SECNAV Del Toro’s Strategic Guidance to Navy, Marines Corps

October 11, 2021 1:21 PM

The following is Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro’s strategic guidance to the Department of the Navy.


This guidance articulates my vision to build, train, and equip the world’s most powerful naval force to meet both today’s operational demands and the warfighting needs of the future. It is designed to reinforce and better align service-specific guidance already issued by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps with the Secretary of Defense’s overall direction for the Department. I expect leaders across the Department – both uniformed and civilian – to use this document to inform our strategic planning, investments, budgeting, and personnel decisions.


In the 76 years following the end of World War II, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps – working alongside like-minded allies and partners – have kept the seas open and free. On station, around the globe, and around the clock, we have helped sustain a maritime order based on international law that has benefitted the whole of humankind. Yet today, after three quarters of a century of relative maritime stability, that order is in jeopardy. Authoritarian nations are once again challenging international norms and laws, while transnational threats present unprecedented challenges to our stability and security.

Since my confirmation as the 78th Secretary of the Navy, I have characterized the most pressing challenges facing the Department of the Navy as the “Four Cs”: China, Culture, Climate Change, and COVID. The People’s Republic of China represents the pacing challenge against which we must plan our warfighting strategies and investments. Cultural challenges that we must tackle include confronting sexual assault and harassment, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, preventing suicide, and demanding integrity and accountability across our naval leadership.

Climate change poses a rapidly intensifying spectrum of risks to our operating environment, our allies and partners, and our planet. And COVID has posed an unprecedented test of the resilience of our people, their families, and our health system. We must tackle these Four Cs with a sustained sense of urgency and a strong bias for action.

Of the four, the long-term challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China is the most significant for the Department. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has radically expanded both its size and capabilities, growing to become the world’s largest fleet.

Complementing its modern surface combatants are hundreds of coast guard and maritime militia vessels that Beijing employs to compete in the “gray zone,” the contested arena between routine statecraft and conflict. For the first time in at least a generation, we have a strategic competitor who possesses naval capabilities that rival our own, and who seeks to aggressively employ its forces to challenge U.S. principles, partnerships, and prosperity.

Similarly, Russia, Iran, and other authoritarian states use gray-zone aggression and coercion to challenge the rules-based international order. The Department of the Navy will be expected to contribute our unique warfighting potential to compete in the gray zone, deter further aggression, and prepare to prevail in conflict as part of an integrated warfighting approach with our fellow Services.

As President Biden stated in his March 2021 Interim National Security Guidance, “our world is at an inflection point.” In the President’s words, “The United States must renew its enduring advantages so that we can meet today’s challenges from a position of strength.”

The Navy-Marine Corps Team is one of America’s unmatched enduring advantages and will be a vital part of realizing the President’s vision. With the resources entrusted to us by Congress, we have an ongoing responsibility to provide and maintain a naval force that is always ready to defend our shores, maintain sea control, and protect our national security and economic interests.

As our central governing concept, the top priority for the Department of the Navy will be to develop concepts of operations and capabilities that bolster deterrence and expand our warfighting advantages vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China.

We will ensure our Fleet and Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) are organized, trained, equipped, and employed in support of this priority, and that we are able to campaign and win now and in the future. In doing so, we must remain able to deter the full range of threats to our Nation’s security from other authoritarian states and transnational challenges that will continue to threaten our national security and economic interests. The Department of the Navy must always stand ready to address the multitude of crises that develop globally.

This strategic guidance articulates my vision to build, train, and equip the world’s most powerful naval force in support of President Biden’s national security priorities and Secretary Austin’s forthcoming National Defense Strategy. This document is the principal guidance for the U.S. Department of Navy, aligning service-specific guidance documents including the Navigation Plan, Force Design 2030, and Advantage At Sea with Secretary Austin’s overall direction for the Department.

This document will inform all future strategic and budgetary initiatives, and will focus and guide all activities within our Department, including prioritization of personnel and resources.

Download document here.

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