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Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly issues his weekly Vector message to the Department of the Navy workforce on Fridays. Below is the text of each Vector, the most recent appearing first.

Revisit this NavyLive blog each week for the latest SECNAV Vector.

Vector 7: Jan. 17, 2020: Education for Seapower

We live in a dynamic era. For our Navy and Marine Corps team, this dynamism will present challenges­ – known and unknown, seen and unseen. In fact, perhaps the most predictable thing we can say about the future is that it will be unpredictable. Preparing for that future means investing in more platforms and new weapons systems, but nothing will be more important than the investment that we make in learning, and in creating a force made up of people who thirst for it. Accordingly, the landmark 2018 Education for Seapower (E4S) report recognized that the intellectual capability of our Navy and Marine Corps team and a lifelong passion for continuous learning would be our foundation of any credible deterrent to war.

In the year since the E4S report was completed, we have moved quickly to introduce sweeping changes in the prioritization, integration, and resourcing of naval education. In October 2019, we hired the Department of the Navy’s first Chief Learning Officer (CLO) to lead Navy and Marine Corps education efforts, and earlier last month I issued budget orders to increase current education resources by 22 percent across the Navy and Marine Corps educational enterprise. These increases are happening now, and as we execute the Fiscal Year (FY) 20 budget, finalize our budget proposals for FY21, and begin our planning for the FY22 Future Years Defense Plan, these increases will be visible.

In the next four months, we will also take the following three important steps in implementing E4S:

U.S. Naval Community College

Our highest priority is to create a new United States Naval Community College (USNCC) that offers advanced, online technical and analytic education to our enlisted force in critical areas like IT, cyber, and data science. Free for every Sailor and Marine, the USNCC will fill a long-neglected gap in our educational continuum, and provide a recruiting and retention incentive through degree-granting relationships with major four-year public and private universities across the nation.

Last year, the CLO completed planning for this new effort and identified physical space for the college at Quantico, Virginia, where the USNCC will be based alongside the Marine Corps University. This year, we will hire a President and Provost to lead the USNCC, identify key partners in the civilian higher education community to help deliver world class education, and form the first cohort of Navy and Marine Corps students for enrollment in a pilot program in January 2021.

Naval Education Strategy 2020

In the next thirty days, we will release Naval Education Strategy 2020, the first-ever comprehensive education strategy for our integrated naval force. The strategy will lay out a clear road map to develop a lifelong learning continuum for our entire force, reform our personnel systems to better recognize and reward the value of education, and invest in and reform our schools and education programs.

This new strategy will provide expectations for the Navy and Marine Corps to: (1) develop warfighters and leaders who possess initiative, creativity, analytic capability, and critical problem solving skills; (2) increase our geopolitical awareness, including better comprehension of the intentions and capabilities of potential adversaries; (3) expand our ability to understand and deploy with greater lethality new and emerging technologies; and (4) improve the sophistication of our financial management, logistics, IT, and weapons system acquisition skills.

Strategic Education Requirement for Flag and General Officers

Our commitment to education must begin at the top – and that commitment looms large in our own naval heritage. On December 7, 1941, 82 of the 84 Navy Flag Officers on active duty had graduated from the U.S. Naval War College, and benefited from the chance to think deeply about the naval operational art and science of war. The opportunity to wargame future scenarios and technologies, debate and write alongside peers who will command together at the highest levels, was just as precious then as it is today.

This is why, among many other reasons, that the E4S Decision Memorandum of February 5, 2019 made in-residence strategic studies graduate education a requirement for promotion to Flag or General Officer rank. This month, I will issue new guidelines setting forth the intellectual qualities required for effective leadership at the Flag and General Officer rank and clear standards for strategic studies education, both in military as well as civilian graduate schools.

These steps represent real and necessary change. To deter future conflicts and to win those we cannot avoid, we must operate at or near our full theoretical potential. The only way to reach that level of maximum effectiveness is through education, creating an ever-increasing level of intellectual agility throughout our force. “Out-fighting” our opponents – or better yet, ensuring we never have to fight at all – will always require that at first we “out-think” them. Investing in a lifelong continuum of education is the best way to ensure we will always know how.

Go Navy, and of course, as always, Beat Army!

Thomas B. Modly

Vector 6: Jan. 10, 2020: 355 Ships

Maritime power is an essential element of the National Defense Strategy, and as we look to a future of greater global trade and greater unpredictability, it has never been more critical to the success of our nation.  For the past several years the debate over defining what enhanced naval power really means has centered around the aspirations for a 355 ship Navy.  Today, this 355 ship goal is the law of the land, as outlined in the bipartisan “Securing our Homeland by Increasing our Powers on the Seas” Act, signed into law by President Trump in 2018.  The 355 target goal was based on our 2016 Force Structure Assessment (FSA), which recommended not only a total number of ships but also the capabilities required to address emerging security threats.  We have been working towards this goal over the last several years, but I am not satisfied with the progress we have made in terms of reaching it within a reasonable and strategically relevant timeframe.  As a result, I have asked Navy and Marine Corps leadership to come up with a plan to reach this goal within the next 10 years. 

To develop this plan, we will be relying upon the Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment (INFSA).  The INFSA will be the first time the Navy-Marine Corps team has ever worked together to create a truly integrated naval force design.  Despite some erroneous recent reporting, all of these initial plans reflect a continued net increase in ships in Fiscal Year (FY) 21 towards our goal of 355 vessels or more, not a decrease.  As we develop the plan, I believe it is important for all of us to reflect upon, and embrace, the rationale for why a larger and more capable naval force is required for our nation’s security, and the challenges we face in getting there.

The Simple Mandate for a Larger, More Capable Navy

  • Today, our Navy is less than half as large as when it last faced a major peer competitor in the late 1980s.  Meanwhile, U.S. gross domestic product has grown from $5 trillion in 1988 to $19.5 trillion.  Our trade by sea has since tripled, from $230 billion to over $880 billion. Almost the entire internet and trillions of dollars in trade are carried today on a largely unsecured network of undersea cables.  Four decades later, we simply have a lot more to protect from increasingly capable maritime adversaries who will present challenges to our economic security and indeed, our very way of life. 
  • Our global competitors and adversaries continue to grow their naval forces, and they are expanding their areas of operations and collaboration with each other.  China’s battle fleet, for example, has grown from 262 to 335 surface ships over the last decade, and China’s commercial shipbuilding grew over 60% from 2007-2017.  Russia continues to invest in advanced submarines with stealth capabilities, and other nations such as Iran, North Korea, and non-state actors are exploiting asymmetric capabilities to create instability and uncertainty on the global maritime commons.

Math is a Stubborn Thing—And It is Our Biggest Challenge

  • The climb to an ultimate force structure consisting of 355 ships as articulated in 2016 is a steep one.  We currently stand at 293 ships, up from 275 just a few years ago.  To reach, and more importantly sustain, a 355 ship force within a reasonable timeframe could require an additional $20-30 billion in the Navy’s annual budget of approximately $160 billion.  The simple fact is that a fleet of 30% more ships is going to require a much bigger topline to build, man, operate, and sustain.
  • The mathematical truth is that based on current budget expectations, we can only build and sustain approximately 305 ships by traditional measures of what counts as a “battle force ship.”  Therefore, we are compelled to look at the 2016 FSA 355 ship goal differently, and to redefine whether that number is relevant to what it truly means to serve as an effective integrated future naval force.  This is the work of the INFSA team as lead by Vice Admiral Jim Kilby, USN (OPNAV N9) and Lieutenant General Eric Smith, USMC (Deputy Commandant, Combat Development and Integration).  Their mandate is to design a force structure that is both creative and relevant to the emerging, more complex, maritime security environment.

How Agile and Creative Thinking Can Help

  • In reexamining our 355 ship goal, we must consider how to shift costs away from high-end platforms to a larger number of smaller, but still highly capable ships.  In FY18 dollars, the average cost of a ship during the Cold War “600 ship Navy” era was approximately $1 billion.  It is now twice that.  This trend is not sustainable, so we must shift the cost curve on all of our ships in the other direction – and they must deliver the distributed capabilities we require.  Such a shift could allow broader presence, reduced manning, and longer reach through a significant increase in hypersonic weapons, greater stealth, and advanced anti-ISR capabilities.  All this must be achieved through lower acquisition and sustainment costs – a strategic imperative.
  • We are also considering how unmanned surface and subsurface platforms not traditionally counted as “battle force ships” (mostly because they have never existed at scale) should figure into our force mix.  These platforms will not only allow us to distribute and conceal lethality, but also do so at reduced cost and in ways multiplied through its integration and interdependencies with the Joint Force.  Whether it consists of 305 ships, 355, or 500, it is difficult to imagine a future scenario in which American naval power will not be the critical piece of an integrated multi-service, multi-domain national security campaign for lasting peace and prosperity.

The Ship Count Matters, But Ultimately YOU Matter More

  • In the end we must all understand that American seapower can’t be defined merely by ship counts or hardware.  It depends far more upon the talented people who build them, maintain them, crew them, and make them ready to fight, repeatedly and sustainably.  Yes, we want to lead with technology and a necessary number of “gray hulls,” but we also must continue to outpace our competitors by fully investing in  “gray matter” – the skill and innovation our uniformed and civilian teams must deliver to form the most capable, best educated, fully integrated, and most professional naval force in the world.  Without that, our ship count, and ship mix, will be irrelevant.  YOU must be our enduring competitive advantage.

From my perspective, there is no question that as a nation we must urgently commit to invest in significantly more naval power.  Our Navy and Marine Corps team is at work to define more precisely what that naval power might look like, whether the 355 ship goal is sufficient when considering alternate force mixes, and how we are to achieve it affordably within a timeframe that is relevant to the threats we face today and into the future.  Finally, we should all recognize that this determination demands a broader national discussion, not simply one held within the halls of the Department of the Navy or the Pentagon. 

When it comes to the primacy of naval power we, as a nation and a Navy-Marine Corps team, have never given up the ship and now is not the time to start.

Thomas B. Modly

Vector 5: Jan. 3, 2020: Business Operations Plan

Maintaining our U.S. Naval Forces at the highest possible state of readiness and lethality requires the focus and attention of all those who support the business mission of the Department of the Navy. This cannot be accomplished in silos, but rather through an integrated, enterprise approach to business process improvement and modernization. Critical to this effort is that each of us understands and executes the scope of this work from the same plan. This is why we created the Department of the Navy’s (DON) Business Operations Plan (BOP). This plan is tied directly to the National Defense Strategy and it details the steps we are taking to transform our business operations. The initiatives in the plan have 6, 12, 18, and 24 month milestones that allow us to manage and monitor progress on the path to a more agile and accountable business enterprise. We publish the plan annually in October and update it every six months.

The BOP is OUR plan for business improvement as an integrated naval enterprise. I encourage you to read it, to understand your individual roles in executing it, and to monitor how these initiatives are improving your ability to serve our Sailors and Marines at www.navy.mil/donbop. Also, if you see areas in the BOP that need improvement, it is your job to let me know, via the Office of the Chief Management Officer at Office of the CMO@navy.mil.

While the BOP describes and tracks nearly 200 individual initiatives, I will be paying particularly close attention to the following areas:

Human Capital Strategy

  • We are implementing a new human capital strategy to better access and curate best in class talent. This strategy was developed leveraging leading private sector business practices designed for the new economy. Initial pilot programs in support of this strategy will begin this year.

Supply Chain and Logistics Processes

  • Supply chain and logistics processes are currently disjointed and create issues of poor visibility and accountability of inventory and sub-optimization of our multiple supply chains. We have assembled a senior group to develop a long-term strategy to address these deficiencies and will start executing reforms this year.

Digital Transformation

  • With the creation of the new Office of the Chief Information Officer, we will be exploring ways to accelerate business process modernization across the naval enterprise through the use of advanced digital tools and technologies. These tools and technologies have the potential to substantially improve business process performance, speed, accuracy, and data security.

Financial Management and Audit

  • The financial audit is the lynchpin to both monitoring, and catalyzing, improved business operations performance. We have completed our second full scope financial audit as an enterprise, and we continue to learn more about our financial management and business process deficiencies. Most importantly, because of the audit, we are learning a lot more about how to fix these deficiencies. This has been a painful and revealing process, but we must keep at it.

Just as rapid change in the global security environment is the new normal, the business mission of the Department of the Navy cannot be allowed to stagnate. Rather, we must continuously improve how we do business in order to keep up with changes in the “outside world” and to sustain our competitive advantage as a naval force. In the private sector the bottom line is profitability. For us in the naval service the bottom line will be measured by our agility and accountability-as they will determine our ability to achieve victory if called upon. Agile and accountable naval forces are impossible without agile and accountable business processes that support them. We should all expect that reaching that standard will require change, and that change itself will be a never ending process. So, let’s get comfortable with that reality and get after it as a team!

Thomas B. Modly

Vector 4: Dec. 27, 2019: December Honors and Remembrance

Earlier this week I announced our decision to name the next two Virginia-class submarines, SSN-802 and SSN-803, after the great states of Oklahoma and Arizona, respectively. These two ship names have special meaning for us as a nation, and particularly for those of us with any connection to the U.S. Naval Service. The previous USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) and USS ARIZONA (BB-39) were tragically and memorably lost 78 years ago on December 7th during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Lost with those ships were over 1,606 Sailors and Marines – selfless patriots of the Greatest Generation who never had the opportunity to taste victory as our Navy and Marine Corps team and the nation did some four years later. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten and these two new warships, our most modern and lethal, will set sail into unpredictable waters where we will count on them to maintain stability and peace. In so doing they will honor those lost 78 years ago, along with the two states who have sent so many into service to defend our nation.

It is fitting that we name these ships in December as we close out one year in remembrance, and look forward to the possibilities of the next. Just a few weeks after the previous USS ARIZONA and USS OKLAHOMA were lost at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the nation from Washington in late December, in a joint Christmas address with Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The nation was shaken by the Pearl Harbor attacks and the advance of Nazism across Europe. In the midst of this great uncertainty, the President sought to encourage the country’s unity and resolve:

“The year 1941 has brought upon our Nation a war of aggression by powers dominated by arrogant rulers whose selfish purpose is to destroy free institutions. They would thereby take from the freedom-loving peoples of the earth the hard-won liberties gained over many centuries.

The new year of 1942 calls for the courage and the resolution of old and young to help to win a world struggle in order that we may preserve all we hold dear.

We are confident in our devotion to country, in our love of freedom, in our inheritance of courage. But our strength, as the strength of all men everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.”

As we celebrate the holidays and close out 2019, President Roosevelt’s December prayer for national resolve in the coming year is just as relevant as it was 78 years ago. We as a Navy and Marine Corps team must focus our collective confidence in the goodness of the nation we defend, and on our ability to defend it with vigilance and agility. We must continue to be grateful for, and mindful of, our Sailors, Marines, and their families, who make sacrifices daily across the globe to keep the light of freedom bright. We must honor them with how we approach our jobs and in what we do every day to make our Navy and Marine Corps the finest and most powerful in the world – both today and into a very competitive and unpredictable future.

Thank you in advance for making a commitment to doing so in the coming year. Your individual efforts, your passion, your creativity, your sacrifices, and your patriotism matter. Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. Go Navy! And of course, as always, Beat Army!

Thomas B. Modly

Vector 3: Dec. 20, 2019: Making Ford Ready

Thanks to the ingenuity and tireless efforts of thousands of Americans over many years, the USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) aircraft carrier represents a generational leap in our nation’s capacity to project power on a global scale. With the successful completion of CVN 78’s Post Shakedown Availability and subsequent Independent Steaming Events, finishing our work and delivering this capability to the fleet as quickly and effectively as possible is one of my highest priorities. The American taxpayers have invested significant capital into this ship, and they deserve nothing less.

We are going to make FORD ready with all hands on deck, as one team, relentlessly focused on achieving the following tasks and timelines:

Exercise the Full Spectrum of Air Wing Operations

  • We will complete Aircraft Compatibility Testing for all aircraft planned for deployment (Q2FY20).
  • We will attain Flight Deck Certification for the planned deployment air wing (Q3FY20).

Achieve Full Ship Functionality

  • To enable access to magazines, we will complete Lower Stage #5 and #I elevators (Q4FY20).
  • We will complete the remaining five A WEs prior to Full Ship Shock Trials (Q3FY21).
  • Then we will complete Combat Systems Testing and Certification (Q3FY21).

Man, Train, and Certify the Crew

  • Our manning levels will support all planned operations for key events and deployment (Q3FY20).
  • We will complete training for crew to support certification and deployment (Q1 FY22).

Ensure Materiel Readiness

  • We will reach and maintain ship visual and material conditions to the highest standards (Q2FY20).
  • We will ensure all maintenance documents are delivered (Q2FY21).
  • We will deliver the parts needed to enable CVN 78 deployment (Q2FY22).

The Program Executive Office (PEO) Aircraft Carriers, RADM Jim Downey, will be accountable for this Vector as the supported activity. Effective immediately, he will establish a permanent presence in Norfolk to ensure that these efforts proceed expeditiously. Supporting organizations include: PEO Tactical Aircraft, PEO Integrated Warfare Systems, PEO C41, Naval Reactors, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and OPNA V N9. Additionally, the U.S. Fleet Forces Commander has assigned RADM Roy Kelley, Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, as the responsible leader of all fleet-supporting organizations for this Vector.

Our first “Make FORD Ready” summit will occur on January 9, 2020, with every stakeholder in government and industry present. From that point forward, I will receive a monthly status update along with the CNO and ASN (RD&A). My expectation is that we will work with diligence and speed to accelerate each deadline if possible. The FORD is just the first ship of this new class. It must set the standard for those that follow–and with our diligence and commitment, it will. Let’s finish the job.

Thomas B. Modly

Vector 2: Dec. 13, 2019: Unified in Grief, Heroism, and Resolve

In the last two weeks, our entire Navy and Marine Corps family was struck by three tragic acts: Little Creek, Virginia; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Pensacola, Florida. These crimes targeted us all, and I know I speak for every Sailor, Marine, and Civilian in the Department when I say that our prayers are with the families of the fallen and with the wounded. It is our solemn duty to find the causes of such tragic loss and ceaselessly work together to prevent them. As we reflect on these tragedies, I ask that we focus on the following:

Grief. We must understand, and stand in grief, alongside the families of those who lost their lives in these tragic incidents. The families of Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Master-at­Arms 3rd Class Oscar Jesus Temores, Mr. Vincent Kapoi, and Mr. Roldan Agustin are a part of OUR broad naval family. They are suffering from the loss of their loved ones. We must pray for them and keep them in our thoughts. For those who witnessed these events, and/or were injured, we must be committed to help them in their journeys back to normalcy. It is all of our jobs to help them recover from their injuries, visible or not.

Heroism. We must never forget the heroism of those who ran towards the danger in these incidents, exhibiting the finest warrior ethos and quick decision-making that doubtless saved many lives. On Tuesday, I traveled to Naval Air Station Pensacola to meet with the patrol officers and Naval Security Force personnel, who were the first responders on the scene and confronted the shooter, along with heroic civilian officers from the Escambia County Sheriffs Office. I learned about countless acts of heroism from the first responders, and many of the victims themselves which will come to light as the facts of these tragedies are revealed. I assure you that we will all be proud of these heroes and what they did in moments of terror and extreme danger.

Resolve. Even as we grieve together as a community, we must stand united in our resolve that these attacks will not deter us from fulfilling our sacred obligations to protect and defend our fellow citizens. The facilities at Little Creek, Pearl Harbor, and Pensacola remain fully operational and mission-focused. Around the world, our people still maintain the watch in protection of our nation, securing the sea lanes, and responding wherever there is need alongside our allies and partners. From these incidents, we must take renewed purpose, learning where we can to ensure-greater protection of our assets, information, infrastructure, and most importantly, bur precious people. It is my expectation that each of our facilities will review physical security and emergency response procedures to minimize the risk of a recurrence. And it is my expectation that all of our people – military, civilian, and contractor – be provided with the training, information, and motivation to maintain the vigilance we must all have to spot the warning signs that are often precursors to tragedies such as these.

The events at Pensacola, Pearl Harbor, and Little Creek were very different, but each represented an attack on our naval family and our ideals. These incidents will not hold us back but will serve as a constant reminder of our common responsibilities to each other and the nation we so proudly serve.

I have never been more honored to serve at your side than I have over the past two
weeks, as I witnessed how senseless tragedies have elevated within us the values that define our force and unite us all.

Thomas B. Modly

Vector 1: Dec. 6, 2019: Priorities and Near-Term Objectives

It is the honor of my lifetime to serve as your Acting Secretary of the Navy. Although no one, other than the President and his Secretary of Defense, can positively determine how long this tenure may be, I fully intend to execute their strategic vision. I consider the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), ADM Mike Gilday, and Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), Gen Dave Berger to be the right leaders at the right time in history to lead the Navy and Marine Corps, together, through a set of immediate changes designed to ensure that Integrated American Naval Power will continue to enable our economic and physical security for the rest of the 21 st century.

I am convinced that dominant naval force is the primary engine of our National Defense Strategy (NDS) and we must plan for it, and most importantly, resource it, accordingly. As those most trusted with planning for our naval requirements, programming, and systems acquisition, it is our time now to seize this opportunity with relentless intellectual focus and dedication. This memorandum is first in a series of weekly “vectors” that I will send to the integrated Navy and Marine Corps team, each addressing my focus and direction on our way forward in achieving specific critical enterprise-level objectives.

I have three broad priorities for which I expect alignment from naval military and civilian leadership up and down the chain of command:

  • Designing a Future Integrated Naval Force Structure
  • Advancing Our Intellectual Capacity and Ethical Excellence
  • Accelerating Digital Modernization Across the Force

My top five immediate objectives are the following:

  • Put All Hands on Deck to make the USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN 78) ready as a warship as soon as practically possible
  • Establish an Integrated Plan to achieve a 355 (or more) ships, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs,) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) for greater global naval power, within 10 years
  • Increase Engagement with Emerging Naval Partners and Allies in the Pacific Region
  • Fully Fund Our New Naval Education and Information Management Strategies
  • Drive Measurable, Accountable Results to Resolve Public Private Venture (PPV) Issues for our Sailors, Marines, and their families

Successful implementation of all these first objectives will depend upon an integrated Navy and Marine Corps leadership team. I will meet with the CNO, CMC, and senior members of their teams together, starting immediately and then twice a month in order to lay the foundations and set conditions for these changes, among others. I am committed to supporting the Commandant’s Planning Guidance (CPG), and expect that the CNO’s forthcoming vision will complement it, in coordination with my staff. All future high-level strategies, visions, and guidance emanating from our Navy and Marine Corps team must start and finish as integrated efforts, not as final phase “bolt-ons” from one to the other.

Additionally, my staff and I will become involved in the current Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment (INFSA). The INFSA will serve as the main analytic and planning effort upon which our integrated plan for a larger, more capable naval force will depend, especially in terms of force design and future fleet architecture. This will occur immediately in any recommended changes made to our budget for FY 21, and in current planning for FY 22 and beyond. The INFSA must be based on an accurate understanding of our current and future national industrial base, advanced technological capability, and digital domains. I will require regular briefings on the progress of the INFSA and expect it to be published no later than January 15, 2020.

Thank you for your leadership in building the Integrated American Naval Force we need to set sail safely into an unpredictable future. Above all else, it has always been our people and their combined intellects, striving for agility and accountability, which have historically marked the Navy and Marine Corps team as leaders in adaptation for new operational and strategic environments. As we work in pursuit of the above goals, the nation requires we embody the qualities of velocity, collaboration, visibility, adaptability, innovation, humility, trust, and yes, skepticism in order to create the kind of agility necessary for continual learning and any eventual success we might earn as a team. It is up to us today to hold each other accountable to display the best of these attributes, and take fullest advantage of this opportunity to build the Navy-Marine Corps team of the future.

Thomas B. Modly

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