U.S. Navy

Urgent Job Opening: US Navy Secretary

The chaos and uncertainty atop the sea service is undermining national security.

On Jan. 19, Lloyd Austin had a very public job interview with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The hearing contained surprisingly few questions concerning naval issues and when they did arise, Austin remained noncommittal. This is perhaps understandable for a former Army four-star. Nevertheless it is worrisome, suggesting that naval issues may not weigh heavily on the mind of the new Defense Secretary.

This makes the selection of the next Secretary of the Navy an urgent matter. The SecNav will, after all, be on the frontlines of pushing back against Chinese and Russian efforts to undermine the rules-based world order. The sooner we get this person the better, and the sooner he or she can articulate a strategy for allocating naval forces to key theaters and a vision for the future fleet.

At the time of Austin’s hearing, the biggest congressional concern was how a recently retired Army officer could lead as a political leader without undermining civilian oversight of the military. Not surprisingly, the general handled this concern swimmingly. Less adroit was his handling of naval questions. Asked whether he had read the Navy’s publicly released long-range shipbuilding plan and its underlying Future Naval Force Structure analysis, he responded, “No.” 

A shipbuilding plan is key to executing the national security strategy. The centrality of the Navy in today’s great power competition is not new; it transcends administrations going back to 2012’s Rebalance to the Asia Pacific and includes today’s National Defense Strategy

In the South China Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, the risks are real and significant. Given last year’s events surrounding the West Capella survey ship and the Navy’s sustained aircraft carrier presence in the South China Sea, the Chinese Communist Party may be especially eager to test the new administration. Time is short, especially considering that fishing seasons, weather, and Chinese military training and exercise routines make April a favorable season for Beijing to launch a challenge.

Then, of course, there is the issue of budgets. Already the Navy is working on its input for fiscal year 2023, and having political advocacy is critical. 

The longer the Navy lacks strong political direction provided by a service secretary, the less likely it is to receive needed resourcing and policy direction. Moreover, China and Russia can use that time to undermine our alliances, discredit our commitment to freedom of navigation and stymie the years-long course correction needed to grow our Navy to meet today’s threats. Today’s urgency is made even starker given the unprecedented turnover in Navy secretaries—three of them since November 2019. 

Given this, the next Secretary of the Navy must come to the job ready to articulate and execute a grand vision for invigorating and recapitalizing the Navy. Priorities for the first 30-days should include:

  • Describing the long-term plan for the size and disposition of the Navy by revising or supporting the Future Naval Force Study. Uncertainty is already costing the shipbuilding industry hard-to-replace naval architects and engineers; the government’s most recent report on industrial capabilities calls this a key vulnerability. 
  • Ensuring ships and other resources are available in the decisive theaters of South China Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. Of keen interest will be how naval facility recapitalization by the 20-year, $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, or SIOP, figures in any national infrastructure initiatives. 
  • Exciting people to join the Navy as it undertakes an innovative future that uses the most advanced technologies to safeguard our nation’s interests. One area ripe for capturing public imagination while growing new industries at-home is the Navy’s development of unmanned ships.

The Navy has been at a crossroads for some time, and given the challenges, time is too short for a Secretary who would have to learn on-the-job or defer for yet another year long analysis to confirm what is already known. Needed is a Secretary of the Navy with the vision, pragmatism and drive to bring to fruition the maritime demands of great power competition. 

Brent D. Sadler is the senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.