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ANNOUNCER: Admiral Del Toro, secretary of the Navy, and the 32nd Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Gilday.
SECRETARY CARLOS DEL TORO: Good afternoon, everyone.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
SEC. DEL TORO: Before I begin my formal remarks, I would like to invite the commodore and the vice CNO of the Finnish Navy to please stand up, and his entire Finland delegation. Where are you? There they are. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to NATO. Hopefully you’ll applaud as much for me after the speech.
My gosh, as I look around this audience, isn’t it great to be back in force? How about a hand of applause for Julia and the entire staff of the Navy League, Dave Reilly and Mike Stevens. Thanks for bringing us all back together again, and to all the sponsors and everyone else. Thank you for supporting our Navy League. I still remember my very first Navy League meeting. It was actually in Toulon, France, when my ship first pulled in in 1983. And that’s where I first learned about the Navy League. And ever since, I’ve really come to respect the work that the Navy League does around the world to take care of our sailors, our Marines. And there just isn’t enough ways to say thank you.
And it’s great to be back at this year’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. And a lot can change in a year. And I’m here today to tell you that our Navy and Marine Corps team has made tremendous strides towards modernizing our fleet and our force by building capacity, capability, and lethality. Our National Defense Strategy calls upon the joint force to be ready to meet our nation’s challenges, from countering China in the Indo-Pacific to reassuring our allies and partners in Europe as Russia continues its campaign in Ukraine – annexing territory in a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. And we will not give up. We will continue to support the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian military for as long as it takes.
As I communicated to Congress last month, a strong Navy and Marine Corps are the foundation on which the success of the joint force rests. And there have been many great speakers yesterday that have spoken to this and attested to it. Just over 18 months ago I was sworn in as the 78th secretary of the Navy. Shortly after assuming this role, I communicated my three enduring priorities to our Navy, our Marine Corps, to guide the investments and the actions we take in support of our sailors, Marines, civilians, and their families. Our priorities are, and will remain, strengthening our maritime dominance, building a culture of warfighting excellence, and enhancing strategic partnerships. We continue to build modern capable platforms for our sailors and Marines to operate at, above, below, and from the sea.
And if you question our commitment to that effort, just yesterday someone decided to introduce me by reading my bio. And he said I’m responsible for a budget of $210 billion. That must have been in October of ’21 when I first came in, because today it’s over $250 billion. And there is not enough ways to thank the president, the administration, and the Congress for their commitment to our Navy and Marine Corps team. Construction progresses on our first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, the USS District of Columbia, along with construction on the first in class USS Constellation frigate. This fall, we look forward to commissioning our first Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, the USS Jack H. Lucas, DDG 125. And all of you know how much I love destroyers, right? You can laugh at my jokes, by the way, folks. Thank you, CNO. Thank you.
The Navy and Marine Corps are more than just platform and systems, however. And we fully recognize that our people are, indeed, our greatest strength. From the largest pay raise in 20 years to expanding funding for formal education opportunities and making significant investments in addressing quality of life issues, we are working hard every day to recruit and retain the uniformed and civilian workforce that our department needs to be mission ready.
And I know the CNO or the commandant spoke about this. And I want to say thank you to the CNO and the commandant, because it’s easy to just speak words, folks. But just in this first quarter of this year, our retention in the United States Marine Corps is up by 10%. And our retention in the Navy is up by over 7%. That just doesn’t happen; it takes the dedicated effort of a complete leadership team – the CNO, we have the MCPON here, sergeant major in the Marine Corps, and the commandant of the Marine Corps – all working together with our leadership across both services to make that happen. And I’m very proud of that.
And it also indicates, quite frankly, that they’re happy with the strategies that we’re putting in place to take our Navy and Marine Corps forward. And that’s important. And we will continue that effort in every possible way. In addition to taking care of Marines, sailors, and their families, we’re working to strengthen our partnerships both internationally and here at home. And I’d like all our international partners to please put down their forks and knives and stand up for a second to be recognized.
Now, I’d love to have a 1,000-ship Navy myself. Maybe one day we’ll get there. Let’s work on it incrementally. But the power of all our allies and partners working together across the world is the equivalent of the 1,000-ship navy. And it sends a very strong message to both the PRC and to Russia that we’re serious about this, we’re backing down, we’re standing together, and we will deter them from doing anything they want to do.
In the Indo-Pacific, we’re playing a leading role in the AUKUS security partnership with the U.S. Navy and our partners and the submarine industrial base, directly building up Australia’s ability to build, repair, crew, and operate a conventionally armed nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet. And I’d like to thank all the folks that actually worked with our Navy team, on our Navy team, over the past 18 months to make the AUKUS announcement possible. A lot of hard work went into that. And there’s much more work to be done moving forward, through summer studies that will take place this summer and beyond. It’s really exciting. It’s transformational. It’s exactly what our Navy and Marine Corps team needs to be doing across the board.
On the other side of the world, we continue to support our Ukrainian partners as they defend their territory, as I said, and their citizens, in response to Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion. We continue to operate with allies and partners in the Arctic as well too, honing our skills in a challenging and unforgiving environment. And for any sailor who’s ever served on a – sailed on a ship, you know how tough it can be to serve in the Arctic. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve increased the number of operations just this past year that we conduct in the high north and in the Arctic, but there’s still a lot more work and a lot more commitment that needs to come.
Here at home, we are working with our defense industrial base partners, all of you, to reduce the maintenance delays for ships and submarines, improve our shipyard infrastructure, develop a skilled workforce, and deliver game-changing technologies and capabilities to our sailors and Marines. And, folks, if there’s one thing it’s easy to do in Washington, D.C., it’s to criticize. To constantly criticize the efforts that are going on.
Let me tell you, this leadership team here, the CNO and the entire Navy leadership team has worked at Nav Sea and Nav Air and Navy Information Warfare Systems Command tirelessly to produce these ships faster, to work with industry to come up with solutions that make sense. And I’m grateful to our Congress to put in $2.35 billion in the ’23 budget alone for industrial base support, and more money in this president’s budget as well too, so that we can all collectively work in one team together to get these ships out of the shipyards faster, in new construction as well as when they’re undergoing repair.
Earlier today, I had the privilege and the honor to meet with several exhibitors and listen as they told me about their services and product offerings, and how they can contribute to the success of our naval services. Between my previous experience as a small business owner in the defense ecosystem and current position as the secretary, I’m aware of how critical our department’s partnership with industry is to field the advanced capabilities throughout our fleet and our force. And I’m trying every day to try to improve the process and make it easier for small businesses to join the Department of the Navy family.
In ’22, we had over 700 new vendors that had never done business with the Department of the Navy. In ’23, we’re up to 716. We have to continue to grow the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense marketplace, inviting new small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and even large businesses that don’t traditionally do work with the department. It’s the only way that we’re actually going to fix the problems that we face today.
Secretary Austin states in the opening of the National Defense Strategy that we must act with urgency to build enduring advantages for the future joint force and undertake reforms to accelerate force development. I can think of no better example of our execution of this directive than the advances that we’re making for the Navy’s unmanned task force in Task Force 59 as they work with industry partners on solving operational problems through rapid experimentation. And to speak more on the progress that we’re making towards fielding our hybrid manned and unmanned fleet, I’ll turn the mic over now to our Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gilday.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your leadership. It’s an honor to share the stage with you this afternoon. MCPON Stevens, thanks for having me back. Distinguished guests, shipmates, thanks for your attention for a few minutes as we talk about unmanned and where we’re headed in the future. I’d like to talk a few minutes, show you a few minute video, and then turn it back to the secretary for his vision on where we’re headed in the near term with our unmanned projects.
What we’re really trying to do is to take an evolutionary approach that delivers revolutionary force changes. Over the next five to 10 years, we will continue our operations to iterate with small, unmanned platforms in areas like maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, mine countermeasure operations, seabed exploration, and carrier airwing support, to name just a few. We’ll continue to test both platforms, integrated with game-changing software, against real-world problems, like maritime domain awareness, as we’ve done in the Middle East. We’ll continue to mature our CONOPS, specifically with respect to manned-unmanned teaming. And this will be led by our surface and our subsurface development squadrons on the West Coast.
We’re going to improve our ability to command and control this ocean of things that a manned and unmanned navy brings to the fore. And this effort will be both informed by and it will inform Project Overmatch. Project Overmatch is the project that’s led by NAVWAR in San Diego to deliver an operational architecture. And the intent of that operational architecture is to network a joint all-domain force in a way that we can deliver kinetic and non-kinetic actions that are synchronized. And they’re aided by computerized decision aids that allow us to make decisions and put us in a position of decision advantage at machine speed.
We’re going to increase our competence in reliable, autonomous operations of manned and unmanned systems. At the same time that we experiment against real-world problems with those smaller unmanned, we’re going to continue our progress on large unmanned, under the sea, and both large and medium unmanned surface vessels. As many of you know, our large – our extra-large underwater unmanned system is known as Orca, which is in the water right now at Port Hueneme, California. That is our prototype, with more to follow.
With respect to large USV and medium unmanned surface vessels, within the next couple months we’ll begin land-based testing at commercial sites. The intent of that testing is to deliver a reliable engineering plan configuration for propulsion in both electrical power generation, so that eventually we have reliable systems to put on these unmanned vessels that, in accordance with the 2021 NDAA, operate at least 720 hours of continuous operations, or 30 days. We’ll experiment with underway refueling of these unmanned vessels. We’ll do remote firing demonstrations. We’ll do continued science and technology and R&D on platforms.
I mention the ISR platforms, the IRS payloads, but also electronic warfare and ASW, to name just a few. We would expect to put a large, unmanned surface vessel on contract within the next three to four years. Medium unmanned surface vessel would follow as LUSV matures the technology and autonomous capabilities of those vessels. The teamwork with industry is absolutely key to our success. What we’ve been able to do with Task Force 59 is to make investments upfront, to test and to prototype, to understand the problem set, to understand the ecosystem in which it will operate, to bring together the very best in platform engineers and software designers so that we make the magic happen and improve maritime domain awareness in the Middle East.
It’s been rapid. Industry’s been focused. It’s been purposeful experimentation to solve operational problems and to inform our acquisition strategies. Task Force 59, under Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, has been just amazing. What I’d like to do is pause and have you watch a two minute video before we continue.
(A video presentation begins.)
[U.S. 5TH FLEET VIDEO ABOUT CTF-59 PLAYS]
(Video presentation ends.)
ADM. GILDAY: Thanks for your attention. And the momentum continues to build. Just after this video was produced last month, we conducted our largest international maritime exercise in the Middle East across the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. More than 30 unmanned platforms and AI capabilities, more than 50 partner nations and international organizations. No one nation can do this alone. We welcome industry and we welcome all of our allies and partners to join us in this endeavor as we build a hybrid fleet. And while we still have so much to learn, we’re ready to scale these operations at the fleet level.
And with that, I’d like to turn the podium back to our secretary of the Navy.
SEC. DEL TORO: If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will. Perhaps the best part of all of that is that there’s hardly any liberty incidents that will come from. So thank you.
As the CNO indicated, we’re ready to expand our unmanned platforms beyond the Middle East. And today, in front of all of you, I’m pleased to announce that we will scale unmanned platforms to the fleet level and the [U.S.] 4th Fleet as well. The [U.S.] 4th Fleet area of operations provides us with an environment best suited to operationalize the concepts that Task Force 59 has worked tirelessly to develop to increase our maritime domain awareness or MDA capabilities.
These unmanned platforms will meet the needs of our SOUTHCOM and [U.S.] 4th Fleet commanders and our partners in the Joint Interagency Taskforce South, as they defend the approaches to our homeland. The MDA technologies and platforms we are bringing to the region will address several significant challenges. These include narcotics and human trafficking, as well as economic and ecological harm caused by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which the People’s Republic of China, through their distant water fishing fleets, participates in on both the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic Coast of Central and South America.
The sustained presence of these unmanned platforms provide us with the endurance and reach necessary to complement the activities of our manned platforms, freeing them up for other missions. This initiative will also inform our journey towards a hybrid fleet, as we seek to apply the lessons learned in the [U.S.] 4th Fleet to future operations in still yet other areas of responsibilities. And additionally, bringing these platforms and technologies to [U.S.] 4th Fleet sends a strong signal to our Caribbean, our Latin, and South American partners that we are committed to their national and economic security, and that we are investing resources, and to addressing the challenges we all face in the region together.
We look forward to integrating them into this effort, and building our collective understanding of who is sailing in our shared waters. I cannot express to you how excited I am about our endeavors in unmanned in both the [U.S.] 4th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibilities as we advance towards our integration of unmanned platforms into the fleet in support of distributed maritime operations. And I am grateful to the Navy League for providing this forum for Adm. Gilday and myself to share our combined vision and progress towards a hybrid Navy fleet.
With that, the CNO and I are ready to answer any questions that you may have. And I appreciate Admiral Foggo’s willingness to moderate the rest of our discussion this afternoon. I will take all the easy questions. The CNO will take all the hard questions. But more importantly, may God bless our sailors, Marines, and their families, and thank you for your support of each and every one of them.
ADMIRAL JAMES FOGGO III (RET.): Ladies and gentlemen, the secretary and the CNO have allotted 10 minutes for questions. You can see standing mics. We have port and starboard mics. First come first served basis. We’ll get as many questions as we can in 10 minutes. And please, state your name, your parent organization, and then ask a short question so we can get you an answer and move onto the next one.
All right. To you, Captain, just a question.
Q: I apologize for the length yesterday, CNO, so I wrote it down today.
The Maritime Administration hasn’t had the budget to do a manpower survey since 2017 or a shipyard survey since 2004. So we don’t really know how many people work there. Let’s say 7,500 Merchant Marine officers. While the International Chamber of Shipping says Ukraine Merchant Marine has 47,000 officers and 29,000 unlicensed, our friends at the Philippine Merchant Marine have 150,000 college-educated ships officers, 200,000 enlisted workers. And they’re in every port. They’re in every Chinese shipyard. They’re commanding icebreakers around the world. Again, there are 95,000 South Korean shipyard workers and 68,000 in Japan.
So what lessons – you talk about joint and joint – you know, we don’t really work jointly. How can we work jointly with our fellow merchant mariners? What lessons can we learn from the Navy? And is that and autonomous a threat to our jobs?
ADM. GILDAY: I think the learning goes both ways. After the collisions in 2017, as we look at look at our own standards in the surface fleet, as an example, one of the things we took a deep look at were commercial standards. And so we learned and applied many of the training and many of the qualifications that you have and effect. We also have been taking a look at making the entryway easier for surface warfare officers who leave the service but are interested in serving in the maritime industry, for them to make that transition very easily with qualifications that actually transfer. And so I think there’s perhaps a relationship here that we can continue to foster. And it does need to get closer, I think. I agree with you.
Q: Thank you, sir.
ADM. GILDAY: You’re welcome.
ADM. FOGGO: Yes, sir.
Q: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Diego Laje with SIGNAL magazine.
Could you please expand on the announcement of the unmanned vessels with the Fourth in the Americas?
SEC. DEL TORO: So the CNO and his entire naval leadership team have been working on Task Force 59 concepts of operations now for probably three or four years now, if you take into consideration the early planning that was done to get there. Over the course of the last two years, there’s been significant advancements in building the concepts of operations necessary to really move this from just the conceptual to the operational.
And the CNO can talk about it, but there have already been many incidents in the Middle East, for example, where having that constant ISR presence over the course of, in some cases, up to a full year – with Saildrone being able to operate as long as long as it has, and other drones, for example – has really allowed us to more effectively prosecute Iranian vessels, for example, conducting illegal arms trade to terrorist organizations, and monitor operations across the entire fleet without actually having to have a manned fleet presence all the time.
It's now time to actually transport down those concepts of operations, in this case to [U.S.] 4th Fleet, where we can actually try to really start to make a marked difference against drug runners and also in support of all of our allies and partners in Central and South America. And most nations that I travel to that are smaller nations around the world, whether they be in the Pacific or in South America or in Africa, for that matter, they don’t have the same resources we do, obviously. And manned ships are expensive to build, maintain, to sail, to operate. And so utilization of unmanned technology really can be transformational in their ability to counter, you know, these pirates, these illegal fishermen, and these drug runners.
And God knows in this nation we’ve been struggling in the fight against drugs, whether it be narcotics, fentanyl, cocaine, et cetera. And I think that this effort will be significant. But let me allow the CNO to talk a little bit with more specificity on how he envisions the operations to proceed.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah, thanks, sir. You set it up pretty well. The National Defense Strategy says that our number-one priority is to defend the nation. We think we have a responsibility to defend – to watch over the maritime approaches to North America. And arguably right now, given the size of the fleet we have and the global responsibilities that we must attend to, we think that unmanned takes it to another level in terms of that AOR, and are we able to keep more of an unblinking eye on that traffic coming north?
Also, with respect to illegal and unregulated fishing, as the secretary mentioned earlier, there’s no better way to compete with the PRC in gray zone activity than to expose it. And so unmanned gives us the ability to keep more of an unblinking eye on that activity as well. And we think there’s a lot of goodness here with allies and partners. I’d also say they obviously have – they’re obviously likeminded in both of these problem sets, in terms of getting after it more effectively.
The other thing that I’d add is that we are taking what we learned in the Middle East with respect to command and control – so we have developed mesh networks. In other words, we have leveraged many frequency bands within the spectrum in order to command and control these unmanned platforms, including satellites, including HF including UHF. We want to continue to develop and build resilient, redundant communication paths that allow us to do this more effectively. It’s a key problem that we have to get after.
The other thing that I would speak to real briefly, and I’ll end here, is that in JIATF South, which is the joint agency that really ties together the interagency effort to get after illicit trafficking from South America, there’s a lot of intelligence feeds that already going into JIATF South. So we think that we can leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities with that information, that’s supplemented by the data that we pull in from unmanned platforms, to give us a much better common operational picture, number one. But perhaps leveraging AI to be much more predictive in terms of where that traffic’s coming from, to be much more effective in terms of intercepting it.
SEC. DEL TORO: And this is a great opportunity for businesses, small, medium, and large, to really engage. Because this mesh network the CNO talks about, this is an open-architecture network, irrespective of the actual drone, whether it’s in the air, on the surface, or subsurface. It’s all feeding this open architecture mesh network. So you can come to the table with your own creativity, your own innovativeness, and contribute to this effort.
Q: Just a quick one. These vessels would potential reach Antarctica, right? They would operate all the way to the far south?
SEC. DEL TORO: Well, that’s to be determined. I’m not sure how many drug runners are on the Antarctic, but –
Q: Or Chinese vessels.
SEC. DEL TORO: Well, that’s true. Illegal fishing can go all the way down there. And as the climate changes and they start following the new patterns of fishing. So in the case of illegal fishing, yes, that’s a possibility as well. There’s a lot of work to be done here still.
ADM. FOGGO: Jim Offutt.
Q: Jim Offutt. Navy League.
We talked a lot about our maritime services. Could you briefly address how all of these problems that we look at in the National Defense Strategy, how we’re working together with our Air Force and Army chiefs of service, or their secretaries? Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: You know, we’re working very closely with the Marine Corps right now on this, obviously. There are other services that are also leveraging unmanned. And we’re learning from them. Project Overmatch, in terms of, you know, the operational architecture that we’re going to deliver is intended to be a joint architecture as well. So there’s a lot of levels in which – there’s a ton of opportunity here across the joint force to learn a lot, particularly – and, you know, I didn’t talk about delivering capability quickly, but one of the real important aspects of the work that we’ve done with Task Force 59 is to take things rapidly from prototyping to low-rate production. In other years, take it across that three-year “valley of death” very quickly, levering authorities that the Congress has given us now.
It's not using the same PPBS system that we have that delivered ships and aircraft. But rather, it’s much more agile. And so it allows us to innovate, experiment, right? To prototype. And the commercial technology that we’re leveraging has already driven down technical risk, okay? So that’s really important in terms of giving us something to work with that’s highly reliable. It works out there, whether it’s in the offshore oil industry or other aspects of commercial industry. And we’re leveraging that proven technology.
ADM. FOGGO: All right. Yes, ma’am.
Q: Good afternoon. Devita Nellows, International Global Solution.
The UVs appear to be mainly passive in nature. Are there plans in the future for them to take on a(n) offensive or even defensive capabilities?
ADM. GILDAY: So I can’t speak much about some of the things that we’re working on right now at a classified level. It’s actually moving very, very rapidly to deliver capability. But large unmanned is determined to be a platform to have offensive capability. And so that will be a line of sight platform that stays with a carrier strike group or a surface action group. Will start off likely minimally manned and evolve to unmanned over time, as we perfect or mature autonomous capabilities. And then in the future, we think that a large unmanned platform could have defensive capability as well. There’s a lot of opportunities here. I mentioned some platforms with payloads, ASW, EW, S&R, so.
Q: Thank you.
ADM. GILDAY: Yeah.
ADM. FOGGO: We are out of time. So do we have time for one more?
SEC. DEL TORO: Yes, sir. Absolutely. Or two? We have a couple people standing.
Q: Hi. My name is Matt Tallyn, call sign Penguin. And I’m sure you don’t remember this, sir, but I briefed you the day after you were nominated or –
SEC. DEL TORO: In Norfolk at a large-scale exercise.
Q: Yeah, large-scale exercise, yes, sir.
SEC. DEL TORO: I remember.
Q: With the CNO.
So my question to you, I got into space stuff back then. I have since retired and now I’m working for BlueHalo. I’m loving life on this side of things. We are at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space. Please talk to me about what the Navy’s role in space will be in the future, because you’ve given away MUOS to the Space Force. How does that – how does that balance with what the Navy needs and where the Navy is going with space?
SEC. DEL TORO: We haven’t given away the MUOS to the Space Force. They’re operating it for us, and we’re still receiving the – the benefit of MUOS across the entire Department of the Navy and across the entire joint force. It’s an incredibly important capability that we have.
It’s ironic that you ask that question. I actually haven’t seen you since then, but we actually just formed a three-day space summit at the Navy Postgraduate School, where we’re actually setting up a Navy innovation center as well.
Q: And when might we go?
SEC. DEL TORO: And to bring together all of the Navy space cadre, essentially, with many space experts from the joint force. Space Force was there. U.S. SPACECOM was there represented. To talk about our Navy space cadre, our needs, our requirements, to be able to effectively articulate that to the Space Force. In addition to that, there’s an enormous – and perhaps the CNO can talk about it in just a little bit more detail. Can’t go into too much detail. But our C5ISR efforts are significant across the entire Navy, including operations in Overmatch.
And so there’s a lot of goodness that I think is being developed. We’ve just stood up a Maritime Space Operations designator. Both the Marine Corps and the Navy are supporting space efforts very aggressively. You know, we started in space. We will never leave. We’ll always be part of the space family, contributing to our collective national security.
ADM. GILDAY: The secretary mentioned the Maritime Space Operations Force that we’ve stood up. We actually have a space component that’s located up at Fort Meade. It’s combined with [U.S.] 10th Fleet, U.S. Cyber Fleet. And so we think there’s a lot of synergy there between cyber and space. And but it’s a separate, distinct staff that works directly in support of U.S. Space Command. And they’re very excited to have Navy on board with a component, and the Marine Corps as well.
ADM. FOGGO: Our last question goes to our international partners, sir.
Q: Thank you very much. I am Spanish Admiral Alejandro Nosekei (ph) I am the national director of armament in Spain.
Thank you very much for – Mr. Secretary and CNO, for your recognizing of the partners. I’m here representing Spain right now. I would like to congratulate Finnish people. That’s is good – it’s a good rapport that we have together. You’re recognizing us for a fighting arm, collaborating against Ukrainian war. That was very difficult to be – (inaudible).
I would like to ask you about artificial intelligence because that is – there are some worries about that because we can lose control of this intelligence – (inaudible) – because they forced this. The mind is important, very important, but intelligence – artificial intelligence, there are some who said that it’s difficult to control that. What do you think about?
ADM. GILDAY: First of all, sir, on behalf of all of us here I want to express our condolences on the passing of your chief of navy suddenly last week. He was an extremely strong partner, and he will be missed.
With respect to AI, we have a deep respect for AI. And the artificial intelligence capabilities that we’ve used so far on our large surface unmanned vessels, as an example, we have 50,000-plus nautical miles of transit in an autonomous mode. We have a high degree of confidence in the AI’s ability to follow rules and to avoid traffic, to stay within the channel when required. We’ve made transits from the Gulf Coast of the United States repeatedly through the Panama Canal and up around – to Port Hueneme, California.
That said, it’s a whole other level, as you allude to, to give an unmanned vessel a mission and then have that vessel report back, mission complete. So this is going to be an iterative process. As I mentioned earlier, we think minimally manned before we go fully autonomous. I mentioned the fact that we see these vessels deploying with carrier strike groups and ARGs rather than just out there operating beyond line of sight autonomously. It needs to be – we need to go slow to go fast, if you will. It has to be very deliberate, with a great deal of respect for AI. And we still have a lot to learn.
SEC. DEL TORO: Let me just say again, with the power of our international cooperation, we’re going to move out fairly quickly on [U.S.] 4th Fleet, and instituting a combination of manned and unmanned. And it’ll start – it’s already started – but it’ll really take shape in UNITAS ’23. Want to talk just briefly about UNITAS ’23?
ADM. GILDAY: So that will be our kickoff, really. It’ll be UNITAS in July. And we – to be clear, we won’t have a separate taskforce in [U.S.] 4th Fleet. One of the changes that we’re making as we evolve and learn is to see if we can integrate this unmanned capability into our existing organizational – fleet organizational structure. And so what we’re really doing is introducing additional sensors to give us more transparency with respect to the battlespace so that we can understand it. And so there will be some, you know, specialized personnel on the staff, but for the most part we’ll stay within the traditional Napoleonic codes with respect to our organization.
SEC. DEL TORO: I started off my comments in thanking the Finnish Navy. And the Swedish head of navy is here. Madam, would you please get up? Where are you, Admiral? Somewhere? Well, she’s here somewhere. Maybe she’s working right now. But hopefully we’ll be able to soon invite Sweden as well too, and celebrate their entry into NATO as well too, so.
ADM. FOGGO: Mr. Secretary, CNO, just an FYI. Last night CNO and I were talking, sir. And this morning I had undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment Dr. Bill LaPlante on the dais. And I asked him for Task Force 59 and all of its success, would the new Office of Strategic Capital at DOD be something that could fund future advancement or expansion of Task Force 59? And he said, yes. And I wanted you to know that, because it’s always better to spend other people’s money.
SEC. DEL TORO: I agree with that, though.
ADM. FOGGO: Thank you very much. Let’s give the CNO and the secretary a big round of applause.
Adm. Mike Gilday
04 April 2023
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