understanding where the Navy was, and then making my own determinations on what I thought our priorities ought to be going forward during my term. So I settled on the priorities of, number one, we’re in the midst of making a tremendous investment in a Columbia-class submarine, our SSBN, our nuclear deterrent, the strongest leg of our triad. That’s a no-fail mission that we have to deliver on. We have no excuses but to deliver on time. And so I made that my number-one priority for the nation.
For the Navy, my three priorities were readiness, modernization, and then capacity. So growing the size of the Navy ended up as my third priority, because I simply felt like we couldn’t have a Navy bigger than one we could sustain, and that we needed a ready, lethal, more capable Navy more than we needed a bigger Navy that was less ready, less capable, and less lethal. And so we only received a certain amount of funds. And so those funds need to be strategically applied to make us not only ready today for a potential fight tonight, alongside our allies and partners, but also looking with an eye around the bend, towards the fleet we had to modernize for the future.
Sixty to 70 percent of the Navy that we have in the water today we will have in the water a decade from now. And so investing in their modernization becomes really important. When people throw around the word “readiness,” what do they mean by that? What is – you know, what are the metrics by which we measure a ready force? Well, from my perspective, obviously training is vitally important. But also ensuring that you have proper manning on our ships, which we’re still struggling with, to be honest with you. I’m not satisfied with where we are in that regard.
So manning our ships with high-quality people that are well trained, filling supply storerooms with the right parts in the right quantities, filling magazines with ample ammunition, maintaining our ships in a manner that’s worthy of a world-class Navy. So those things yield a ready Navy. And historically when our Navy has decided to make capacity king and make the size of the Navy the number-one priority, we’ve paid for that with those attributes that I just mentioned. I was unwilling to sacrifice on those investments.
So that led to, initially, I took my predecessor’s guidance, and I wrote a fragmentary order, or a FRAGO, on his guidance. I simplified it and reprioritized it. And then the following year, in 2021, I issued my first Navigation Plan. The one I just released does a few things. One, it remains consistent with the secretary of defense’s National Defense Strategy that he just released in March. Number two, it’s nested beneath our tri-service maritime strategy with the United States Coast Guard and our United States Marine Corps. And then lastly, it offers an update on what progress we’ve made in the past year, on our NAVPLAN priorities, and it also includes a section on force design.
So before I get into the specifics of the NAVPLAN, I wanted to give you kind of a broad picture of where I think the Navy’s going. In order to build a bigger Navy, the size of the Navy that we think we need, it’s not going to happen in three years, or in five years, or in 10 years. That’s a generational problem set. It’s maintaining predictability, stability, and strategic focus for probably 25 years. So when I talk about a future hybrid force of unmanned and manned ships, I’m really looking at 2045 before we reach – we reach a point where we’re going to have unmanned in numbers in the right ratios with manned ships to yield that hybrid fleet that I think we need.
So as I take a look at, you know, where we want to go as our goal in 2045, and where we are right now as our baseline, and then – you know, it’s you take a step back. And that’s a big problem set to take a look at across a long range of time with a lot of variables. So I tend to think of it in three time block periods. The first goes out to about 2027 or 2028, and it largely involves a budget cycle that we build right now and execute inside the Pentagon. That has to do with – delivers – real-term readiness out to about the two-to-three-year point. And it also makes investments in modernizing the force. And I talked about the criticality of that a few moments ago.
The most difficult time period is that middle time period that goes from the late ’20s to, let’s say, the early-to-mid 2030s. That’s a transition time. And so in that transition time, if I was to give you some examples in the United States Navy, if I take a look at us not just as a surface fleet, not just as surface ships, but if I take a look at us three dimensionally – actually, five dimensionally. If I take a look at us on the sea, under the sea, in the air, if I take a look at what we’re doing in the information warfare space, and then if I take a look at what we’re doing with the human element of combat, people, I think all of those things you have to consider across that broad range of time.
So that transition timeframe becomes really challenging, because that’s the timeframe when you want to make sure that the investment streams continue and that you’re actually going to transition to the new platforms and the new capabilities that are part of your vision, that take you out to 2045. So that transition timeframe – if I take a look at the submarine force as an example – we’ll be putting Virginia-class Block V submarines into the water. Those, of course, have a vertical launch module as part of their lethal firepower.
In 2028, we will include hypersonics aboard those submarines. So that’s in that transition timeframe. So we need to keep sighted on the investments we’re making in hypersonics to deliver on those submarines in 2028. And then we are designing now that next spiral of Virginia-class submarines that we’ll be delivering in the late 2020s and into the 2030s. And if I think about weapon systems that’ll be on those ships, specifically advanced torpedoes, we are making those investments to take us through that transition phase to give us a more advanced underwater weapon.
We’re also investing in underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs). So think about missions like mine laying to support operational commanders to cause strategic disruption for our adversaries and potential adversaries in a fight. So UUVs come into play as well. We’re in the beginning stages of those. Some of them are fairly large, others can be both launched and retrieved out of torpedo tubes. That’s, again, work that’s going to come to fruition during that transition [Future Years Defense Program] FYDP to take us into the ’30s with a degree of momentum.
If I take a look at the surface force in that transition timeframe, we’ll be delivering our new frigate– it’s an Italian design – with a very robust [anti-submarine warfare] ASW capability. We will be delivering our Zumwalt-class destroyers with hypersonic capability in 2025. That’ll be the [initial operating capability] IOC for that particular weapon. So that’s an important leap forward for us in the surface force. We are rolling Arleigh Burke Flight III destroyers off the production line in that transition timeframe as we keep our eye on a new class of destroyers, DDG(X), in the early 2030s, early-to-mid 2030s. Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a weapon with range and speed. Standard Missile Block VI. So those investments are now being made and will continue in that transition time.
If I take a look at the air domain and the airwing of the future, our goal really by the mid-2030s is to have an airwing, an aircraft carrier that is 60% unmanned and 40% manned. So that 40% manned, that [tactical air] TACAIR capability on an aircraft carrier, those jets become the quarterback, surrounded by unmanned, sixth generation TACAIR, next generation unmanned. Very stealthy, very lethal, long legs. And so we’re moving in that direction.
Our canary in the coal mine for that transition with respect to manned/unmanned teaming and unmanned in the air, is the MQ-25 that we have on the carriers now, and it’ll go IOC in 2025. That gives that airwing another five miles of range. And I couple that with investments that we’re making in weapons with ranges and speed, like JASSM-ER and LRASM, to make sure that we have that ability to reach out and touch our adversary and yield effects at range.
If I think about the human weapon system, the advancements we’re making right now in Ready Relevant Learning. So we are moving away from just purely brick and mortar schoolhouses to virtual training for a generation that thrives in that environment. We’re delivering that now, and across 82 different skillsets in the Navy we’ll be delivering that this decade. It’s getting the right training to technicians at the right time.
We’re bringing on the Navy Community College as well, to create a new generation of critical thinkers, because we believe that education and training – and Sailors that are well-educated and well-trained and think critically – become our asymmetric advantage against any adversary, even in this high-technology, AI, quantum-computing laden century that we’re living in and that you’re going to be operating in.
And then we also are investing heavily in live, virtual constructive training. So if we think about China as our pacing threat, how do you train against an adversary that can come at you with incredible capability and high numbers? We can’t replicate that. I can’t get the entire fleet underway in the West Coast or the East Coast to exercise at scale and give our fleet commanders that kind of training, and our operators that kind of training. So being able to replicate that or augmented that in a virtual and the constructive becomes really, really cool.
Let me give you an example. I went to Large Scale Exercise 21 a summer ago off the coast – off the East Coast of the United States. That exercise was global. It involved five fleets. It involved almost 40,000 people. It involved 100 units, and many more virtually. So I went out to the amphibious large-deck [USS] Kearsarge. When I was on Kearsarge, she was operating with an amphibious readiness group (ARG) – a three-ship ARG. Also in the area was the [USS] Harry S. Truman Strike Group. She was at sea.
We superimposed the geography off of Norway. We took that geography and superimposed it off the U.S. coast of Virginia and North Carolina. We also constructively added the ARG that was underway in the Arabian Gulf into that battlespace. We also constructively took the carrier strike group and her ships that were underway in the Mediterranean and transposed them into that battlespace. Our F/A-18 Super Hornets looked like Chinese jets – like Chinese fighters. The weapons coming off them had the electronic emissions, at least to our operators on ships and in operation centers, they looked like Chinese missiles.
If we’re going to fight as a fleet – and we moved away from fighting just as singular ARGs, as singular strike groups, to fighting as a fleet under a fleet commander as the lead – we have to be able to train that way. Every time we deploy a carrier strike group these days or an amphibious ready group, we do a fleet battle problem. And a large part of that fleet battle problem is bringing in live virtual [training] to make that training more robust. So a bit of an aside there on live virtual training, but we really see the value of it and the power of it.
We’re making a lot of other investments in folks – in people as well. I mentioned the education side, with the community college and Ready Relevant Learning. In the information warfare (IW) space, we have just created an IW task group in the Pacific under Admiral Paparo. The idea there is to unleash the power of IW and to further integrate it in with the kinetic across all domains.
So we think if we’re going to get into a fight, that fight with an adversary like China is going to be transregional but it’s also going to be all domain. And so we are not satisfied right now that we’ve properly integrated information warfare and cyber into the fight. So that is our next step with that effort that’s just beginning to come alive now as we put a two-star admiral in command of that [effort]. So that transition timeframe, when a lot of this stuff really begins to get delivered, it’s really important for us to keep our eyes on that – on those delivery dates during that – what I would call, that transition timeframe.
And then if I take a look at the Navigation Plan, one of the things that we –that I – wanted to make sure is that the plan that we developed in the United States Navy was informed by the pacing threat. And that pacing threat is China. So we couldn’t just deliver a plan in the abstract. It had to be sighted on and driven by who we are competing against and who we will potentially go to war against. So that was thing one for us, in terms of grounding our sights on what we really needed to be focused on as warfighters.
The second thing– we took a look at how would we actually fight this adversary if we had to? Not just in the vast domain of the Pacific, but what might that look like across all domains? And we began to think about, you know, we can’t come at the adversary, we can’t mass forces like we have in the past. What it – a number of war games, a number of exercises, tabletop exercises – led us to believe was that a distributed force coming at an adversary across all domains and many vectors was the way to go.
And so that conceptually has been what we have been practicing, refining, and redeveloping for the past five to six years. Every fleet battle problem, every exercise that we do, exercises some element of distributed maritime operations (DMO). The Marine Corps’ expeditionary advanced basing concept is nested in that DMO concept.
I’m up here this week principally to be in a war game with our three- and four-star officers in the Navy, both our deputy CNOs and also our fleet commanders form around the world. And we are looking at a problem set through the lens of DMO. Why is that important? It’s important because in that man, train and equip hat that I wear, I think you have to understand how you’re going to fight before you make big decisions with billions of dollars on what you’re going to fight with.
So how you’re going to fight is driving what we’re going to fight with and the investment strategy, some of which I just kind of outlined across all those domains and across that timeframe that goes out to 2045. We took a look at the fleet today and we felt that, you know, does it meet the parameters that’s required to fight in a distributed manner and be successful? We’re not satisfied that it is. We feel like we have too many capabilities that are jammed onto too few ships, and those ships are too big.
And so we began to take a look at what kind of attributes would this distributed force need that would truly make distributed maritime operations come alive? And we thought about attributes like distribution. And I talked about a distributed field across all domains. We thought about distance. And so there are six Ds [in the Navigation Plan]. The first one’s distribution. The second is distance. Distance has everything to do with offensive weaponry that has range and speed. I mentioned some of those weapons, including hypersonics.
The third D is deception. Concealment [and] maneuvering becomes really critically important if you’re going to use this force effectively across a wide area. You get to be very imaginative, you got to be very deceptive. You want to confuse an enemy, particularly at an early stage of a fight, when you want to put yourself in a position of advantage.
We thought about defense. We’re not satisfied with where we are right now in terms of protecting the fleet against an adversary that’s made massive investments in missile technology and in space. So think about the ability to target us. Think about the ability to reach out and sink our ships at range. We no longer have that kind of advantage with respect to range, with the ability to target precisely. The Chinese have that same type of capability.
So in order to defend against it, and to better defend the distributed fleet, we are investing in laser technology on our ships, particularly for those ships that have the electrical power generation capacity to support it. And we’ve had very successful tests with directed energy or laser technology. The other area where we’re making investments in high-power microwave. So high-power microwave gives you the ability also to confuse and to foil an enemy missile that’s inbound. But it would be a layered defense kind of concept. It would still rely on close-in weapon systems and short-range missiles as well. But it’s just more robust with respect to new technologies that we think that we need to defend the distributed fleet.
We thought about distribution. And we are not satisfied with where we are right now in sustaining a fleet and a fight. When I think about those challenges, I go back and take a look at Nimitz’ island hopping campaign across the Pacific. And I take a look at the enormous logistics plan that went into execution to support that kind of agility that those forces needed to move effectively across a very broad battlespace. And so contested logistics and how we sustain the fleet become an important point.
And the last point I’ll make is about decision superiority. And some of you may have heard me talk before about a project that we have ongoing called Overmatch. Overmatch essentially delivers the capability to move any data over any network. And to do it with resilience. And to do it at speed. But it’s computer controlled. And I can talk about that in more detail in the Q&A if you desire.
And so as I think about the kind of fleet that we need, based on those attributes that I just discussed, broadly the trends look like this: more undersea, more logistics ships, definitely more unmanned. The composition of the surface force changes. Fewer bigger ships, more smaller ships. So think more frigates, more destroyers, cruisers end up going away over time. The mix looks something like, based on our studies, based on our war gaming, based on our exercises, about 350 manned and 150 unmanned.
We’re doing a lot of work right now, as many of you are aware, with Taskforce 59 in Bahrain under a 5th Fleet commander, where we have completely changed the framework by which we deliver capability in the Navy. So typically, if we were going to deliver a new aircraft or if we were going to deliver a new ship, that would be a seven to 15 to more years problem, right? We’d sit down and we’d design it, we’d prototype it. By the time we built it and delivered it, you’re talking about a new generation of sailor and officer.
We can’t do that with unmanned. So we felt that that was an area where we really needed to do more experimentation in a DevOps kind of environment. We need to experiment against key operational problems that we needed to solve. Let me give you an example. We got together with our partners in the Middle East, and none of them were satisfied with their maritime domain awareness in the Red Sea.
So for those Americans in the crowd, the Red Sea’s about the size of the state of California. On any given day, we may have four or five coalition ships from the coalition maritime force patrolling that battlespace. Think about five police cars patrolling the state of California. Not a good ratio, right, in terms of time, distance. Unmanned became the solution set to better sense and make sense of that environment. So we brought in industry. There are those in industry that had the platforms.
So consider Tesla as an example. Tesla is the digital native when it comes to automation on the road. There are other companies, like Ford, Volkswagen and others, that want to be like Tesla – they have the platforms, [but] what they don’t have is that AI software integration. That’s the magic sauce. That’s the magic plug that needs to go into that platform, so that that platform becomes useful as a means to sense the environment and to get that information back to a fusion center.
So we brought in software developers, AI experts. We also brought in all of those platform vendors. And we began to experiment with the best. And some of those experiments have led us to believe, have led us to conclude that certain platforms and certain AI capabilities are worth doubling down on. And some of those are worth sundowning, so we’re not going to put another dollar against them. Why? Because our goal is to solve that problem as quickly as we can with respect to understanding that maritime operational picture. And we’re not going to do it in seven or 15 years. We want to deliver that capability in two years or three years.
The real magic that comes alive in an operations center somewhere in Israel or somewhere in Saudi Arabia, or Qatar, or Bahrain, is the AI capabilities that those operation centers have that allow them to take all that data, and to make sense of it, and to display it so that operators can understand what’s going on. That’s happening now. We have a couple of dozen Saildrones and UAS’ flying and sensing the environment and passing that data. Next summer we think we’ll have 100. And the ratio of allies and partners to U.S. will be 80 to 20.
So most of this work is being done and funded by our allies and partners. But the important takeaway there is we’re just approaching how to solve a problem much differently than we did in the previous century, when most of us were – you know, obviously we were younger. But the point is, if we’re going to have these kinds of distributed fleets, and we need greater capacity, we’re not going to be able to do it in a budget environment that we live in, where shipbuilding is really expensive. We’re not going to be able to do it the same way we did it in a previous century.
So let me pause there. And I would welcome any questions that you might have, and happy to dig deeper into any area – any direction you may want to go.
Q: Good morning, sir.
ADM. GILDAY: Good morning.
Q: Lieutenant Commander Mack Lameson, United States Navy.
Sir, this past spring, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, VAQ-134 from Whidbey Island was activated on the immediate response force to deploy to Germany, in an effort to deter potential Russian aggression against NATO. Given this recent example, and historically demonstrated importance of the E/A-18G Growler as the only DOD platform dedicated to the tactical airborne electronic attack mission, why is the Navy seeking to disestablish nearly half of its Growler squadrons, including VAQ-134, by 2025?
ADM. GILDAY: Great question. Are you a Growler guy?
Q: Yes, sir.
ADM. GILDAY: OK. I have nothing against Growlers. So let me give you kind of my big picture approach to solving problems – or, taking a look at problems like that. The Navy has a certain amount of money. Our budget is capped. And so that budget has been relatively stagnant, or relatively flat lined since 2010. So in a budget environment where inflation is rising, where 60% of our budget – operations, maintenance, manpower, medical care – rises at a rate above inflation, right, I don’t have extra money to play with.
So I take a look at what our warfighting capabilities are. If I have to – if I’m going to manage that budget, I can shave stuff, you know, and take 10% here, and 5% there. That’s not a good way to do business. I want to make big decisions, so to keep other programs intact. And I take a look at – I stratify – based on warfighting capability. What’s most important to the United States Navy, if our mission is to project power and to control the seas? And so stuff gets stratified. And that stuff that prioritizes low – LCS would be an example, older cruisers would be an example, older amphibious ships would be an example – they’re not as lethal as the stuff that’s high on the chain. So that’s my first to put on the table to go away.
With respect to expeditionary Growlers, my stand there was, hey, look, the Navy sails and we fly over the seas. That’s not to say that we can’t fly over the land, obviously, but our main mission is to project power from the seas and to control the seas. I understand that expeditionary Growlers perform an important mission. I don’t want to have to pay for them as the chief of naval operations. Somebody else needs to find the money to pay for that capability to support ground forces. But not me, based on the other priorities that we have.
You may consider that selfish. It probably is selfish. And one can make the counterargument that, you know, for the greater good we need these capabilities. I don’t disagree with that. But again, our mission is to project power and to control the seas. That’s where my money’s going. That’s where my consistent message is, based on those priorities of readiness, modernization and capacity I outlined earlier. And so I made the stance that – it’s like the Aegis Ashore sites that we have in Europe. Sailors shouldn’t be defending dirt. That should be an Army mission. That’s my position.
And so I’ve tried to be consistent. And that’s how I fell out in expeditionary Growlers. Love the aircraft. Love the capability. I want it on aircraft carriers, not on an airstrip somewhere. Does that make sense? Thanks.
By the way, they’re doing phenomenal work over there. And I doubt that those squadrons are going to go away. You just – you can see my position on this. I want somebody else in the Department of Defense to pay for it. That’s all. Thanks.
Yes, way in the back.
Q: We’re learning about the operational level of war. I think originally some of us, you know, early in our careers were concerned about the different layers of command and layers of warfare. But, you know, we’re starting to see the benefits in the operation of war. You talk in the NAVPLAN about, you know, an advantage in the decision-making cycle. You touched on it a little bit in your remarks earlier today. [I was wondering if you could] expound upon that and our ability at the operational level of war? With the integration of our enlisted cadre at that level of war, how we can use that as an advantage against an adversary?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, absolutely. So the whole idea of Project Overmatch is to deliver decision advantage. And what that means is – if you all know what the OODA loop is, right? Observe, orient, decide, and act. The real challenge is in the observed piece – we are bringing in all this information from all of these different sources, right? The difficulty is in the orient part of the OODA loop, right? To make sense of that data – that ocean of data that we have – to put us in a position where we can decide and we can act faster and better than any adversary.
We’re not just limited in that effort to produce – to improve that OODA loop with four-star and three-star commanders. This comes down to the operator at the console in a ship or, you know, the wizzo in the backseat of a Super Hornet, or somebody in the back of a P-8. It comes down to the tactical level in terms of making the decisions, because that’s where the game-changing is going to happen, okay? In a fight.
So what Overmatch does – we started the project about a year ago. And I wanted to take a look at how we can better – without creating a whole separate network and infrastructure, how we take what we have and optimize it in a way that nobody’s done before? Although, I would tell you that industry does this kind of stuff. And if you’re watching a YouTube video on your cellphone in this building and you’re getting reception via wi-fi, and then you walk outside, you know, you don’t have to tell the phone to shift to the 4 or 5G network. The software in the phone does that for you. The software is geared to get you the information you want by the quickest path possible, right?
And so that’s the idea of Overmatch. It prioritizes – it takes the Secretary of the Navy’s New Year’s message to the Navy and it’s able to transmit that on a fighter-to-fighter circuit, if necessary, instead of an administrative circuit. We found a way to containerize data to make it suitable, along with the firmware required, to send it across any network that we need to – that we need to send it on at speed.
Some of the challenges are prioritizing that data. Let’s say it’s high enough quality to put a weapon on it. And so having the system prioritize that above the Secretary of the Navy’s happy New Year message so it gets to the right end point faster than the administrative traffic, we’re wrestling with some of that. But the tests are going in the right direction. And industry actually is providing that benchmark for us in terms of informing how we’re solving these problems.
In early 2023, we will deploy our first strike group with the ability to do this strike group-wide. We’re doing it right now with aircraft, with ships, with submarines on a singular – and maybe two or three ships or aircraft at a time. We’re going to do it at scale with a strike group, and an idea would be to scale that from there. I believe that the effort that we have ongoing in the Navy will actually deliver the joint tactical grid, or joint tactical network that we need to support JADC2 and improve decision making at the joint level.
I hope that’s helpful. I’m not – I don’t always do a great job of explaining the technical nature of this, but I think you kind of get the point in terms of where we’re headed. We’re very optimistic about the path we’re on with that. And industry’s been the standard for us. I’ll give you an example. We’re no longer embedding applications into system on ships, but we’re letting them ride on this backbone of this capability we have that’s called CANES. What that allows us to do is to update those applications much more rapidly.
Now, if a patch comes out for a system on a Tuesday night, it might take us a month or two months to install those patches across the Navy. That’s unacceptable. So we want to be able to do that in minutes, rather than days or months or weeks. And that’s how industry does it. So we are ripping them off. We are copying what they’re doing. And I say that proudly, because we should be benchmarking world class wherever we can. That’s what we’re trying to do in ship repair.
That’s what we’ve done with F/A-18 Super Hornets to put us a path where we were at 50% -- if I could just tell a Super Hornet story, for a second. And this is an important point. On every one of those elements in the NAVPLAN they have a north star. And that north star is the goal that we want to achieve. And the original idea that I had in the NAVPLAN was that I wanted us to solve about 20 key operational problems to make us a better Navy in this decade. This decade of urgency. The Wall Street Journal calls it the combustible decade. I don’t want to wait till 2035 to deliver a network out there that’s going to support the warfighter. I want to do it in 2027.
So there’s a north star for each one of those problem sets in the NAVPLAN. And those problem sets are owned by a single officer. I don’t have committees. I have a supported and supporting concept. There is one supported three- or four-star that owns the output in every one of those problem sets. And he or she is supported by stakeholders that are identified. And they have specific roles that they need to perform and deliver on in order to deliver an outcome for the Navy.
In any case, with F/A-18 Super Hornets, in the fall of 2019 we get directed by the secretary of defense to raise our Super Hornet readiness from 50% – it had been at 50% for 10 or 15 years – and to raise it to 80%. If I gave you that problem, your first pushback to me might be, oh yeah, no problem. I need about 30% increase in my budget, right? So we tend to think about inputs rather than outputs. So this forced us to think about where we are right now as a baseline and what that north star was, where we needed to go.
It then forced us to take a look at, well, what’s holding us back from getting there? Is it really more money or is it process? Is it a combination of the two? Is it spare parts? Is it the fact that people aren’t talking to each other and we’re not transparent? So we brought in what we felt was the best of industry, and we brought them to one of our depot-level maintenance facilities in North Carolina. And after a week of walking around shop floors, and talking to people, and looking at our process, they came back to us and they said: We recognize everything that you all are doing down here in North Carolina, because it’s exactly the way we did it in 1985.
So the point is, we had failed – this gets to Get Real, Get Better, and self-assessing and self-correcting. We had failed to do that as a Navy. It was embarrassing. You know, fixing jets, maintaining ships, that should be part of our DNA. That’s who we are as professionals. It’s embarrassing. And so I’ll give you an example in terms of process fix. Walked into one of the shops that reworks fuel pumps. And they asked the shop foreman, how many fuel pumps do you fix a month? And he said, we do 10. And they asked him, well, how many could you do? Thirty. How come you’re not doing 30? You know the answer?... Because they only tell us to do 10.
So, you know, that’s an example where you can pull a lever to yield more output and you don’t have to put any money against it. You don’t have to put any more people against it. And there are other things that you identify that are barriers, that people inside the organization can’t fix themselves. And so if you take a look at my charge of command, in the last paragraph, encourages commanders to identify barriers and to raise those barriers to the next echelon up, so that people like me can break those barriers down for you, okay?
So on F/A-18 Super Hornets, based on kind of the process that I just outlined, we’ve been able to sustain 80% readiness for two and a half years – more than two and a half, going on three. It’s been a phenomenal success story. And it’s been an exemplar for us on how we can solve problems better. And it’s at the core of Get Real, Get Better. And it’s given us a process to follow. And we’re using it in areas like reducing our manpower gaps at sea, reducing our delayed days of surface ships coming out of shipyards, taking a look at logistics and supply chains and how we accelerate delivery of parts to our ships and shore stations. So we’re trying to use that approach in an analytical way, relying on data analytics in order to solve problems.
I hope I answered your question. You asked a question about, you know, the operator at the tactical edge. And if I could just go back to that for a second, I talked about the applications that are riding on the backbone instead of embedded in systems. And one of the beauties of that is that operators at the tactical edge, if they have – since they’re the ultimate decision makers – if they have improvements to make those applications, if they’re coders they can make those changes, we can test them in a sandbox, and then we can update the fleet in a much more rapid way than we do today.
But we’re looking – we want that DevOps kind of environment to come alive for the Navy, so that we’re not only putting those great sailors at the tactical edge in a position of advantage, we’re also allowing them to make us better as an institution.
In order to prevail in conflict, under new characteristics of warfare, how do you plan on developing your post-command courses for O-5, O-6s to go from tactical to operational leadership, capable of fighting this future new fleet?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, I think – I think part of that is education. I think part of that is the Navy taking War College education more seriously. We don’t, relative to other services, particularly the Army and the Air Force. And all you in this crowd know that. In the Army and the Air Force, it’s a competitive process. In the Navy it’s not. We need to transition to a more competitive environment so that we’re truly taking the best of the best, and we’re putting them in programs like this.
And we are creating competition at the O-5 and the O-6 level among officers that are hungry to excel, and then taking those officers and putting them in key operational –consequential operational – assignments in fleet headquarters, on MOC watch floors, so that those O-5 and O-6 warfighters at a unit level are now taking their warfighting knowledge and they’re bringing it up to another level, right? And so they’re – I said we’re going to fight as fleets, and they’re going to help us fight as fleets. So that’s the vision. Work to be done. Thanks for the question.
Q: Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Nate Adams, U.S. Army.
This is more of your Joint Chiefs of Staff hat kind of question. But acknowledging the military threat challenges that China poses to us, we recognize that right now, but in our joint doctrine within the continuum of competition, cooperation is described as part of that continuum. And so do you think that there are opportunities for cooperation that remain with China and their military and the U.S. military, despite the growing adversarial tensions over the last five to 10 years? And what do you think those are?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, I absolutely do. I think, if I could be critical for a moment in terms of how we view things in the Pentagon – and I talked about this a few minutes ago in terms of, you know, the Navy’s stratification of lethality and warfighting requirements in order to make tough budget decisions. I think – I don’t think that you can solely look at the right end of the spectrum of war when you make all of those decisions. There are capabilities that we need, and in this new defense strategy, that would aid campaigning. It used to be competing. Now it’s campaigning. In that mid to mid-right part of the spectrum. I think we need to pay more attention to that.
And a lot of that has to do with allies and partners. So an example might be I was just on the phone last night with the commander of U.S. SOUTHCOM, because we’re going to deploy a hospital ship down to SOUTHCOM. We have one deployed right now in the Pacific. While some of our competitors have an outstretched fist to South America, we’re trying to offer a hand – an open hand to help. And I think that’s a way that – I think you have to look for those kinds of opportunities in a competitive environment, so that you’re generating trust, right? And that becomes the foundation of any relationship that you have with another nation. And it’s beyond transactional. It’s based on trust. You can count on me. You’re getting more out of this deployment down to South America than I am, we’re changing lives down there.
Another example that people rarely think about is foreign military sales. How can we leverage foreign military sales in a way that makes us more competitive against China? When I see countries like Turkey or India that make a decision that leans towards the Russia S-400, that bothers me. That is a competition that the United States of America should not lose, you know? And so finding ways to leverage the best of what we have here in terms of offering, as an example, in foreign military sales, from soup to nuts. From training all the way from cradle, to grave maintenance and sustainment on these systems. You know, we need to present that. So my bottom line point, to your question, is that I think we need to be more creative in taking a look at opportunities where we can forge better friendships and trust among allies and partners. It can’t be transactional. You got to give more than you receive, in my opinion.
Q: Good morning, sir. Richard Paquette. I’m a senior researcher here with one of the research groups.
ADM. GILDAY: Yes, sir.
Q: I’d like to touch on your points about joint. We spend a great deal of time in the War College working the joint operational problems. In your opinion, in your professional opinion, could you articulate where you feel our force is at with regard to joint integration and joint interoperability? And then where you think that we should be?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. That’s a good question. First of all, I think you can always do better. I do think that the United States military – if I talk about, you know, looking for exemplars, or looking for world-class examples of greatness, I think the U.S. military does a great job as a joint force of synchronizing all of our disparate elements together to produce effect. I really believe that we do a good job of that. I think one area that we have to think more deeply about improving upon is within our combatant commanders their day-to-day standing orders are generated by the president through the Unified Command Plan. And they tend – based on the direction that they receive – they tend to be very, for lack of a better term, selfish or focused within those geographic boundaries in which they operate.
But China, Russia, Iran, DPRK, violent extremists – those threats are not limited to geographic areas. They’re transregional. And so in some ways the way that we’re organized and the way that we operate is self-limiting, you know? It’s self-limiting across those boundaries. And that’s where I think it doesn’t scratch everything that you mentioned with respect to joint, but I think that in terms of interoperability and agility, I think we can do a better job there. I think that we’re limited, in some respects.
Don’t take my comments to be critical of any combatant commanders because, as I mentioned, they’re following the direction they get from the president through the Unified Command Plan. I think this is an opportunity, based on a new defense strategy, to take a look at that stuff. And it’s not something you can rush in and change. You need to tabletop that stuff. You need to very thoughtfully think about how you’re going to operate and fight in a way that could be more effective. Thanks.
Q: Good morning, sir. Commander Molly Lawton, fellow surface warrior.
Sir, I’m wondering if you are aware of the circumstances surrounding Lt. Ridge Alkonis’ incarceration overseas in Japan. And if so, do you have an update on what the Department of State is doing to get him out?
ADM. GILDAY: So if you’re not following the Lt. Alkonis case, Lt. Alkonis and his family were coming back from a weekend trip to Mount Fuji, where they climbed the mountain, and he fell asleep at the wheel. And unfortunately, he ran off the road and killed two people – two Japanese nationals. So he went to trial in the Japanese system, and he was sentenced –  sentenced to three years in prison. His family paid a substantial amount of money to the families that unfortunately lost those – their family members.
And so the U.S. government is working with the Japanese government right now ... we believe that he was treated fairly in that Japanese courtroom. One thing, it’s important to remember, in his testimony he said: “I was negligent, and the death of those two people was my responsibility.” He said that.
And so as we work through this, it’s very tough for his family, but at the same time you have to balance that against justice. And so I feel for his family, but at the same time we must also grieve and feel sorry for those two Japanese families that also lost people. It’s not an easy problem. But I hope I did an okay job of kind of showing what the stressors were. I know those deliberations are ongoing. They’re way above my pay grade. But I also give you an indication of how I kind of view this, based on Alkonis’ own testimony.[VMJLUCWD(1]
Q: Commander Junior Grade Tallis Dare from Latvian navy.
Sir, you already mentioned China as a potential adversary. From this perspective, what is the U.S. Navy’s view on Russia and the Russian Navy? Not just in Pacific or Atlantic, but in Baltic Sea and Black Sea as well? Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: They remain a high priority. So when Russia invaded Ukraine, we – the United States Navy – surged a bunch of ships into the EUCOM theater. Many of them are still there, including a carrier strike group that we’ve extended on station, submarines that we’ve extended, surface ships that we’ve extended on station. We’re committed. We are committed within the alliance to stand firm against Russia’s aggression. And the president said it best when he said: We’re not going to give up one inch of Article 5 territory.
For the United States Navy in terms of threats, we take a look at the Sev and what that submarine – the threat that that can pose against our own homeland with its land attack missiles, its stealth capability. And so for us, that becomes the pacing threat in the undersea. And so that’s a big – that’s a big focus for us, and I think a worthy focus of the United States Navy to make sure that we stay – that we have overmatch against [Severodvinsk] and the Russian undersea capability. We’re committed to it.
Q: Good morning, sir. Captain Annette Washburn. I’m an aviator in your reserve force. Thank you for being here, first of all, and taking time out of your day.
ADM. GILDAY: Great to be here. Thank you.
Q: My question – I appreciated that in your new NAVPLAN you address climate change. And so my question is, what climate change mitigation and adaptation considerations have been addressed in the development of this new technology and platforms, and in the infrastructure of bases worldwide? Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So on the latter is where we’re making our biggest investments. And so particularly, you know, the Navy owns a lot of awesome waterfront property. And I’m not giving any of it up. So Newport is a good case in point. But it is threatened by rising seawater. And so our – if you take a look at our budget – now, I don’t have the numbers off the tip of my tongue, we’re making substantial investments in shore infrastructure resiliency with respect to – with respect to climate change.
I can’t speak as in detail about what we’re doing with our platforms. You asked that question. I owe you an answer on that. I owe you to come back on that. We are doing a lot of work with, you know, synthetic fuels, as an example. We’re doing a lot of stuff with solar power. But I can have my staff get back to you with more specifics. Thanks for the question.
REAR ADM. CHATFIELD: Last question.
Q: Major Ben Fekto, sir. Air Force.
We talked a little bit about cybersecurity and information warfare. What’s the Navy’s plan to secure the critical data that you have, and partner with industry, and partner with local and state governments to do so?
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah. So I’ll tell you, my big push is to move away from legacy infrastructure into integrated cloud environments. That’s where our data is best protected. And it’s best protected by industry. And so industry – that’s not to say that we turn over the keys to those servers to industry. If there are problems, our contracts allow our cyber teams to get involved in any forensic work, any defensive work that needs to be done. But we’re moving – as you can imagine – the Department of Defense – if we take a look at legacy companies at least in the United States that have been around for a long time, they have the same challenges that we have with their computer networks.
And those challenges are the fact that, like a Frankenstein monster, they have been cobbled together over two or three decades. And so from a good perspective, no two of them are the same, by a long shot. But they’re all hand-carved wooden shoes. And it becomes very difficult and very expensive to develop the right kind of customized protection that’s adequate against, you know, the threats that we’re facing today for each of those systems. So migrating to integrated cloud-based environments is key.
One of the things we’ve done – I’ll give you an example. Anybody in the Navy – every time you go to put in a leave paper it just – you know, you just want to put that on your head and weep. I mean, it just takes so much time. I know that. So we’re taking 70 different systems, and we’re shutting them down, and we’re transitioning it all to the cloud. And every one of those 70 systems, each had a separate entry point. I want just one entry point, and I want one application or a series of applications that does this stuff.
You see some advances now, where we have an app for permanent change of station, moves, where your spouse can actually read your orders on the app and actually make sense of them. You can actually reserve a spot for your – for your child or children in daycare. You can actually begin to – through that same app – put in an application or get your name on a list for military housing. And so we’re trying to do the same thing that your banks do, you know, in terms of just touch technology on your phone that allows you to do all that stuff very easily and seamlessly.
I guess we’re out of time. I’m sorry for the questions I didn’t get to. I’ll be around for a few minutes if anybody has something that’s really bothering them, and they want to come and ask me a question. Thanks.
ADM. CHATFIELD: CNO, thank you for your time today. Dear attendees, please join me in a round of applause for our CNO.
ADM. GILDAY: Thank you, all. Thanks. I appreciate it. I’d be remiss if I did not express my profound thanks for what you do. You could be doing it anywhere, probably – well, definitely – for a lot more money. Thank you– really. This is a labor of love. So for you all in the audience, take advantage of this phenomenal group. And whenever you can, thank them as well. Thank you, all. Round of applause.
Adm. Mike Gilday
31 August 2022
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