The 78th secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, who as sworn in Aug. 9, released a message to the fleet laying out the “four Cs” that the former officer sees as vital challenges to the department: China, culture, climate and COVID.

In the Aug. 10 message, Del Toro echoed other military leaders in warning of China’s ascendance and its goal of challenging U.S. military superiority.

“We will not let this happen,” he wrote. “We will deter China’s aggression, protect our national security and preserve the peace.”

When it comes to culture, Del Toro wrote that “every Sailor and Marine of all races, genders, religions and ethnicities must treat one another with dignity and respect,” and that such behavior ensures combat readiness.

He called climate change an issue that “exacerbates every challenge we face, from naval installations to frequent deployments.

“It is also a global struggle for resources that demands ingenuity and innovation,” Del Toro wrote. “It demands solutions that mitigate climate damage while ensuring our operational success and competitive edge.”

On the COVID-19 front, Del Toro called for vaccinating the force “with expedience.”

“If we are not vaccinated, we are neither deployable nor combat ready,” he wrote. “Immediately, the Navy and Marine Corps will make every effort to vaccinate and care for our force and defeat the scourge Covid has inflicted on our troops.”

Del Toro’s stance on vaccinations follows a Pentagon announcement this month that vaccines will soon become mandatory for all servicemembers.

A retired Navy officer who spent 26 years in uniform, including at the helm of a destroyer, Del Toro said in his message that he has “a bias for action” and “will strive to be direct and transparent with you about what we need to accomplish together.”

The safety and welfare of troops “will always be paramount,” he wrote, adding that he was “committed to confronting our maintenance backlog, managing our operational requirements and building our Navy of the future.”

“Serving as your 78th Secretary of the Navy is a high honor,” he wrote. “It also carries grave responsibilities to which I will dedicate all my skill and devotion.”

Del Toro graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983 and then served in the Navy for 22 years. His assignments included serving as the first commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer Bulkeley, overseeing ship construction and fleet introduction activities as well as the integration of women into the crew. The vessel was one of the first mixed-gender warships.

He also served as a program manager for what was called Space and Naval Warfare Command — now known as Naval Information Warfare Systems Command — and as a senior executive assistant to the director for program analysis and evaluation within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he made top-level decisions about program development and budgets.

After retiring from the Navy, Del Toro founded SBG Technology Solutions, where he has served as president and CEO for 17 years. The company has participated in defense programs related to shipbuilding, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and space systems.

Del Toro was born in Havana, Cuba, and his family came to the U.S. as refugees in 1962, settling in New York City.

The Navy’s second Hispanic-American secretary, Del Toro has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Naval Academy, a master’s degree in national security studies from the Naval War College, a master’s degree in space systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School, as well as a master’s degree in legislative affairs from George Washington University. He is married to Betty Del Toro, and they have four children and a granddaughter.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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