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Vision for the Navy's Future
Remarks as Delivered by Navy Secretary John H. Dalton , National Press Club, Washington, Wednesday, February 14, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 12-- Vision for the Navy's Future Navy Secretary Curtis Wilbur invested in naval aviation during the 1920s despite skeptics and critics. His vision paid off during World War II. We need that kind of vision now for challenges 20 years downstream.


Volume 11, Number 12

Vision for the Navy's Future

Remarks as delivered by Navy Secretary John H. Dalton before the National Press Club, Washington, Feb. 14, 1996.

Thank you very much for the kind introduction and warm welcome. I'm pleased to be at the National Press Club to give you my thoughts on the state of the Navy-Marine Corps team.

First, I must tell you that I'm honored to be secretary of the Navy. The Navy's been awfully good to me. I'm grateful for my Navy education and training. It's an honor and privilege to come back at this time to serve as secretary of the Navy. And I thank President Clinton for his trust and confidence.

I love what I do, and I challenge anyone to find a better, more rewarding job in Washington than running this department -- and that includes working budget negotiations with Congress!

You're familiar with what we do and where the Navy Department is today. So let me cut to the chase and answer the question: "Where are we going?"

The right answer -- the only answer -- is that we are moving forward! The Navy and Marine Corps are dynamic organizations with vision. We are forward-thinking and forward-operating -- that's our tradition, and it's a tradition of success, which has played out over 220 years. We don't fight the last war, we prepare for the next one. And when we get our nose bloodied, we clean up our act and enter the ring in time for the next round.

This is my message for you: In an era of uncertainty and challenge, at home and abroad, the Navy Department is not afraid of change! And we've got the leadership and vision to effectuate that change which is appropriate and desirable for the future.

It's that future that I want to talk about. Since I've been secretary of the Navy, I've focused on four themes with a vision for the future. Those themes are readiness,technology, efficiency and people.

When I had my confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July '93, committee members were most concerned about readiness. Several senators in that hearing asked about readiness in the Navy and Marine Corps, and they expressed deep concern that our Navy Department was not as ready as it should have been.

Readiness may have been a concern three years ago, but let me ask you this: When was the last time you thought about the readiness of the Navy and Marine Corps?

That's because it simply is no longer an issue. Looking back across my time as secretary of the Navy, I have no doubt that America in now getting a solid return on its investment in the Navy and Marine Corps. Here are a couple of examples to emphasize that we are indeed ready.

Remember back to early last summer when [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein moved some of his force toward Kuwait. The Navy-Marine Corps team was right there. Within hours, we had strike aircraft flying sorties. We were ready, we responded, and we got the job done. And Saddam pulled back his forces.

The rescue of [Air Force] Capt. Scott O'Grady was another indicator of just how ready our people are. It was a complex, difficult rescue mission that our team made look easy. When he had his press conference after the rescue, Capt. O'Grady's first words were: "I'm not the hero. The real heroes are the sailors and Marines out on USS Kearsarge."

There's probably no more human example of our readiness than Bosnia. Look at the success of the peace talks in Dayton [Ohio] and the initial deployment of U.S. forces. American military leadership brought the warring factions to the table. The [USS] Teddy Roosevelt and [USS] America battle groups, including the cruiser [USS] Normandy conducting air and Tomahawk strikes last September, made the difference. The parties ended up at the peace table because of what we did.

Training is the key to our readiness. Adm. Arleigh Burke was the chief of naval operations when I was a midshipman in 1960, and I had the sad honor to participate in his funeral ceremony just last month. When the USS Arleigh Burke was christened, the admiral told the crew, ... "This ship was made to fight. You had better know how."

It's my job to ensure that our men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps know how, that they're properly trained and ready to fight, because that's what we're in the business of doing -- to fight and win our nation's wars, and to prevent them with the influence of our forward presence.

What you should walk away with today is that the Navy

Department's readiness is where it should be. However, my vision is that we'll be able to predict the readiness challenges of tomorrow, to be ready to fight the wars in the Navy after next so that my successors will have what they need.

My second priority for the Department of the Navy is technology.

One of my predecessors, the secretary of the Navy during the 1920s, was Curtis Wilbur. We had just prevailed [in] World War I, and he was making a major thrust in Congress to fund naval aviation. Many people in Congress were skeptical. We had just won "the war to end all wars," and the last thing we needed was airplanes flying off ships.

But Secretary Wilbur persisted and got naval aviation off the ground. And 20 years later, we won World War II, particularly the war in the Pacific, in large measure due to our naval aviation capability. Without Wilbur's vision and his dogged persistence in the early 1920s to fund an emerging technology, the result might have been catastrophic.

That's exactly the kind of vision I must have now to prepare the Navy after next for the challenges 20 to 30 years downstream.

Let me give you another example. Five years ago in the Gulf War, the world watched as our battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines launched highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles. Tomahawk's performance exceeded all expectations in its first operational use -- it wasn't perfect, but it was an important element in the first days of the war. The missile worked; it was ready-made. We could have stopped there, people would have said that success rates approaching 70 percent is "good enough for government work."

Navy leadership didn't believe that, and I don't believe it now. We weren't satisfied with Tomahawk's success, and the department had a vision to make a better missile. The improved Tomahawk cruise missiles launched last summer into Bosnia had a better than 90 percent success rate. We took a great product and made it even better. That's the Navy Department's standard of doing business.

Looking to the future, we have some important aircraft and ship programs in the works that indicate our commitment to the technology necessary to win the wars in the Navy after next.

One is the next generation of aircraft carrier -- the CVX. I'll emphasize that "X" -- I don't know yet what that carrier will look like. Probably the easy thing to do would be to build aircraft carriers just like we've been doing. Well, we're spending the time, money and creativity on research and development to ensure that we have the best aircraft carrier for the future.

Other platforms you'll hear a lot about: the Seawolf and new attack submarine programs. These now generation of submarines are at the leading edge of our littoral warfare strategy.

And there are more programs - all across the board of sea, air, land and special forces requirements. These are programs we will need for the challenges of the year 2015 and beyond. It's important that we invest in science and technology, that we invest in research and development to ensure that we have the right Navy and Marine Corps not just for today and tomorrow, but for the Navy and Marine Corps after next.

My third priority is efficiency.

The department is taking a hard look at what decisions we must make now, particularly in modernization and capital investment, to get us to the future with our powder dry and with a full load of beans and bullets. This is a long, multistep process, but let me cite one area where our vision for the future rests in changing the way things used to be done. That's acquisition reform.

My top research, development and acquisition leadership have a mandate that the Navy and Marine Corps must learn how to develop, build and buy systems according to the most successful industry models.

I recently hosted ... the First Annual DoN-CEO [Department of the Navy-Chief Executive Officer] conference, where our acquisition leadership met with top industry executives to map out our relationship for the future. We're breaking new ground in acquisition reform and becoming more innovative and productive in the process.

The first major acquisition reform success story is the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. It's a program where we've used a modern business approach to develop an aircraft that is on-time, on budget and underweight -- three crucial elements of the right way to buy military hardware.

I'm also very pleased about the cost-effective way we're approaching the joint strike fighter, our next generation aircraft. This program is truly joint. The Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force all need a new fighter-attack aircraft by the year 2010. If each service approached this requirement individually, the cost would be around $27 billion. By combining forces and funding this project together, 80 percent of the avionics and electronics will be common. We'll end up with an airframe unique to each service, but that can be produced for around $17 billion, saving taxpayers $10 billion in the process. It's a program that each service is committed to, and I'm pleased to say that we've engaged the United Kingdom to participate in this program as well, improving the economies of scale still further.

Recently, I moved the senior leadership of the Marine Corps into the Pentagon. For the first time in history, the commandant of the Marine Corps, his assistant and his leading staff operate in the Pentagon. Gen. Chuck Krulak's office is next to mine, just as is the CNO's [chief of naval operations], Adm. Mike Boorda. We'll be a more cohesive team and be more cost-effective as well.

These examples should tell you that there has, in fact, been a paradigm shift in the way we conduct business. We are more efficient, more innovative and more productive. Our operational strategy is aggressive and forward-looking, and the department has matched tactics with technology and equipment. These are win-win improvements. But the big winner in this dynamic approach to developing, building, buying and deploying our forces is the American taxpayer. That's a vision for the future America can take to the bank.

Frankly, this is what good government is all about. Products stamped with "Made by DoD" should have the reputation of being the best around. I really dislike the phrase "good enough for government work." That was yesterday and a standard that should have never been acceptable. I want the stamp "Made by the Navy Department" to be the positive standard to meet -- and we're going to get there.

It's been my goal for the Navy Department to be a leader in Vice President [Al] Gore's reinvention of government efforts, and I'm pleased with many of the initiatives that we've developed. The department is definitely more efficient, and I point with pride to the fact that in 1994 the Naval Air Systems Command won the Presidential Quality Award -- the highest award the president offers to recognize excellence in government.

Nowhere is our mission of reinventing government more essential than in our focus on the me and women who run our Navy-Marine Corps team. So here's my last point, but my No. 1 priority -- our people.

We have the best people serving in the Navy and Marine Corps that we've ever had. I served on active duty in the 1960s and early '70s. We had good sailors on our submarines then, but they are so much better today. They're better educated, higher quality people who are more interested in community service and being good citizens than those when I was a young naval officer.

Thirty years ago, just over 50 percent of our sailors and Marines had high school diplomas. Today, that number is over 95 percent. Their test scores are higher, they're smarter, they're better. Just last week I was in the Mediterranean visiting with men and women deployed with our ships and squadrons there. Their morale is high, they know their mission, and they're proud of what they are doing. These are tremendous men and women doing a very important job.

Don't take my word for it. I'd like to invite you to spend a day with our Navy [on] one of our aircraft carriers or other ships to see our people and how they got the job done. Or spend a day with our Marines in the field at [Marine Corps Base] Quantico [Va.] or Camp Lejeune [N.C.]. I encourage you to come see for yourself the quality people we have.

I mentioned early on that the Department of the Navy team is a warfighting organization. We prove that every day in the ways and places I've already described, and I'm very proud of our accomplishments. That said, however, on this Valentine's Day, you shouldn't believe that I think everything is hearts and roses in the Department of the Navy.

The simple and often overwhelming fact is that we are also an organization of tremendous cultural and social responsibilities. America is in an era of peace, however uneasy, and the nonwarfighting aspects of the Navy Department naturally have assumed a much more visible role. This in the area where we've been in the public eye, and for good reason. We've made some mistakes. And we'll make more.

The process of change produces a range of side effects, some desirable, others less so. By its nature, the process is imperfect. My expectation is that this change caused by moving forward will create friction, throwing off sparks and introducing heat and light to some of the dark corners of the organization. A few of these sparks have attracted a great deal of attention. They've been reported on, reviewed and discussed in the public forum. I will tell you that this is a good thing.

Just like in the rest of our great democracy, open discussion of a Navy problem brings fresh ideas and creates fertile ground for chance and improvement. It hurts me -- it hurts the entire team -- when even one individual fails to meet our demanding standards of conduct. Yet the process of review that results from our shortcomings leads to organizational introspection and corrective action.

There is certainly a price for identifying problems --embarrassment, wounded egos and self-doubt, among others -- but that's the nature of change! And the more open the forum, the better environment for organizational and public feedback. The steady give and take is the critical element in maintaining public confidence in our institution.

This process of public renewal is fundamental to the traditions of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Navy Department has hit patches of stormy water now and then throughout our history. We have, at times, endured the critical scrutiny of insiders and outsiders alike. But it has attracted that scrutiny for the simple reason that our standards are so high, that we represent, -- not just in my view, but also in the public's -- a touchstone of extraordinary integrity, character and discipline.

Now more than ever we are a Navy in transition. For more than 200 years, our combatant force was essentially all males. Beginning in 1976, we had women entering the Naval Academy and noncombatant ships. In 1993, women began serving on combatant ships. Today, we have women serving in all types of ships and aircraft.

Let me cite one example of how far we've come in the last few years. Just five years ago, we had six aircraft carriers fighting in the Gulf War. Not a single one had women embarked. Today, USS Nimitz is maintaining the peace off the coast of Kuwait with women serving in nearly every aspect on board.

But with these remarkable changes has come a change in our culture. In our past, we've done things which might then have been considered acceptable that are no longer acceptable. Indeed, we must turn the page on that part of our history.

I'll be the first to tell you not every one of our men and women absorbed the message right away -- they didn't. There are some in our service that still don't get it. And that, unfortunately, includes some of our flag and general officers and senior enlisted personnel. I liken our million-member department -- with an average age of 24 -- to a 90,000-ton aircraft carrier. We've ordered the course change and the rudder is over at right full, but we can't switch directions on a dime.

But the message is clear: The Navy and Marine Corps have zero tolerance for any behavior that threatens the dignity and respect of any individual in this department. When I say zero, that's what I mean. Behavior that doesn't conform to the high standard we've set will be identified and disciplined appropriately.

Thirty years ago, we tackled race issues. Twenty years ago, it was drug use. Now, the Navy Department sets the standard with our equal opportunity and our zero-tolerance drug-use policies.

My goal is to have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and fraternization as well. We are making significant strides in that regard. Obviously, our cultural change presents a challenge. I'm confident we will meet that challenge, and we'll meet it with honor, courage and commitment.

Although change will take time, I intend to speed the process along with some long-term, in-house remedies. For example, when you look at the behavioral problems we've had, the common element in many incidents is alcohol abuse. I've asked Mike Boorda and Chuck Krulak to take a hard look at the matter and to recommend how we can deglamorize alcohol use. I'll review those recommendations and will announce some changes in the coming weeks, with the goal of creating a healthier, safer atmosphere for our people.

I have constantly referred to the importance of our people living up to the standards which go back to the origins of our Navy, those standards set out by John Paul Jones in describing the qualifications of a naval officer. He said, ...

"It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor."

If John Paul Jones had lived in our time, I'm sure he would provide the same guidance to female officers as well.

My point is that the Navy and Marine Corps have always had a tradition of character, so our efforts at re-emphasizing the need for ethical leadership is not something new. It's our naval heritage. It's strong individual character that allows teamwork to flourish and ensures that our force is ready and capable to meet any challenge to America's interests.

If you take away anything from my remarks today, I'd like you to remember this: The Navy and Marine Corps are committed to lasting change in the way we do business. We are emphasizing our tradition of strong character and ethical behavior. This renewal of our core values of honor, courage and commitment is a crucial part of the military's self-help cycle. The Navy Department is stronger for the change. We are poised to remain the pre-eminent military force, the force of choice for the our nation's leaders, for decades to come.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you. God bless you and God bless America.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at