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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

Christopher W. Grady

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California


by U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs and Outreach
15 August 2019

Well, good morning! Well, good morning everyone. And first, let me thank Bob Shea for introducing me and for his steadfast leadership of AFCEA over the last several years. You know, thank you, Bob. And I’m grateful to be here in San Diego with you in this 29th year of partnership with the Naval Institute. And Pete – Pete Daly – thank you for inviting me. I must say – the institute is in great hands and has really flourished under your leadership. You and your team are certainly advancing our collective understanding of sea power and all issues crucial to global security. So, we recognized the SDMAC (San Diego Military Advisory Council) and I really appreciate all that they do, but I’d like to recognize Bob and Pete. So how about a round of applause?

So, this expo is, without a doubt, the premier sea services event on the West Coast. As usual, it is a fantastic gathering – especially since there are so many Notre Dame grads here in the audience. And there really isn’t anything else like it. In this room, we have security practitioners like me, the dedicated industry professionals who build our platforms and weapons, and the talented designers of our communications and electronic systems. And bringing all of these together is truly an opportunity for synergy.

The open dialogue here at the West Conference, the strong bonds formed amongst these three groups, contribute to the nation’s defense in a way that is much greater than the mere sum of its parts. Now, as I start, I have to note that both AFCEA and the Naval Institute have origins that trace back to the period following America’s Civil War. Both were founded by dedicated military professionals who felt the need to take some leadership within national security establishment during a time of great transition by engaging in important discourse – and I think that that continues today.

And I think our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we are once again in a period of great change. The security environment is now more complex. It’s volatile. And more volatile than at any time in recent memory. And so, great power competition – not terrorism or contesting rogue regimes – great power competition is now our primary focus.

So, as revisionist and revanchist powers, both China and Russia aim to shape the world consistent with their own authoritarian model – holding sway over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions. Their goal is to leverage conventional military strength, influence operations, and predatory economics to fracture our alliances and shift regional balances of power in their favor.

They seek to challenge and replace the post-World War II order that has fostered unprecedented peace and security around the globe. And I believe that our Navy is poised and ready to meet this challenge. Indeed, we are in a maritime era. In fact, I would say that we have – in the National Defense Strategy – what is really a maritime strategy. And right now as much as ever before, your Navy is critical to securing America’s place in the world. It is defending far forward, providing for our common defense, promoting prosperity and security, and preserving our strategic influence around the globe. We are truly America’s varsity away team; America’s varsity global team.

And in fact, our defense strategy relies on your Navy to fill the roles of the contact, blunt, and surge forces. And increasingly the homeland defense forces as well – something I know very well as the NAVNORTH commander. So it is truly an arena of continuous competition across the diplomatic, informational, military and economic elements of national power. An arena which spans the entire spectrum of rivalry from peaceful competition to violent conflict. And an arena where we must compete, fight and win in every domain.

I believe the Navy has a unique role amongst the services, in that we play a significant role in all instruments of national power. We promote economic prosperity by ensuring the shipping which rides on the surface and the data on cables on the sea floor [that] can safely transmit across the great commons, free from threat or coercion.

Similarly, we advance our interests in the diplomatic realm. And you simply just have to picture 100,000 tons of diplomacy sitting off your coast to get an idea how we contribute there. And of course, militarily, we should be justifiably proud of the lethal options that we provide national policy makers. At the high-end of that spectrum of conflict, the overwhelming military advantages that we have long held are now once again contested. For decades, we’ve enjoyed unchallenged supremacy in every domain. We could generally deploy and project power where and when we wanted.

Now, I believe our Navy faces an ever-more lethal and complex battlespace, with effects combined across domains, and with operations conducted at increasing speed and reach. So much like the last time, where we engaged in great power competition with the Soviets, we must prepare ourselves to fight for control of the seas to enable power projection ashore. And if left unaddressed, our ability to deter aggression will be diminished, endangering our ability to win decisively if deterrence fails. And we are adapting to this reality and responding with urgency by maintaining control of the high-end fight. We are doing this while understanding that the competition extends beyond the maritime domain, into space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum.

So, the bottom line here is that our Navy has an imperative to respond to these challenges – and I believe we are doing just that. Now, as the Fleet Forces commander, I see things through two lenses – the ‘fleet’ lens and the ‘foundry’ lens.

The fleet lens encompasses the combined combat power that we bring to the fight and how we fight: the lethality of our weapons and our systems; the flexibility inherent in our highly maneuverable platforms; the ability and agility enabled by things, such as our logistics forces; our cutting-edge tactics; and, of course, our true competitive advantage – the center of the universe, the expertise, creativity, and toughness of our warfighters – our Sailors.

Meanwhile, the fleet’s combat power is built on the foundry. The foundry entails the whole-of-nation effort required to generate readiness. It includes the industrial base, which maintains and modernizes our fleet – true patriots, like every one of you here – with special emphasis on those skilled craftsmen whose mastery makes our fleet the most capable in the world.

The foundry includes the high-end training ecosystem – things like Ready, Relevant Learning and Live, Virtual and Constructive training – that’s so crucial for our people. And it includes the governance and policy which sets the direction for how our Navy runs. So the actions we take to generate readiness in the foundry realm begets credible deterrence for the fleet, which allows the Navy to defend our nation’s interests.

So, from both the fleet and the foundry perspective, we are keeping our cutlass sharp, and sharpening our competitive advantage across many blades. And I would like to talk about two of those today. So, from the fleet perspective, we are sharpening our competitive edge by developing a new operational approach to winning the high-end fight at sea with what we call Distributed Maritime Operations, or DMO. Put simply, we must be able to fight into and throughout persistently contested environments in order to blunt enemy aggression and defeat it. And our distributed maritime operations concept does just that.

Leveraging the principles of distribution, integration and maneuver, DMO is designed to deny the adversary their objectives by stopping their military offensive in its tracks. Now, as you are probably aware, recent fleet doctrine and capabilities prescribe force concentration in order to preserve the security afforded by mutual support, or more commonly known as defense-in-depth.

But I think, as we return to great power competition, we need to realize that, given the growing capacity and reach of our competitors, force concentration might be problematic. It enables an adversary to seize the advantage should an element of our concentrated forces be discovered.

Now we know that massing effects, rather than massing forces, can more readily achieve decisive results. Distributed forces, enabled by the proper degree and manner of integration, allow the U.S. Navy to take the offensive, massing overwhelming combat power and effects at the decisive time and place of our choosing. This integration of platforms, weapons, systems and sensors via low probability of intercept and detection networks, will improve our battlespace awareness while complicating the enemy’s own scouting efforts.

DMO will more readily utilize maneuver to apply combat power within and across all domains in a more flexible manner – allowing our forces to exploit uncertainty and achieve surprise. The combination of distribution, integration and maneuver will impose operational dilemmas that may compel the enemy to disperse or expose its forces to detection. And this will enable our forces to seize and maintain the initiative while also diminishing the enemy’s risk tolerance.

Now, absolutely critical to distributed maritime operations – to DMO – is the Navy’s operational architecture. You may have heard it called the ‘Navy tactical grid’ or the ‘joint tactical grid,’ but what I am referring to here with the Navy operational architecture is more than the tactical grid connecting our distributed nodes. It also includes the data storage, the processing power, an overarching data strategy, and the analytics tools to support fact, sound decisions.

The Navy operational architecture delivers the integration in the distribution, integration and maneuver of DMO. Its purpose is to provide actionable information to humans and machines across the tactical and operational levels of war. Now, this Navy operational architecture consists of four overarching technology areas that include networks, infrastructure, data architecture, and then, finally, tools and analysis. Networks referring to the data links, radios, antennas, switches, routers and protocols that transport information around the battlespace. Critically, we must possess the ability to dynamically maneuver our data transport pathways across the electromagnetic spectrum based on real-time conditions.

The infrastructure consists of the computing power, processing capacity, and data storage required to transform data into actionable information. Now, we already have infrastructure, but, in my view, it is too stove-piped and purpose-built for existing systems. In fact, the infrastructure we build needs to be designed in such a way that it can be easily modified or adapted in real-time and over time.

The third technology area is the data itself. We require an overarching data architecture and data strategy to set policies, procedures, standards and governance to ensure we are working with trusted data. It allows us to have a common vocabulary. It sets up the structure necessary to curate and maintain authoritative, trusted data sets. And finally – tools and analytics – refers to the common services and analytics tools which analyze, display and act on data in ways that allow for new insights, and translate them into more readily understandable forms, such as things like battle management aids and tactical decision aids. And one outcome I am keenly interested in is how we might be able to use [artificial intelligence] tools and decision aids to improve the network itself – network performance and enable network agility and maneuverability.

So, as you can see, the Navy operational architecture is all about gaining and maintaining decision superiority, at speed, in the high-end fight. It is the glue holding the DMO concept together. By sharing critical data collected from across the battlespace – analyzing and synthesizing it in real-time – we gain a decision advantage, a competitive edge. The Navy operational architecture is the tool which allows us to speed our decision cycle.

Now, from the foundry perspective... we have been generating a lot of start-up current lately back at my headquarters on one of my strategic lines of effort, which is to revolutionize our approach to readiness. Now, you may be guessing about the word revolutionize, and wonder what I really mean. And as I was coming up with my theory on this, I’ll tell you I chose that word very carefully. I considered other words – like ‘transform’ or ‘evolve’ or ‘mature’ – but they just don’t convey the vital importance of getting this right and the step-change in outcomes that we need.

I say this because to win the great power competition, to maintain our competitive advantage – particularly given our customary fiscal constraints and restraints – we need to bend the curve on readiness…and we need to proceed with some urgency. This is because, while we build the Navy the nation needs, we must be able to fight with the Navy the nation has.

Remember, 70 percent of the Navy we have today we will fight with in 2030. So, as fleet commander, I am in the readiness business – and I would tell you, I’m not happy that we lack analytically-based, integrated readiness assessment capability, and I believe that that hampers our agility. We need to squeeze more fleet readiness out of every dollar we get. And we currently experience too much unnecessary friction in both the force generation and resource allocation processes supporting readiness. [I] chose the term ‘revolutionize’ because we need some fundamental changes in how we approach readiness – how we generalize it, analyze it, measure it, integrate it, articulate what we need, and predict what the return on our readiness investment might be.

So, as we build out this revolutionize readiness campaign plan, we’ll look for readiness improvements across three focus areas. The first area is operational readiness. And the goal here is to maximize the effectiveness of today’s fleet – or being able to fight and win with the Navy the nation has. Secondly, we want to assess how we are structured in order to create readiness sustainability, and also assess our agility, which I told you I think is so important. And finally, we want to look at how we better enable industrial base performance.

A few examples…

We’re working to improve predictability throughout the entire ship depot maintenance process by building a more comprehensive understanding of the maintenance needs of our ships. We’re demanding more disciplined adherence to proven planning principles, such as milestone adherence. When we do encounter unexpected – that friction I was talking about – we are responding more quickly to reduce delays associated with overly burdensome approval processes for getting new or growth work done. 

Now I acknowledge that, right now, the word ‘readiness’ is somewhat ill-defined. But, I am done letting that get in our way. We can’t afford to wait around for someone else to tell us what that means. Starting with a clean sheet, we will derive a hierarchy of readiness metrics from the fleet level to the unit level – first reviewing what we are being asked to do from the operational level of war down to the tactical level.  So, another way of looking at this is, we want metrics associated with every item on the mission-essential task list. This should help us answer the question, ‘ready for what?’ And it will ensure we understand, using objective metrics, how any one unit’s readiness affects the fleet’s ability to perform its wider mission.

I’m actually considering whether to establish a ‘readiness czar,’ or perhaps more appropriately, a chief readiness officer, [who] will think within the panoply of force development, force generation, and force employment – we’ll call it ‘force readiness’ – we’ll build this office of the chief readiness officer on my staff to more cohesively integrate, align, and assess our readiness. As part of this, we will examine the readiness reporting relationships of the various enterprises – aviation, undersea, surface warfare, expeditionary warfare, information warfare – and the shore enterprise. I believe this should set the conditions for an actionable feedback loop between the fleets, the TYCOMs, and the SYSCOMs.

Another effort underway – and I think it’s very pertinent to my audience today, to you – is the concept of digitizing readiness. When we as the Navy, or the rest of the military for that matter, talk about digitization, talk about analytics, machine learning, or artificial intelligence, we usually see this through the fleet lens. We’re talking about how to achieve decision superiority in the fight, and that’s all good. But this idea is just as important through the foundry lens. Fleet readiness will benefit significantly by bringing all of those tools to bear on our readiness processes. In fact, I would argue that we have more unused data available for us here than we currently do for the fight. So, think for a moment about the amount of data we have sitting around, under-used or un-used inside these data lakes across the architecture – an ecosystem – of our TYCOMs, SYSCOMs and fleets.

In order to bend that curve and maintain a competitive advantage, we need a deeper understanding of the link between our actions and readiness outcomes. And we will use descriptive analytics to mine historical data and derive the readiness drivers behind past successes or failures. And I believe that this will move our understanding of readiness beyond a set of closely-held beliefs [to] rigorously-derived facts.

Once we understand the true drivers behind our readiness outcomes, we must apply predictive analytics to forecast how much outcomes will change when we adjust our investments in those readiness drivers. With predictive analytics in play, we will find ourselves in a place where we make data-informed decisions, maximizing the return on investment for the taxpayers. And if I really achieve this – get my way here – this would be the final frontier of analytic capabilities, which is prescriptive analytics. Here, our automated analytics tools would accelerate our decision making by suggesting decision options we might not have been aware of if we relied upon humans alone.

But, as I briefly mentioned earlier when discussing the Navy operational architecture, I think we need to start by treating our existing, under-used data as a valuable corporate asset. We should apply those same standards, structure, and governance to it. And so, to accomplish this, I’m going to establish a fleet analytics office. They will develop the dashboards and reporting tools to see real-time what is going on. They will also develop a risk matrix that helps us assess risk against the mission and drive accountability. And we also need to assess whether we have the modern IT infrastructure in place to support these efforts across the Navy’s readiness enterprise.

So, I’ll wrap up. [Let] me again thank both AFCEA and the Naval Institute for having me here this morning. The work you do is important. The work you do is critical to both the fleet and the foundry. And the work that you do will help us keep our cutlass sharp to maintain the competitive advantage and meet the challenges of great power competition.

Thank you for listening and I look forward to your questions.

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