Gilday Submits Data-Driven, Tech-Focused Plan to Push Navy Forward

July 31, 2019 9:38 AM
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Dec. 8, 2018. US Navy Photo

CAPITOL HILL – Vice Adm. Michael Gilday supports the Navy’s vision for a larger and more lethal Navy that uses data to make decisions and incorporates industry’s technological advances rapidly, according to advance policy questions he submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The three-star will appear in front of the SASC today on his nomination to serve as chief of naval operations, after Adm. Bill Moran earlier this month pulled his nomination for the CNO job and requested to retire amid an investigation.

SASC members asked questions ranging from the Navy’s relationship with industry and researchers to current fleet readiness to future fleet construct to personnel and more.

Gilday’s answers were largely the same – verbatim – as Moran’s, indicating they are the official Navy stand on these topics.

“Given the changing security environment and the increasingly multi-domain nature of threats, accelerating our Navy’s digital transformation will be critical to preparing our Sailors to deter, fight and win. Digital technologies have the potential to be a force multiplier, putting data at the center of all of our decisions and transforming how we fight, stay ready, and conduct business operations,” according to Gilday’s document.
“We are on the path of a fundamental cultural and behavioral shift that we need to accelerate; we cannot afford to cede the competitive space of data and technology to our adversaries. Leveraging a deliberate cycle of prototyping, experimentation, exercises, and war games, we will accelerate our ability to adapt and rapidly develop the systems and processes we need to fight at the speed of information. That information will enable new ways of doing business that will spread across the Navy, our sister services, and our partners.”

He noted elsewhere in the document that Russia and China are also seeking to leverage emerging technologies to erode the U.S.’s military advantage.

“Algorithms and machine learning have become commodities, accessible to our adversaries and with the potential to accelerate the pace of military operations beyond what our systems were built to confront. We need to get faster – across the entire service – in order to inject uncertainty into our competitors’ decision cycle and become better at competing across the full spectrum of competition. The adaptability and agility of our people, both uniform and civilian, are key to responding to this central challenge.”

The document notes that “balance between acquisition of new technologies and current readiness of our forces is one of the most difficult tradeoffs we make in budgeting,” and while readiness is on the rise in aviation and the surface fleet, Gilday writes that it is too early to declare victory and shift spending patterns back to a focus on acquisition and research and development. Instead, spending on today’s fleet and tomorrow’s must remain carefully balanced.

On the top acquisition program for the Navy, the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program, Gilday writes as Moran did that “the Columbia class is on track to stay within its Milestone B affordability caps. The Navy updates and refines the Columbia class program cost estimate annually, including savings from National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (NSBDF) authorities and risk analysis.”

“The most significant risks to cost, schedule, and performance requirements for the Columbia class is the strength of the submarine industrial base and shipbuilder performance. The Navy and shipbuilder teams are focused on supplier improvement and oversight as well as shipbuilder execution as advance production continues and ship construction begins in [Fiscal Year] 2021,” he continues.

On attack submarines, for which the Navy has a stated requirement of 66 but currently has just 51– which will dip into the 40s before coming back up again – Gilday writes that the risk of the shortfall is better discussed in a classified forum but that, “in the short term, we assess this is manageable risk.”

On ballistic missile defense capabilities on Aegis cruisers and destroyers, Gilday writes that the requirement is 54 BMD ships but the Navy has just 41 today.

“With the current inventory of BMD-capable ships, the Navy is able to meet all global BMD tasking through careful management of deployment and ship maintenance schedules. Based on the [FY 2020 budget request], we will meet the 54 ship requirement in FY 2023, and we will continue to upgrade our planned force of 88 DDG-51 class destroyers until all are BMD capable in 2030.”

Gilday’s written answers differ from Moran’s on the aircraft carrier force, and specifically the decision to not refuel USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) that the administration had included in its FY 2020 budget request. The same day Moran testified to SASC and defended the administration’s decision, Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Norfolk, Va., to sailors and said the administration would fight to keep the carrier in the fleet for its full service life.

In response to the question: “The President reversed the decision in the FY 2020 budget request that would have canceled the mid-life refueling of the USS Harry S. Truman. Did you support the original decision?”; Gilday responded that, “The original decision to retire Truman was made to free up funding to enable earlier fielding of cost-imposing technologies consistent with the National Defense Strategy. I support the National Defense Strategy and prioritizing investments to prepare for great power competition. The President reversed the decision on 30 Apr 2019 after re-evaluating and re prioritizing the refueling as a fraction of the cost of building a new aircraft carrier (which the FY20 President’s Budget also supports).”

As Moran did, Gilday notes the changes coming to the carrier air wings that these carriers will transport into theater. Asked about challenges to integrating the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter into the air wing, he writes that the “fully integrated F-35C ensures critical battlespace awareness and enhanced warfighting lethality across all spectrums of naval operations. Our focus is leveraging the complementary capabilities of the F-35C with 4th generation tactical aircraft in the carrier air wing (CVW), and surface platforms in the maritime battle forces supporting distributed maritime operations. The biggest challenge is effectively and efficiently sharing the information gathered by the F-35C across distributed platforms and warfighting networks.”

Emerging unmanned systems, too, will increase the amount of information moving through the battlefield and provides opportunities to the warfighter but also challenges in getting the data to the right people and protecting it from the adversary.

Asked about Navy science and technology priorities, Gilday writes as Moran did that “naval S&T objectives are to maintain technological superiority to ensure our sailors and Marines have the decisive technology advantage. The naval research enterprise portfolio is balanced across the following areas: strong investment in fundamental (basic and early applied) research to build the scientific foundation for future technologies; an emphasis on key ‘game changing’ initiatives that can provide disruptive technologies to the warfighter; a critical focus on transitioning S&T programs to the acquisition community and the fleet and force through the Future Naval Capability program; and prototype development and experimentation with the Fleet and Force to rapidly learn and revise,” he writes.
“Specifically, naval S&T funding is prioritized toward artificial intelligence (AI), ocean acoustics, hypersonics, autonomy and autonomous systems, and advanced manufacturing.”

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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