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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

Adm. Christopher W. Grady

Norfolk, Virginia

Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command

by U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs
13 January 2021

Keynote Address: Surface Navy Association National Symposium 

Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks during a virtual keynote address at the Surface Navy Association’s 33rd National Symposium onboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads.
Adm. Grady Virtual Keynote Address
Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks during a virtual keynote address at the Surface Navy Association’s 33rd National Symposium onboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads.
Adm. Grady Virtual Keynote Address
210113-N-IK388-0008 NORFOLK, Va. (Jan. 13, 2021) Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, speaks during a virtual keynote address at the Surface Navy Association’s 33rd National Symposium onboard Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads. The symposium brings together members of the military, business, and academic communities to discuss issues and challenges pertaining to naval surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks/Released)
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks
VIRIN: 210113-N-IK388-0008
Good afternoon to everyone in VTC land. It is truly an honor and distinct privilege for me to speak with you all today in this virtual environment. Thank you, carol, for your kind introduction and for moderating today – and thank you, Terry, for supporting SNA as you always have.

It’s great to be back with everyone, and to witness firsthand the herculean efforts by the SNA team in coordinating this symposium. And in true SNA fashion we’ve had a fantastic lineup of speakers and panelists this week.

Since last year’s symposium we have all experienced the difficult task of bringing our teams together when dispersed. From the deckplates to the flag bridge, we have all to meet the challenges of our operating environment.

When I spoke last year I said I wish I was at the beginning of my career again – and I can tell you with absolute certainty, I still feel that way.  When I look back and see where we have come from and where we are going, the fire I have – the passion for our profession - has never been greater. To be counted among you steely-eyed surface warriors of this maritime era it really is truly a privilege.

Speaking of surface warriors, I want to thank Roy Kitchener – our SWO boss – for his ardent leadership, and the precise rudder orders that are steering our surface force and truly cultivating an elite culture. The theme he has chosen for this event, as you all have heard throughout the week, is simple and direct – ‘train, maintain, fight, and win’ – which I find very fitting.

So, let me take a moment to frame our discussion. My goal is to touch on topics that are important from my role as a fleet commander at the echelon 2 level, in order to develop a strong, value-added Q&A session – which is what I am most looking forward to. I will begin with “what” the nation, the navy, and the fleet needs from each and every one of you, and “why.” And at the end I look to discuss the “how.”

You heard SWO boss say Tuesday that his bottom line is to ‘deliver more ships ready for tasking’ – and that really is on point. If I may take it one step further, we need to deliver well-trained, combat ready ships and battle-minded crews that are resolute, ready, and lethal on arrival. Each of us must have a bias for action, and be relentless in our efforts to train our Sailors and maintain our ships – the only true way to ensure victory in the high-end fight.

And so, we must embrace the warrior ethos. Our duty to ourselves, our shipmates, and our nation demand that, as members in profession of arms. To cultivate that ethos we must execute realistic and integrated training that breeds intellectual toughness and physical resilience. And we must be firmly grounded in our mission to develop an elite culture which focuses all Sailors on the collective ‘we, not me’ mindset – to be exemplars of selfless-service, of stout-hearted teamwork, and of mutual respect.

Our primary mission and focus is deterrence – to preserve peace and prosperity on the seas for all nations. But let me be clear – we must train our teams and maintain our ships like it is the last day of peace. Because a thoroughly prepared sea-going navy is the best way to deter any adversary, and when necessary, to fight and win in war.

It has been said time again this week that we are returning to an era of great power competition. Not unlike in 1984, when I joined the crew of the USS Moosbrugger, chasing Soviet submarines and ships throughout the yankee boxes in the Atlantic during the Cold War, our surface forces are in daily contact with our competitors around the globe.

President Theodore Roosevelt is famous for saying, “speak softly and carry a big stick: you will go far” – often utilized in reference to the navy and the Great White Fleet – which left only two miles from here in Hampton Roads.

In recent decades our overmatch with competitors has diminished. Our peer competitors are now acquiring their own ‘big sticks,’ and often openly displaying hostile intent to coerce and control neighboring regions. Dedicated to disrupting the long-held rules-based international order, they advance their national agenda.  Often conducting operations below the threshold of armed conflict.

The rapid advance of their warfighting technologies, the changing operating environment, and multi-domain threat vectors put a premium on our current readiness.

Make no mistake, the navy is at the forefront of future engagements. As Chairman Milley has said, “the fundamental defense of the United States, and the ability to project power forward are going to be naval, air and space power.” He’s talking about us. He’s talking to us! And that call should resonate in the heart and soul of every warrior here. The surface navy is, and always has been, a leading deterrent of global aggression.

The nation needs combat ready ships – it needs battle minded crews – it needs professional warriors. It is clear our competitors’ capability and capacity to hold the world’s key locations at-risk, including North America, is greater now than at any point in our history. History has proven that we cannot rest on our laurels – global competition between powers is unremitting – a constant balancing act.

Both China and Russia have increased their military inventories and advanced offensive multi-domain technologies. They are actively establishing alliances with countries in the western hemisphere, like Venezuela and Cuba, while attempting to create anti-access/area-denial zones in the Baltic, Black, Barents, and South China Seas.

And while we defend far forward as our nation’s varsity away team, we can no longer dismiss the possibility of conventional attack on the homeland – we are already under daily assault in the cyber and IW arenas.

Our adversaries are developing the capability to reach our shores with new weapons systems and missile variants targeting all domains. With the possibility of an attack from the south, or “over-the-top” due to the increased presence and availability of arctic passageways, our homeland faces multi-vector threats – we must be ready to intercept them.

We must be ready materially and tactically to apply hard rudder and close-with the adversary – we must win in day-to-day competition, and if necessary, be resolute and unrelenting in offensive maneuver to engage, sustain, and be victorious in battle.

Because of all this, in an era of great power competition, I see four imperatives that place a premium on current readiness:

First, the enemy theory of fight is to execute a fait accompli upon nearby states, where the adversary’s speed of action impedes our ability to respond in-time. This scenario is not as unlikely as one may hope. The tyranny of distance is one of the levers our adversaries use freely against us to maintain the advantage and the narrative. And certainly they have studied and they will never give us six months to build a mountain of supplies to prepare. So to be an effective deterrent we have to be ready, we have to be there. America’s expeditionary varsity away team.  When we can’t be there, we have to be prepared to get there at best speed, and be lethal on arrival.

Second, the nature of our industrial base has significantly changed. For starters we are no longer the world’s largest manufacturer. China surpassed us in 2010. And we do not have the capacity to build and repair like we used to have. 

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

Moreover, the phenomenal advances we’ve made with just-in-time logistics are game-changers – creating efficiency and profitability in all business sectors – including the defense sector included.  By removing excess capacity, we are able to eliminate costs.  However, an unintended consequence of this was the narrowing of our supplier base.  This smaller base is unlikely to keep up with the surge in demand related to great power competition.

We in the Navy recognize as partners in national defense that we have work to do. Whether we have a 300 or 500-ship Navy or hybrid therein, we must be able to accurately predict costs, maintain workflow, and get our ships out on time.  In the past and indeed when I first took this job, I would have told you that 70 and 30 it was the government’s problem. But I believe that that is changing.

We are taking direct action to course correct - we need our industry partners to attack these problems with the same fervor as we are by placing a premium on current readiness.
This is our shared problem and we must solve it together.

Third, remember that 70 percent of the Sailors and ships we have on the waterfront today we will fight with in 2030. Think about your Sailors and think about your ships. What are you doing today, tomorrow, and next week, to ensure your equipment and your teams are ready for what’s required tomorrow?

It is not lost on anyone that funding is a main driver of our challenges and our solutions. And we recognize that there is the Navy the nation needs, the Navy the nation has, and the Navy the nation can afford. We are required to operate within fiscal constraints; however, we cannot allow that to run us aground. We must be creative, squeeze readiness out of every single dollar, think outside of MODLOC, be innovative, and raise our professional intelligence to become self-sufficient. 

The Navy, the fleet, and our Sailors need you to be ready – to take ownership of the training and maintenance of our ships and crews. We achieve this by first being good custodians of our ships so that they are materially ready. Next, we keep our cutlass sharp by rehearsing our operating maneuvers, damage repair actions, and weapons employment tactics so we are mission ready.

Finally, and most recently, today we contend with persistent proximate threats – where once out-of-area deployers operated sporadically, we now face consistent contact within multiple-domains throughout the year. Think back to those yankee boxes off our coast during the Cold War.  We must embrace the idea that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary. We must let go the certainty that the Atlantic and pacific oceans are moats, protecting us from attack.

Since the days of Mahan we’ve wholly embraced the axiom that the Navy defends far forward. That is still very much true. But we also need to think about what we need to do to sustain the fight forward when our foundry is under attack back here at the homeland.

With that focus on current readiness, now let’s shift rudder and close-on the “theory of the fight” - specifically, the tools and strategies we are developing and implementing that will enabling as the CNO says in the NAV Plan; sea control and power projection. And I will tell you if we were having this discussion ten years ago we would have been only taking about power projection. But now it is back to sea control and power projection. We’ll start at the mast and work our way down to the keel.

For the first time in decades, from the NSS to NDS to Navy’s classified annex to fleet design to DMO, we have the clarity of purpose, strategic alignment, and direction across the navy and indeed the military writ large, to directly address persistent, proximate threats and great power competition.

In 2017, the CNO shifted our design from a platform-centric force, to a fleet-centric, multi-domain fighting posture. CNO Gilday advanced that concept with his release of the NAV Plan earlier this week, emphasizing integrated all-domain naval power.

Fleet design and its core elements enable us to be strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable, critical assets of deterrence, sea control, power projection, and all-domain access. Fleet designs’ three basic pillars: fleet-centric global fighting power (DMO), a digital network (NOA), and fleet warfighter training, remain fundamental to maritime superiority in the future.

Whether defending the homeland in the fourth battle of the Atlantic, or securing sea lines of communication in the pacific, the current and future maritime environment demands the fleet to integrate - not only amongst ourselves, but with the joint force and our allies. The value of integration across our systems, sensors, and forces goes beyond the increase in battlespace awareness and is the focus of DMO.

As you recall, DMO employs distribution, integration, and maneuver to mass effects, not forces, on adversaries. It provides the ability to distribute forces over vast areas, increasing the adversary’s exposure. It protects allied forces by leveraging the element of surprise and increasing threat vectors against the enemy.

Distribution also dramatically increases maneuvering options available to warfighters across all domains. To capitalize on this we must develop and implement diverse, complimentary, netted systems across the naval operational architecture and further within the JADC2 construct.

We are working toward more effective integration with our fleet marine forces. Implementing concepts like EABO, and LOCE, integrated naval forces have the potential to provide increased battlespace awareness, more responsive fires, and more resilient logistics, which would positively influence events seaward. Fleet-informed FMF capabilities will contribute to denying the adversary the ability to concentrate forces, to cause confusion and dispersion, and to provide U.S. and allied forces overmatch opportunities as they are tied in digitally to the NOA and if we invest time now in developing optimal command and control configurations. The fleet and FMF must work together to identify the requirements that facilitate effective integration.

To achieve this requires an enormous amount of coordination. We are planning large scale exercises, like this year’s LSE 2021 that is aimed directly at coordinating efforts across multiple fleets – not just one particular strike group, AOR, or fleet battle problem. Our maritime forces will engage simultaneously across multiple domains and platforms against equally coordinated “red” forces.

We will stress test our platforms and systems through a vast array of problems to evaluate our design and our tactics. And we will demonstrate our ability to operate cohesively from distributed positions. The intent is not only to test our CONOPS, but also to assess our operational resilience, sustainment, and ability to execute commanders’ intent while dispersed. 

These exercises will force us to become comfortable with operating decentralized, utilizing data and speed of decision to shape the battlespace in our favor. We will use the lessons learned from LSE 2021 to enhance our ability to maintain information advantage, and validate tactics that deny enemy unit cohesion and targeting.

Central to this ability is the fielding of joint, netted information systems and sensors. The framework of the naval operational architecture coupled with JADC2 and naval fires are critical elements in executing the joint warfighting concept.

We must shape our training and develop our tactics to be offensively minded, and leaders at all ranks and rates must have an intimate understanding of commander’s intent. We must develop the foresight to seize and maintain the initiative, shaping the battle-space in our favor.

Commanders at every level require a keen awareness and understanding of the uncertainty inherent in the ‘fog and friction’ of contested environments, and must be able to use that knowledge to effectively engage the enemy.

To bring this all together, what can we do, day in and day out, starting today? We have to put a premium on current readiness. We need to focus on education and training on the employment and development of tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary to operate and win in a contested environment. We must provide our Sailors the tools they need to fight the ship, assess damages, and repair organically and get back in the fight, the true definition of toughness. Bottom line is, we must train and prepare today as if it were the last day of peace to ensure victory tomorrow.

Two of the programs to guide our training and focus our efforts are ready relevant learning, and the future of sailor maintenance. These programs are designed to enable career long learning experiences from apprentice to mastery. They will provide Sailors the knowledge and tools they need to keep the ship in the fight while operating behind enemy lines or in contested environments. In the next fight we will not be afforded the luxury of calling in tech reps to support us from across the battlespace. 

We are removing administrative barriers to eliminate bottlenecks in the repair process, and creating real-time training tools that can be used underway, pier-side, or in the yards. We are employing diverse, realistic, training environments that are employed at the right time, with the right people and with the right method to cultivate knowledge, enable resilience and self-reliance, and instill toughness in our Sailors, while providing the space for them to make mistakes without undue risk.

So ready relevant learning and future of Sailor maintenance are deliberately designed to increase the lethality and toughness of our fleet, raising our collective intelligence, and developing the resilience and toughness Sailors need to engage in the high-end fight.

I offer the IKE carrier strike group: San Jacinto, Vella Gulf, James E. Williams, Truxtun, Stout, and all superior examples of resilience and toughness this past year. Their resourcefulness, adaptability, and capability to generate innovative solutions to complex problems is testament to the benefits of Sailor education. From COMPTUEX-and go, to 206 straight days at sea and 215 straight days at sea for stout, they produced organic repair options for critical CASREPS while maintaining a continuous high-end op-tempo. Expertly managing complex health protocols underway and pier-side, they sustained combat readiness and retained their lethal edge in the most demanding environments overseas and at home. In fact the IKE strike group just got underway again for COMPTUEX and a second operational deployment. Their sustained superior performance and resolute dedication is the embodiment of the toughness, resilience, and warrior ethos of the surface navy.

I truly wish I was a fleet lieutenant at the beginning of my career in this surface force. Right now, as much as ever, perhaps more than ever the surface navy is critical to securing America’s place in the world. I look around the fleet and I see the same grit and determination in each of you.

Our Sailors are the best in the world. But that professionalism is not born overnight – it is derived from a warrior ethos – a culture of excellence and a dedication to the profession of arms.

We will continue to lead with our allies and partners around the globe maintaining freedom of the seas – and if the flag goes up – we will be ready to close-with and defeat the enemy, because that is what the nation demands of us – so be ready.
Thank you. I welcome your questions.

- END -


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