Vice Adm. Michael Gilday stressed the importance of digital tools during a July 31 confirmation hearing to become the Navy’s top officer.

“The character of modern warfare is changing to a multidomain battlespace with significant emphasis on space, electronic, information and cyber domains,” Gilday wrote in answers to questions submitted ahead of the hearing. “Given the changing security environment and the increasingly multidomain nature of threats, accelerating our Navy’s digital transformation will be critical to preparing our Sailors to deter, fight and win. Digital technologies have the potential to be a force multiplier, putting data at the center of all of our decisions and transforming how we fight, stay ready and conduct business operations.”

Gilday said he hopes to leverage his expertise in cybersecurity and plans to accelerate plans for other fields if confirmed to be chief of naval operations. Gilday previously served at U.S. Cyber Command and led 10th Fleet/Fleet Cyber Command.

“If confirmed, cybersecurity will have my full attention. As pointed out by the Cyber Readiness Review, we have an urgent need to improve Defense Industrial Base cybersecurity for the protection of controlled unclassified information,” he wrote. “Immediate steps already underway that I would continue include increasing accountability, strengthening security and oversight and increasing network visibility.”

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has keyed in on cybersecurity in recent months, commissioning a study to take a comprehensive look at the Department of the Navy’s cybersecurity posture.

On the subject of cybersecurity, Gilday noted that he’d like to bolster the relationship’s with industry — especially small companies — to find innovative partners as a means of making the Navy more effective.

“While I worked at Fort Meade at both U.S. Cyber Command and in command of Fleet Cyber Command, I had great partnerships with industry. Some of them small companies that were turning out some great products that we could use and then we could scale very quickly,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I would say with respect to the direction that we’re going in, U.S. Cyber Command just created a ‘Shark Tank’ like environment with double-digit number small companies that are bidding very quickly on projects and developing prototypes very quickly. It’s a very exciting direction we’re heading in.”

Gilday was referring to DreamPort, which is run by the Maryland Innovation and Security Institute through an agreement with Cyber Command. DreamPort is a state-of-the-art facility where companies can bring in capabilities to be evaluated.

He added that new acquisition authorities Congress gave the Department of Defense have allowed the Pentgon to move faster in buying needed technologies.

“We cannot afford to cede the competitive space of data and technology to our adversaries,” he wrote. “[By] leveraging a deliberate cycle of prototyping, experimentation, exercises, and war games, we will accelerate our ability to adapt and rapidly develop the systems and processes we need to fight at the speed of information. That information will enable new ways of doing business that will spread across the Navy, our sister services, and our partners.”

When asked which technologies the Navy should prioritize, Gilday put artificial intelligence at the top of the list.

“There are capabilities resident today in industry that we can harness to our advantage,” he said. “What I’m particularly interested in is how we use data in a more innovative way to give us a quicker flash to bang from decision making to action. There’s a lot of information at our finger tips every single day. It’s getting the right information to the right people at the right time so you can make the right decisions faster than your opponent.”

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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