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Thank you very much for your very warm welcome. And Rick, thank you for that warm welcome. It was such a pleasure to work for you way back then, back when I was DESRON 21, I learned a lot from you, and I continue to do so. Thank you very much for your leadership of this really important organization.
As you know, since 1985, the year I was commissioned, SNA has played a unique role in really enhancing the coordination and the cooperation and communication across all of our Navy stakeholders …whether it’s military … active and reserve Sailors … industry, business and academia alike through forums like this, as well as great Chapter events all around the world.
Thank you to the SNA Team … Bill Erickson, Julie Howard, and the entire staff … for organizing this event and putting together a really exceptional week.
Bill, I know that this is your last symposium as the Executive Director. And, I want to add my voice to that chorus and say … just like everybody else in this room … CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU … for your years of dedicated support as SNA’s first Executive Director … following your great career in uniform.
It’s really been your energy, passion, and devotion to our community that made SNA what it is today … and I know your relief, just sitting two down from you … Chris Bushnell … is going to do great things … thanks to all the mentorship and guidance, and everybody, can we give him a round of applause.
Well, to all of our distinguished guests and to all our service members … whether you are Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen … and DON civilians in the audience, thank you for very much for being here this today, and making the time to spend time together at SNA National this week.
It is great for me to be back here at the SNA National Symposium … and I am very excited about this year’s theme … The Force, the Fight, and the Future!
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re in a uniform or a suit … this SNA symposium is what I like to think of as a big “Navy Family Reunion” … an incredible forum to share ideas, collaborate, talk about our challenges and work together to ensure our Navy remains the most powerful navy in the world.
So, let me just start by reaffirming just that … simply put, the U.S. Navy is the world’s premier fighting force.
And I could not be more proud of our Navy team … of our active and reserve Sailors, of our civilians that support them … who make sure we have what it takes to get after our Navy’s mission every day.
Our Navy team operates far forward to preserve the peace, respond in crisis, and … win decisively … in war.
Right now, as we gather, our Sailors are standing the watch … around the world and around the clock … from the seabed to space, in cyberspace, and in information environment … to deter aggression, promote our Nation’s prosperity and security, and provide options to our Nation’s decision makers.
Right now … from the Western Pacific to the Mediterranean … our Navy delivers power for peace, but is always postured and ready to fight and win as part of the Joint Force and alongside our incredibly critical and capable Allies and partners.
And, right now, as you have seen on the news, our Navy is operating on the front lines of freedom… and at the point of friction … performing as we expect United States Sailors to do … in complex environments like the Middle East.
To date, our Surface Navy … the USS Carney, Laboon, Mason, Graveley, and Thomas Hudner … alongside our Allies and Partners … have shot down 51 UAVs, 6 Cruise Missiles, and … for the first time in history … six Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles.
And, the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian … it’s a coalition that brings together 22 like-minded nations to defend the free flow of commerce throughout the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden … has ensured that no merchant vessels have been struck by Houthi missiles or drones … and more than 1,500 merchant vessels have safely transited the Southern Red Sea thanks to ours, and the efforts of others.
Our Navy answers the bell … whenever and wherever we are called.
Increasingly, America, along with her Allies and Partners, finds itself beset on all sides by forces that desire to rewrite the global rules-based order for their own political, military, and economic interests.
Thus … we must campaign to a position of advantage. It is our Navy’s duty to underwrite our nation’s security and uphold the international order that has guaranteed the world’s security and prosperity since the end of World War II.
No other Navy in the world operates at this scale … no other Navy in the world could build, train, deploy, and sustain such a lethal, globally deployed, combat-credible force.
All of this is a testament to the hard work and commitment to excellence over time by the people in this room and the people that you represent ….
So I want to say “thank you” for the exceptional partnership and the teamwork that makes this all possible. I will give you, and give yourselves, a big round of applause for everything that we see going on.
But, ladies and gentlemen, as awesome as this story is, we cannot rest on our laurels … our work is not done … and business as usual will not get us where we need to go.
Our country stands at an inflection point in history … we are in a decisive decade.
As I have said, the security environment has changed … the challenges we face will only accelerate, the threats to our nation and our interests will continue to grow, and the battlefield will become even more complex.
We no longer operate from a maritime sanctuary against competitors who cannot threaten us. Sea control is not guaranteed or freely given.
Our adversaries are adapting new technology … working to undermine our critical strengths … to expose any weaknesses they can … and are racing to develop their own warfighting advantages.
In this environment, America’s Warfighting Navy … her Sailors along with our Marines … must be the best warfighters in the world. We stand as a bulwark against those who would seek harm to our Nation and we must have the best systems, weapons, and platforms that will deter … or defeat … any adversary … anytime … anywhere.
And, in this era of reduced buying power, workforce shortages, and supply chain challenges … we must exercise strategic discipline to ensure we are the most ready, combat-credible force we can be.
There is no time to waste, and I intend to build on and accelerate the work done by my predecessor by focusing on three key priorities:
Warfighting … by delivering decisive combat power at sea.
Warfighters …by strengthening the Navy team.
And, by fortifying the foundation that supports them … investing in our infrastructure, building trust, aligning resources, and quite simply – by always being ready.
Our Navy plays an outsized and dominant role in achieving America’s national security objectives and ensuring our economic prosperity.
Our actions and the decisions we make will determine the global maritime balance of power.
We must all lean in to this task together.
The Navy will continue to partner with all of you here … in driving towards one purpose: to deliver the Navy the Nation needs to fight and win our Nation’s wars.
This is no small task, but I am confident that, together, we will deliver the required capabilities and capacity to produce and sustain warfighting advantage when and where it counts.
And, as a student of history, I believe that … in order to move forward … we should look to the past for insights and lessons on how we … as a Navy and a Nation … have navigated similar challenges.
And as I think about our Navy’s history, I consider the 1930s and 1970s as two decisive decades that “rhyme” in key ways with where we are today.
In the 1930s, constrained defense budgets following the Great Depression resulted in reduced construction, a shrinking shipbuilding industry, and a widening gap between the capability and capacity of our Navy and that of Imperial Japan.
America in the 30’s possessed a fleet that was too small and insufficiently resourced for war. In addition, the fleet lacked balance in its force design … heavily concentrated on obsolete WW1-vintage battleships and treaty-constrained cruisers.
Fast forward to the 1970s, the Navy had optimized as a power projection force … structured to support forces ashore in Southeast Asia ... with a limited defense budget and record high inflation at home.
As a result, the Navy would emerge from the Vietnam War with a hollowed out shipbuilding industry and an aging Fleet … insufficiently prepared for escalating maritime competition with the Soviet Union.
Indeed, the situation in both the 1930s and 1970s was alarming. But the Nation’s leaders made critical decisions … difficult choices with difficult tradeoffs … to best position the United States for victory.
There are historical parallels that offer key lessons to us today. So let me highlight three.
First, how we fight determines what we fight with.
Warfighting concepts must drive the design of warfighting platforms, capabilities, and strategy.
The U.S. Navy emerged from World War I as a strong Battleship Fleet … understanding well that a future war could be fought against the Japanese Empire … across thousands of miles of open ocean in the Indo-Pacific … and that they needed to integrate naval aviation into their tactics.
To this end, the U.S. Navy conducted a series of maneuvers … called “Fleet Problems” … to provide Sailors the most realistic possible training short of actual combat … with the Fleet becoming a large-scale laboratory for learning and its operations … giant training drills and experiments.
Ashore, strategists and planners were engaged in iterative wargaming at the Naval War College … and used the information from Fleet Problems to simulate whole naval campaigns and hypothesize what a future war might look like against the Japanese and other potential adversaries.
Those results directly informed a series of war plans that not only analyzed how to fight, but what the Fleet needed to look like to seize advantage at sea.
The Navy would shift from a platform-centric strategy centered on battleships to one that saw the future as an integrated naval force … on, under, and above the seas … and side-by-side with Marines.
As the 1930s began to turn, the officers who had matriculated through the War College would go on to draw up the long-term building programs that added more aircraft carriers, dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and forward sensing platforms to the Fleet … balancing the fleet in favor of their strategy.
In our 1970s parallel, Navy leaders … like CNO Zumwalt and CNO Holloway … recognized that our Nation’s maritime force could not maintain its maritime supremacy and compete with the Soviet Union with its current force structure.
We could not continue to focus on permissive power projection while the Soviet Navy doubled down on global sea control and improved their anti-carrier capability … to highly lethal levels.
So, Zumwalt and his successors Holloway and Hayward convened the Navy’s foremost thinkers and planners … in groups like the Net Assessment Group, Plans and Policy Directorate, and the Strategic Studies Group … to develop a Fleet capable of contesting sea control globally and direct the development of new capabilities by leveraging the technology of the era.
They would use these groups to formulate their respective force planning strategies … notably Project 60, Sea Plan 2000, and Sea Strike … strategies that would lay the intellectual groundwork for the 1980s Maritime Strategy.
And, they would resuscitate, develop, or procure aircraft, ships, submarines, and weapons systems … like the F/A-18 Hornet, the Los Angeles and Ohio Class submarines, the Spruance and Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, and the Aegis, Harpoon, and Tomahawk weapons systems to meet the designs of their strategy.
Today, our U.S. Navy is taking a similar approach by viewing everything we do through a warfighting lens.
We have energized our wargaming enterprise at the Naval War College and at our warfighting development centers to empower leaders at all levels to think differently about how we need to operate in uncertain, complex, and rapidly changing environments … leaders who are ready to take initiative and be bold.
We are experimenting with new concepts and tactics in a series of fleet exercises and battle problems to develop and refine the operational concepts that will best leverage today’s Fleet capability… and today’s Fleet capacity… to yield warfighting advantage and define requirements for our future Fleet.
This work includes thinking differently about how to leverage and integrate emerging and disruptive technologies as the character of war changes.
With Task Force 59 in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, we have tested hardware and software against real world problems … and we are now scaling that learning in the seas around Central and South America as well as in the Indo-Pacific.
And our experimentation and fleet tactical training are no longer limited by the need to have every unit underway or in the air.
As ADM Caudle said earlier, we are using Live-Virtual-Constructive training environments not only to help certify crews for combat … but to test operational concepts … significantly increasing the speed of our learning.
And as VADM McLane said … through our Force Design initiatives, we are reinvigorating our long-range planning process … identifying the capabilities we must invest in now to maintain our advantage in the maritime environment of the future.
Now, to today’s second lesson … thinking long-term for capability and capacity development.
The actions taken during these respective decades remind us that we must be forward thinking in prioritizing our warfighting advantages, and that we must increase our capability and capacity in peacetime …so that we can surge effectively in war.
In the mid-to-late thirties, private shipyards and manufacturing facilities expanded their infrastructure, increased manpower, and ramped up production based on a joint demand signal from the White House, Congress, and the Navy.
Historians tell us that the peacetime efforts of the 30s contributed 95% of the modern ships available to fight in the war … 95%.
Most of the ships that fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Guadalcanal campaign, and the Battle of Midway were built as part of a “peacetime navy” in the pre-war decade.
Likewise, in the 1970s … in the face of intense economic challenges and a major contraction of the shipbuilding sector, CNOs Zumwalt, Holloway, and Hayward oversaw major peacetime shipbuilding efforts to replace the WWII fleet with a far more sophisticated, flexible, and mission-ready force … capable of simultaneously asserting sea control …and projecting power ashore.
In fact, many of the ships that supported the 1980s build-up and the Maritime Strategy … came from the transformational ships, aircraft, and weapons systems that were conceptualized, procured, or developed by Zumwalt and his successors.
Today, we have the chance to be just as innovative and aggressive.
And, although we face many capability and capacity challenges, we have begun much needed investments in our shipbuilding infrastructure and in emerging and disruptive technologies.
And…in line with Secretary Del Toro’s call for a “new Maritime Statecraft,” it will take a parallel effort, investment, risk, and resourcing from the Navy, Congress, and our industry and innovation partners to meet the urgency of time.
We are working closely with the private sector to strengthen the Defense Industrial Base … including once-in-a-generation investments in our strategic nuclear deterrent, our century-old dry dock facilities, and our public shipyards.
We are providing industry a clear demand signal. That’s why we’re pursuing multi-year contracts, advanced procurement timelines … based upon lead time analysis, additional supply chain investments, and large lot procurements of munitions like the SM-2 and SM-6, sidewinder missiles, and the naval strike missile.
And, we are incentivizing our industry partners so that they invest in the infrastructure and capacity we need to support our future fleet.
I say all of this … with full acknowledgement that our industry partners have challenges of their own … like attracting and retaining an adequate workforce to meet the Navy’s demands in both production and readiness.
We must all exercise strategic discipline and remain committed to the long term… because the work done in our shipyards, manufacturing facilities, and bases … by the most skilled and talented workers in the world … is critical to our foundation of readiness generation … and is essential to our Nation.
Through these … and other critical efforts … together … we will put more players on the field … which means ready players . . . platforms that are ready with the right capabilities, weapons and sustainment … and people who are ready with the right skills, tools, training and mindset.
And that brings me to the third lesson: success requires unity of effort and urgency.
Our Navy has been most effective at driving change and developing warfighting advantage when successive CNOs move with urgency and commitment toward the same goal.
And, that starts with a unifying vision, understood by every member of our team … one that can be used … internally and externally.
In the 1930s, CNOs Hughes, Pratt, Standley, and Leahy, all drove the same Navy narrative … that the Japanese were the looming threat and that the Navy needed to develop the platforms, capability, and concepts needed to fight and win … or else they would lose in the Pacific.
Together, they provided a realistic assessment of what was needed to win against the Japanese … and communicated that to Congress and the American public.
So, with the support of Congress, the planning of the Navy, the innovation of our research institutions, the adaptability of industry, and the determination of American workers … all striving together in common cause … those CNOs built the foundations from which we would win World War II.
Similarly, in the 1970s and 1980s … it took the vision of successive CNOs … Zumwalt, Holloway, Hayward, Watkins, and Trost … and the support of Congress, industry, and the American people … all driving towards one purpose … to build the Navy needed to defeat the Soviet Union.
Our decisive decade demands the same unity of effort, the same sense of urgency, and the same resolve displayed by our leaders in the ‘30s and 70’s.
So let me wrap it up this afternoon by leaving you with six words: Warfighting, Warfighters, Foundation and… ALL AHEAD FLANK.
We can only become the Navy the Nation needs if we think, act and operate differently … if we use data to assess and measure our progress … if we capitalize on the lessons learned from our past…. and if we unleash the creative power of the American Sailor and American Industry.
So bring your best every day. We need your ideas, your partnership, your investment, and … most of all … your commitment to ensuring we remain the world’s pre-eminent fighting force.
You know … when I was here last year, I asked that you all embody our core value of courage … the courage to lead differently, the courage to be transparent, and the courage to take the time to solve issues the right way in order to make lasting changes that will enable our every success.
Today, I’d like you to recommit to that same challenge …ENGAGE every day with renewed courage and vigor. We must accelerate change now … to rise to the challenge of this incredibly and increasingly competitive environment.
The American people are counting on us to protect and defend our security and our way of life.
The American people are counting on us to move with purpose and urgency.
And, the American people are counting on us to preserve the peace, respond in crisis, and … win decisively … in war.
And with the team I see right here in front of me … I am confident that is exactly what we will do. We will hit every North Star we set … for the Force, the Fight, and the Future.
We are America’s Warfighting Navy.
Thank you very much.
Adm. Lisa Franchetti
09 January 2024
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