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Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the inaugural meeting of the Department of the Navy’s Science and Technology Board!
In a few minutes, I will be swearing in our board members, officially welcoming them as our Department’s newest force-multipliers.
But before I do so, I’d like to share with you — and the members of the public who are joining us today virtually — how this board came about, why its work will be so important to the future of our Navy and Marine Corps, and my expectations for the board.
The vision for this board in its current structure and mission is only a year old, although it can trace its lineage back throughout our Department’s history to prior science and technology advisory boards.
And it was about a year ago that, in a conversation with this board’s first chairman — my friend, mentor, and former boss — the 71st Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Richard Danzig, that I recognized our Department’s need to increase our capacity in terms of thought leadership in the science and technology realm.
It was during this conversation that I also realized Secretary Danzig was the right person to lead this board, not just because of his extensive leadership experience or familiarity with our Navy and Marine Corps, but because of his passion for ensuring our Sailors and Marines had access to technologies and capabilities at the leading edge to ensure they would always be successful in their assigned missions.
But I’m not the only one who thought Secretary Danzig was the right choice to lead this new board — ChatGPT, with the help of some well-written prompts by Director Jim Baker of Office of Net Assessment, came to the same conclusion.
To quote ChatGPT — “Overall, Richard Danzig’s extensive experience in national security, defense policy, and the Navy, combined with his knowledge of technology and innovation, make him a valuable candidate to lead the Science and Technology Advisory Board.”
I highlight this exchange between Director Baker and ChatGPT as an example of the new technological era our Nation now finds itself in — an era brought about in part by the technologies and capabilities that our Department of the Navy financed.
What many of you joining us today might not know is that our Office of Naval Research, for decades, has funded the development of the large language models that are now used for training artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT.
And today, we find ourselves watching this technology mature in ways few fathomed possible back when those first investments were made.
But what does all of this mean for our Navy and Marine Corps — our Sailors and Marines — in terms of how they will fight in future conflicts?
That question is why we are here today — and why each of you were invited to join our Department as members of this board.
This board is indeed unlike any Navy science and technology board of the past — both in terms of the challenges presented for consideration as well as the makeup of the board itself.
The strength of this board rests in your diversity — diversity of disciplines of expertise and studies, of professional backgrounds and networks, and diversity in your unique personal experiences as citizens of our great nation.
This board brings together leaders and experts from across the government, the military, academia, industry, and America’s vast science and technology ecosystem.
You are retired career military officers, professors, engineers, published authors, company directors and executives, technologists, venture capitalists, and consultants.
You are passionate about a wide array of topics, spanning artificial intelligence and machine learning, data science, biology and chemistry, cybersecurity, space, marine engineering and safety, additive manufacturing, and the impacts that the advances in your respective fields will have on humanity.
But what’s most important to me — to our Department — is that by taking this oath today, you are demonstrating your commitment to ensuring our Sailors and Marines strengthen their competitive warfighting advantages, that they remain safe, and, above all else, that they return home to their families.
With all of that in mind, I am charging you, as thought leaders in your respective disciplines, to explore the cutting edge technologies our Department is aware of and involved in — as well as the technologies we are not involved in — and conduct thorough assessments as to how they will impact both the near and distant futures of warfighting in all domains we operate in — at, above, and below the ocean’s surface, ashore, as well as space and cyberspace.
I ask that you take into account the asymmetric nature of these technologies, and how their adoption can provide us with unique advantages as we work not only to deter conflict, but to promote peace and stability around the globe.
Our Department is faced with a unique set of challenges given our charge to operate across multiple domains, and we are looking to you to inject fresh perspectives in addressing those challenges.
As you conduct your business, I do not expect you to work in a vacuum and rely solely on one another.
I am empowering you to collaborate with other advisory boards across the Department of Defense — and our entire federal government — for it is my belief that the exploration and adoption of new and innovative technologies that this board advises on should not be confined to our Department.
Also, I ask that you leverage this board’s Designated Federal Officer, Ms. Maria Proestou, and her team to connect you with the appropriate resources throughout the Department of the Navy that you may need access to over the course of your tenure.
We are invested in ensuring this board is able to conduct its work in a thorough, deliberate, and expedient manner. Do not hesitate to ask for what you need.
As we transition to the swearing-in, I will leave you with a final thought.
The science of today is the technology of the future, and that technology has the potential to be of incredible benefit to our Fleet, our Force, and to our Nation. We need you, our board members, to provide us with vision and guidance to reach the end-states our warfighters need.
Again, I am humbled by your acceptance to join our Department on this journey in re-imagining our approach to how we identify, research, develop, test, and field new technologies, and I am grateful to each of you for donating your time and expertise for the betterment of the lives of our Sailors, Marines, civilians, and their families around the globe.
Carlos Del Toro
22 September 2023
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