The commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command last Wednesday berated industry for its shortfalls in delivery ordnance to the Navy and is not forgiving of excuses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues.

“I’m not as forgiving of the defense industrial base. I’m just not. I am not forgiving of the fact we’re not delivering the ordnance we need. I’m just not. All this stuff about COVID this, parts, supply chain this – I just don’t really care…I mean, we all have tough jobs,” Adm. Daryl Caudle said during a talk at the annual Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.

Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander if U.S. Fleet Forces Command, delivers remarks at the Surface Navy Association’s 35th Annual National Symposium on Jan. 11, 2023.(Photo: U.S. Navy by Capt. Dave Hecht)

“I need SM-6s delivered on time, I need Mark 48 torpedoes delivered on time. Okay, we’re talking about warfighting and national security,” he continued.

Apparently referring to China, Caudle said the U.S is “going against a competitor here. And a potential adversary that is like nothing we’ve ever seen. And we keep dilly dallying around with these deliveries. This is big money, big accounts, I don’t see good accountability. And I don’t get to see good return on investment from the government side. I really don’t.”

He added that “if you want to take me in a room and show me your sob story, I’ll be happy to hear it. But at the end of the day, I want the magazines filled,. Okay, I want the ships tubes filled., I don’t want to have to bring a strike group back so I can rob Peter to pay Paul so the next one can go.”

Caudle also underscored if the U.S. government wants to help a country like Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion, he does not want to talk about what it’s doing to him and his forces due to industry delivery capacity.

“Of course, we’re going to help a country, deliver the stuff they need so they can win that conflict against Russia. And it’s not going to destroy and send me back into the dark ages. “

Caudle added that these ordnance delivery and performance issues are “completely unsatisfying from the fleet commander, it’s just not hitting the mark.”

He said he was willing to partner with industry and help if there was something the Navy needs to do better.

Caudle said he has directed his team to look at contracting strategies and wants more transparency, accountability and insight into the delivery challenges.

He said his main issue is the Navy and its suppliers are not on pace with his core ordnance needs, which is essential to fighting and potential conflict with China.

“We’re not just on pace with this. So I’m very frustrated by it, as you can tell by what I’ve said, because it’s so essential to winning. And in my position, and for the people in the room in uniform that’s all that matters. And I can’t do that without the ordnance. That’s what we do. That’s how we actually win, okay. There’s no talking point other than that.”

This came after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday at the event also argued the Navy is not getting what they are paying for, especially on ship deliveries (Defense Daily, Jan 11).

“My message to industry would be to pick up the pace. And I know it’s easy for me to say that, but we’re paying a lot of money…and we’re not necessarily getting what we’re paying for with respect to two to three ships per year. We’re just not at that production rate,” Gilday said.

Gilday told reporters during the symposium that he is still trying to get U.S. production lines on weapons and ordnance up to their maximum level in both the FY ‘23 budget request and the upcoming budget process.

“The message that I’m trying to send there is not only am I trying to fill magazines with weapons, but I’m trying to put U.S. production lines at their maximum level right now and to try and maintain that set of headlights in subsequent budgets so that we continue to produce those weapons. It’s one thing we’ve seen in Ukraine, that I think is that the expenditure of those high end weapons in conflict could be higher than we estimate.”

Caudle told reporters after his remarks that if he wanted to push out all the mission capable ships out today he could not fill all of their magazines.

“So even though [Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander of Naval Surface Forces] is doing a great job getting that ship ready, they won’t go fully loaded out. So unless I get the loadouts of these critical ordinances.”

Caudle said his command war games a lot and they examine ordnance and weapons at high end wargames in Newport News, Va., to help inform his view of the Navy not getting enough weapons delivered now. 

“We have a deep understanding at classified levels of exactly the type of ordinance that I need. So not every missile system, not everything that I can buy in that purchase is equally weighted to winning the fights we want to win. So our industrial base knows what we need most of, for the high end fight.”

Caudle said he wants to prioritize staying on track for those most important weapon systems, but that could also mean “it may come at the expense of other types of ordnance.”