The new chief of naval operations will soon release his first document outlining his vision for the Navy, after spending the last two months listening to admirals and deckplate sailors alike about readiness and manpower issues.
Adm. Mike Gilday, speaking to USNI News by phone while in Rota, Spain, said he had traveled to visit sailors in Virginia, Florida, Japan, South Korea and now in Europe, as he learns more about the issues facing the fleet today and where the service ought to go in the future.
“Some of the readiness issues that I’ve really focused on have to do with surface ship maintenance, for example, and the improvements that we need to make in order to get ships out of the shipyards on a more consistent and timely basis – whether they be submarines or destroyers or aircraft carriers,” Gilday said.
“And then I would say another is that I’m really trying to take a look at people: whether or not we have the right skill sets in the right numbers in the right jobs, particularly on our ships at sea. I think that there’s always room for improvement, and so I’m trying to take a kind of general assessment on whether or not we’re making the right investments and whether or not the investments we are making are having the right impact.”
Asked how these readiness issues compared to what he saw during his time as a surface warfare officer – Gilday began his career on cruisers and destroyers before more recently focusing on cyber issues and serving in several joint commands – the admiral called readiness challenges “timeless.”
“It doesn’t matter if this were 1989 or 2019, those similar concerns are always going to be there. I think that the manner in which we train people now, I think we have improved significantly in terms of both individual and team training for our ships. The investments we’re making, for example, in live/virtual training I think are going to pay dividends in the future, as well as Ready Relevant Learning and essentially moving away from just kind of a cookie-cutter brick-and-mortar schoolhouse approach” and instead leveraging technology to train sailors for a rapidly evolving warfighting environment.
While Gilday is still considering how he wants to make his mark on the Navy and what direction he wants to lead it in, he said one thing that’s immediately clear to him is that “we cannot take our foot off the accelerator” when it comes to investing in these new ways to train sailors.
“The way I look at it, there’s no turning back; so the way we did things before is not sufficient or effective” in today’s environment. “So I’m interested in, if anything, accelerating some of those programs. I haven’t made final decisions yet in terms of what that looks like.”
He also said it was too soon to say if he’d want to see any changes in terms of how many and what kinds of sailors the Navy needs to make up its force, but “I’m comfortable with the investments we’re making in terms of manpower,” especially if Congress passes the Fiscal Year 2020 spending plan and allows the Navy to grow by 5,000 sailors.
Gilday said his listening tour would soon wrap up. Within the next month, he hopes to release his first planning guidance that outlines his view of the Navy and its future.
He recently met with four- and three-star admirals in the service, and “during those discussions, I had my own framework – which I don’t want to get into during this call – but my own thoughts about how to simplify and prioritize where we need to go in the Navy. The reception that I’ve had so far has been very positive, and so I shared my initial thoughts with the secretary of the Navy and I think within the next 30 days I expect to be putting out” those plans for wider consumption.
While he wouldn’t go into the contents of his plans, he did echo what new Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger has been foot-stomping, which is that the current security environment will force the Navy and Marine Corps to be more closely integrated.
“There’s a lot of work that’s ongoing on the Navy staff and the Marine Corps staff where we find ourselves working more closely in terms of programming, in terms of planning and in terms of operations. The way that Gen. Berger and I are looking at this, looking at the landscape in front of us, is that everything that we do really has to be integrated, and there’s so much more we can do together than we can apart. And so I’m very excited about the future, as in Gen. Berger, and I think our best days for the Navy/Marine Corps are in front of us.”