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Below is a transcript of the remarks as delivered:
Admiral Bauer … Admiral Dwyer … Fellow Heads of Navy … Shipmates … Good morning!
I'd like to extend a special welcome and shoutout to our friends and partners from Sweden and Finland, who joined us. I also think it is noteworthy to point out that Sweden is celebrating their 500th birthday of their Navy this year, so that's a big deal. A bigger deal, I think, is they will help us think differently and focus more intently on the high North and the arctic basin, as those areas become even more critically important in the areas of competition, now and the years ahead... so it's great to have you.
I hope you will all accept my regrets for not being able to attend in person today. Believe me when I tell you … I’d rather be down there in Norfolk … where I can smell the salt water … the water front … and listen to the world-class discussions that you are having today. I’ll just have to live vicariously through Victoria Krikorian and Admiral Dwyer for the next couple of days.
Nevertheless … I’m proud and humbled to be able to present this Host Nation Address. For those of you visiting from overseas … welcome to the United States and welcome to Norfolk! And I know for many of you it is really just “welcome back.”
I don’t think there is another city in the Alliance that is quite like Norfolk. In my view, it is not only a concentration area for U.S. naval forces … but its also a center of gravity for combined sea power.
We are proud to host NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, Joint Force Command Norfolk, U.S. Second Fleet, and of course … Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence – the only NATO C-O-E in the United States.
This symposium is an important forum … it represents what gives our Alliance … along with our Partners … a strategic warfighting advantage over our competitors and adversaries … namely … the steadfast commitment and resolve we all share to protect our citizens … defend our territory … and safeguard our freedom and democracy through decisive naval power.
This morning, I thought I would first share my perspective on the way forward for combined sea power … and then provide you a few insights on how the U.S. Navy is thinking about force design to build our fleet of the future. I’ll keep my remarks brief so we can get to your questions. And those will be most important in terms of a healthy dialogue.
It’s clear to me that the world has entered a critical, potentially decisive decade … and as the theme of this conference suggests … the international, rules-based order is under attack.
Both the People’s Republic of China and Russia are attempting to establish de facto sea control of strategic maritime regions in order to expand their influence … and jeopardize the free flow of goods, information, and energy.
In so doing, they seek to endanger the global maritime commons … undermine multilateral norms and institutions … and promote their authoritarian principles. Thus, during this decade, our navies, ALL of our navies, will play a unique and crucial role. As we consider what that role entails … I would offer that we must do three things: first, strengthen deterrence in key regions … second, improve interoperability … and lastly, to accelerate our progress in capabilities that will define the future of maritime competition.
First, campaigning together, we must strengthen deterrence in those vital areas where Russia and the PRC are attempting to assert control … denying free, open, and lawful navigation. We must not allow Russia to assume maritime dominance in the Black Sea, Baltic Sea, or eastern Mediterranean.
Nor must we stand by while the PRC seeks to normalize coercive behavior in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. We must challenge their growing influence, protect vital trade routes, and support the international norms that should govern maritime disputes. This requires, I think, a collaborative approach working with international partners, institutions, and maritime industries—all backed by combined, combat-credible naval power.
Exercises like BALTOPS 22 are vital to this effort. 16 NATO allies and partner nations … 47 ships … 89 aircraft … more than 7,000 personnel … all operating shoulder to shoulder … that makes a powerful statement with real deterrent effects.
Second, our navies must increase integration … further improving interoperability.
We need to expand our vision … think creatively … and to find ways to seamlessly exchange capability with transposable force elements that can meet the mission of our fleet commanders across the spectrum of military operations. I know that the United States must to better in this regard, and I am committed to doing so.
I mentioned BALTOPS … another example would be this summer’s Bulgarian-led exercise “Breeze 2022” in the Black Sea … which brought together 24 warships, cutters, and auxiliary vessels … along with planes and helicopters … from eleven NATO member countries. We must train like we will fight … and in a high-end, high-intensity conflict … our alliances and partnerships will only be as strong as our interoperability allows.
Third, we must make smart, ambitious investments in advanced technologies that will enable us to maintain our warfighting edge.
We must seize the initiative in competitive areas such as artificial intelligence … quantum computing … directed energy … advanced manufacturing … and unmanned technologies … including autonomous systems. And to remain competitive at the speed of change … we must partner with government, industry, and academia to turn science projects into real operational capabilities under … on … and above the oceans. This will take a different approach. This will take an effort on heads of Navy, to accept risk in some areas, in order to share information and share technology in a more fulsome way across the alliance.
This also involves engaging with small businesses and start-ups to identify non-traditional acquisition channels and fast-track game-changing innovations. For example, look at what Admiral De Beurme is doing to protect “the digital ship” with the integration of cyber defense capabilities on the Belgian Navy’s new mine countermeasure ships.
Similarly, this week Portugal is hosting 16 NATO nations for Dynamic Messenger 2022 … the first full NATO operational experimentation exercise to specifically focus on integrating unmanned systems into the maritime domain. This is a tremendous opportunity to work alongside industry and academia to create exercise scenarios … collect data … and quickly analyze new technologies we can embrace to accelerate capability development.
Whether its adapting existing solutions or developing and designing brand new ones … these are the kind of innovative efforts we all need to retain our advantage at sea.
So that’s what I see as the way forward for combined sea power: strengthening deterrence in key regions … improving our interoperability … and accelerating the modernization of our capabilities.
Now, as we think about modernization … how is the U.S. Navy planning to design our fleet of the future?
First … I would tell you that we are fully engaged in an intensive campaign of learning … using war-gaming … using analysis … and experimentation and every exercise to inform and mature our concept of how we are going to fight.
This summer I released our Navigation Plan 2022 … which provides more details … but essentially … we’re learning that we must:
In turn … these lessons are informing the design of our future force … in other words, what we fight with. The trends in our force-structure assessments call for:
We’re trying to expand distance through investments in long-range precision fires … hypersonic weapons … space-based capabilities … and unmanned tanking.
We’re trying to leverage deception and harden our defenses through investments in undersea platforms … next-generation aircraft and surface platforms … and integrated weapons systems.
And we’re trying to enable a more distributed fleet … with the ability to deliver logistics … and generate decision advantage through investments in small more lethal platforms … autonomous systems … AI … and resilient networks.
Let me say a bit more on unmanned and AI. This is no longer a luxury…but a NECESSITY. Without unmanned systems and AI, we will be challenged to operate and fight in a distributed manner.
With unmanned and AI, we can:
So I have been prioritizing unmanned and want to move us to a hybrid fleet that’s a mix of manned … unmanned … minimally manned … and optionally manned platforms … and we want to do it as quickly as possible. With that said, it is a delivered approach. We are in a learning environment, and we need to make well-informed decisions on what capabilities we double-down on, and what capabilities we sundown.
So that’s a sense of the direction we’re heading to design the fleet of the future.
In closing … let me bring my comments back to where I began … and that’s with all of you … our Allies and Partners. The pillar of our U.S. National Defense Strategy is integrated deterrence. We understand that combining our strengths with you is what gives us all our strategic advantage. We have something our strategic competitors simply cannot match.
Nowhere is that more evident than on the oceans … where our combined sea power is upholding and protecting the free and open international order.
With that … I’ll end by encouraging you to have really thoughtful, tough conversations throughout this symposium. The mantra we’ve adopted in our Navy is to “Get Real, Get Better.” To be honest with ourselves, to be more transparent, and to grasp the problems up front, before we rush to solutions.
Let’s not be content with the status quo in our alliance. Our partnerships and friendships are too valuable. I know there are people here who have ideas that will make us better … so please … share them … and let’s learn from each other this week. Let’s take full advantage of this time together. With that … I look forward to your questions and our discussion.
Adm. Mike Gilday
27 September 2022
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