Retail Services Specialist 2nd Class Luke Matheny, from San Diego, is steadied as he fires a .50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett in the Indian Ocean. Sterett is part of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Drace Wilson.)

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday spelled it out clearly to a group of reporters — the US Navy has ten years to get it right, or it may not recover this century.

According to a report in, the service’s top officer said that leaders must stop chief rivals China and Russia from controlling the conditions at sea and they had better get it right.

Gilday, who released his vision for the Navy’s decade ahead, cited a long-term competition that “threatens our security and way of life.”

He said the Navy must ditch platforms it no longer needs to invest in new tools that will be required to deter aggression and preserve freedom of the seas, reported.

“I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I feel like, if the Navy loses its head, if we go off course and we take our eyes off those things we need to focus on … I think we may not be able to recover in this century,” Gilday told reporters.

“Based on the trajectory that the Chinese are on right now — and again, I don’t mean to be dramatic — I just sense that this is not a decade that we can afford to lose ground.”

The Navy will need to divest itself of several legacy capabilities that Gilday said no longer bring sufficient power to the fight. It will also delay plans to bring large unmanned surface ships to the fleet by a few years, he said.

The Navy has faced pushback from Congress in recent years over a plan to invest heavily in shipbuilding to grow the size of the fleet, including plans to spend $2 billion on 10 large unmanned surface vessels by 2025, reported.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday visits with sailors aboard USS Kearsarge. This was Gilday’s first ship visit as CNO following the change of office ceremony. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nick Brown/Released)

Now, Gilday is slowing that down, saying he doesn’t want to rush the purchase of the controversial drone ships.

Buying large numbers of unmanned vessels by the mid-2020s is “unrealistic,” Gilday told reporters. Instead, by the end of the decade, sailors “must have a high degree of confidence and skill operating alongside proven unmanned platforms at sea,” he said.

Gilday also said the Navy must also ditch past programs that don’t fit into the Navy’s fundamental missions: sea control and the ability to project power forward, reported.

“This includes divestment of experimental Littoral Combat Ship hulls, legacy Cruisers, and older Dock Landing Ships,” he wrote. “It also includes divesting non-core Navy missions like Aegis-ashore. Transferring shore-based Ballistic Missile Defense sites to ground forces enables Sailors to focus on their core missions at sea and frees up resources to increase our lethality.”

According to a report in Breaking Defense, the Navy and Marine Corps are getting ready to see if they can fit long-range anti-ship missiles aboard amphibious ships, which are expected to play a bigger role in challenging Chinese claims in the Pacific. 

Placing the Naval Strike Missile on these smaller flattops would be in keeping with the push to add more punch to the US fleet, as China and Russia push their own long-range weapons out to sea. 

“We have these magnificent 600-foot-long, highly survivable, highly LPD 17s,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Tracy King, the Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare.

“The LPDs need the ability to reach out and defend themselves and sink another ship. It’s not from the aspect of using them as a strike platform; it will drastically increase their survivability if the enemy has to honor that threat.” 

The Naval Strike Missile, the result of a Raytheon-Kongsberg partnership, is being installed on Littoral Combat Ships and the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate, Breaking Defense reported. 

The NSM has already been installed on the USS Gabrielle Giffords, and has been a big part of the Navy and Marine Corps’ plans to give Marines ashore and afloat more punch to protect the fleet.

According to Forbes, the Navy is constrained from more aggressive distribution of the surface force by the price tags of its new ships.

The new class of destroyer (dubbed DDG-Next by Gilday) which is planned to follow today’s Arleigh Burke destroyers, is expected to cost more than US$2.5 billion—a 30% increase over its predecessor that could go higher if it is equipped with megawatt-scale lasers or hypersonic boost-glide weapons.

The frigate meant to be a more affordable counterpart to today’s destroyers is estimated to cost about US$1.2 billion, or only about 30% less than a destroyer. 

The Navy is transforming at a time when military leaders are bracing for possible budget constraints. Gilday said he doesn’t expect any sort of plus-up, reported.

President-elect Joe Biden has acknowledged that the military is facing threats it hasn’t seen since the Cold War, but slammed President Donald Trump for abandoning fiscal discipline when it came to defense spending.

Gilday’s plan says the Navy must improve its “advantages over China before addressing other challenges.” That means a bigger, more lethal fleet, he adds, with more submarines, smaller and more numerous surface combatants, stronger offensive capabilities, and unmanned platforms.