Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership

Monday, May 13, 2024
US NAVY/Reuters

Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps

Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy; CFR Member

Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force

Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force

Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard; CFR Member


President, Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. military service chiefs discuss U.S. defense priorities around the world and the state of the American armed forces.

The Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership features prominent individuals from the military and intelligence communities.

FROMAN: Well, good evening, everybody, and welcome. Thank you for being here. My name is Mike Froman. I’m president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And it’s really a great honor and privilege to be here for the Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership with the U.S. service chiefs.

We have, in addition to this full room, over 350 members on Zoom. And this series—the McKeon Series—features prominent individuals from the military and intelligence communities. It’s made possible by a generous gift from Robert McKeon, founder and president of Veritas Capital. Started in 2008, and the series continues every year. We’re delighted that Clare McKeon and other friends and family are joining us on Zoom. So thank you very much to the McKeon family.

We’re really honored tonight to have General Randy George, chief of staff of the Army; General Eric Smith, commandant of the Marine Corps; Admiral Lisa Franchetti, chief of naval operations of the U.S. Navy; General David Allvin, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force; General B. Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force; and Admiral Linda Fagan, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. And I’d like to thank them for coming and maintaining this tradition, but I’d also like to thank them for their support of the Council’s Military Fellowship Program. Every year we have had five fellows plus an indelligent (ph) from the different service branches plus our intelligence fellow here at the Council for a year of study and professional development. And let me just ask our fellows, who are all in the front row here, to stand—including Dana, our intelligence fellow. (Applause.)

This fellowship was established some fifty years ago. We’ve had 150 fellows go through the program. And among them, about half have gone on to become generals or admirals, including General Goerge and General Allvin who are here onstage. And we’re also pleased to have Admiral Franchetti and Admiral Fagan as CFR members. So welcome back to the Council, all of you. Thank you for being part of this family.

Let me start, perhaps, with General Smith, if I can. The global situation—the global map is changing a great deal. We have the return of great-power politics. You’ve got this multidimensional challenge with China. You’ve got changing relationships among countries. There’s axis between China, Russia, Iran, North Korea. I mean, this is a time when fundamental elements of the strategy we’ve been operating under must be under a fair amount of stress. How have these changes affected sort of our ongoing strategy? How many wars do we need to be prepared to fight simultaneously?

SMITH: Well, I would jokingly but not jokingly say one more—(laughter)—because Russia is an opportunistic aggressor, and so if war breaks out with China you can be sure that Russia will follow. And if war breaks out with Russia, you can be sure that China will follow. So they’re both opportunistic feeders and opportunistic aggressors, and they’ll look for the seams in our—in our armor, the chinks in our armor, and they’ll work to exploit those. So not to be flippant, but one more than we think.

FROMAN: And how does it affect the planning of where you—you’ve been involved with this Force Design 2030, forward deployments. How do you plan for that?

SMITH: Yeah. For us, the force design is designed against the peer competitor of China. They are the pacing threat by the National Defense Strategy, so force design is aimed at deterring China. And we still believe that that will include all the lesser included defenses such as Russia and the DPRK. And so we believe that force design, with its modernized weapons systems and longer ranges and ability to sense and make sense of what’s happening, is useful in any theater.

FROMAN: That’s a good segue to General Allvin and China’s nuclear strategy. We see this tremendous buildup of their nuclear capability; at the same time, really, the demise of traditional arms control. I think if we have any arms control treaties that are left, they’re about to expire. What is, from the Air Force’s perspective, the future of our nuclear strategy? And do we have to have more weapons than both China and Russia combined?

ALLVIN: Well, first of all, thanks for having us here. It’s interesting, we were in the—in the green room out there and I don’t think we—all five have been together for a while even in the Tank. So it takes something like this to get us together.

FROMAN: We’re delighted to bring you together. (Laughter.) That’s pretty cool, Council serving the nation’s purpose. Yeah. (Laughter.)

ALLVIN: Yeah. So I—it’s interesting because we are definitely in some uncharted territory here because, you know, the Air Force doesn’t necessarily have a nuclear strategy all unto itself. There’s—you know, we’ve got two of the three legs, but our Navy counterparts have the other leg and we also have the NC3.

But I think it’s interesting because now that we have officially some of the shackles being taken off—even though Russia was violating them for a long time anyway—it means that we have to look at nuclear deterrence and strategic deterrence I think a little bit differently because, you know, while we’ve been trying to go back and forth with Russia and try and integrate China into some sort of strategic stability talks, their, you know, position all along has been, hey, we got to catch up to you guys first, so don’t talk to us. And so they are just in this rapid, massive buildup.

And so, you know, fundamentally, we have to maintain the capability of a safe, effective, reliable nuclear triad. And so between, you know, my Navy partner here and myself, that’s costing a good bit of coin. But it’s one of those things that’s one of the most foundational things that we have to do.

And so I think what is going to be interesting for the nation, though, for the national security apparatus, is to really get a grip on what it really means to have strategic deterrence in a tripolar-type world, where you have—as China starts to approach some sort of parity, I mean, does the old thinking still work where there was this—you know, whether evolving from mutually assured destruction or assured second-strike capability, you have to consider yourself in a world post-exchange where perhaps the one who’s been sitting it out now has an unfair advantage over the other two who have exchanged and are at somewhat of a disadvantage. And so understanding strategic deterrence in a tripolar world is fundamentally different, and that’s a national conversation. But from the military side, we just have to make sure that our capabilities are suited to the task. And that’s why quite a bit of our budget right now is going to that—

FROMAN: And do you see any role for arms control in this—in the future at all?

ALLVIN: I would love to have arms control play a role—(laughter)—because I think there’s lots of other things that the Air Force and the Navy would like to be paying attention to with respect to recapitalization and, really, meeting the threats around the globe. But right now the capabilities that we’re developing are required until we get some semblance of strategic stability.

FROMAN: Admiral Franchetti, why don’t we stay focused on China and the Indo-Pacific for a moment? There’s been a lot of evolution in the architecture around the Indo-Pacific—the AUKUS; the Quad; the trilateral relationship between Korea, Japan, and the United States; now between Japan, the United States, and the Philippines at a time when the Philippines seems to be a threat. You’ve talked about distributed fleet architecture. How are these alliances evolving in the Indo-Pacific to further allow us to extend security over the region? And what does that mean for the—for the Navy?

FRANCHETTI: Well, thank you. And again, to echo Dave, thank you very much for having us here today.

You know, a long time ago, when we first pivoted to the Pacific, you know, the Navy really began to focus, you know, in that area. It is our priority theater. And I think the thing that, you know, really distinguishes us from any of our potential adversaries is we do have allies and partners all over the world, and nowhere is that more important than in the Indo-Pacific.

And I think, you know, what I’ve seen from going to visit my partners out there, that they are really excited about U.S. leadership there. They want to partner us—partner with us. And I think all of our services are really investing heavily in developing interoperability with those partners.

And I think the other exciting piece is that you’re starting to see some of the European navies also focusing now on the Indo-Pacific. So just this—earlier this year I was at a meeting of all the carrier navies in France, and we all talked about the importance of the aircraft carrier strike group. And the navies of Italy, France, and the U.K. all plan to do Indo-Pacific deployments in the—in the coming year. So, again, I think as we leverage our relationships that we already have and we continue to build new ones in the Indo-Pacific, we will continue to develop the capabilities to deter China or any other adversary in the Indo-Pacific or around the world.

FROMAN: But don’t we have a problem that China’s got shipbuilding capacity that far outweighs ours? I mean, I read something that all of our shipbuilding capacity is done by one site in China alone. How confident are you that we can build the ships necessary to exercise that kind of influence in the region in the context of China building out this very significant naval presence?

FRANCHETTI: Well, I think it’s important to look at this in two ways. First, you know, we—every study since 2016 has said that we do need a larger Navy, but I would offer two things.

First of all, we have a Navy and we have a lot of other navies that are going to partner with us to do what it is that we need to do to deter adversaries, to deter malign behavior, and really respond to aggression if necessary.

I think the other thing is it’s not just about a number of ships, right? This is about a warfighting ecosystem. And we are going to be able to put together the ships, the aircraft, the submarines, but also knit that with the joint force partners that we have, whether it’s the Army, the Marine Corps’ force design. We got Space Force. Of course, we’re always with the Air Force. And our Coast Guard partners operate extensively in the Indo-Pacific. So you think about it as a joint warfighting ecosystem and we are all experienced with working with each other. We’re all experienced with working with allies and partners. And I think that gives us the winning edge every time.

FROMAN: I wanted to just, while we’re—while we’re talking about ships, perhaps go to the Coast Guard, Admiral. And you served on our only icebreaker in the Arctic, the Polar Star.

FAGAN: Yeah. The Polar Star is a—the nation’s only heavy icebreaker. It was commissioned in 1976. A much younger version of me, the ensign version of me, served on that ship in the ’80s. And you know, she is still sort of getting it done for the nation, primarily focused around the breakout and our support of McMurdo and Antarctica, the South Pole station.

We do have a second icebreaker as a nation, the Healy. It’s a medium icebreaker. And Healy has been operating, you know, in the Arctic, conducting science operations. Was up through the Northwest Passage this past summer, circumnavigated the North American continent, and plans to do that again. The Russians are definitely paying attention when we are up there with our surface assets and operating those ships.

The nation needs more icebreaking capacity. We’re a(n) Arctic nation. This is—it’s our national sovereignty, our rights as it pertains to our exclusive economic zone off of the coast of Alaska, and we’ve got a critical need to build the polar security cutter. The yard—there’s been a number of changeouts, but Bollinger in Mississippi is the yard that will build that for us, and we’re working to get to the level of design maturity that’s necessary to begin cutting steel. And I’m confident we’ll do that this year. The budget requirements for a ship of that size and complexity, there’s still some challenge there in front of us with regard to budget and getting that ship fielded.

I want to go to allies and partners, though. I was recently in Norway for the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. All the members of that forum are now NATO members, just to say how quickly things have changed sort of geopolitically with regard to a commitment from our allies and partners. And those are important partnerships in the Arctic. They’re equally as critical and—critical in the—in the Indo-Pacific.

And CNO talked about Navy work in the Indo-Pacific. Let me just give you a little kind of a sort of scene-set on the Coast Guard. My budget is about $12.3 billion a year. I’m 1.4 percent of the DOD—the defense budget. I am, if you look at the navies in NATO, the third-largest navy in NATO, about 55,000 people. Yet, we take those ships—everything from the national security cutters, which are frigate-like ships, to smaller patrol boats—and go to nations, meet them where they are, in that competitive space short of conflict, exercising fisheries agreements, law-enforcement agreements, and again, partnering and helping a nation create their own capacity to build their own sovereignty.

And this is our nation’s competitive advantage. Not only do these nations welcome us; we’re partners of choice. I was in Vanuatu just a few months ago. The town was buzzing because there was a white ship with a red racing stripe, and we took ship riders from Vanuatu to help them enforce their own fisheries—their own fisheries laws. They had not been able to do it in almost five years. And we helped them get out, board some Chinese fishing vessels in their exclusive economic zone. It just it’s—you know, but for some alignment and just targeted ships and people we can actually have some significant impact, whether it’s in the Arctic or in the Indo-Pacific.

FROMAN: General George, I wanted to go to NATO. Thanks to Vladimir Putin, NATO is stronger than ever. We’ve got two new members. Eighteen members are meeting their 2 percent commitment or higher. But there’s the rumblings within NATO about European strategic autonomy. Do you feel like Europe can develop its own foreign defense identity and its own defense industrial base?

GEORGE: Well, I will tell you I think that all of us have to work towards improving that. And you just look at one of the things—and I’ve been over to Europe—you start talking about is magazine depth. You know, we have and I think NATO has incredible weapons systems. I mean, we’re seeing that play out, certainly, with the U.S. weapons systems that are over there. But if you don’t have magazine depth, you don’t have bullets for all of those things, that’s a problem. So I think there is a clear recognition that there’s things that we need to do to make sure that we’re improving our capability. That’s one, I think, across NATO.

And then the other is, you know, the battlefield is changing very rapidly. I think it’s changing more in the last couple years than I’ve ever seen it. And I think that we’re all also going to have to transform our formations, and I know that’s a big thing that we’re focused on inside the Army. And there is really no place you can hide anymore on the battlefield, mainly because of the stuff that I know Salty could talk about for a very long time with space-based assets, but you know, phones, the Internet of Things. And I think that we’re going to have to change that, too. So I think that we all need to be working towards that.

I think everybody up here has talked a lot about how important our partnerships are, and we’re exercising a whole bunch with our partners that are over there. I do think that the U.S. is a key contributor to that in being a part of that over there. But I think there’s a clear recognition that there’s areas that we need to improve.

FROMAN: Do you have a sense that if the U.S. weren’t making that kind of contribution the Europeans would be able to step up on their own?

GEORGE: I think there’s a lot of countries over there that are stepping up and doing that and have recognized that. I mean, I can give several examples. I’ll be over in—you know, in Europe next month, and you just look at what Poland has purchased with HIMARS and tanks. And so I think a lot of countries—I was just over in the U.K., and it’s the—you know, it’s the same thing. So I think—again, I think there’s a recognition of what we, you know, need to do. I think the challenge—and honestly, some of this we’re challenged as well—is can we make the changes as quick as we—as we need to.

You know, can we get out in front of—you know, when I go over there, I tell everybody that, you know, the real problem—and I think the real problem for us sometimes is not necessarily product innovation, but it’s process innovation. And you know, you can’t talk about being—you know, being able to have—you know, we often talk about 2030 or beyond. You know, a lot of that is because of our process. And I think that we need to—I think we need to move much quicker.

FROMAN: I want to come back to that. But before we do, it seems like one of the challenges that many of you all face is we’re being attacked by relatively cheap weapons—drones, unmanned, certain missiles—and it’s much more expensive to shoot them down than to build new ones and fire them, this kind of asymmetric warfare. I mean, maybe General George, starting with you and then General Scott (sic; Smith), how do you think about that in the context of what’s going on in Ukraine right now and elsewhere? And how do we possibly keep up with that kind of asymmetric race?

GEORGE: Yeah. Well, I think there’s two parts of that.

One is—and what we’re doing with counter-UAS is we’re sending everything that we have, whether it’s R&D, we’re sending it out to the Middle East. And you know, I’m a believer that if you put users with developers and testers all together—that’s not how we normally do things—you can spin a lot quicker. And so we sent over, for example, directed energy or high-powered microwave, all the, you know, kinetic and non-kinetic that we’re doing that. So I do think—and that’s a process innovation. I think we have to be a little bit different in our process.

And I think by doing that, what you’re talking about we often refer to as cost curve. And I think we have to—we have to get after the cost curve. And you know, we can’t, you know, have $10,000 loitering munitions, and that might be a—you know, an expensive one, but shooting it down with, you know, 150,000 (dollars), you know, $1 million missiles. So I think we got to get on the right side of that, and that’s back what I said earlier. I think we’re going to have to move at a different pace to get after that.

FROMAN: General Smith, as you look at Ukraine, what’s going on there, what constitutes victory in Ukraine over the next year, military victory? What would you hope to see with this new package that Congress finally approved, plus the European support? And what do you think—what do you think the endgame is there militarily?

SMITH: Well, the endgame for Mr. Putin is the consumption of Ukraine, which is a nonstarter. The endgame for us is a reestablishment of the international borders with the Ukraine and Russia. And so, I mean, our will has been ironclad and our commitment’s been ironclad that we have to get a restabilized Russia-Ukraine. We can’t have, you know, Russia consuming the Ukraine. That’s a nonstarter. And so I think by continuing to support Ukraine—continuing to support them with munitions, with information—we’re hoping that Mr. Putin will think again about how much he wants to invest in retaking Ukraine, and I hope he’ll decide correctly for his own sake.

FROMAN: Are you surprised that it looks—it’s turned out to look at a lot like a World War I trench-warfare battle?

SMITH: I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I’m not pleased that it is, because it’s—if big Russia fights a little Russia, then the end is inevitable. And that’s why we have to produce the technology and provide the technology to Ukraine to outwit the Russian maelstrom. And I think we’re doing that, and I think we’ve proven successful thus far in doing that.

FROMAN: General Saltzman, it’s the fifth-year anniversary of Space Force. Everyone’s quite intrigued. We’ve just launched or we’re in the process of launching a task force on space policy focusing on low Earth orbit and setting rules of the road for low Earth orbit activity. What would you say the major accomplishments are of Space Force so far?

SALTZMAN: In a word, it’s that I’m sitting here amongst these teammates. (Laughter.) I mean, elevating space to a service-level set of responsibilities is a huge step forward.

Let me add that you guys are hearing a Tank session. You should be proud of it. I’m telling you, these are exactly the discussions that go on in the Tank: force design, prioritization, posture around the globe, the friction points created when you don’t have enough resources. Those are the discussions that play out amongst the service chiefs across the board every Friday. And so, first, be proud of that.

Second, I’ll kind of wrap it together because I feel like the elevation of the Space Force to a service has given us an opportunity to think about, first, a continuation under contested circumstances of the capabilities that we have provided to the joint force for years, decades even: missile warning, position navigation and timing, satellite communications. These are—these are enablers that we really can’t take out of the joint force. The joint force has been built—the entire force design has been built around those capabilities. And the reason you have a Space Force is because there are competitors who realize those advantages, and want to take them away, and are investing heavily in counter-satellite, counter-space capabilities designed specifically to deny the U.S. that advantage.

But probably even more concerning is, especially in the Western Pacific, the PRC has built a long-range kill chain that is a space-enabled targeting system. It is robust. It is accurate. It is deadly. And the Space Force knows that if we can’t somehow disrupt/deny/degrade that, all of our forces are going to struggle in all of the domains to meet our military objectives. And so I think what you’re hearing is a commitment to partnership because we know that’s the only way to succeed. We know that each—individually our forces, our services, our capabilities are inadequate to the global tasks that we’ve been presented. And if we can’t work together both technically, operationally, doctrinally—if we can’t work together, then we’re in a world of hurt. And I think that’s what we’re committed to, and that includes commercial partners, that includes our allies and other international partners. It’s all a part of the formula that’s going to make us successful.

FROMAN: General George, let me go back to something you raised about procurement and being agile. The Pentagon gets often criticized for having these long procurement lead cycles, and focusing on hardware and systems and—while technology continues to leap ahead, particularly in the—in the private sector. We had Doug Beck here from Defense Innovation Unit and Steve Bowsher from In-Q-Tel the other day. What can the services do to more quickly adopt emerging technology and deploy it at scale? Or are the bureaucratic and congressional obstacles so great that despite these good efforts nothing’s going to get done? And by the way, you’re all welcome to comment on this. (Laughter.) It’s not just—it’s not just the Army.

GEORGE: Yeah. I’m sure we would all have comments on this one. But—and the PPBE just came out and there was, you know, a long study on it, so if you need something to help you go to sleep at night. But there’s a long study on that.

But if you look at what’s happening in—and there’s several examples around the world, but what’s happening, for example, in Ukraine is that things are changing between three weeks and three months and five months, and they’re adapting that quick. So some of this is how, you know, we build things to make sure that we are—we have modular, open-system architecture that we can update, you know, very quickly. But we also need to have the ability, I think, to have flexible funding so that we can actually buy that same model. And it’s a lot of small companies that are out there doing things. So one of the things that we’ve been talking a lot about and through our hearings is that we would have the ability through—for UAS, for counter-UAS, and for EW is that we would have portfolios, and that we would, you know, have the flexibility to inside there buy what is the best that’s out on the market and move, you know, quickly from, let’s say, research and development to actually buying systems.

That’s also very important to us because we had—for six, seven months this year we had a continuing resolution. We couldn’t do new starts. You know, we couldn’t buy anything else. And you know, that was the time when we were going through, you know, some of the—in the Middle East with counter-UAS.

So I do think that we need some process change along that. There’s probably other examples that we do. But I think that that would help us get us started.

FROMAN: Admiral, then General.

FRANCHETTI: Yeah. Just to piggyback on that, too, I also think it’s, you know, making sure that we’re reaching out into the innovation base, and helping them understand what our problems are, and how they can help solve them. So we stood up a couple of years ago an unmanned task force out in the Middle East, you know, were able to bring a lot of different commercial companies out to bring their wares and test them out in that environment, working side by side with our operators to get after what it was we needed to do—in that sense, mostly looking at maritime domain awareness and then building a mesh network that could bring in everything that they were seeing, and you had one common operational picture. So the unmanned could do that kind of a little bit boring work, and then you could send a manned asset out there when you saw something anomalous.

You know, we were able to take that spirit and put it into a Disruptive Capabilities Office that we stood up last fall, which is really, again, going after these niche capabilities that we can deliver to the hands of the warfighter in the next two years by taking that kind of spiral development approach, and then get them contracted, and get them out to the warfighter. So we’re really excited about that. And it’s really a pathmaker, we think, for other types of procurement like that in the future.

FROMAN: General Allvin?

ALLVIN: I’ll just piggyback, really, on what Lisa said because she was—I think really has it right. You know, we talk about, you know, the famous/infamous Valley of Death, where that’s where things go to die; you have these great ideas, and then they’re stuck in the Valley of Death, to get them across. But sometimes you really need someone on the other side of the valley yelling for it. Because right now it’s like, hey, I got a good idea; well, if no one actually is asking for it on the other side, then perhaps it not relevant. Or, to Lisa’s point, perhaps we aren’t talking about what we need or the problem we want to solve.

See, what we’ve sort of been used to over the past, you know, couple decades is telling industry what we want, like specifics: I want this. I want that. I want that—when we don’t have full appreciation of that innovation eco-space, of sort of the VC market, of what’s out there in entrepreneurials, everything that’s going on. And so we still have a habit pattern within the bureaucracy—this is the process innovation, what we need as well—of saying this is exactly what I need, go build it to spec. And then we get that precise thing and it’s precisely out of date because it’s—the technology has moved on; rather than this is my force design, this is what I think I’m going to need to do in the future, what do you have, and then let industry tell us how they can solve our problem. But precision as much as we can in describing the challenge, not in describing the product. So I think there’s a bit of communication that goes back and forth that we could improve on on our part as well.

SMITH: I’ll go out on a limb here. I only have one testimony to go—I’m three down, one to go—so I’ll echo what my counterpart Randy George said about on-time, predictable funding. You can’t go half a year without a confirmed budget and then spend it all in the second half of the year. That creates waste, creates inefficiencies, and it’s not a way to run a railroad. And you know, again, I’ll—I’ve got the SASC to go, so I’m sure I’ll hear about this comment, but—(laughter)—

FROMAN: Non-attribution, right? We’re Chatham House rules here.

SMITH: But you can’t be a superpower when you can’t follow your own rules.

SALTZMAN: Well, let’s stitch some of that together because, like Dave was saying, you come up with an idea and you say, I think this would be valuable, but if you can’t see a path to fielding it and scaling it then you go, well, is it worth investing the first few dollars to get started on the program. But let’s say you think there is a way to do that. Then you have to test it. You have to put a payload on orbit in my case. You have to define the requirements. You have to convince the people that are giving you money that this is worthy of your time, energy, and resources. And then everybody says, yep, it’s a great idea; now you’re two years away from money. And then, like Dave said, now the technology has changed, your requirements have changed, the security environment has changed. And you go back and you say, well, hold on, maybe we can just modify these requirements. And then you get into this requirements slip, and then that starts to erode the advocacy for your resources, and you’re in the Valley of Death.

So there’s a—there’s a piece of this that’s process. It’s internal. It’s planning. It’s the right kind of advocacy. But in the end, it’s just really hard to bring these good ideas to the field, and you got to work at it over and over and over again.

FAGAN: Well, there’s defense industrial base piece to this, too, right, with regard to, you know, without timely budget—the need to invest. I’m just thinking about some of the big shipbuilding program the Coast Guard’s got, Navy’s got, right? They need to make capital investments in those yards, and then they got to hire a workforce, and they need to know that the money is going to flow so that they can continue those investments. And you know, when you have uncertainty and it whipsaws that aspect of the industry, it just, again, makes it—takes longer, costs more money, and there’s significant inefficiency there.

And I—you know, I would say—and I mentioned workforce in the context of industrial base—workforce and talent and access to talent is one of the major challenges in front of not just the military; every employer out there, right? We’re all in this race for talent. And so money matters, because you need to hire that talent and invest in it. But creating and exciting young people to service, and to serve in any one of these uniforms or to serve in our industrial base or to serve in our government, is really a challenge that’s here with us now as a nation and probably, you know, merits some more direct thinking and, you know, encouragement. Because it—you know, it is honorable to serve. It’s honorable to support the nation. But it’s been a—it is—it’s been a challenge. COVID definitely impacted some of it, but I joke, right, young people have feelings about work, and it doesn’t include work always, so. (Laughter.)

FROMAN: That’s half the problem.

FAGAN: (Laughs.)

FROMAN: That is, in fact, the question I wanted to go to next, because there’s been a lot written about the recruitment challenges that the armed—I think—if I’m not wrong, I think the Marines are the only one who actually hit their goal this year. Space did too? All right. (Laughter.) I stand corrected.

FRANCHETTI: Isn’t it small?


FRANCHETTI: Very small.

FROMAN: I stand corrected. (Laughter.) Create a little competition.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

FROMAN: So I don’t know, General Smith, what’s the secret? Do you have any advice for your colleagues here about how to hit their goals?

SMITH: Well, I would not offer advice to my—to my compadres. (Laughter.) The way we make our recruiting is we’re not selling anything; we’re challenging you to become a United States Marine. And if you can meet that challenge, then you earn the title. If you can’t, you go home. That’s it. We didn’t—you know, the whole we didn’t promise you a rose garden. We were offering an opportunity to become a United States Marine and earn that title. And we invest heavily in our recruiting environment. We reward our recruiters when they successfully complete their mission and we relieve them when they don’t. We hold them accountable. And my own son’s a recruiter, and he knows if he doesn’t make his mission—(laughter)—he will be—

FROMAN: He’s not getting—he’s not getting Thanksgiving dinner. (Laughter.) In fact, you pointed to an interesting history, that people talk about how the armed services are kind of a family business, and about a third of those in the armed services had a—were a child of somebody in the armed service or a close family member. How do we expand the pool? I mean, you’ve got—you’ve got issues of obesity and physical fitness. You’ve got, as Admiral Fagan said, people who may not want to work for work.

FAGAN: Yeah. (Laughs.)

FROMAN: What’s the trick here, General George?

GEORGE: Yeah. I mean, one of the—one of the things that we got started here probably about a year-and-a-half ago was the Future Soldier Prep Course down at Fort Jackson, and it’s great. There are people that want to serve. They need to lose a little weight or something like that, and then they come, and we have had about 18,000 that have gone through there. And we have a different recruiting—you know, for us, we have to—we’re recruiting, you know, 60,000 people a year, so significantly higher.

But we have found, you know, two things. One, we got to get the message out to everybody. I enlisted right out of high school. I had somebody talk to me about it, just how important service is, and make sure that we’re advertising. And I think we took—you know, we can do better with that, because we’re very closed since 9/11 and there’s a lot of people that don’t know. And I think we’re working to get the word out.

And then the Future Soldier Prep Course is helping us bring people to our standard. We have not adjusted our standard; that we have helped people meet our standard. And I think that’s where we’re going to need to go in the future.


FRANCHETTI: Can I just offer that—oh.

ALLVIN: Go ahead.

FRANCHETTI: I would just offer also, you know, to Randy’s point, I mean, there’s talent in every ZIP code in America, right? And how are we getting out to every ZIP code in America? Because, you know, over time, since I’ve been in, you know, a lot of base reductions have occurred. A lot of folks don’t have contact with the military anymore. So it’s sort of all of our responsibility to find, you know, how do we get out and talk to folks that don’t know anything about us? You know, oftentimes we talk within our own sphere. We talk within the Navy League, or we go and do all those visits, or we have a fleet week. Well, that’s not going to reach someone in North Dakota. So, you know, what is the process that we can, you know, help get our sailors out there—or all of our folks—and tell their stories? Because, really, they sell themselves. So we can do it on social media. We can do it in person. But it’s not just reaching the sailors; it’s also influence—it’s reaching the people who influence them and their decisions—their parents, their coaches, their church leaders. You know, how do we go and talk to them about the value of service to try to increase the propensity?

You know, we’ve got a lot of STEM programs out there. There’s a lot of things. It’s a(n) all-hands-on-deck effort, I think, to talk more about the value of service, really a call to national service both for—as, you know, commandant talked about, whether you want to work in the defense industry or you want to serve in the military, we need you. We need all of you. So sign up. We’re hiring.

ALLVIN: I’ll sign up. (Laughter.)

OK. So I think one thing that Eric didn’t say, maybe because he’s humble, but I think the other thing that Marine Corps does better than others is they value recruiting. I think the—per capita the number of general officers who have been recruiters in the Marine Corps is far and away above the rest of us. So that says something as well, that you value—you show your value in that, and that continues that perpetuation, and I think that’s part of it.

You know, we in the Air Force, we—last year we did not make our goal. This year we will. So we see it, you know, like, you get in front of committees and it’s a crisis. We don’t see it as a crisis. It did cause us to do some introspection on some of the policies that we had that were not necessarily elevating standards, to Randy’s point; they were just policies that we had because we sort of could. Air Force hadn’t had a traditional problem in recruiting for a long time. And so we took a closer look at those, and really just internally figured out some of the things that we could be doing. We’re back up on step.

But I think what we’re all getting here is a longer-term thing. It’s not just about, hey, letting people know there’s some incentives here, incentives there. My own theory—and it’s worth every penny you pay for it—is I do believe that right now there’s an untapped potential. And it is about, to Lisa’s point, getting out there and communicating with the young Americans. Because I think right now, let’s face it, we’re in a distracted country. We’re in places where there are domestic issues, and you could talk about that as long as the night is here.

But at some point there are still Americans who are raising their right hand, and you have to ask yourself why. My theory is that part of it is they sense some of that, man, maybe the country’s not in the best spot, you know, but you know what? They hope that there’s something better out there. And when they raise their right hand, I think that’s what they’re looking for. And so I think we need to make sure that when we recruit them, we recruit them in a way that says, you know, how would you—how would you like to be on a winning team? Sort of Eric’s point about if you think you got it, then—if you think you can make this team, then give it a short and we’ll—we will support you then. But it’s not so much that we’re going to bring you in and we’re going to coddle you, but we are going to give you something that is purpose-filled work, something where you can—you can find that there’s something just beyond you. That is something, I think, that is—that goes from generation to generation. I think we need to tap into that. And then, when they come into our formation, if we don’t give them that, then we’ll have lost them for life. Because I think if you’re—if you’re looking for somewhere else—or, something else, a little bit different value proposition, and you come into the service and it’s all, you know, coddling and taking care of rather than helping you to build strong, you know, relationships and horizontal accountability and that sort of stuff, if we don’t do that, then they’ll think maybe this is all—(inaudible).

So we have a great opportunity, I think. It’s just getting out there and having the value proposition beyond just, hey, this is the pay and these are the benefits, I think.

FROMAN: One last question before I open it up to the—to the audience, and that’s around climate change. Let me start with our admirals. It’s opened up a whole new field of operation for you in the Arctic, I suppose, but are you worried about rising sea levels? What is the risk posed to our bases? And for those that are more landlubbers or space dwellers, how do you think about the impact of climate change in terms of creating conflict and migration and political instability in sensitive parts of the world?

FAGAN: Yeah. So, I mean, climate change is here now. In, you know, the maritime services, right, you’ve got to put people on ships, and those ships are right there at the edge of the sea and land, which puts you onto bases where you’re likely to be impacted by sea level rise. And certainly, as we rebuild and repair stations and units that have impacts from hurricanes, we’re doing that in a way that’s climate-informed, much more resilient so that they can—they can sustain those kinds of winds and waters.

What the reality is, that there’s changing patterns now. And I’ll talk to the Arctic a little bit. The sea temperature rise, which, you know, is—we can—you can look at different oceans; they’re different levels. But the fish know that they like a certain temperature of water, and they don’t really care where our boundaries are and the, you know, established order, and will follow the cooler temperatures. And so if any of you have watched the Deadliest Catch, right, and you see that fleet of Alaska boats, they’re based out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and they’re operating much further north now. The fish have moved north. The crab collapse in Alaska a couple years ago, right—they just—it disappeared, and they think that was their food source basically died off, and the crab as a result die off. You also see people—cruise ships and other activity, again, in the Arctic, where the shorter seasons have—it starts earlier and it goes later in the year where you’re encountering less ice, it allows people for tourism and exploration, just a lot of use. And so those changing patterns are with us now and will, you know, create both challenge and opportunity with regard to ensuring that we’re continuing to protect safety of life at sea, and that you’ve got the right environmental protections in place.

But that is very much with us now. And you know, again, I’d mentioned illegal fishing. That challenges some of that behavior, truly a global challenge as—you know, as climate—and the fish, like I say, they follow the water wherever they want to go with the temperatures.

FROMAN: Admiral Franchetti?

FRANCHETTI: I would just add two things very quickly.

You know, one is we need infrastructure resiliency. You know, certainly all of our bases are—you know, the majority of our bases are coastal, and you know, we need to make sure that we are preparing, investing, and we have a prioritized work plan to get after the biggest challenges first, and—but make sure that we’re going to continue to invest in our infrastructure—which is not historically always our first priority, but we really do need to do it because we’ve got to be able to generate that force every day.

I think the other part, you know, you’re certainly seeing a lot of natural disasters. I know they ebb and flow, but certainly Navy and Marine Corps team, you know, we do train to be ready to respond to those. We’re always operating forward. So whether it’s a volcanic eruption last year or, you know, earthquakes in Turkey, or another tsunami, you know, these are things that our forces are already out there ready to respond should they be called. And I think that’s a really important mission that we can do because you’ve got to get there in the first forty-eight to seventy-two hours to really be able to render that immediate assistance.


Let me open it up. Let’s start here in Washington. Just a reminder, it’s—this meeting is on the record. I probably should have told you that beforehand. (Laughter.)


FROMAN: Oops. My bad. (Laughter.)

Yes, Bob Hormats.

Q: I’m Bob Bestani.

FROMAN: Oh, OK. (Laughter.) We’ll take the other Bob. Go ahead.

Q: My name is Bob Bestani. I teach at Georgetown University.

And I teach a course on the geopolitics of technology. And in that context, I’m seeing more and more about Project—program—Overmatch. There’s a fair amount of money coming into it, but certainly not a lot of money. So curious as to—I mean, you are involved in that—curious as to your perspective on that and how you see the future of that going forward.

FRANCHETTI: Yeah, I think, you know, each one of our services are working on different processes for communication and resilient communications, and the Navy has Project Overmatch where we’re really looking at designing different communications architectures that can be independent of satellites, that can be used organic sensing to be able to do that, and basically create a pathway that a message can go through any one of the different networks, depending on which one is most available at the time. And so that’s that resiliency, you know, that we really need to see.

And again, working with all of the services because we know that we need to be able to talk with each other to be able to put that end in together. And Project Overmatch has deployed a couple of different capabilities on two different carrier strike groups, and we look forward to continuing that in the future.

SALTZMAN: Don’t give up on your satellites yet. (Laughter.)

FRANCHETTI: Yeah, we never give up on our satellites.

SALTZMAN: We’re investing heavily to create more resilient architectures. You see what Starlink was able to do in a contested environment over Ukraine, proved to be very resilient, and then secondly proved that commercial augmentation can support military objectives. We’re taking those lessons to heart.

We’ve also developed a proliferated constellation. We’re in the process of putting it on orbit over the next few years. It will create a data layer that’s far more resilient to attack, and so I think recognizing the dependencies, recognizing how critical it is, we are investing heavily to make sure we are resilient enough to fend that off.

FROMAN: OK, I’ll now go to Bob Hormats, who I—a great public servant, former undersecretary of state.

Q: Well, thank you very much for terrific presentations.

I was interested in a comment that Secretary Austin has been making about what he calls national defense strategy of integrated deterrence. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit on what this means and what we can project in terms of how this is going to evolve, and a related point is the Chinese are building not only bases, but building friendly ports, shall we say, in various parts of the world, and how much of those do you see coming—not just on the little islands, but Sri Lanka and various other parts of the world? How much of a threat do you see that being, and how is it going to evolve in terms of the way we structure the Navy and structure our assets?

ALLVIN: I’ll start with the first with integrated deterrence, and you can talk about the rest. I think it’s interesting because, like anything I’ve been a part of, or helping to write, or being—staffing defense strategies for a long time. And when this came out—this concept of integrated deterrence, it’s interesting because you always found somebody’s going to pooh-pooh it—oh, it’s integrated deterrence—and then—and this is the quote that sort of bugged me the most, and you’ll hear, well, integrated deterrence failed because Russia invaded Ukraine.

And to me, that represents a—not a fully informed understanding of just what deterrence is on a strategic scale. I mean, the idea that you think you are going to be able to deter all bad actors from doing all bad acts is—it’s folly. But when you think about what integrated deterrence means, it’s not only integrated, you know, across the Joint Force, or between the Joint Force and the Interagency, which is where I was first most focusing on to make sure we’re all doing the same things, and we’re simpatico, and we are, you know, collectively going after the same thing across the government.

But I think the one thing that was maybe underappreciated was the level of a little bit of risk-taking having to do with sharing information or lit that we perhaps would not have done so before. Imagine what that may have done had we not been able to shore up the NATO nations ahead of time. They might have fractured; it might have gone somewhat differently.

So I think in the area of Russia-Ukraine, there is some level to show that integrated deterrence can work. And I think there is—that is a bit underappreciated. But I think it’s—the name itself might have been new, but the concept is not novel if you want to have deterrence. Militaries don’t deter all on their own. Entire nations deter other actors from doing things. And so I think it was just drawing attention to the fact that it’s got to happen not only across the Joint Force, within the Interagency, but also with the allies and partners. And sort of bringing that to fore is one of those that sort of accentuates the need for deterrence to be at like-minded nations against, you know, others who might do harm to the values and interests of those nations.

So I think that’s on integrated deterrence. If you all want to talk about anything else with the second part of the question, which had to do with Chinese expansion ports and basing in ports across the globe, I don’t know—

FRANCHETTI: Well, certainly, I mean, China, you know, they’ve had an aggressive approach through, you know, their Belt and Road Initiative to really get tentacles in, you know, all over the world; to be able to have commercial ports—investment in commercial ports, you know. And I think, you know, one of the things you were talking about, using all the instruments of national power, I mean, a lot of the times the nation becomes heavily indebted to China, China brings its own workers. It’s not what they bargained for. And I think the more we can do with our State Department colleagues, with Department of Commerce, you know, the military engagements to continue to advise folks on, you know, hey, this is what it really looks like—many of them are finding that it wasn’t the best investment.

So we are concerned. We are monitoring where China is investing in those ports, and all of their dual-use installations all around the world. Again, we need to just continue to be eyes wide open about those investments they are making and not be afraid to talk to our partners and our allies about them.

FROMAN: Great.

SMITH: Yeah, it’s a debt trap. I mean, it’s—we’ll loan you fifty bucks, it’s a loan shark deal. I mean, I hate to say that in the flippant way that it came across, but it’s a loan shark deal. I’ll loan you $50 million, and then you’re going to owe me $250 million. You can’t pay it, so I’ll let you repay me by basing and access.

FRANCHETTI: For a hundred years.

SMITH: For a hundred years. And so this goes to, you know, the primacy of the U.S. budget, and much of it needs to go to the State Department because if we’re not there, China will be there. And so I would advocate for a larger State Department budget.

FROMAN: Barbara Slavin.

Q: Hi, Barbara Slavin from the Stimson Center. Thank you all for your service.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about what’s going on in the Middle East. I’d love to have your views about how Israel is fighting the war in Gaza, whether you think it is using appropriate measures. I’d like your views on how successful the U.S. has been at preventing an expansion of the war through deterring attacks by members of the Axis of Resistance dealing with the Houthis and so on, and finally, if you could talk about the pros and cons of a closer relationship—military relationship with Saudi Arabia. Thank you very much—small question.

FROMAN: Who to ask? Who wants to start?

SMITH: I’ll start.

FROMAN: General Smith.

SMITH: You know, without getting ahead of the administration, I mean, when Israel was attacked, Israel responded. And did they respond appropriately? Well, that’s a question for history. But when you are attacked, you respond. And they were attacked. And, you know, we can second-guess and armchair quarterback all we want, but they were attacked, and it was their version of a 9/11. And you look at—our response to 9/11 was fairly robust, and Israel’s response was fairly robust. I guess I’ll just leave it at that.

ALLVIN: I’ll tackle the second one really quickly, about our response—keeping it from—in the Middle East—from actually boiling over. I think that’s been actually a success of good treatment of allies and partners in the region. There’s—I mean, each nation has its own decision to make, but the trust of being a reliable partner that we built throughout the region, I believe—and I can speak on the Air Force’s side of it—just really, really proud of Lieutenant General Grynkewich, who was the AFCENT commander at the time, who spent a lot of his time reassuring and making sure those who might not necessarily talk to each other—sort of served as an interlocutor, and there’s—a lot of that went into what turned out to be a fairly—having a quite successful response to the salvo that Iran tried to—because had that succeeded, that might have definitely blown the top off, but it didn’t. And I think that—there is so much that went on behind the scenes. Actually, the orchestration of the actual event was remarkable, and again—

FROMAN: Feel free to tell us more about that, if you like. Why—

ALLVIN: That’s about it—remarkable. (Laughter.)

But I will tell you, because at a higher classification level, there were some intricacies of those sort of things that happened across the Joint Force and across the willing partners. But I’ll tell you, it was mostly due to the work, the coordination that was done ahead of time, and I think that was something that the history books may or may not record, but this is the dog that didn’t necessarily bark, at least in the Middle of April—we should be very, very proud.

FRANCHETTI: I’d just offer, also, that, you know, if you think back to October, you know, our job is to provide lots of options to the decision makers, you know, and we had an aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the Ford; you know, we had Bataan ARG/MEU in the Middle East, in the—more towards the Gulf of Oman.

We also had another carrier deploying from Norfolk right about the same time so, you know, we were able to provide that deterrent power there in the Middle East, you know, to deter any additional mine activity in the north, to deter an expansion of the conflict beyond Gaza. And again, the military provided those options and made them available.

I think now if you look in the Red Sea, through Operation Prosperity Guardian, you know, which has built up over twenty nations, really standing firm for the rules-based international order, which is what you see being threatened right now there. A choke point, commerce—we need to stand up for that rules-based international order wherever it’s threatened, and you see those nations doing that through Prosperity Guardian under U.S. leadership.

You also see the EU stood up Operation—they have ASPIDES there, which is another commerce escort mission in the Red Sea. So again, I think our job is to provide those options, and I think it has been really important to have that international connection and support for these operations to keep that rules-based international order firm so it doesn’t get threatened somewhere else.

FROMAN: Would one of you—would one of you like to comment on Saudi Arabia on defense cooperation?

ALLVIN: Salty has a Ph.D. in Saudi Arabian—(laughter)—doesn’t he?

FROMAN: OK. Next question. (Laughter.)

Let me do someone in the back if I can. All the way back there, yeah. Gentleman, finger up in the air. There we go. Microphone coming to you.

Q: Jim Jeffrey, Wilson Center.

I’m going to follow-up on, Mike, Hormats’ question on integrated deterrence. The White House liked it so much when they published after the National Military Strategy, the National Security Strategy, they made it the centerpiece, too. My question is, is there, at the national level, the kind of rigorous plans and planning processes to implement integrated deterrence in the way that you understand planning and plans in the Defense Department? Essentially, is there an Interagency J5?

ALLVIN: Thanks, Jim—good to see you again. And of course, the answer—Jim knows that—is actually no. (Laughter.) But it is an aspiration. I mean, the idea of—of course, being a former J5 guy myself, the idea that one would have very integrated planning—but even in the—like on the joint context, we all have enough in common that we have a good starting point. But when you look at all of the different stakeholders across the government, it just becomes that much more complex.

I will tell you, though, Jim, if we actually could do that, we would be so far ahead. It’s just a matter of sometimes—my personal opinion is clash of cultures, and background, and stakeholders, and contexts that don’t always come at the problem from the same direction that makes this so challenging. But, oh, if we could do that.

FRANCHETTI: If I could just offer, though, one example. I think it’s important to think about the information and the—kind of the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because, honestly, I think there was very good interagency cooperation—also a former J5—you know, as we looked at how do we leverage the different instruments of national power, how do we use information sharing and declassification to tell our allies and partners what’s going on so we can have a unified, synchronized response. And I think if you look back to the response, you know, of not only our nation, but nations around the world, there was a very integrated response when Russia invaded Ukraine. And I think it’s important to remember that there might not be, by name, an Interagency J5. I think the effect was achieved.

SALTZMAN: And maybe from a national security standpoint the National Security Council tries to play a role in putting the mechanisms together so that we do pull together the Interagency Department of Defense to make sure we’re at least considering all the various factors.

Even inside the Department of Defense, when we build an O plan, it takes years before it’s approved, so the idea that you could then pull together multiple agencies to come up with a consolidated, coordinated, synchronized plan, that’s a pretty tall order. But I think issue by issue, at least the Security Council is trying to take that into account.

FROMAN: We’re going to take the next question from our virtual audience.

OPERATOR: We will take our next question from Rick Rona.

Q: Good evening, y’all. Rick Rona (sp). I’m a retired Army officer residing in Yorba (ph), Colorado.

Three factors that undergird my question. The first was the comments by General Smith at the beginning that we need to be ready for one more conflict than we think, which I would assume has a capacity component in addition to a capability component.

A second factor is the recruitment discussion that you all had earlier. Even though some of the services are going to be making their mission, I think all could probably agree that we don’t have an ideal recruitment environment for any of the services.

And then the third factor is the advancement of the equality of opportunity for women within the services, as is aptly demonstrated by two of our leaders on the stage being women.

My question is, from your perspectives—and not political perspectives, but DOTMLPF perspectives, readiness and sustained operations, should American women be required to register for selective service? And if not, is selective service really a dead letter?

FROMAN: That’s a long windup. (Laughter.) All right. That’s not where I thought you were going, but—(laughter)—who would like to take that one? (Laugher.) Don’t all—don’t all jump in at once.

GEORGE: I’ll take the—

FROMAN: Yeah, General George.

GEORGE: —take the first swing at this.

I mean, first—and this gets back to the recruitment, so I’m going to take a circuitous route to come back to it, but, you know, we have women serving in every branch in our—inside the Army, and every combat branch, and everything else. And so, you know, it’s 51 percent of the population. And so, for us, we are actively trying to get, you know, more women into our formation, and then also, like you are seeing up here, make sure that they are coming up through the ranks, and we’re putting them in position to do this. And this is just about, you know, capability to do the job. So I think that that’s what we’re focused on—I know that’s what we’re focused on inside the Army is making sure we’re out there recruiting, and pulling them in, and going to the right events, and telling them how they can advance in our military.

I think that the—you know, as far as the—you know, we do need to think if—you know, we have had to mobilize in the past, and it is a significant amount of people that you may have to mobilize if an event would have to happen, and I do think it’s something that we should at least consider. And I know that’s definitely a political conversation but, you know, we’ll take as many into our formation, obviously, that meet our standard and are ready to do the jobs that we have for them.

FRANCHETTI: I would just say, like, as a witness to the history, right, when we joined there was a lot of things we couldn’t do and, you know, thanks to changes in law, you know, policy, and also culture, you know, there really isn’t anything that people can’t do in any of our services. So the opportunities are really endless and, you know, it’s great to have been, you know, kind of a part of that history and watching that go along, but you know it’s a natural evolution, right? It takes thirty-eight years to grow a service chief—thirty-seven years for some of you—(laughter)—you know, but that’s really how long it took for us to get up here. So, you know, it’s a long time but a lot of great experiences along the way. And, you know, I’m really excited about, you know, if you can see it, you can be it. There’s a lot of people that can see it and, you know, they’re going for it, so pretty exciting for our military.

FAGAN: We’ve been doing a lot of work around transforming the talent management system, and I—there are rules, I think—General Allvin mentioned, right—rules in place that have just been there forever. And we had the luxury of having those rules in place, we had plenty of people, plenty of recruiting. But some of them do—they serve as a barrier for people who see themselves joining, see themselves staying. And so we’re—you know, we’re working at unpacking some of the rigidity in the system, like, if you see yourself serving—whoever you are, wherever you are—and you meet the standard, we should make it easy for you to join, easy to serve, and easy to stay.

And I think one of the areas we’ve got some work to do is we also need to make it easier for you to come back and forth between the services and in and out of industry. You take cyber as a, you know, kind of emerging field. We’ve stood up—all of us, I think, have cyber elements. You know, the innovation and the pressing edge is being done with industry; we’ve got the national technical means, right? And so a nice revolving door of people so that it is easy to serve for a couple of years, then you can grow your ponytail back—(laughter)—and you go out—back out to industry.

But some—

FROMAN: Not everybody. (Laughter.)

FAGAN: Obviously not everybody.

But, you know, helping young people, you know, basically eliminating barriers into the service because there is just nothing but opportunity for those that see themselves serving.

FROMAN: That’s great. This woman—yeah, wave your hand. Thank you.

Q: Hi, my name is Christine Widstrom, and I’m the Women, Peace and Security advisor for the Department of the Navy.

So since that last question came, I can’t help but ask two things: it’s one thing to get women into the military—both optionally or requiring them to—but what is being done to retain them in the Navy and make—I’m sorry. I keep saying Navy because I work for the Department of the Navy.

FROMAN: That’s fine. (Laughter.)

Q: The military in general—I’m so sorry to the rest of you. What is being done to create an environment which they actually want to stay and see a place for themselves? And then, also, you’ve talked a lot about, you know, there’s talent in every zip code, about, you know, providing options. So I’m wondering if you see women as being able to offer some unique perspectives that might not already be in the military because it has been so male dominated. So if you see the inclusion of women more, moving us in like a more robust understanding of those.

FROMAN: Is there somebody you want to direct that to in particular? One of the chiefs?

Q: Anyone can answer that who feels like it.

SMITH: I’ll take a swing at the first part of it. For example, with the Marine Corps I instituted a policy that—we have a significant number of dual-service active duty. I can’t tell you why, but we do. They meet at the bases school, get married, and so it takes me to separate them. So it takes me—they’d have to come to me because we were sending, you know—the female Marine was a pilot, and she was going to flight school, and the male Marine was an intelligence officer, and he was going to Dam Neck. And after their initial schooling—which I don’t control—then they’re going—both going to Camp Lejeune, or they’re both going to Camp Pendleton, or they’re both going to Iwakuni. So that has helped in our retention because we were separating them and then wondering why they were getting out. (Laughter.) I mean, we couldn’t figure it out because, you know—(laughter)—USMC sometimes stands for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. (Laughter.) And we were confused on that, so we have ceased to be confused, and it takes me to separate. And so that’s one of the things that we’ve done. And our female retention numbers are going up—not just as a result of that, but I think that’s part of it.

FROMAN: Go ahead, Salty.

SALTZMAN: Although it’s not specific to women, the NDA from last year gave us the Space Force Personnel Management Act, which allows inside the Space Force for us to manage both part-time and full-time positions inside the single component. No one else has this authority, and we think—to Linda’s point—it’s going to give us a level of flexibility—some career flexibility where a member, for whatever reason—life gets in the way sometimes and they decide they can’t commit to a full-time status, they can shift into part time for some period and then seamlessly come back on active duty when those conditions change or full-time status when those conditions change. And we think this is going to be a game changer for any number of considerations. But it’s one of the—one of the things that we hear from women sometimes is there’s a period in their life where they feel like they need to be part time for a while, but then they want to come back in. We want to make that as easy as possible, and we think the new authorities will allow us to get closer to that.

FRANCHETTI: I think I’d offer—also offer that, you know, any of the things, the retention initiatives that we’re doing, career flexibility, which I think is what we are talking about. I mean, when you talk with younger folks—I have a high school senior—they’re very much looking for some career flexibility, or they’re looking for career stability. Maybe they want to be stationed in one place so they don’t have to move as much.

I think it’s not just about women; it’s really about recruiting and then retaining one sailor at a time and really understanding what is it that they need to be able to achieve both what they want to do in the military and in their own personal life, and how do they integrate those two. And, you know, if we can do that and still build those warfighters we need, and let them do that, I think every initiative that we take is going to be better for everyone—men and women.

FROMAN: All right. Yes, right here on the aisle.

Q: Thanks. Jeff Pryce, Johns Hopkins SAIS.

So lessons learned from the Russia-Ukraine war—this is kind of a multi-domain question. First, how does it—FPVs, drones, how does this affect how we think about land maneuver? At sea? Ukraine has opened up a sea line of communication and driven the Black Sea fleet from Sevastopol, which ironically was Putin’s number one political goal in 2014—all of this without much of a Navy of its own. And finally in the air, how can Ukraine get better control? How can—how can they get better air sovereignty control over their own air space? Thanks.

GEORGE: Yeah, I’ll start on the land side and, you know, first when we always talk about lessons, they’re observed until we actually change something that we’re doing; you know, how we train, and how we fight, how we’re organized, and then how we equip. And, you know, I could go down every one of the warfighting functions and what we’re doing down. You know, for example, on the network, you’re going to have to be—you can be seen almost anywhere nowadays, and that’s visually and with your electromagnetic signature. You’re going to have to have very small C2 notes, and they’re going to have to be able to get—you know, move around very quickly.

We’re seeing the effects of long-range fires, and especially land-based fires because they can hide, you know, in the clutter of what’s going on—again, visually and what’s, out there. UAS is another one in the cheap loitering munitions so, I mean, we’re—I could go down every one of the, you know, we call warfighting functions and talk about how it is changing.

We are trying to—we’re taking brigades in the Army, and we’re actually adjusting them. We’re calling it, you know, the transformational contact I mentioned earlier and actually changing how they are going to be organized—where do we need electronic warfare at every level, where do we need drones, do you need extra operators, where do you need counter-UAS capabilities—so it is telling us a lot, I think.

We do fight differently and, I think as was mentioned up here with the joint, you know, we’re going to approach some of these things much different than, you know, what Ukrainians or anybody else has done, but we’re paying really close attention to the—you know, what we’re seeing around the world.

FRANCHETTI: I think in the Black Sea, you know, the Ukrainians have been incredibly successful, as you mentioned, in really pushing back the Russian fleet and actually destroying, you know, a good portion of that so, you know, the Ukrainians, I think, have been really a great example of innovating on the battlefield and in being incredibly persistent, and just trying again, and again, and again, and again, and then being successful about that. So I think, you know, the lesson that we can all take away from that is how do we innovate now, how do we know what those asymmetric capabilities we are going to need now, and start getting them into the hands of the warfighters so we can be ahead of any adversary in any theater. So that’s my big takeaway from Ukraine.

SMITH: And I think the other piece is the human dimension, you know. The Ukrainians want to be Ukrainian more than the Russians want them to be Russians, and that’s my assessment. And one’s fighting for survival; one is fighting for expansion. And the survivalist is going to win every time, so—every time. If human wills are matched, then it is—war is a contest of human will, and right now the Ukrainians are holding their own.

ALLVIN: I would say on the air side, a couple of things, and they’re sort of two sides of the same coin, I think. First of all, I think you mentioned some level of air sovereignty. Air superiority still matters in the modern battle space. That’s thing one. Neither side has been able to have much of a continued momentum, I think largely because they haven’t been able to control from the air and to be able to support a combined arms operation—that’s what Randy talked about. It’s not just about having air superiority for air superiority’s sake.

But the other one is I think it’s harbinger of the way we need to think about it in the future, and I’ll overstate the case just to make the point, is that, you know, the traditional idea of how, well, like American air power, how we have done it is we have, you know, used our air power to roll back the enemy air defenses, and then freedom to and freedom from attack, and it’s—the airspace is ours for a long period of time.

That is becoming cost prohibitive in just about anywhere, but it’s also not necessary now because, if you have the ability to gain air superiority and synchronize it with—the reason why you have it—to enable a combined arms fight, then it’s still effective. But right now, neither side is able to really do that because they aren’t able to leverage that, even if they could, because the electromagnetic spectrum, electronic warfare is alive and well in that country.

But to do that, it requires a consistent, and a capacity, and a coordination with the other domains to be able to make full advantage on the battlefield. And I think—so the both of those things: air superiority still matters, and we understand—need to understand we’re probably not going to be able to do it the way we used to, and nor is it necessary.

FROMAN: It’s a great honor for us to be able to host all the chiefs every year, and I’m so grateful to you. Please join me in thanking them for coming here and for their service. (Applause.)


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