"Most Americans associate the strength of the Navy with grey-hulled ships at sea. But the true sources of our naval power are the people and the loved ones who support them," President Donald J. Trump's nominee to serve as the next chief of naval operations told lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Navy Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today on his nomination. If confirmed, he will also advance to the rank of admiral and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Besides the sailors, Marines, civilians and their loved ones who make the Navy strong, Gilday said, the dedicated work of contractors, as well as partners in industry and academia, also is vital.
It takes highly skilled technicians to work on ships and submarines at the nation's shipyards, he said. The Navy will continue to invest heavily in its shipyards and is committed to building a 355-ship Navy, he added.
Personal relationships also matter, he told the senators, noting that he and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger have worked together in the past and will continue to do so in the future. "There's no daylight between us," he said, referring to their shared vision.
Part of that vision, he said, includes holding more exercises and wargames involving the Navy and Marine Corps, including one coming up next week in Newport, Rhode Island. These activities will better integrate the services so they can be more lethal and effective, the admiral explained.
Exercises with allies and partners also will continue, he said.
High-priority investments the Navy will make include experimenting with and fielding cyber and space capabilities, hypersonics and unmanned vehicles on the sea, under the sea or in the air, he said. "Those are some of the areas I'm most enthused about," Gilday told the Senate panel.
In partnership with industry, he said, the Navy also needs to harness the power of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning so the right decisions can be made more quickly and before adversaries have time to respond.
Gilday also addressed the Navy's culture and accountability. "Ethics is a particularly important point for me," he said, "and that begins at the top with my leadership, and it extends through all our flag officers and commanders and right down to our chief petty officers, who I consider a critical link to ensure that every day we go to work, we bring our values with us. That's especially important in combat that those values be maintained."
Regarding Iran, Gilday said he hopes State Department-led efforts will bring Iran back to the negotiating table on a nuclear deal. In the meantime, he told the panel, the focus of U.S. Central Command is to have sufficient resources in theater to protect the forces in the region and to be able to respond if necessary.
"We’ve taken great care not to be provocative against Iran in both our operations as well as our very moderate force build in the region," he added.
Concerning the protection of commercial shipping transiting the Strait of Hormuz, Gilday said it will be an 80% to 90% coalition effort, with a much smaller U.S. effort. The United States, he said, will primarily provide intelligence support to coalition partners and will escort U.S. ships.
Asked whether he considers China's naval activities in the western Pacific and Russia's submarine activities in the Arctic to be defensive or offensive in nature, Gilday replied that he sees these as offensive activities. Nonetheless, he added, the U.S. joint force maintains "a significant synergistic advantage over both of those nations' military."