The Secretary of the Navy outlined his soon-to-be released strategic guidance for the Navy Department and its relation to China above other competitors during a speech on Tuesday evening.
“Our job is to preserve the peace by making sure the People’s Republic of China doesn’t gain military leverage over the United States, or our allies and partners. We have to make the right investments today, so that you have the right capabilities tomorrow to deter and defeat any adversary. We must act with urgency now as we rise to meet these unprecedented challenges,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said while delivering a Forrestal Lecture at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“It’s this sense of urgency that’s the driving force behind the strategic guidance that I am about to release this week for the Department of the Navy,” he continued.
While he did not name specifics, Del Toro outlined three main priorities in the strategic guidance. The first priority is “Maintaining Maritime Dominance.”
He said the U.S. has previously survived conflicts because it made the right naval investments to deter threats and “we must do the same thing now. Our security and prosperity depends on it.”
To that end, he said the new guidance will build on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s vision of integrated deterrence with an agile and ready force; Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 to modernize the expeditionary posture of that service; and implementing Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday’s Navigation Plan to expand fleet capabilities for distributed operations.
Del Toro reiterated the Navy is making “tough decisions” to make sure future officers have the “right combination and number of platforms and weapons for the full spectrum of threats tomorrow.”
He also said the department is investing in shipyards and maintenance facilities as well as technologies that directly lead to amphibious maneuverability, dominance at sea and resilient information security.
“Artificial intelligence. Cybersecurity. Unmanned platforms. Directed energy. Hypersonic weapons. Distributed power. These are the frontiers that will define your advantage against the People’s Republic of China, and it’s crucial that we field them expeditiously,” he said.
The second section of the guidance is the importance of strengthening strategic partnerships.
Del Toro also argued for the importance of working with international allies and partners.
“Indeed, the individual relationships you form with partners and allies are one of our greatest advantages over authoritarian regimes in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang.”
Del Toro talked about the importance of venues like the recent International Seapower Symposium held in Newport, R.I., last month.
“We had direct conversations, and didn’t agree on everything. But we all agreed on the importance of working together to defend the rules-based international order. Unlike China and Russia, we don’t treat allies like client states or satellites. We treat them as the partners they are,” he said.
He argued there is no substitute for the shared experience of allies working together to deter an adversary.
“Through Maritime Dominance and Strengthened Partnerships we will strengthen the fabric of our international rules based order.”
The third guidance priority Del Toro mentioned was “Empowering Our People.”
He said the Navy and Marine Corps team requires leaders with high intellectual, ethical and warfighting capabilities.
“Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the trust placed in you by your nation at all times. Act with integrity in all that you do, even when others are not watching. Be bold. Take action. Decisions you make will impact the lives entrusted to your leadership. Decisions you make will deter our adversaries. You will make mistakes. Learn from them.”
Del Toro noted the department established the U.S. Naval Community College in 2021 to expand access for sailors and Marines to learn while serving.
Del Toro also mentioned other long term threats with relation to the strategic guidance like climate change and the changing Arctic.
“Our entire world is under growing pressure from receding shorelines, extreme weather and natural resource constraints that could increase conflicts amongst nations. In the Arctic, new sea lanes are opening, with new opportunities for commerce and, unfortunately, new potential for conflict.”
He said China is seeking to exert influence in the Arctic as it calls itself a near Arctic state.
“China a near Arctic state? That’s like calling Annapolis a near Caribbean city,” he said.
Del Toro said since climate change is causing larger storms and greater disasters globally “the climate crisis is a destabilizing global force.”
“We need your leadership as the world contends with greater disasters, water scarcity, food scarcity, and more aggressive competition for resources….We must plan and prepare for its impact alongside our allies and partners. We need your analytical skill and operational foresight to ensure our warfighting capability and ability to adapt. We need you to build resilient infrastructure, and better logistics webs,” he continued.