The following are prepared remarks for Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran’s keynote address during the Sea Services Luncheon at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition, April 9, 2018.
Thanks for that warm into, and good afternoon!
Sea Air and Space is one of the best conferences we get to attend all year – an unparalleled opportunity to get together as a Navy team, including our international partners, meet new folks, talk to supporters and share ideas.
Congratulations to all the awardees. Each of you, from industry, military, civilian organizations – each of you are real contributors and in your own ways; you have acted to improve our Navy. Thank you.
Many of you know, I’m not a big fan of big speeches, but I am big on real dialogue. So fair warning, my remarks will be short – just to set the foundation for a good exchange of ideas afterwards.
For this year, my remarks, if they are centered on any one thing, will be about partners – a term used often, perhaps too often, to the point where some forget how important good partners can be.
In fact, the power of partnering is critical to our core responsibility – the maritime defense of our nations.
Let’s start, though, in 1902. Back then, when Teddy Roosevelt pushed for the creation of this league, he probably predicted how often our countries would be in need of strong advocates for maritime forces to protect our interests around the globe, and that’s held true for 116 years.
But I doubt he predicted the extent to which desperation would spread during World War I, World War II and again, at times, during the Cold War – all critical times in our history that required U.S. maritime superiority on the high seas, a maritime superiority that is still required. Today, as you know, our forces are on station on, under and above every major waterway around the globe where our incredible Sailors are doing the Nation’s work. You would be proud of their effort and sacrifice.
But new challenges are upon us that require timely and thoughtful changes in scale and lethality to a Navy that has served the nation well for decades. And, I’m convinced that what got us here won’t get us there. In the near- and mid-term, we need to scale up and be more lethal at a much faster pace to match threats in all domains in a wildly unpredictable operating environment.
This is real, folks, and it will take every ounce of imagination and innovation the collective we can muster in order to maintain our superiority. With the reemergence of true existential threats to international order and our democratic way of life, we, including our allies and partners, face a new era of great power competition punctuated by authoritarian rule. And while we cannot discount Iran, North Korea and violent extremist organizations, the Navy of the future will largely be driven by competition from Russia and China.
Our immediate focus right now is how to strengthen all aspects of our Naval power. And by extension, the who, what and when matter more than at any time in the past several decades. Let me share some thoughts on these three.
First, the who. We all have a critical responsibility to attract and retain the very best talent we can. Everyone here knows that first rate technologies, along with dependable and predictable systems, play a big role in our ability to scale up and be lethal. Less obvious, however, is the fact that our first-rate technologies also keep talent working for the Navy, and more importantly, ensures they are ready for any possible contingency. Our Sailors, civilians and industry partners all contribute uniquely to the Navy Team.
They all demand and deserve autonomy, mastery and purpose in all that they do. That means giving them the time and resources to train, learn their tradecraft and operate independently. It means developing learning systems, including low-cost, high-fidelity simulators located near duty stations that enhance their skills, develop good habits and improve their instincts. It means competitively paying them so that fair compensation is not on their list of concerns, and it means reducing unnecessary burdens and eliminating those 3,000-mile screwdrivers that we like to use from time to time back here in D.C.
Why is all this important? Because creating a workforce with autonomy, mastery and purpose baked into the culture is the best way for the Navy Team to scale up and be more lethal. Nothing is more powerful or purposeful than serving your country in uniform.
And, the what. This means appreciably growing the size of our fleet in numbers and capability. This we have already begun. The first steps on the journey to a fleet in the mid-300s or greater is to maintain, modernize and grow the fleet we have today. That means continuing to put readiness dollars to good use, adding new systems that will make existing hulls and aircraft relevant for decades to come, providing common configuration to simplify training and proficiency and allow for easier replacement players to enter the game when the fight’s on, and finally building more platforms that are tried and tested while we develop new technology for the future. As we look to future technology, those that deliver agile and innovative solutions that deliver speed of orientation, decision and action will be greatly valued.
I think it’s safe to say that the diffusion of technology, the ubiquity of ISR, the mass of data and information, and the pace, the rapid rate of change, accurately defines the competition we are in. Harnessing predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, and networking our warfighting capabilities in resilient and self-healing ways are essential to staying ahead of our competitors and reducing casualties of war. We know how to fight hard; these technologies enhance our ability to fight well.
To our industry partners in the audience, your role here is critical to ensuring we maintain our edge and stay ahead of our competitors. Every dollar has to count like it’s our very last. And partnering is the best way to get this done.
And, finally, the when. To be frank, we cannot afford, nor do we have time as a nation, to play cat and mouse games with contracting, requirements and risk. We all have to act with a sense of urgency to make sure the U.S. Navy can win in the future. And we all know that we are in a fierce technological and geographical race. These times require urgent action, not the same “fits and starts” we’ve all seen over our careers. Lately, I’ve seen progress here and it feels good to be working together to get after and solve problems. So, let’s continue to partner as an appropriate reaction to these challenging times – and commit ourselves to building a military, civilian and contractor team that works together on our shared goals.
Almost everyone in his hall has been part of a 242-year-old legacy of a proud Navy. We dominated technology and industry partnership after WWII. We dominated the maritime after the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. And we are still innovating today, but now is not the time to cede any of this to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace!
Let me end with a famous quote by a former assistant secretary of the Navy, Teddy Roosevelt; it’s worth repeating, “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.” Surely, more than anything in the world, we should be dedicated to making that guarantee the surest it can be for us, our children and our grandchildren.
If we can bring the who, what and when together, we will be a strong Navy Team; a bigger, more capable Navy; and an powerful Navy that can guarantee that peace.
So with that, let’s get to the conversation. I want to hear what’s on your mind, answer your questions, so it’s crystal clear for all of us when we leave, that we are partners in this together, and can work together on the tasks at hand.