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SNA National 2023

10 January 2023
   SNA National 2023

I’m really thrilled to come out here and be surrounded by so many. We're energized by our surface force. And let me tell you this year there's a lot, a lot to be excited about. But first I really want to always extend my thanks to the Vice Admiral Rick Hunt throughout the day and somewhere, Bill Erickson, who we all know dearly, and Julie Howard and the rest of the SNA staff who put this together. Year in year out this really is a premier event where we all come together. To showcase our community. I know it's never easy, but they always do a really good job. So thank you and as always, well done.

And for me, at SNA you know, it’s a great opportunity to talk with you know, new friends old shipmates, check in on all the progress made by them, all of you out there in the industry. And now it's a real privilege to come and update all of you. We were really able to bring so many people together, and even that extra 400 this year, but to talk about, you know the richness of our heritage, the talent, the talent I talked about earlier, that we have to that's advancing our culture every day. And most importantly, all of our sailors that bind it together. It's my wish and you walk away from this conference, understanding the great strides of our surface force, and all of your unique roles in our surface enterprise teams. 

So it's really a critical time for our surface force. And while we made much progress over the years, there are still many obstacles to overcome. As we prepare those threats on the short horizon. These challenges, these obstacles may prevent us from reaching our Northstar of 75 mission capable ships ready on any given day. It's a topic that we'll discuss in more detail today. I suspect throughout the week and throughout the rest of the year, because it is the single point of focus that drives all of our efforts. In the surface community. Those who offer leadership from WorkCenter supervisors, to fleet commanders, program managers and CEOs, we need to act with urgency in preparing our sailors and our ships to get them ready. If you remember nothing else from our discussions and throughout this week, remember this. I'm not here to tell you what the conflict will come. I am here to tell you we need to be ready. Because I do know that when it comes, it will share a little in common with wars in the past. Missiles will strike farther, unmanned vessels will hunt beyond the horizon. And in the electromagnetic spectrum, many key battles will be waged. We must, we must get it right.


Vice Admiral Kitchener SNA Remarks​
VIDEO | 1:20:04 | Surface Navy Association: 35th National Symposium

I recently gave a speech at the National Museum of the surface Navy aboard the battleship Iowa. If you haven't been there, you need to put that on your list of things to do. It's impossible to walk the depths of that ship. A ship built at the height of the Second World War and not contemplate what getting ready—what being ready really means. I think of the ships and the sailors who fought in that war and the theaters that may once again host these naval battles and ponder their bravery. Their persistence, to toughness, and most importantly, their victory. The bridge between then and now remains our sailors 

On countless ship visits throughout the fleet. I have seen the same grit and determination which is a testament to tough-minded sailors understand, thin margin between victory and defeat is the product of how well we prepare and train for time again, it is our responsibility to continue this legacy and to do so we must embrace getting ready as our call to action. Getting ready was why we embarked on a campaign a year ago. A strategy that is laser focused on generating and sustaining for greatness. It's kept us busy this past year, implement accelerated, sharpening our competitive edge and the core lines contained within these lines of effort to find how we approach the challenges of service force readiness and focus our organization as we develop the data driven processes productive to produce and sustain mission capable ships, weapons systems, and most importantly, the sailors who will use them to achieve victory. 

You know, I was out in Japan a few months ago. It's great to spend a lot of time gauging readiness, measuring the morale and spirit of our forward-deployed teams. Everywhere we went to Yokosuka abd Sasebo, we were really inspired by a very focused warfighting culture and the message that I took away that I received loud and clear said simply this: Hey Sir, we get it. We know what you expect and we’re meeting those expectations every day. Don’t let us down. Give us what we need: training, weapons, and material readiness to take care of business. Help us Get More Ready!  

Along that line of thought we heard a lot of different responses to how our force should deal with the threat and prepare the contract. Well one encounter that really stood out to me was with an individual chief petty officers initiation in Sasebo. It was the weakest link and if you haven't been to that in a while you should go fill it but I was walking around getting to know you soon to be chiefs. And I came across this very strangely dress sailor as you can imagine. Nicely pressed whites, a clean dixie cover. Red and  green running light sneakers—right some things never change. A first class petty officer rank on one shoulder and oddly enough, a gunnery sergeant rank on the other I was perplexed with this. So of course, I was pretty direct and I say Hey, to this hybrid sailor, you know What's going on here? Why are you here? Explain yourself. And it turns out Gunny. Yes, Gunny McClain was there because this is a quote. He told me Sir, if we're serious about the blue green team winning the next war then I better figure out how blue’s leadership thinks and acts so I can go back to my unit and make better Marines. Pretty good, Gunny McClaine, like many of our Sailors and Marines really gets it. The necessity to get ready now. Build connectedness, learn all you can and implement what you must. This is the mentality that we're establishing across our surface force. When conflict comes we will be the vanguard, and we must act with urgency to prepare. 

Our Northstar helps shape this resolve 75 mission capable ships that's what we need ready to fight. This goal isn't arbitrary. It's not random, it was born from our investments in data analytics, a very thorough assessment of operational requirements. This imperative for 75 drives every program and action we take across our force. Our entire surface enterprise is aligned to meet this northstar. Now more than ever before we are making better informed data informed decisions and focus in targeted investments and equipment spares, manning actions and scheduling, identifying the key levels to produce more mission capable ships and to sustain them longer.

A good example we had a destroyer and sustainment phase. Right. Coming back from deployment during sustainment was operating and performing like a seasoned warship but started showing downward key readiness indicators. A compilation of CASREPs, human factors feedback, and growing equipment repairs indicated we needed to act. Now. Those metrics individually would not have been enough to warrant a protected maintenance period, but viewed holistically is exactly what we needed to do. So we worked with operational commander, our four time commander representatives and our maintenance partners. We took that shop offline and gave it to help immediately. It's now back out there doing good hard work. But maintaining the mission capable ships we have an accelerating readiness in those that are not is the whole purpose of data driven approach. It's how we get more ships ready. What it's all about across the force. We are now organizing better to address this demand. Firstly, we are creating a surface response plan, a strategy to prioritize and allocate the ships ready for conflict. Within the type commanders we are standing up surface maintenance operations centers or S-MOCs. They will attack the challenges of current readiness by driving down CASREPs and prioritizing repairs and parts. To the fleet concentration areas. We are establishing SURFGRUs (surface readiness groups), commands that will be man trained and equipped to manage our ships with the maintenance of basic days while maintaining oversight. of readiness through all follow on faces.

This transformation of our readiness structure is a journey. A course from which our Surface Force cannot deviate, lag, or delay and we will need the help of our partners in industry, in Congress, and at OPNAV to achieve this necessary goal. Along this path, we've already learned a tremendous amount. One of the greatest benefits of data analytics is the ability to pinpoint key factors impacting our readiness. Take for instance, our courses ongoing concerns with underfunded sparing. We can now clearly identify the specific negative impacts to logistics, self sufficiency and combat readiness, but also identify the solutions needed to address the issue. Under funded outfitting accounts, drive Logistics Response lines and generalization. As an example in fiscal year 22. We had over 1200 requests for parts which were cannibalized from other ships because they could not be acquired by our supply system. That's about a 50% increase over the last few years and that is unacceptable We know which systems, ships, and classes should be prioritized and need to continue detailed and persistent advocacy with OPNAV and our Systems Commands to secure the funding to address these shortfalls in both the near term and long term. This is how we get to 75. This is how we get more ready. 

We're applying that same level of scrutiny to resources to confronting our manual challenges. Our service like all others is strained with recruiting achieving our retention levels. We need more people to fill all our billets at sea to increase overall readiness. We have gaps at sea creating an increased need for temporary additional duty or tax putting sailors with critical skills on ships and missions that require the most regardless of the impact and readiness were they originally assigned. Reallocating the sailors in their town, though help in the short term, puts that readiness at risk and really disrupts the connectedness. It is so important for building the critical combat teams, as well as the material readiness stuff of ships. We're addressing these issues through a number of issues. For example, we are piloting an alternative Manning model onboard destroyers in a in a striker. We increase the amount or decrease the amount excuse upset at sales timescale reducing this government provides an immense benefit for the ships in the maintenance phase by keeping those teams together to complete the difficult shipyard work on time, while simultaneously allowing those sailors to attend critical schools and increase their personal readiness as a learning organization. Additionally, we are working to ensure the right sailors are assigned to the right platforms at the right times. Building connected teams. The surface manning experience are served next, programs a metric based approach based on our Sailors’ experience, qualifications, and training with the purpose of producing intelligent manning actions and providing a more level-loaded, aggregated experience base in key-work centers. onboard ships serve next analysis is defined breadth and depth of skill sets required all our ships set against to readiness threshold, one for maintenance and basic things and one for deployment. We've gone through the first seven service ratings and we're well on our way to reporting on an X seven. While we continue to grow smarter and allocating the manpower we have this will not solve the problem of gaps and see we must we must commit to funding before requiring concurrent use necessity is enabling standard training to meet the representative increasingly complex. We cannot rely on outdated training environments for all the jobs to produce the knowledge and wherewithal needed for significant greatness. As sessions and in the fleet, or sailors to now receive higher quality relaxation training with their teams to solve the challenges they'll face and see investments in the surface training advanced virtual environment are standing as we all come to know and as remain a core component of this effort. And since 2013 we've invested over five and a half billion dollars in Corsair, trainers and simulators we will continue that trajectory on our ships. We're continuing to update network architecture to allow our sailors to exercise the full breadth of the systems at your disposal as ready relevant learning begins to take hold. We roll out our first courses we get better job at targeting the most important tasks new assessments are expected to perform in your first TV station. We are aligned to deliver a more competent and focus sailor ready to perform. And I would be remiss if I did not include a discussion talked about the incredible impact that Captain Paul X. Rinn, who passed away last year, had on the conduct and philosophy of training in the Surface Navy. And we all benefit as a result. Paul changed the Force by changing a crew, and we’ve all benefitted as a result.

Lastly on the topic of training, I really want to discuss our warfare tactics instructors (WTIs) program. A program I am incredibly passionate about since the start. I really like to take a moment to recognize all the WTI is here today. So if you are a WTI stand up and be recognized. Seats. I had the opportunity to attend a conference on Monday. I am continually impressed by their tactical knowledge dedication, commitment to advancing our training warfighting culture and all the really hard questions they ask. The creation of the surface and mine warfare Warfare Development Center or warfighting Development Center excuse me, and the first generation of WTI guys continue to transform our service community. They are leading up for us, as we out think out design and outperform for adversaries On shore, they are directing our Waterfront Tactical Symposiums, teaching our Sailors in schoolhouses, And training our shipmates underway throughout Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) and C2X. At sea, they are leading their ships, Sailors, divisions, and departments in advanced tactical instruction, passing on their knowledge to advance lethality many times over. They are briefing and instructing our senior Naval leaders, and reshaping the way our Surface Navy is positioning to fight. With advancements in the SM-6 family of missiles and the introduction of the Maritime Strike Tomahawk, WTIs will continue to lead the way, defining how we use new weapons and take them on the offensive. And as we introduce new ships and platforms they will drive the development of fully informed tactics and techniques to best employ our systems and weapons of the future. We understand we don’t have a monopoly on talent by virtue of rank, and we are empowering the brilliant minds of these professionals at all levels within the Force. The actions we are taking to sharpen our competitive edge, raise readiness, and increase our warfighting prowess, deserve a future force that capitalizes on these initiatives. Platforms like the Constellation-class frigate; agile, multi-mission ships, capable of operations in both blue-water and littoral environments, will provide increased combat capability forward. We’re also introducing greater lethality and capability to the Zumwalt-class destroyers that will be further strengthened by the installation of Conventional Prompt Strike. As we demonstrated through Zumwalt’s operation in the Western Pacific, these ships have a critical role in future fleet architecture.The Zumwalts’ upgrade will be preceded by the commissioning of the first Flight III DDG, USS Jack H. Lucas. This ship represents a massive leap in air defense capabilities with the SPY-6 RADAR and AEGIS Baseline 10. The LPD FLT II lead ship, USS HARRISBURG’s keel is laid, and the enhanced capabilities of this class improves the amphibious fleet as our LSDs approach their end of service. All of these new platforms, along with investments in their advanced systems, represent our strategy both to adapt and improve the capabilities of our Force, long into the years ahead. They are but another way to surface for us is getting ready. It is our single greatest imperative. So this is my charge to all of us. Everyone in this room because we all deeply care about our nation’s surface navy. Our industrial partners delivering systems, weapons and train our government civilians, service members and contractors in the program offices who keep our programs funded on schedule and supported and of course, our sailors operating and improving and employing our weapon systems to deter and defeat our adversaries. You know the Navy I joined almost four years ago, shares few similarities from that was sales before its day. It had many ships and was driven by a common threat. Soviet Union. On my first ship, an old FARRAGUT Class Destroyer our readiness and training were spotty. We didn’t have TAOs, we didn’t have Battle Orders, heck we barely had computers.Those things would come, but only after we experienced a community jolting event – the attack on USS STARK. Back then, even after that, it fell to an enthusiastic LTjg to write Battle Orders – think of that! We're also fortunate enough to have resources on board to work through the majority of our problems. today. We don't have the same resources or the size that we had back then. But we are once again galvanized by a common threat so we must approach that old problem with a new mindset. We must use today's tools to maintain our tactical advantage. Today, our ships are more capable and more complex. Today, our training is more immersive and more robust. And today, our sailors are smarter, more innovative, and more adaptable. And we were pretty damn good. We were. So are we more ready today as a surface force than we were 10, 20, or even 40 years ago? You bet we are and we're gonna get more ready because all of you here in this room. So let's get right into it. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.


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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