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Surface Navy Association, National Symposium, USS Cincinnati

by VADM Kitchener
12 January 2021


Surface Navy Association, National Symposium

CNSF: Status of the Force Speech                                                    Recorded 28 Dec 2020 (USS CINCINNATI)

"Train, Maintain, Fight, and Win!"                                                                         Broadcast 12 Jan 2021 (Virtual)

Good morning, team CINCINNATI! Thanks for being here today... You may or may not know my remarks today will be shared at the SNA National Conference in January. Since the conference will be virtual, I jumped on the opportunity to share my vision directly with you on the waterfront, because I want to make sure the message gets to the deck plates and I wanted the Surface Warfare Community to be represented where it should be…on a warship!

First I want to thank every one of you here today, and every Sailor watching, for the sacrifices you and your families made this past year. To say that 2020 was difficult would be the understatement of the decade. But we made it through and I’m proud of everything we accomplished along the way. To those of you who lost loved ones during this pandemic, Sharon and I extend our deepest sympathies. And we lament along with everyone who gave up so many cherished parts of our normal lives. Through it all, I couldn’t be more proud of your toughness and unfailing dedication.

To the SNA audience, thank you for everything you do for the Surface Warfare community.

Surface Warriors – past and present – and industry partners… we’re incredibly lucky to live in a time when our technology allows us to remain so connected despite the challenges. Thanks for watching.

And to Admiral Hunt, Bill Erickson, and the SNA Team, thank you for all the hard work that went into making this conference virtual. It’s so important to talk about how we’re doing as a community and where we’re headed. With this conference going virtual I hope our fellow surface warriors, partners, and team mates are joining us around the globe.

Even as we fight through this pandemic, other threats are both persistent and rising. China is extending its global reach, intimidating its neighbors, making unsupportable territorial claims, and militarizing disputed islands and features. Russia is developing formidable sea-denial weapons including hypersonic anti-ship missiles and the platforms to employ them. Iran continues to harass shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, while maintaining its position as a global sponsor of terrorism. And North Korea remains dangerous and unpredictable. We are, and will continue to be, a maritime nation. So we can’t afford to let a single threat fall off our radar.

The operating environment is changing as well. Melting ice in the Arctic is expanding intercontinental waterways and giving way to a demanding and remote area where many nations will operate naval forces. We’ve adapted to health concerns to maintain an operational bench in support of our already vast mission set. And homeland defense requires additional attention as would-be adversaries expand their reach on the seas. All this growing activity creates an increase in missions – simply put, we need more ships ready for tasking to meet the demand.

Since taking command last year I’ve visited the waterfront as often as I can, to understand our ships’ perspective as much as the perspective of a headquarters. I want to see the successes, our

failures and understand the impact of our shortfalls on the forces’ readiness. Our / Your professional integrity and honesty arms us with the feedback to enable you – THE FORCE - to be ready before we send you forward to accomplish the mission.

Similarly, I’ve visited our private shipyards, met with our industry partners and collaborated across the Navy to better understand the challenges in our Surface Force and build the team to get after these tasks.

The many supporting organizations listening today have a role to play in achieving a common goal: delivering more ready ships to our Fleet Commanders. That is my prime directive and it applies across the entire OFRP cycle, so my remarks today will follow a simple formula, which I believe captures all the variables to generate a more lethal and resilient force:

Train, Maintain, Fight, and Win!

For the past three years we’ve worked in-step across the community to make the best use of long-term investments in our foundational training resources, and our Sailors are now entering the fleet more prepared and motivated than ever before.

The Surface Training Advanced Virtual Environment, or STAVE, is enabling us to provide progressive, interactive, networked proficiency training for mariner and technical skillsets alike, preparing Sailors for success before they even set foot on a ship – the baseline has been raised far beyond the basics.

And we have more resources in the works. Our new Mariner Skills Training Centers, or "Em-sticks" as we call them, are under construction in San Diego and Norfolk. This coming July will mark the dual launch of the new Officer of the Deck course at these facilities. The 9-week, two-phase course will replace and expand on the Junior Officer of the Deck course that thoroughly prepared more than 1,500 prospective Surface Warfare Officers for the fleet in the last year and a half.

We are upgrading our existing ship-handling simulators to allow bridge and combat team integration in complex scenarios. And we’re delivering this capability beyond the east- and west-coast-centric model. Mayport’s integrated simulator will be up and running this coming summer; Sasebo by the end of 2021; and we’re working to get them to Yokosuka, Pearl Harbor, Everett, and Rota before the end of fiscal year ’22.

Our goal is for every crew – not just the ones already operating at sea – to have a reliable place to solidify their mariner skills as a team, rehearsing in realistic scenarios until they perform like an orchestra, perfectly in tune. Take the USS John S. McCain for example.

While pier side for repairs after the tragic collision, the McCAIN crew practiced as a team in the ATG West Pac simulator so there was little rust to knock off when it was time to set sail again. Today McCAIN is at sea, exercising with our allies and challenging excessive territorial claims in the Western Pacific! 3

Our mariner skills training resources are invaluable – and with those strong programs in place, we can expand our training focus to the high end fight.

The Center for Surface Combat Systems recently introduced a simulator for that purpose. The Combined Integrated Air and Missile Defense Anti-Submarine Warfare Trainer, or CIAT, combines Aegis tactical code with state-of-the-art simulation to give CIC watch standers a realistic, immersive warfighting experience… preparing watch teams for the high-end fight with live, virtual, and constructive scenarios.

The CIAT synthesizes combinations of weapons, sensors, and communications we’ll employ across the force in tomorrow’s Distributed Maritime Operating environment. Our two shore-based trainers, in San Diego and Norfolk, provide crews with new levels of realism that reflect the complexity and pressure of these evolving environments.

Radar operators can work through jamming and clutter in a realistic, effects-based environment, and sonar operators can practice tactical oceanography in specific areas of the world without leaving their homeport. It’s the first trainer to truly integrate hard- and soft-kill tactics, so cryptologists can classify threats, actively jam, and launch decoys against inbound missiles. Tactical Data Coordinators can configure datalinks enabling an integrated fire control engagement sequence, and Fire Controlmen can conduct integrated Gun Weapon System and CIWS engagements complete with simulated camera video, to support the close-in fight – all working together in the same training environment.

Recently, I spoke with the CO of USS Mobile Bay who told me the crew made weekly use of the CIAT while the ship was in maintenance, its systems largely inaccessible. They took advantage of that time, and it paid off – the ship is entering the Basic Phase now, but they’re already well on their way to full mission readiness.

We’ve created a new approach to Basic Phase training as well. Afloat Training Group executed a pilot to deliver uninterrupted training at sea by embedding training personnel aboard ships, which proved incredibly useful under the COVID-19 operating environment. We’ll be implementing the concept on the waterfront to streamline training efforts within health protection guidelines and allow CO’s to earn more discretionary time in their training cycle.

Expanding our shore training support and bundling training at sea will help us sustain critical mariner and warfighting skills throughout our careers, but we need a standardized framework for delivering that training.

We’re developing a Surface Warfare Combat Training Continuum, or SWCTC, to establish that framework. The SWCTC team, led by SMWDC, identified ten Core Competencies necessary to win wars at sea during Great Power Competition, and validated their relevance across all ranks. The continuum being developed will be centered on those ten core concepts, and all tactical watch standers on every type of ship will follow a logical path of training and development.

SWOs will learn the right tactics for every level of their career - whether driving, fighting, managing, commanding, or employing the ship. From ENS Copeman, the Conning Officer, all

the way up to CAPT Copeman, the Sea Combat Commander. And our operators and technicians, from Seaman Recruit all the way to Chief Petty Officer, will build proficiency as apprentices and hone those skills until they are subject matter experts and masters of their trades.

As the SWCTC curriculums are being developed, a pilot program will be launched aboard two DDGs in the coming year, but SMWDC has already implemented the ten core competencies in waterfront training being led by Warfare Tactics Instructors, or WTIs.

We’ve now trained more than 400 WTIs… SWOs, LDOs, and Warrant Officers. They strengthen the Surface Force; by developing maritime warfare tactics, conducting crucial analysis on emerging threats, running Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training events, leading watch standers on the deck plates, and training tomorrow’s warfighters. They’re bridging the gap between our current and future capabilities… they are, and will continue to be, the foundation of our tactical training continuums. And on top of all that, WTIs screen for command at higher rates than their peers. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough of them and I’m ready to select our best and brightest officers – the ones who are brimming with ideas and excited about making a difference… right out of wardrooms and into the program so we can turn their minds toward our tactical development and future force training! And I will make it worth their while!

But to actually benefit from the great training I just shared with you, we need to man our ships to the right requirement across the OFRP – not just when they’re about to deploy. We are making progress with our manning issues, but challenges still remain. For instance, we continue to fund more DDG billets, but it will take time for those Sailors to arrive on the waterfront. Our sea duty gaps have been reduced to below 11,000 and that reduction is projected to continue to 7,500 by September 2021. But in the last fiscal year we still resorted to 1,760 temporary personnel assignments to fill remaining gaps for deployers. That’s not a long-term solution, and it adds stress on our Sailors and, thereby, the Force!

The manning readiness of a ship has always been the product of a complex interplay of requirements and funding, inventory and distribution policies, fleet manning policies and actions, and the frictions between them. Ultimately, this readiness starts with getting the "requirement" correct. The requirement must consider both in-port and at-sea work, INCLUDING MAINTENANCE! We continue to partner with the fleets, NAVMAC, other TYCOMS, and OPNAV to ensure this full workload spectrum of our Sailors is captured in the correct requirement. Any risk we accept in the requirement translates directly to risk in producing warships ready for tasking – it’s that simple.

Achieving an accurate distribution of manpower is not only important for the short-term ship employment, but also to the long-term proficiency and experience of our technicians, operators, and maintainers, which we need to better value. That’s why we’re establishing what we call the Surface Manning Experience or SURFMEX. The SURFMEX will define standard methodology for quantifying and tracking a Sailors’ experience and proficiency as they progress through those career-spanning training continuums I mentioned, and it will use an analytics-based approach to detail Sailors to the right places – first to learn, then to perform. 5

SURFMEX will take us beyond that "fit-fill" list where the Sailor who attended years ago and the Sailor who just graduated look, on paper, like they’re equally prepared for a demanding shipboard billet, and into tracking and valuing their individual fleet experience and proficiency. When Sailors receive appropriate foundational training en route to a billet, those skills can later be expanded through Ready, Relevant Learning, which delivers remote, realistic, interactive training directly to individuals wherever they are assigned. By bringing the training to their fingertips, we facilitate the progression from apprentice, to journeyman, to master while keeping Sailors where they’re needed: in their primary shipboard billets.

To get the ball rolling, we are dialed into six rates: Sonar Technician, Aegis Fire Controlman, Gas Turbine System Technician (Electrical and Mechanical), Quartermaster, and Engineman. We chose these rates because despite their significant impact on ships’ warfighting readiness, we often see a disparity in the experience levels across the waterfront. The SURFMEX effort will not only provide Sailors with a logical path to proficiency, defined by specific career milestones, but it will also provide the means for valuing the growth that the Ready, Relevant Learning approach will provide Sailors along those career paths. Using the SURFMEX system, we will be able to detail Sailors to units that will most benefit from their current skill levels, resulting in balanced crews across the waterfront while still allowing opportunities for professional growth. Once Sailors are assigned in line with their proficiency levels they’ll be able to take better care of systems, which will raise overall readiness.

This analytical approach to building Sailors’ skills and applying them where they’re really needed will increase the technical professionalism of our crews so we can better provide prompt and sustained combat operations at sea, free from the reliance on tech reps and fragile reach back networks. Our goal is to create an enduring process that develops and manages our valuable enlisted workforce purposefully, instead of leaving it to chance – as it often seems.

Even with these training and manning initiatives in place, we need to ensure Sailors are poised to use them. We do that by better protecting the amount of training time afforded to ships, which means that we need to adhere to the approved depot-level maintenance timelines.

Last year, we accomplished 60 percent of CNO maintenance availabilities on time - a significant increase from the 39 percent on-time accomplishment rate of 2019, but still short of 100 percent. To achieve that goal, we identified key drivers that influence on-time availability completion and initiated action in each area to improve performance. Two of the most impactful drivers are growth and new work. We achieved substantial reductions in 2020 versus 2019, but there’s still room to improve. Our goal is to identify new and growth work as early as possible in the availability, to allow risk-based decisions on how to proceed. And the potential return on investment is considerable; in fiscal year ’19, maintenance delays resulted in the loss of more than 7,000 operational days – that’s equivalent to a deficit of 19 ships that could have been ready for tasking that year. Our efforts are making a difference, but we have a long way to go to achieve the CNO’s stated goal of zero days of maintenance delay.

To get there, we have to work as a team to apply the same zeal and analytical rigor we now use in the planning process into successful execution. So I’m asking our partner organizations,

within the DoD and in industry, to recommit to working together to finish availabilities on time, with all mandatory maintenance accomplished and all system tests complete.

When we plan and execute maintenance availabilities properly, crews have more time to train at sea, and they become more capable and lethal. But maintenance is more than just the depot-level work we accomplish in dry docks and shipyards… it’s also the Intermediate-Level capability resident at the Regional Maintenance Centers and the Organizational-Level work that Sailors do themselves. Effective maintenance at every level enables deployment success and maximizes ship life. So together with NAVSEA, we’re using data-driven processes to improve Regional Maintenance Center capability, capacity, and manning to support the waterfront.

We need to strengthen our I-Level maintenance capacity by bringing experienced Sailors back to the waterfront support system where they not only help ships maintain and repair systems, but also hone their technical expertise, build the skills of the Sailors whom they assist, mentor their peers, and bring their professional knowledge back to the waterfront when they eventually return to sea duty. This is exactly the type of proficiency progression at the core of the SURFMEX initiative. By assigning Sailors to shore billets that provide relevant technical experience, we build long-term waterfront proficiency. Sailors remain our first line of defense in material readiness, their talent, experience, and ingenuity are the essential ingredients to sustain the current fleet and make more ships ready for tasking.

At the organizational level, fully empowering Sailors to fix their gear requires making sure they have the diagnostic tools and the parts they need to address the problem at sea. I’ve never driven cross-country on a flat tire, and I doubt any of you have either – I’d pull over, grab my spare, jack up the car, and change it myself before I’d even think of calling for a tow! But I can only do that if I have the right tools and a spare in the trunk – the same goes for ships.

Yet, we still struggle to acquire the parts our Sailors need. Supply chain gaps, outdated business rules, funding shortfalls, and inaccurate prediction models continue to impede our ability to effectively maintain the waterfront. We’re actively contributing to a larger Naval Sustainment effort leveraging an analytical approach to improve our supply chain’s performance globally. Within this effort, I am leading a specialized Demand Management team aimed at improving the Surface Force’s sparing readiness, and lowering costs by using improved material predictions to reduce unplanned maintenance. We have also partnered with the NAVSUP and NAVSEA teams on a Maritime Spares Campaign Plan to revise our policies and improve our ordering process.

If we can improve our sparing, we can increase system service life, reduce the repair burden in maintenance availabilities, and generate more ships ready for tasking.

This isn’t really high speed, sexy stuff I’m talking about, but it deserves our laser focus. It is critical – ESSENTIAL – that we improve these areas if we are to sustain the forward fight!

The road to that fight is paved with industry’s capability and Sailors’ hard work and discipline, but there comes a point when Sailors need to stand on their own.

It’s our responsibility to take charge in fixing systems, learning from our industry partners along the way, so we can sustain those systems at sea – in battle – when original equipment 7

manufacturers and contractors can’t be there to help. We are all accountable to our nation and to our Sailors to provide not just a ready ship, but also the self-sufficiency to keep the ship operating forward.

Self-sufficiency is a mindset — a desire on the part of deckplate leaders to take charge in maintaining readiness.

And Self-sufficiency is achieved when Sailors have not only the physical tools, but also the toughness and resilience that fuels them in action.

Toughness is defined as "physical or emotional strength that allows someone to endure strain or hardship," and resilience as "[being] capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture." The two go hand-in-hand and are essential to our success as warfighters. But toughness and resilience require maintenance too.

This past year we saw the value of resilience as we adapted to what often seemed like daily waves of disruption. And we fought through, despite the weight of uncertainty and prolonged struggles, to achieve incredible things, like USS San Jacinto and USS Stout operating at sea for record lengths.

But even without these added pressures, you all know this is a very difficult profession. We often have to ask difficult things of our Surface Force, so we would be doing our Sailors a disservice if we glossed over the need for more stress management, mental health, and family support resources. To increase access to stress management tools and mental health professionals, especially leading up to and during deployment, we’re partnering with other communities on a number of personnel support initiatives that reinforce the Culture of Excellence we seek.

We will embed Behavioral Health Technicians in ship’s company. Every deploying ship will have a Chaplain onboard. We are expanding the reach of Deployment Resiliency Counselors from the big decks only, to the ships that deploy with them. And we’re increasing the availability of stress control training and telehealth resources for Sailors and their families. Readiness isn’t achieved once and for all, it has to be sustained – that applies to ships AND Sailors.

Self-sufficiency is crucial to our forward presence, especially as we transition from our well-established platforms and into the future Force. For instance, as MCMs and PCs transition out of service, LCS is taking over those missions and we continue to build experience with every deployment! In June of 2020, USS MONTGOMERY completed a 12-month deployment to Seventh Fleet, and USS GABRIELLE GIFFORDS is operating right now in SOUTHCOM after a rapid shift from the Western Pacific. The crew is applying lessons learned from eight previous LCS deployments, including the increased self-sufficiency brought to the LCS by the Maintenance Execution Teams, or METs. In this case, the GABBY GIFFORDS MET is forward deployed aboard the USNS Burlington, keeping that maintenance capability in theater with the ship. Even with these successes, there still remains a hill of challenges to summit.

The LCS Strike Team, led by PEO Unmanned and Small Combatants, Rear Admiral Casey Moton, is identifying and tackling class design issues, increasing sparing, diving into Post-Shakedown Availability accountability, and investing in ways to give LCS Sailors more access to proprietary parts and diagnostics. These efforts drive toward increased ship reliability and more operational days across the entire class, and this work is essential to making more LCS ready for tasking, and to the future of our Force.

As a separate effort focused on the future of the LCS, we launched another study to ensure a steady course toward lethality and warfighting effectiveness – a running fix on the 2016 study, if you will. We dove deeply into four areas: Crewing, Missions, Maintenance, and Training. We’re finalizing our findings, but I believe we have a good set of recommendations that will deliver LCS presence, with the right lethality, and sustain it, as only the US Navy can, wherever we choose to send it. We’ll share more details when we officially conclude the study in the coming months.

The LCS is just one of many ships critical to the future Navy, along with FFG-62, the Large Surface Combatant, LPD Flight II, DDG Flight III, DDG 1000, and the Light Amphibious Warship. I’m looking forward to how these ships will bridge capability gaps and, in the case of the Light Amphibious Warship, further integrate the Marine Corps into naval operations. Our two Surface Warfare Resource Requirements Sponsors, Rear Admiral Paul Schlise and General Tracy King, will talk more about these ships during the symposium.

That future Surface Force will confidently fight, wherever and whenever we choose – in contested areas, geographically distributed, and across various warfighting domains – so it’s imperative that we embrace Great Power Competition and further expand on the technological capabilities we’ll use on that forefront. To that end, we’re operating some of those technologies now, to ensure rapid integration when they officially reach the fleet.

USS PORTLAND recently used a Solid State Laser at sea to disable a drone. USS JOHN FINN destroyed a threat-representative inter-continental ballistic missile target with the new SM-3. USS ZUMWALT successfully demonstrated its newly installed SM-2 capability on the path to mission readiness for her first scheduled fleet employment in 2022. We’re experimenting with a separated weapons system that could expand the lethality of multiple afloat platforms. And unmanned surface vessels are integrating and delivering capability to the fleet; Integrated Battle Problem 21 will be the first major fleet exercise designed around unmanned systems. USVs will be incorporated into advanced tactical training with carrier strike groups.

Purposeful experimentation will allow us to quickly integrate capabilities as they are delivered, so Sailors can put it all together on the front lines.

Today I’ve talked about a number of variables; how we will train better; how we can maintain our ships and Sailors better; and some of the tools we will use to fight better. But it is the collective efforts of the Surface Warfare Enterprise that are vital to winning that fight, whenever and wherever it may be. 9

Over the past six months I’ve observed a Surface Force built with a strong foundation but also one that is poised to deliver increased levels of lethality and presence. That leap to new heights requires perseverance, focus and most importantly action at every level. On the deckplates, at the Regional Maintenance Centers, in our industrial support organizations, at the training facilities, in the supply support channels, in the acquisitions offices, and at the personnel support commands – our interrelated efforts contribute to one common goal.

A goal to which I am personally committed, and a goal to which each of us should actively contemplate our contribution. The goal of providing more ships ready for tasking, properly prepared for the fight ahead, and capable of winning, is no easy feat.

We have a roadmap through the challenges discussed today. Now, we each need to attack them with ruthlessness, urgency, and habitual action. Our daily contributions should be focused on doing our part to enable ships and Sailors to Train, Maintain, Fight and Win.

Whatever your role is in this mission, do it with a sense of pride and a rigor that leaves Sailors living out these words of Admiral Bulkeley:

"What else could I do? You engage, you fight, you win…That’s the reputation of our Surface Force… then, now and in the future."

Thank you.

Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490
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Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490

This is an official
U.S. Navy website

U.S. Pacific Fleet
2841 Rendova Rd
San Diego, CA

Public Affairs Officer

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