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Navy Secretary Calls on Industry and Government to Do More to Modernize Service

Carlos Del Toro said that partners will need to contribute more to keep the Navy ahead of adversaries.

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Carlos Del Toro said that partners will need to do contribute more to keep the Navy ahead of adversaries.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro speaks in San Francisco in October 2023. Photo Credit: Chief Petty Officer Shannon Renfroe

SAN DIEGO —On the final day of AFCEA WEST 2024, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro challenged government and industry to come together to contribute more to improve the Navy’s operations.  

Del Toro, who addressed a crowd of sailors and industry professionals, said that the Navy is making strides in modernizing its force, but said that stakeholders must do more to maintain the Navy as a modern military force.  

“We in the government will not reach our goals, nor will we succeed in our mission without you as part of our team,” Del Toro said. “We need the brainpower and the muscle of industry and academia, your expertise, your time, your resources, are vital for developing the cutting-edge technologies that we need… I also need industry to do your part, as well, to provide a proper return on investment for the American taxpayer. I need you to deliver platforms and capabilities on time and on budget without excuses.” 

Needed: More Shipbuilders

Shipbuilding and the people who build ships were a focus of Del Toro’s keynote. He said that the Navy will need 150,000 new shipbuilders over the next 10 years to maintain the Navy’s fleets. He said that that the service will need to be “relentless” in recruiting new shipbuilders from the nation’s cities and states to improve a “national asset.” 

“We’re also tackling the long-term health of American shipbuilding. This isn’t just a Navy priority. It’s a national imperative for our country. And I’m driving innovation to change our outdated shipbuilding and repair paradigms,” Del Toro said.  

He pointed to the inaugural meeting of the Government Shipbuilders Council in November 2023 which featured representatives from the departments of Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security and Commerce, as well as five government shipbuilding partners. 

“We need greater investment in our commercial and naval shipbuilding industry, if we are to build a more lethal and a bigger Navy, and we need to start that journey now,” Del Toro said.

Stay Within Budget, Deliver For Taxpayers   

Del Toro also called on industry to do a better job of delivering “platforms and capabilities on time and on budget,” while also holding itself accountable for attrition rates and executive stock buybacks.  

“Yes, COVID had negative impact on our country on the world and the supply chain. But we need to move now beyond COVID,” Del Toro told the crowd. “I need industry to make the necessary investments, significant investments, to recruit and retain your own people more effectively than you have in the past.” 

Del Toro encouraged industry partners to seek out the Navy’s innovation chambers, including the Marine Corps Innovation Unit and Distributed Capabilities Office, to find new ways to address capability gaps, but also warned that the Navy will be more aggressive in holding contractors and executives accountable for poor performance, missed deadlines and blown budgets.  

The Navy’s Innovation Enviornment

The secretary highlighted innovative technologies like the Transportable Re-Arming Mechanism, advances in modeling, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, which he said, “will allow us to reduce costs, optimize systems and improve interoperability.”  

Del Toro emphasized innovation is about “fostering an environment where the status quo is never sacred, every voice is heard, and every idea is explored. We need to empower our Sailors and Marines to think differently, to think strategically, to challenge the status quo and to really only ask, why can’t we do this better.” 

Additionally, Del Toro touted the advent of the hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned ships, which already deployed the first four unmanned ships in Japan last summer. He said the “hybrid fleet is already here,” and not a dream of the far future, seamlessly integrating into operations in the Indo-Pacific, Middle East, Caribbean and Latin America.   

“The challenges that we face are complex, demanding and are evolving… Our acquisitions and readiness are the bedrock of our national security,” Del Toro said. “We’re not just building ships, we’re forging a modern, lethal fleet— agile, adaptable, and able to meet any threat on the horizon, our logistics and our shipbuilding initiatives aren’t just about jobs or creating a technical advantage. They’re about guaranteeing a maritime force that can outmaneuver any challenge presented by any adversary around the globe.”  

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