Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The new U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has laid out "four Cs" as critical challenges.
"Like [U.S. Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin, I view our most pressing challenges as the four Cs -- China, culture, climate and COVID, and we need the resources and capabilities to address each now," Del Toro said in a message to the fleet.
On the China front, Del Toro echoed other military leaders warning of China's goal to challenge U.S. military superiority, the Navy Times reported.
"We will not let this happen," the 78th secretary of the Navy said in the message. "We will deter China's aggression, protect our national security, and preserve the peace."
To address culture, the one goal is that "every sailor and Marine of all races, genders, religions and ethnicities must treat one another with dignity and respect," he said.
Toro described climate change as a challenge that "exacerbates every challenge we face, from naval installations to frequent deployment."
"It is also a global struggle for resources that demands ingenuity and innovation," he added. "It demands solutions that mitigate climate damage while ensuring our operational success and competitive edge."
In addressing the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said troops need to be vaccinated to be "deployable or combat ready."
He added: "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," he said.
"Both our nation's security and your success as sailors and Marines require your enthusiastic, unwavering commitment. We will succeed or fail together."
Del Toro said his key priorities were ensuring that the fleet receives the resources and training needed to succeed and deal with a maintenance backlog.
The Biden administration nominated Del Toro to replace acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker, who had been nominated by the Trump administration nominated.
Del Toro, an immigrant to the United States from Havana who served a 22-year-plus career as a naval officer, was sworn in during a private ceremony at the Marine Corps Memorial on Aug. 9.
Austin said in a memo to troops on the same day that Del Toro was sworn in that the U.S. military was planning to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all troops by mid-September.
In general, active-duty troops have a higher vaccination rate than the U.S. population.
Fifty-one percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated to date, according to Bloomberg COVID-19 Tracker, and 60% have received at least one dose.
Austin tweeted last month that 70% of active-duty troops have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine, and that 62% of active-duty service members were fully vaccinated.
Those vaccination rates lagged behind the Pentagon's goal earlier this year for all troops to be fully vaccinated by last month, Military.com reported.
In the military alone, more than 1 million service members and 301,634 Department of Defense civilian employees have been fully vaccinated, according to the Pentagon.
Since the pandemic began, there have been over 330,000 COVID-19 cases and 409 deaths among military personnel, civilians, dependents and contractors, the Pentagon said.