maritime traffic

The following remarks were presented by CNO at the Current Strategy Forum, hosted by the Naval War College, on 16 June 2009.  We are presenting them here, unedited or commented upon,  except for certain boldened passages that we feel require emphasis.  The comments section is open for your thoughts…  – SJS

It is really a terrific opportunity to come together with you and have a debate, a discourse, a discussion on something that is very, very important and that is the strategy that we, as a Navy and nation, have to pursue. I think in a way we call this the Current Strategy Forum, but often times when we come here to talk about these things, we don’t really focus on our current strategy that much, but we focus on the current challenges and then what the future strategy should be; so in a way, I think that it may be ‘the future strategy forum’ in years ahead. Don’t jump too quickly on that. We have to think about it.

But I would also say that it’s great to have so many young leaders in the audience here and then those that are connected in at the War College, because I believe that it will be the young leaders who are here and watching and thinking who will write the strategies of our future for our Navy and nation.

When I talk about strategy what I’m really talking about, and I’m going to just distill it down into simple Sailor terms: it’s how we use what we have or will have to achieve our national security objectives. That to me is what we should be thinking about. And I would also say that given the lectures and the panels that we’ve had so far this morning, that as we think abut the future strategy, and the current strategy and where we have to go to achieve our national security objectives, that we have to do so in the context of today’s fiscal environment and the near-term fiscal environment that we know will affect us and will factor into our strategic thinking. I believe that the public has to be part of the dialogue and discussion that we’re going to have. I think they should think about the risks and the opportunities for the world’s oceans, in particularly for our Navy and that the public should have the opportunity to influence that dialogue. And I also believe it’s important for current and future strategists to think about, to write down, and debate the thoughts that are going on here because it’s in the aftermath of sessions such as this that we get some great thought going.

And I would say that for me being here and spending as much time as I do is extraordinarily helpful. I put a great value, and I’m speaking now to the young officers who are in this audience- I put a great value on setting aside time to think. Because I will tell you as you move up through the ranks, time will become your most precious commodity and you have to set aside time; you have to think about things, because that’s what those you lead expect of you to have done. And this is a terrific opportunity for me to do just that. And for me, as we engage in the Quadrennial Defense Review- hearing the thoughts, hearing the questions, hearing the comments are very helpful to me. And I’d say it’s a nice way to break away from budget discussions which have become my life in recent years.

But point in fact, when you talk about strategy, when you talk about Quadrennial Defense Reviews, you cannot not talk about budgets because that’s how we implement our means and our policies for our future. I would say that the Quadrennial Defense Review that we are involved in today is, like last year’s budget, is a model process. It has had the personal attention of the Secretary of Defense.  Both the budget and the Quadrennial Defense Review, that I will refer to in the term of QDR, and what has been different, is that Secretary Gates as a standing Secretary of Defense, led us through that transition. The first time in a long time, if ever, that we did not upon a change of administration between parties also change the Secretary of Defense. His leadership and experience, his vast experience in government, and his willingness to hear all voices I believe resulted in a good effort in the 2010 budget and I’m very confident that the QDR will produce the types of results that are important for our Navy and for our nation.

What I would like to do now is just lay out my perspectives on the importance of the seas, the challenges that we face, the strategies that we have in place, and what we need to properly carry out that strategy. But most importantly as I said at the onset, I really look forward to your questions.

Why is the maritime domain or why are the seas important? For me, I sum it up in about three words: it’s about commerce, it’s about communication and it’s about resources. We’ve talked today, or some of the speakers have talked about the amount of commerce that moves on the seas and the waterways of the world. Ninety percent of global trade- it has increased about 60 percent faster than the world GDP over the last couple years- has altered that rate a little bit.

We talked about the communications that flow: about 95 percent of communications that move around the world; about $3.2 trillion in trade. We talk about cyberspace, that’s not where it moves- not on the lightning bolts that go from the earth to the satellites and back down again, those communications and that electronic trade that takes place moves across the floor of the ocean and I think that’s an important thing for us to keep in mind.

Sixty-five percent of the world’s oil; 35 percent of the world’s gas reserves are in the littorals- that band that’s right along the edge of the ocean. And I think as we look to the future we can’t forget that it’s in that same region where energy sources such as wind and tidal, and even energy produced from things like algae, will become more important to our future. And most importantly, the maritime domain affords us the opportunity and the ability to operate and to influence without infringing on anyone’s national sovereignty.

As I look at the world that we live in today and the world that our children will live in, clearly it is more interconnected than ever before. Time and pace of operations, essential elements of strategy, are going to be effected by how tightly connected we are, so time and pace will continue to compress and that will change the way that we’ll have to go about doing our business. But the interconnectedness I think we’ll find to be somewhat fragile and it will be easily disrupted in what I call our “disrupted world.” The world that I see in the future will be one of disorder that will take place from time to time. Disorder can be caused by things such as abrupt changes in the economic fortunes and as we’ve seen, disorder can be caused by teenage pirates- our old foes from the past who come around again and with which we are now engaged. Beyond that, I would say that we face military threats from across the spectrum and that no conflict anymore will easily be identified as low-end or high= end. Hybrid is going to be the word du jour and all of us need to be thinking about that.

We know that weapons systems are proliferating and they’re quite advanced. They range from ballistic missiles to submarines and little can be assumed to be low- end anymore. And if you consider what a political group did, Hezbollah, in attacking an Israeli warship and almost sinking it, that is how hard I think it would be to categorize capability and threats and natures of threats. And we also find that we’re using very high-end electronic attack capabilities to defeat terrorists as they plant radio controlled improvised explosive devices; so again, high- end and low- end come together to mix. And remote and nonexistent battlefields are gaining in prominence. Littoral areas I believe will become more important. Cyber, an area that we are about ready to plunge into in a new way, the undersea environment will be significant, and demographic pressures will continue to create situations, crisis and opportunities that we must be able to account for in the future. Urban populations in 2050 will be the same as the world population in 2004 and seven of the 10 largest cities are going to be near the coasts. Less developed regions will account for 98 percent of the expected world increase of people through 2050. There will be resource competition as demographic pressures come into bear.

And we often think as we think about resource competition– hydrocarbons, but it will be water. And it will be what I call protein stocks- fish. Where will countries go to get that? And it will also be a competition for arable land. There will be competition for energy resources that must figure into our thinking, not just in our strategic view outside of the Navy, but how do we as a Navy, develop alternative forms of energy and fuels for that which we do. Climate change is upon us and those changes will affect everything from weather pattern shifts to changes in ice caps which will affect everything from water densities and salinity to transit routes.

Our strategy today to account for these risks had its beginnings about two years ago. We refer to it, and I hope all of you have access to it, as the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power. It has garnered, I would say, favorable international acceptance, and that acceptance is reevaluated daily as the right strategy for our maritime forces. What are the elements of that? We believe that preventing wars is just as important as winning a war and prevention is done clearly through our ability to demonstrate strength, to influence, assure and deter, but it’s also done through engagement, meaningful engagement and humanitarian action. It is also based on global maritime partnerships working together for common interests especially in the area of maritime security. And in those global maritime partnerships is engagement with a purpose. Whenever I am in a discussion about engagement, I say, ‘an engagement for what?’ There has to be a purpose for what we are doing, for the effort that is going into it on the part of all parties, but also for the resources that we devote to it. There are some who would say that engagement is only done with things that are small, cheap and benign, where we can engage on an individual, personal basis; but I would submit that engagement is also there to assure and deter and that sometimes credible combat power is good engagement.

And I get down to, what is the right mix? There are some who would say a small patrol boat showing a small coastal navy how to conduct a fisheries patrol is the best form of engagement. But consider what we’ve done with our Africa Partnership Station where we’ve took a little bit of a larger ship, an amphibious ship, where we could still go off and work with that coastal nation but then we could ballast that ship down and we could pull their boats in and teach them how to repair and to maintain. Where we could have an international staff on board, young officers who will rise to the top of their navy, who are developing friendships and relationships that will last the next 15 or 20 years? And a capability large enough to where we can hold conferences and meetings, and mix with the various interagency groups in the countries where we operate. That to me covers a broad spectrum of engagement.

Other examples of global maritime partnerships are what we’re doing with counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. A few years ago if you would’ve listed the number of countries that would be cooperating in the way that we are, I think some would be skeptical, but the level of cooperation has been extraordinary over the last year. Africa Partnership Station, which I already mentioned, is developing regional maritime capabilities and capacity without creating a permanent presence ashore. It’s all done off shore without any infringement on anyone’s sovereignty. And the ability through our global maritime partnerships to communicate. In the aftermath of the tragic Air France crash- that day I was on the phone with my French counterpart, my Brazilian counterpart- and as we speak there is an international effort to try to find the boxes that will perhaps tell us what the cause of that crash was. And a few weeks ago in the aftermath of an incident in the East China Sea with one of our surveillance ships, within 24- about 48 hours, I was on the phone with my Chinese counterpart and we talked for about an hour. And then shortly after that I was in China with him for my fourth visit there and my third substantive meeting with my counterpart, Vice Adm. Wu Sheng Li.

Our strategy still calls for what we call six core capabilities and what are they? To be forward, to be a global Navy– to be out in the areas where we can respond and where we can provide options for the commander in chief. Forty five percent of our ships are out and about, around the world, interacting and providing that opportunity for engagement. But engagement can also include the 14,000 Sailors that are on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s more Sailors on the ground in the Middle East than I have at sea in the Middle East. Today we have about 10,000 Sailors on ships; about 14,000 Sailors on the ground performing a range of missions.

Deterrence is another core capability that we see. Deterrence not only in the form of our ballistic missile submarines that are a significant part of our nuclear triad, but deterrence can also be the 97,000 tons of a U.S. aircraft carrier. And by the way, four of those aircraft carriers, four of our 11 aircraft carriers, are underway today. Three deployed in the Pacific and one in the Middle East and by the way, there are others in the pipeline to go and relieve them when the time comes.

Sea control- I think that one of the biggest challenges that we will have in the future is being able to exercise sea control wherever and whenever we will be ordered to do so against some of these proliferating threats, whether it’s advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, or the growth in submarines where the predictions are to see the global inventory of submarines increase by 280 in the next two decades.  And if anyone looks at our shipbuilding plan, we’re not that much of a contributor to that growth.

Power projection– it’s not just the images of Tomahawks going in to Iraq in the opening days of the war there but it’s also power projections such as what we’re doing in Afghanistan- where our aircraft carrier that is off the coast is providing 46 percent of the fixed wing aviation over Afghanistan. But it’s also the ability to project power and influence with our Marines from the decks of our amphibious ships.

And maritime security- I’ve already mentioned counter-piracy, they’re an example but so are operations that deal with stopping the theft of oil, that deal in countering some of the other transnational criminal activity of smuggling people, weapons and drugs and also the work that we do with friends and partners in the proliferation security initiative.

And new to the strategy is proactive humanitarian assistance and disaster responsenot just reactive as we saw in the tsunami of 2004, which was the largest humanitarian relief operation ever conducted, but it’s also in the proactive work that continues to go on with our hospital ships and other ships. In fact since the first proactive hospital ship deployment in 2006, 409,000 patients have been treated from Navy ships operating with other services, other countries and nongovernmental organizations. That has an impact.

Intimately connected with any strategy that we develop is planning how to employ our limited resources in that strategy. And what weighs most heavily in my conversations, in my thinking and my work is planning not just for capability, but really coming to grips with capacity. One ship can only be in one place at one time. We are the smallest Navy that we have been since 1916, but our responsibilities are global and our interests will continue to require a global presence.

Another important planning factor of course does remain capability, especially the capability to account for the trends that we see. Surely, credible combat power is required but we must provide the right types of capabilities to the commander in chief. We continue to see growing demands from our combatant commanders for more ballistic missile defense, more submarines and clearly more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And what we have seen is that the high-end capabilities have a better chance of going low and the low-end capabilities have a better chance of going high.

Multipurpose ships come into play when you have capacity issues. They can win the battle but they can also perform many other functions. For example, consider the Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer. It was the platform from which the rescue of Captain Phillips of the Maersk Alabama took place. It was also a source of Tomahawk strikes into CENTCOM. It was also the ship that was selected to carry the first humanitarian supplies into Georgia after the conflict there because it could go in unattended. It’s also the ship that’s performing ballistic missile defense and long-range search and track in the Western Pacific. And it also is a ship that is currently operating on the East Coast of Africa in an Africa Partnership Station role. It does not mean that everything has to all be at the high end, but balance is the key.

I think as we go forward with our strategy, the one thing that we can never forget is that all the ships and airplanes and submarines that we have depend upon the young men and women who elect to put this uniform on and go forward and serve in our Navy. For the first time we have taken the all-volunteer force through a protracted conflict and I will also tell you that it is the best force; this is the best Navy today in which I have ever served. But operating and compensating that force takes on some very different considerations from in the past. We can no longer simply compel service, we have to be able to attract and we must be able to retain the fine men and women that serve and there’s a cost associated with that. Consider for example between 1990 and 1995, an E-5 in the United States Navy, a second class petty officer in the United States Navy, between ’90 and ’95, saw their pay increase $85. Fast forward to 2000-2005, that same second class petty officer in that same period of time saw their pay increase $11,000. The force we have today is a well compensated force. It is extraordinarily professional, but it is a force that we have to take into account manpower as we look into the future.

Our Sailors operationalize the maritime strategy and they must have the warfighting know-how to implement that strategy. They must have technical sophistication that they’re predecessors did not have. They must have language abilities to interact more globally. They must have some regional expertise or at least some understanding of the areas of the world where they were operating and they have to have cultural knowledge to do all the strategy envisions in this complex, in this connected and in this disordered world in which we will live.

So that’s my opening volley as to why I believe the ocean’s are important, what trends that may be out there and the maritime strategy that we have put in place to account for those trends and some of the planning factors that must be part of our future thinking.

And with that I look forward to your lively questions on any topic. The floor is open. Thank you.



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