Official websites use .mil
Secure .mil websites use HTTPS
Thank you to ASNE for inviting me to address this audience today. It is an honor. The US Navy and the nation rely upon the expertise in this room.
Joe, thank you for that introduction. As Joe mentioned, we go way back. He remembers me when I wasn’t “Secretary Del Toro” but “Midshipman Del Toro.”
It’s good to be with you Joe and with all of you here at ASNE.
And, do let me begin by saying that I understand how critical the work of the American Society of Naval Engineers is. It is no exaggeration to say the work you do determines if we can deter and defeat our competitors at sea.
Your theme for this symposium, “Delivering the Combat Systems to Meet Our Strategic Objectives,” hits the nail on the head.
I appreciate you highlighting the strategic objectives that I established shortly after taking office. Today, I will tell you about the progress we’ve made against these priorities and the critical role you have played in achieving them. The DDG, for example, exemplifies the immense contribution naval engineers make on American national security.
So let me be blunt. I will exhort you to do more. I will push you to build the platforms our Navy needs faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. Our nation depends on you. It needs more from you.
Finally, I will want to hear from you. I want to answer your questions. I want to do my part to ensure you can do yours.
As you know, I have pursued three enduring priorities as Secretary:
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, and on 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.
These priorities empower the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps team to fulfill its duty as part of Secretary Austin’s vision of integrated deterrence.
When we succeed in strengthening our maritime dominance, building our culture of warfighting excellence, and enhancing our partnerships, we will ensure that our nation and our values prevail.
Both are being challenged as they have not been since World War II.
Throughout its history, America has secured its homeland and its interests in dangerous times by recommitting itself to naval supremacy.
Today should be no exception.
Make no mistake, we are being challenged both economically and militarily. In the past two decades, the People’s Republic of China has more than quadrupled its export trade and used its growing wealth and economic power to rapidly expand and modernize its military and its navy.
Today they have approximately 340 ships, and are moving towards a fleet of 440 ships by 2030.
The PRC’s disregard for the rules-based international order is particularly troubling in the maritime domain, from the Taiwan Straits to the high seas.
China is conducting active, aggressive maritime activities in the South China Sea that have the potential to undermine our system of international law, including the freedom of the sea, a foundational U.S. interest.
Our maritime challenges, however, are not confined to the Indo-Pacific.
Moscow’s aggression is not limited to its unprovoked war in Ukraine. It also seeks to dominate large swaths of the Black, Baltic, and Arctic Seas. It wants to intimidate any country that seeks to exercise its right to free passage.
The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps team will not stand idly by. We are meeting these threats every day and in every domain. On the seas, under the seas, in the air, and in cyberspace.
To defend freedom of the sea, we must ensure our Sailors and Marines have the capability and forward presence to stand by our allies and our partners.
That is why I have directed our Navy and Marine Corps to prioritize our investment and readiness efforts, to make sure our ships and aircraft are always prepared to deploy and deter our adversaries.
Strengthening Maritime Dominance requires us to rapidly field the concepts and capabilities that create advantage relative to our pacing threat, with the sustainment necessary to generate integrated, all-domain naval power.
We are making those investments now, guided by the Navy Navigation Plan and Marine Corps Force Design 2030, to ensure we remain the most lethal, capable, and globally postured force on this planet for decades to come.
Naval engineers are at the forefront of many of these most critical efforts. Let me share just a few:
Last June, our shipbuilders laid the keel for the USS District of Columbia, the first of a new class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that will underwrite the nation’s nuclear deterrent out to the year 2080.
In July, we commissioned USS Fort Lauderdale, an amphibious warship that will help modernize our amphibious fleet and extend the reach of our Marines to fight from the sea wherever there is a need.
In August, we began construction on Constellation, a new generation of Frigates. With vertical launch strike and tomahawk missile capability to provide a lethal punch, these frigates are essentially smaller DDGs.
This is what deterrence looks like.
That is also true of our carriers. Their deterrent capability extends even beyond their lethality. They are also the cornerstone of our vital interoperability with our allies. And, these carriers allow both our warplanes and those of our allies to “deck hop,” something unthinkable even fifteen years ago.
This “deck hopping” presents a nightmare for any adversary to plan against.
Our carriers are, of course, an asset to our air dominance, but they are far from the only one.
Our most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, now brings fifth-generation stealth, and multi-role, multi-mission reach and power wherever we need to fight. They provide long-range lethality.
Yet deterring or defeating our competitors will demand more than new platforms and new aircraft. It will demand that we make maximum use of our impressive arsenal, even as we fire missiles or take damage.
That is why, last December, I directed the Department of the Navy to accelerate our already impressive progress in rearming, refueling, resupplying, repairing, and reviving our ships in wartime scenarios, all while being contested by an able adversary.
If, God forbid, deterrence fails, winning a high-end maritime conflict, of any scope and duration, will demand enormous combat sustainment capability.
Winning will require we keep our assets in the fight.
Rearming our warships’ vertical launch tubes at sea is among the clearest examples of how sustainment capacity can increase persistent combat power from the current force.
And here, I am happy to report, there is real progress.
When I traveled to San Diego recently, I visited the USS Spruance, and got briefed on a new concept for at-sea rearming using an articulated crane.
I’ve also seen a demonstration of a connected replenishment technique pioneered by distinguished ASNE member Marvin Miller, considered by some to be the Rickover of underway replenishment.
I recently re-read his landmark article on the transferable rearming mechanism, or TRAM, in the Naval Engineers Journal, which he wrote just before he passed away. By solving key relative motion challenges, it presents one of the most promising solutions to field a capability suited for rapid reload in high sea states.
Today, I want to reiterate to this audience that advancing our rearm-at-sea capability is a major priority of mine. I am eager to see the ideas and approaches this audience can develop to enable this game-changing capability for our current fleet.
That will require innovation. Again, this is a priority throughout the Navy-Marine Corps team, and I am proud of our progress.
Early in my tenure, we established a new, first-of-its-kind task force in the Middle East at our naval base in Bahrain, called Task Force 59.
Task Force 59 is rapidly integrating unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into maritime operations in the Fifth Fleet area of operations, and we will soon expand that capability to other regions of the world.
Yet I do not believe the Navy-Marine Corps team or government has a patent on innovation. That same level of innovative thinking evolves from naval engineers like yourselves. I need you to continue answering bells, as you have so many times before.
Especially so in the future design of DDG(X).
As a former DDG Commanding Officer, getting DDG(X) right is personal for me. As we consider DDG(X), we should learn as much as we can from the tremendous success of the current DDG 51 program.
Forty years ago, DDG 51 – Arleigh Burke was on the drawing boards.
DDGs are the backbone of the fleet. As of today, 71 ships have been delivered, with 18 more on contract and 12 in some phase of production.
These are not mere “numbers.” They bring enormous lethal capacity. They are a powerful deterrent. When I was the commanding officer of DDG 84, I knew that our ship was never just “passing through.”
Everywhere it went, it sent a message.
Our DDGs have proven flexible, with diverse capabilities. They represent 4 different flights, with Flight III being the latest, with significant HM&E and Combat Capability improvements over flight IIA. Our first Flight III, DDG 125, USS Jack H. Lucas recently completed builders’ trials. When commissioned, it will be the finest multi-mission destroyer in the world centered around SPY-6 AMDR radar, AEGIS Baseline 10, advanced EW, new electric plant and many more enhancements.
I am incredibly proud of OPNAV 96, PEO SHIPS, PEO IWS, NAVSEA 05, our Navy Warfare Centers and our industry partners for the previous deliveries and the incredible leap ahead on the Flight III.
The process began humbly enough. In 1983, there was no internet, no mobile anything, no fiber-optic cables, no electric drive in surface combatants, no GPS, and limited 3D modeling.
There was a design team, led by NAVSEA 05, working down the street in the old Airport Plaza buildings. That’s where the preliminary and contract designs came from.
Yet the efforts made DDG 51s a stirring success. Naval engineers brought to the process great leadership, talented and motivated people, top-of-the-line tools, and, perhaps most importantly, multi-disciplined teamwork between government and industry.
The industry brought flexibility and the ability to learn from past trials. We improved the DDG’s design from lessons learned stemming from major historical events, from the Falkland Islands War and the Persian Gulf to the bombing of the USS Cole.
Naval architects and naval engineers in 1983 had their eyes on present-day challenges, but, critically, they also had a vision for the future.
This didn’t happen by luck. The CNO enforced necessary requirements for the program. The resultant design had adequate Service-Life Allowances, Design-Build Margins, and the resiliency to insert an impressive amount of technology and innovation over the last forty years to support the needs of the warfighter.
If we fast-forward, the last DDG 51 will notionally decommission in 2070. That’s almost 90 years after the concept studies for that ship were initiated.
We need tomorrow’s DDG(X) to be just as successful. I expect that close cooperation between the Navy and industry will make tomorrow’s DDG as resilient, versatile, and capable as the last one.
It must have the capabilities and capacity to overwhelm not just today’s threats, but tomorrow’s.
I also want to be clear. The Navy must, can, and will lead these design activities.
The Navy will ensure the design is optimized for tomorrow’s threats, as well as today’s. We will demand industry work with us on a ship that is flexible, balanced, and delivered to us with full service-life capability and capacity.
That will require discipline and commitment from both industry and the Navy. We must always keep the innovation in warfighting and experimentation integral with pre-contract design activities and its evolution in future flights.
We must have measured and methodical technology insertion.
Above all, we must ensure we imbue the next design process with all the lessons we have learned from previous combatant designs.
Unfortunately, one of those lessons is that we must press industry further to advance the pace of shipbuilding.
The United States Navy-Marine Corps team needs shipyards to do better. We need ships to be built faster.
Our Navy is only as strong as our nation’s ability to build and maintain our ships. We need the most robust, capable shipbuilding industrial base in the world if we are going to strengthen, or even just sustain, our maritime dominance.
We are not where we need to be. I am calling on the shipbuilding industry to treat delays and production shortages with the fierce urgency they demand.
We understand that there are issues beyond your control. We understand you are still dealing with supply chain issues in the aftermath of the pandemic. We understand you have skilled technical labor shortages. We understand the frustration of project unpredictability.
But these cannot be an excuse for cost overruns and schedule delays.
Let me also be clear: we are in this together. Congress has recognized the issue. The last two budgets have included substantial funds to tackle some of those problems.
Everyone in Congress and at the Pentagon understands we need a fleet ready to fight at any moment.
The challenge resides in developing new systems, new platforms, and new capabilities from prototype to low-rate production in a timely manner.
Again, we are your partners, and we recognize where we must also improve. Our PPBE system was set up to acquire really big platforms.
We need to create a separate, parallel process that allows us to field those smaller capabilities much faster.
Similarly, we absolutely must improve public shipyard performance in completing ship and submarine repair and maintenance on time.
Our significant investment in the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, known as SIOP, which is modernizing our four aging public shipyards, is a critical part of this task.
We are also looking to help in other areas. For instance, we are studying a program to foster mid-career certification in naval architecture, engineering requirements, and life cycle management for both government and industry managers.
We are also looking at establishing a parallel high-end technical track in nuclear welding, robotics, hull technology, software and electronics integration, and additive manufacturing for high-paying blue collar career paths.
We also need to make it easier for you to talk to us. We want to solicit your ideas and approaches. We want to hear your answers to some of the most pressing questions, like:
I need answers and commitments from you and our naval engineering community. I want to hear about how you can address these challenges. How will you support Design for Repair? How will you support a growing and sophisticated force of unmanned platforms? How will you enable ships to operate far from repair depots?
How will you help us to ensure we have the most effective approach to total ship systems design and to sustainment support for decades to come?
I know where we need to go. The Navy-Marine Corps team needs an effective, disciplined, rigorous government-led total ship design team that has the key knowledge, skills, and abilities—that is, a team that is adequately staffed, trained, and ready to take on this daunting challenge.
How are you going to help us get there?
There is a simple reason that I have been so candid today: the stakes for America’s Navy are as high as they have been in my lifetime, and we cannot rise to the occasion without America’s naval engineers.
You are essential to the security of our nation and to the preservation of our values.
We are brothers and sisters in a critical mission. We must support each other. Apart we may sink, but together I am confident we will prove victorious.
Thank you for your time, and I am eager to answer your questions.
Carlos Del Toro
01 February 2023
02 February 2023
Subject specific information for the media
Events or announcements of note for the media
Official Navy statements
Updates on sailors from around the Fleet
HASC, SASC and Congressional testimony
Google Translation Disclaimer