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Admiral Foggo, thank you for your distinguished leadership as Commander of Allied Joint Forces and U.S. Naval Forces Europe. Your reputation precedes you. Thank you for your service.
Because of your military and diplomatic leadership, we had the readiness and strength to respond when Putin launched his immoral invasion of Ukraine.
Provost Mariano, I appreciate all you do at the Naval War College to educate our force and our allies, fostering strategic thinkers who can not only win wars, but also prevent them.
I am deeply engaged in professional military education, and I look forward to working with you.
History shows we can never be certain where, or when, that next crisis may occur, or what demands it may place on our Sailors and Marines.
Just consider today’s date. December sixth.
The day before Pearl Harbor.
What was the state of the Navy on this day in 1941?
There were key vulnerabilities in our fleet, posture, and weapons, which would haunt us on December Seventh and the months that followed.
But the Navy had also made key peacetime investments that would pay enormous dividends when war came to our doorstep.
The submarines Admiral Nimitz argued for in peace time were ready and postured on our West Coast.
Our carrier fleet was already at sea, and would eventually prove itself equal to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s flattops at Midway. And thank goodness they were at sea.
And through Plan Orange and other efforts through the 20s and 30s, strategic thinkers at the Naval War College had given much thought to the warfighting doctrine of a modern Pacific war.
So as we gather on December Sixth, 2022, we should ask ourselves, if another Pearl Harbor arrives tomorrow, are we ready?
That’s the urgent question that drives my strategic leadership and thinking every day. Let me assure you, I wake up every day thinking about China, and I go to bed every night thinking about China.
And from every ship and facility I have visited, every operation I have observed, and every Sailor and Marine I have met, I am confident the answer is yes.
The CNO and I still have many challenges to address, and many concerns on the horizon.
But the State of our Navy is as strong as it has ever been, and today we are driving the resilience and innovation required to make it even stronger.
Just in the past 18 months, during my tenure as Secretary we have added four VIRGINIA Class submarines to our undersea fleet.
We have strengthened our forward presence by commissioning seven surface combatants, including two Arleigh Burke Destroyers like the one I used to command.
We have expanded our amphibious fleet with the Commissioning of LPD USS FORT LAUDERDALE, and the formal commissioning of LHA USS TRIPOLI, extending our capability to persist in the contested zone, and deploy Marines to any shoreline.
We stood up new, highly maneuverable force structures, like the Marine Littoral Regiment, powered by the unprecedented airlift capabilities of the CH53 Kilo, the world’s most powerful helicopter.
And we incorporated the Stern Landing Vessel as a key component of our warfighting readiness in the littorals as we continue to develop the Light Amphibious Warship, which I am deeply committed to.
Right now, there are 54 ships under construction, with two ships entering sea trials just this month.
They will join the 292 ships that now power our fleet.
46 Navy ships are now underway, and nearly 350,000 Sailors now serve on active duty.
Over 30,000 Marines are forward deployed at sea and in nearly 50 countries.
Every day, our Sailors and Marines stand the watch together, deterring our adversaries, extending power and presence on a global scale.
Right now, they are serving beneath the waves aboard nuclear submarines to hold our potential adversaries accountable with a constant presence, readiness, and lethality. And you never know when they might surface, sending the message that we are watching.
Right now, they are protecting the sea lanes and shorelines aboard the world’s finest surface warships with new capabilities that embrace directed energy and unmanned vehicles. At NPS I worked on lasers and I’m especially proud of the work we have done on directed energy.
Right now, they are redefining naval aviation with the reach and versatility of the F-35, even operating from the decks of our allies, and some of our amphibious platforms.
And just last week, the most advanced aircraft carrier ever, USS GERALD R. FORD, sent a powerful message to friend and foe alike with the conclusion of its first operational deployment.
When I was confirmed by the Senate 100-0, Senator Inhofe told me to go fix the elevators. And I did. Well, not just me. But we did. And the FORD performed magnificently on this deployment.
Our mission is constant, because the threats to our national and economic security are unrelenting.
The global economy, and the rules-based international order that supports it, depend on strong, distributed, and principled naval power.
90 percent of international trade travels over the seas. One third of that transits the South China Sea. And over 400 undersea fiber optic cables carry over a trillion dollars in transactions every day.
When I talk to the American people who might not know why we need a Navy, I tell them that the Amazon package that shows up on their doorstep is there courtesy of the U.S. Navy.
The seas are indeed the lifeblood of our economy, our national security, and our way of life.
That is why a strong United States Navy is required – to protect the seas and our way of life around the world and around the clock.
The National Defense Strategy calls for a “lethal, resilient, sustainable, survivable, agile, and responsive force.”
Delivering that force and fleet takes planning, investment, and a bold, unified, direction.
I recognize that in the past, the Department of the Navy has been criticized for not having a clear vision to guide the Navy and Marine Corps.
So let me be very clear with you today. Let me be very clear. Since I took office as Secretary of the Navy, we collectively, the CNO, the Commandant and myself, have charted a bold and direct course, rooted in a unified, transparent, and powerful strategy for the future.
That strategy is rooted in three enduring principles:
First, we are strengthening our maritime dominance so that we can deter potential adversaries, and if called upon, fight and win our Nation’s wars.
Second, we are building a culture of warfighting excellence, founded on strong leadership, rooted in treating each other with dignity and respect.
And third, we are enhancing our strategic partnerships, across the Joint Force, with industry, and with our international partners around the globe.
We are expanding our maritime dominance through the Navy Navigation Plan and the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 – complementary visions for a truly integrated, all domain naval force.
Over the past year, we extended our global reach, and bolstered our integrated deterrence, from the open sea, to the shoreline, the depths and the skies.
Through 51 operational exercises in 2022 alone, we achieved far greater interoperability and inter-exchangeability than ever before. When I returned after retiring 20 years ago, that’s the thing I noticed the most, and the CNO has done an excellent job at making sure we are doing these exercises on a regular basis.
We have developed “kill webs” with multiple sensors and command and control nodes that will expand our reach, lethality, and integration with our allies.
As a result of our efforts, today’s Navy is far more powerful, far more integrated, far more connected, and far more distributed than ever before.
That provides more options to our Combatant Commanders, and more reasons for the totalitarians of the world to think twice.
Our Navy and Marine Corps bring capabilities no other service brings – the readiness to deploy, persist and operate around the globe without relying on foreign land bases.
We maintain a formidable forward presence to hold our adversaries accountable, with hidden undersea platforms, highly capable aircraft, and surface warships of many sizes and capabilities.
Ships, submarines, aircraft, and unmanned platforms are present and postured in every part of the globe, deployed to maximize sea control and maneuverability.
As Admiral Gilday has noted, in order to dominate the high end fight over vast theaters like the Indo-Pacific, our fleet must have the following strengths:
And decision advantage, to give our commanders the time they need to make the right decisions – and to deny that luxury to the adversary.
Building these critical advantages takes strong investment, much planning, and a lot of difficult decisions.
Above all, it takes the finest Sailors and Marines on earth, recruited, mentored, empowered, and prepared to lead our fleet and force into the future.
From every ship, to every base, to every shipyard and facility, we must operate as one, getting real about the problems we see, and getting better at every part of our mission.
We must constantly improve – prioritizing lifelong learning through deckplate training, and strategic education at great institutions like the Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Marine Corps University, and the U.S. Naval Academy.
And we must enhance our vital partnerships, across the Joint Force, with industry, and alongside our allies and partners around the world.
This summer, we laid the keel on the first COLUMBIA Class submarine, and began construction on the CONSTELLATION Class frigate.
The security of our Nation for decades may hinge on the success or failure of these and other vital warships and capabilities.
We need to strengthen our partnerships with industry, with clear purpose, and a culture of trust and accountability.
Trust and accountability must animate our international partnerships and alliances as well.
From allied Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea, to NATO operations in the Mediterranean, to Exercise UNITAS right here in this hemisphere, I have seen the power of our alliances.
When I’m asked about a 300 ship Navy, I talk about a thousand ship Navy, working together with the international community of freedom loving nations.
These exercises and operations improve our interoperability and inter-exchangability, and strengthen our unity of action with both longstanding allies and emerging partners.
Most of all, they demonstrate the power of cooperation over coercion, and friendship over force.
As Secretary of Defense Austin stated at the Ronald Reagan Defense Forum on Saturday: “Great powers must choose responsibility over recklessness.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, for 81 years, our Nation has chosen responsibility, shouldering that burden alongside our allies and partners, building our strength and resilience to withstand any challenge.
We will continue to do so in the decades to come. The United States will not withdraw from its responsibility, whether in Ukraine or the Indo Pacific or elsewhere.
The state of our Navy today is strong and resilient. If we continue to build on that strength with the right investments in our platforms, people, and partnerships, we will always prevail.
So thank you all, for everything you do to advance the future strength of our Navy and Marine Corps. May God bless all who serve, and all of the families who serve at their side, throughout this holiday season and beyond. Thank you, and Beat Army!
Carlos Del Toro
06 December 2022
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