‘I just don’t really care’: Navy admiral warns industry to deliver more ordnance, fewer excuses
SNA 2023 — Adm. Daryl Caudle is not “forgiving” of the defense industrial base’s shortcomings and is tired of hearing their excuses.
That was the unusually blunt message the four-star officer in charge of U.S. Fleet Forces Command sent on Wednesday at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.
“I am not forgiving of the fact they’re not delivering the ordnance we need,” he said when asked about balancing the US military’s readiness against the desire to send assistance to Ukraine as it continues to fend off Russian invaders. “All this stuff about COVID this, parts, supply chain — I just don’t really care.”
“We’ve all got tough jobs,” he added to audience applause. “I need SM-6 [missiles] delivered on time. I need Mk-48 torpedoes delivered on time.”
Caudle’s no-nonsense tone stood out at the trade show because SNA, Sea Air Space and other major defense industry conferences are historically times where high-ranking officers embrace industry as “partners” and laud their contributions to the Pentagon’s mission. The commander of US Fleet Forces, by contrast, sent a wake-up call to industry, ostensibly referencing China: The Navy is “going against a competitor here and a potential adversary that is like nothing we’ve ever seen.”
“If you want to take me in a room and show me your sob story, I’ll be happy to hear it,” he said. But “at the end of the day I want the magazines filled, I want the ship’s tubes filled… And then if I want to help a country out like Ukraine. I’m not talking about what it’s doing to me.
“Of course we’re going to help [them] so they can win that conflict against Russia,” he said.
Caudle’s caustic remarks followed Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday on Tuesday who sent an equally sharp shot across the bow of the service’s shipbuilders: If you want more work, then do better with what you already have. “Pick up the pace,” he said.
“They [industry] would tell you… they think they can do more. So, my message to them is: Prove it,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the show.
It’s not the first time Gilday has publicly admonished industry during his tenure as the most senior Navy officer. In August 2021, he publicly bemoaned the lobbyists hounding Capitol Hill to force the Navy to buy “aircraft we don’t need.” Then in May 2022, he called out the service’s top submarine builders, HII and General Dynamics Electric Boat, during a public hearing in front of lawmakers for being “over cost” and “under performing.”
On Wednesday, Caudle said his bottom line is simple.
“I’m very frustrated, as you can tell, by what I’ve said because it’s so essential to win,” he said. “And in my position and for the people in the room in uniform: That’s all that matters.”