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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

Christopher W. Grady

Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia


by By U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs and Outreach
17 January 2019

Well, good morning! Good morning, everyone, it’s a delight to be here. Hank, thanks again for that rather long introduction; I do appreciate your continued leadership and devotion to professional excellence in our surface Navy!

Once again, to Dave Hart and the team, thanks for pulling together such a fantastic symposium. Each one is better than the next and I know this one is certainly in that category. I also have to thank Rich Brown. Rich, well done. Your energetic leadership of our surface force over the last year with Ron [Boxall] and with Jesse [Wilson], your efforts to rebuild the fleet’s readiness, and this call to turn that readiness into lethality, are undoubtedly making our fleet and our force better.

So, it’s an honor to be here speaking with you as the Fleet Forces Commander – thanks for having me. As I’ve said, for over 30 years SNA has been a phenomenal opportunity for our entire surface warfare community, and others also supported, to discuss the key matters of today.

It’s also great to see surface warfare faces from around our community. I’m very encouraged to see representation from the past, the present, and the future. I encourage all of you to use this event to expand your network and perhaps establish some mentoring relationships that will make our force and our community, along with our fleet and Navy, stronger going forward.

Now, I will tell you, there has never been a better time to be in the Navy. It is truly an exciting time for our Surface Navy in particular. We are in a maritime era. We have what is really a maritime strategy in our National Defense Strategy to address the security challenges of this era.

Right now as much as ever, 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 for our citizens, our allies, partners and friends, and preserving our strategic influence around the globe. We are truly America’s varsity away team, or America’s varsity global team. I would say for this audience especially, and more than any other part of our fleet, the surface Navy is out there performing these vital missions in support of this great nation. In fact, it is our defense strategy that relies on, and the surface fleet to fill the role of the contact, blunt, and surge forces. I can think of no other part of our military that does that on such a daily basis.

For each of my fellow surface warriors here with us, you should walk out of this event with a real swagger. Firm in the knowledge that what you deliver is critical to our Nation’s security and prosperity. That our profession is no doubt on an upward trajectory heading into the future. You are making that happen. Your pursuit of a culture of excellence is driving us to new heights. It is you that the Navy and the nation is depending on to fight and win. You do own it.

Now, the situation demands that we continue on this upward trajectory because the world around us is rapidly changing. We live in an increasingly complex global security environment, now characterized by overt challenges to the free and open order that has long fostered peace and prosperity. Because of this we are once again in long-term, strategic competition with nations who aim to change the international order in their favor. So it is truly an arena of continuous competition across the diplomatic, information, military and economic elements of national power. An arena which span the entire spectrum from peaceful competition to violent conflict and an arena that we must compete and fight and win in every domain.

For decades we’ve enjoyed uncontested superiority in those operating domains. We could generally deploy and operate our forces when and where we wanted. However, now our competitive military advantage is challenged. Our Navy faces an ever-more lethal and complex battlespace, with effects combined across all of those domains, and with operations conducted at increasing speed and reach.

If left unaddressed, our ability to deter aggression will rapidly become challenged, endangering our ability to win decisively if deterrence fails. So, we must adapt to this reality and respond with urgency by maintaining our control of the high end of maritime conflict. We must do this while understanding that the competition extends beyond the maritime domain, into space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum.

We must act aggressively to remain the preeminent Navy in the world, and advance the liberal international order that is most conducive to security and prosperity that we stand for. Our Navy has an imperative to response to these challenged – and I believe we are doing just that.

As you know, it has been one year since the National Defense Strategy was released. Since then, we’ve promulgated the Navy strategy and CNO’s version 2.0 of the design for maintaining maritime superiority to provide more specific Navy guidance. In fact, I would tell you, I think this is the first time in recent memory where we have all of the guidance we need – from top to bottom – to provide the clarity of purpose, the alignment, and the direction to win this great power competition. Now, of course, we have been busy implementing our strategy across the ‘DOTMILPF’ [doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities] spectrum.

From a doctrine perspective, we’ve adopted our theory of the fight for how we carry out conventional deterrence by implementing dynamic force employment. Of course, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group under Adm. Black’s leadership demonstrated how we can deliver more credible deterrence by thinking and operating differently, by being strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable. We re-established the United States Second Fleet with continued rapid advancements in our live, virtual, and constructive training capabilities; we are transforming how we prepare, how we rehearse our forces for the high-end fight.

To accelerate the pace of combat power delivery to the fleet, we are now piloting the Aegis Virtual Twin, which essentially ‘Aegis in a box’ employing modern, easily upgradeable computer hardware resident on just a few servers while delivering the same legendary Aegis weapon system lethality. As this pilot proves successful, as I know it will under Ron’s leadership, we will be able to rapidly install more advanced baseline systems across the fleet in a fraction of the time and cost it currently takes.

To ensure our greatest asymmetric advantage that is our Sailors and Marines, we released version 2.0 of our Navy leader development framework ‘Laying the Keel’ to strengthen our continuum of professional development throughout all of our Sailors’ careers. We continue to modernize our personnel system through the Sailor 2025 initiative, because we understand that our Sailors are truly the center of the universe, and we are continuously improving how we recruit, retain, and train the best Sailors.

I would like to point out our Ready Relevant Learning initiative, that is revolutionizing how we do this. It gives us the ability and the agility to rapidly respond faster to the changing requirements of war. It applies the latest scientific understanding of learning for our Sailors by using modern training delivery models at the right time and right place. Of note, we here in this room should be very proud of the revolution work underway at SWOS. I would call that an early paradigm of success that truly shaped the theory of Ready Relevant Learning that’s taking the Navy into the future.

One significant milestone in the continuum of strategy and doctrine – and one of the key messages for you today – is that CNO just approved the Navy concept for distributed maritime operations, or DMO as we call it. This concept describes a new operational approach to winning the high-end fight at sea. It builds upon the framework introduced in our Fleet Design white paper to address the fleet’s operational-level response to Great Power Competition. It is now a foundational NDWC [Navy Warfare Development Command] operational concept, which includes an action plan that will structure future force development, experimentation, and exercise objectives.

For instance, as you may have read in the Design 2.0, we plan to test the effectiveness of DMO continuously through our fleet battle problem which culminates about every three years in our large-scale exercise, the first of which will be in 2020. I would tell you that I believe that DMO once again delivers a fleet-centric approach to the maritime fight.

Whereas, over the last 18 years or so, our numbered fleet commanders perhaps viewed their role as that of a force provider to the geographical combatant commander, overseeing their sustainment and enabling their disaggregated operations across the fleet commander’s area of responsibility. Now, it’s really back to the future. By that, I mean the primacy of the numbered fleet commanders returns. Now – as we did that last time we faced great power competition – the fleet commander’s role is to once again command and control forces at the operational level of war. Now we know that ‘disaggregated’ and ‘distributed’ might seem synonymous, but they are different. And this is an important doctrinal difference. Disaggregated forces are generally conducting separate missions in support of entirely different objectives.

With DMO, the fleet commander’s role is to integrate and synergize distributed operations with the intention of massing not forces, but their effects, in pursuit of one common theater objection, perhaps as part of a combatant commander’s wider plan. DMO leverages distribution, integration, and maneuver to ensure sea control and maritime access in highly contested environments.

As you are probably well aware, current fleet doctrine and capabilities prescribe force concentration in order to preserve the security afforded by mutual support, or defense in-depth as we commonly call it. But we need to realize that given the growing capacity and reach of our competitors, force concentrations might be problematic. It enables an adversary to seize the initiative should an element of our concentrated forces be discovered for example. So I think it’s fair to say, maybe with a little humor, that if Clausewitz were alive, he might tell you that massing effects, rather than massing forces, can more readily achieve decisive results.

Distributed forces, enabled by the proper degree and manner of integration, allows the U.S. Navy to take the offensive, massing overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time. This integration of platforms, weapons, and sensors via low probability of intercept and detection networks will improve our battlespace awareness while complicating the enemy’s own scouting efforts. You may have heard it called the ‘Navy tactical grid’ or the ‘joint tactical grid,’ but now we call it the ‘Navy operational architecture,’ and that is the capability that will enable the integration needed for us to turn DMO into the way we fight.

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. This will enable our forces to seize and maintain the initiative while also diminishing the enemy’s risk tolerance. Now, to be effective, DMO must be firmly founded upon a confident warfighting culture. This involves technical mastery of weapons, sensors, networks, and tactics; a relentless mission focus by a battle-minded crews and captains; and the employment of mission command.

To borrow some words from our former CJCS Martin Dempsey, he says “the commander is the central figure in mission command. To the commander comes the mission for the unit; in the commander resides the authority and responsibility to act and to lead, so that the mission may be accomplished.”

We in the Navy have long understood that command is the foundation upon which our Navy rests. We know that trust and confidence are the two coins of the realm that enable decentralized command and distributed maritime operations at sea. I am here to tell you that I, along with my other fellow fleet commanders, have the utmost trust and confidence in our commanding officers. In fact, we build upon that trust daily through increasingly more widespread usage of mission command in routine training and exercises.

To win in combat, our people must have a bias for action, understand commander’s intent, and be willing to close with and defeat the enemy with calculated risk while dealing with a significant degree of uncertainty. They must be willing to exploit fleeting opportunities in pursuit of mission accomplishment. Adhering to the mission command ethos under distributed maritime operations, we will gain advantageous operational tempo over adversaries, creating a decisive amount of combat power at the time and tempo of our choosing.

What I want you take away from this is that first, by adapting how we fight under DMO, we are strengthening our naval power, leading to a considerably more lethal fleet, more capable of deterring those who wish to do us harm, and better able to defend U.S. interests. Secondly, DMO will serve as the framework for mission command for future war gaming, experimentation, and exercises – allowing for refinement along the way and informing our plans for winning any potential high-end fight, and so for you WTIs [Warfare Tactical Instructor] out there, that’s where you should see yourself. And third, when making future acquisition recommendations, I’m confident that when I consider the idea of ‘one fight, one Navy’ that the three fleet commanders will first consider how the proposed capabilities contribute to the DMO pillars of distribution, integration, and maneuver – but we have to have the Navy to do all of this.

You’ve heard the CNO discuss many times that the Navy the nation needs is ready, more capable, bigger, more talented, more networked, and more agile. I’ve already discussed how we are getting at the more talented, networked, and agile. Many of you here today work every day to make us a more capable, bigger Navy. So for example, in [OPNAV] N96, Ron and his team are devising an investment strategy that sets our course in that direction by planning combat system modernization in from the beginning. The strategy that involves decoupling hardware and software modernization by leveraging an open architecture concept. The Aegis Virtual Twin, as discussed before, is a major step in that direction. We will use these fundamental ideas to move ourselves toward a single, integrated combat system across the entire fleet.

So, across the board, as we build the Navy the nation needs, I could not be more excited about our way ahead, especially partnering with the professionals and patriots in industry, academia, and beyond, many of whom are here today. Now, just as important as building the Navy the nation needs, is fighting with the Navy the nation has – and the readiness of our industrial base to do both.

In order to fulfill the largely maritime character of our National Defense Strategy, the Navy the nation needs is a bigger, more capable fleet of 355. This expansion of shipbuilding and other new acquisition has received the majority of public attention as it relates to expanding our industrial base. However, I think a key theme of our current plan is that we aim to both build and sustain a lethal force through balanced investments across capability and capacity. A balance between future readiness and current readiness. A balance between modernization and maintenance. Indeed, a balance between the Navy the nation needs and fighting with the Navy the nation has.

The public conversation about our industrial base should include more than building things; it is as equally important to talk about the current readiness we need right now. We tend to get excited about newer, more capable platforms – and rightfully so – but, we must remember that about 75 percent of our fighting force today is what we will fight with in 2030. We must sustain what we have now to defend our interests in the future.

The issue for me is that the growth rate of demand for maintenance is outpacing the rate at which our industrial base is growing right now. Why is that? Following Vietnam and then the Cold War, industry went through years of optimizing, consolidating, and shedding excess capacity. Indeed, we now have sole-source providers – in many cases concerning.

Right now, our industrial base is optimized for cost efficiency, which could result – and often does – in delays when friction is encountered. Make no mistake, cost efficiency is an appropriate optimization necessary for survival during downturns. But, going forward, we must reconsider how we are posturing ourselves in light of the current environment.

After winning the Cold War, and absent a compelling demand for security from any strategic competitors, it is understandable how we moved toward cost efficiency at the expense of readiness capacity. Now, in an era of renewed great power competition, we need to re-think how we are positioned. At issue is how we grow our capacity for both maintenance and modernization, including an ability to surge when necessary without becoming cost ineffective or exposing our industrial base to excessive risk.

This is challenging because I think things have changed in a few significant ways since we last mobilized our Navy’s and our nation’s industrial base for major power conflict as in World War II.

First, we are no longer the world’s largest manufacturers. China now holds the world’s largest share of manufacturing output at 26 percent. We were surpassed in 2010 in this. For example, we now have significantly less capacity in warship construction than our principal competitors. We may be able to engage other industries to assist, but the cost and time required to realize such potential is daunting.

Second, the nature of modern warfare has changed. With long-range, precision weaponry and sensors concentrated on multi-mission platforms, everything about our modern equipment is complex. It simply takes more time and superior craftsmanship to build a 5th generation fighter like the F-35 than it took to crank out P-51 Mustangs. The same can be said for things like nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and high-end, guided-missile destroyers.

Lastly, the phenomenal advances we’ve made with just-in-time logistics are gamechangers, creating efficiency and profitability in all business sectors, the defense sector included. That has removed excess capacity; we have eliminated costs. However, an unintended consequence, an aforementioned narrowing of our supplier base. This smaller base is unlikely to keep up with the surge in demand related to a wartime buildup.

Military mobilization thus will have a much different character than what we saw during World War II. In fact, I contend that the factors of capacity, complexity, and a streamlined supplier case lead us to place greater emphasis on current readiness. We simply must be able to fight with that Navy that nation has now.

Over the last few years, we’ve leveraged increased budgets to make readiness investments across a number of key areas. We are attempting to squeeze every ounce of readiness out of every dollar provides by Congress by improving our analytical rigor and data-driven assessment and how we asses our current procedures and what our outcomes are.

We’ve implemented a ‘perform to plan’ initiative aimed at getting our ships out of depot maintenance on time, with maintenance completed “on time and in full.” Tackling late maintenance phase completion has been a significant undertaking and a big challenge for us because we know delayed maintenance compresses training events and impairs our ability to generate forces for our forward-deployed commander and takes time away from our [commanding officers].

To further improve our fleet’s current readiness, we are considering innovative ways to make ourselves a better partner with the industrial base. We are rethinking things like our contracting strategy and things like small value change. One area where I know we can collaborate is on discovering ways to increase the skilled workforce capacity in all of our maintenance activities. We have a nationwide shortage of highly-qualified welders, pipefitters, marine engineers, and other skilled artisans.

To address this, I am working with my team to elevate the sense of importance – the gravitas, even – with which we associate these types of critical professions. I am doing my best to shine a light on those who do this vital work. In fact, I recently spoke at Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s Apprentice Program graduation and let those new journeymen know that they are well on their way to becoming craftsmen of the highest order, and that what they do is absolutely vital to our national security, just as important as the Sailors and Marines at the forward end of the spear.

Another avenue we are currently exploring is how we can remove barriers to entry for those in private industry who currently choose not to compete for ship repair work. One example could be, perhaps we could consider “what if we built a floating dry dock which we somehow leased to industry to utilize in conjunction with maintenance availabilities?”

These are evolving ideas at this point about how we can expand capacity in a sustainable way, that is sustainable for both the Navy and for our industrial base. I’m confident the SNA community is capable of generating many, many more innovative ideas to help us revolutionize readiness. I’m confident because I know we have an industrial base of true patriots which continues to live up to its moniker of ‘Freedom’s Foundry’ which will give our great Sailors all they need to win – both now in this era of great power competition and in times of war.

In the end, in all of this, as we respond to a return to Great Power Competition, as we realize the lethality of distributed maritime operations, as we inculcate mission command demanded by DMO, and as we build the Navy the nation needs and fight with the Navy the nation has, we do so with great urgency, as if every day was the last day of peace!

Again, I am honored to be here speaking with you today and I look forward to questions you might have. Thank you, and keep your cutlass sharp!


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