Surface Navy Association National Symposium
Remarks by Dr. Donald C. Winter Secretary of Navy
Hyatt Regency Hotel Crystal City, VA Tuesday – January 9, 2007
Admiral Green, thank you for that kind introduction. It is a great honor to have this opportunity to speak to you—you, the proud patriots who have built the greatest fleet of ships the world has ever known, and you who serve on those ships with a professionalism and expertise that have made the United States Navy the envy of the world.
Today is a day to celebrate the achievements of the Surface Navy, offer a sober reflection of your Navy during this time of war, and cast an eye on the Navy’s course as we traverse the early years of the 21st century.
During this time of peril, with our forces engaged against terrorist foes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere across the globe even as we speak, I am reminded of one of President Ronald Reagan’s keen insights regarding war and peace: “History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.”
Tyrants, terrorists, and others who dream of challenging us never cease taking the measure of the United States. They coldly evaluate our national will, our military prowess, and our patience. In weighing the costs and benefits of challenging us, they calculate the price of aggression.
Our Navy—with global reach, multi-mission-capability, and ability to operate from a sea base—is a critical factor in determining that price. Today I would like to discuss three trends now underway, trends that my recent visit to the AOR tended to confirm. These are three drivers that I fully support, and they are areas that I will be focusing on in the years ahead.
One, we are seeing an increased demand for the expeditionary capability that the Navy brings to the joint fight.
Two, the transformation of the fleet is already taking place on an unprecedented level.
Three, there is a growing recognition that we need to focus more on the people side of transformation.
The Surface Warfare community is directly affected by all of these trends, and it is clear that the Surface Navy will continue to play a leading role in our nation’s defense.
To set the stage for today’s discussion, I would now like to give you a brief report from the field.
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During the Thanksgiving period, I made my second trip to the Middle East and Icame away—once again—deeply impressed by what I saw. I know that Americans watching events in Iraq from afar hold our warfighters in the highest regard. But if they could only see what I have seen, first-hand, they truly would have a better understanding of how amazing our Sailors and Marines are.
I am here to tell you what many of you already know—there are many young—and not so young—heroes out there. They believe in the mission; they serve with inspiring courage; they see everyday the face of evil; and they instinctively understand the stakes of this war. As I talked to Sailors and Marines in Baghdad, Fallujah, Haditha, Asad, and Balad, I was repeatedly struck by their eagerness to complete their mission, and by their clear understanding that they face a ruthless enemy that sabotages infrastructure, kills political opponents, and uses innocent children as pawns. There is no moral ambiguity in their minds as to what kind of Iraq the other side represents.
They also understand that our efforts there will take time to achieve success. The time frame we are operating under in Iraq—and in Afghanistan—points to a pressing need for greater sustainment capability. We see this need in terms of equipment, facilities, and the full range of ground operations—whether 800 miles inland in the case of OEF, great distances from the nearest coast of Iraq, or in the littorals of the Arabian
Gulf. Our planning, therefore, must take into consideration sustainment capability to a much greater degree.
To cite just one example of many that I observed during my trip, one of our missions is providing security at Al Basrah Oil Terminal—commonly referred to as ABOT—a vital nerve center of the entire Iraqi economy. The initial plan of berthing Sailors on the oil terminal itself proved to be inadequate. Even after we tried to provision our personnel by way of a Meals-on-Keels operation, we encountered various difficulties—from bad sea states to unsanitary conditions on the platforms—that suggested that more changes were needed.
Although some Masters-at-Arms still remain overnight on the platform itself, the majority of Sailors executing this important mission are now berthed aboard a barge that is moored alongside this platform, providing both logistical support and command and control. Adapting maritime security to fit new or changing conditions over an extended period is an example of the sustainment issues that we will increasingly face in a combat environment.
In addition to visiting ground units and taking a close look at our maritime security operations, I also paid a visit to USS MASON (DDG 87), one of the newer Aegis destroyers in the fleet. If MASON is representative of the professionalism and excellence of the ships in fleet, the surface Navy is in fine shape indeed.
The ship was on a routine patrolling mission but it was not without drama.
Standing beside the skipper on the ship’s bridgewing, we observed an Iranian ship exercising great curiosity about one of the Great Satan’s warships operating in her neck of the woods. This curiosity was on display off our starboard beam from a distance of, oh, about 200 yards. And so ensued a lot of watching—us watching them as they watched us through each other’s big eyes.
The MASON’s CO—no doubt purely by chance—appeared to have chosen a course and speed that maximized the Iranian’s ship’s turbulence and discomfort as it struggled to keep up with MASON’s considerable engine power, and her advanced Naval architecture. In any case, the amusing aspects of this scene aside, I was greatly encouraged by what I saw on MASON, and pleased to know that at least one Iranian ship’s crew was moved to think about—in a rather personal way—what the price of aggression might entail . . .
My trip also included a visit to Naval Central Command in Bahrain, where the evolution of the Coalition was clearly in evidence. It was impressively integrated, and perhaps the best example of joint operations that I have seen. Briefs were given by the Germans, British, and Italians, and all seemed to understand that, in this region of the world, we shared a common interest in cooperative operations that transcended whatever differences between us that we may have.
Many of the officers from Coalition nations that I talked to were quite candid in discussing the need to match their navy’s capabilities to the mission. Our allies are facing the same questions we are—what are the right assets, what is the right mix of ships?
These are questions to which the Department of the Navy has devoted long and detailed analysis, and we will continue to re-look this issue.
We still believe that our 30-year shipbuilding plan is a solid analysis. It is a studied assessment of what our country needs, and it reflects the three trends I mentioned earlier.
Let us now turn to these trends and consider their impact on what we buy and how we operate.
First, we are seeing an increased demand for expeditionary warfare.
Expeditionary warfare has long been a core mission of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, and, indeed, our unsurpassed capability in this area is a point of distinction that separates us from the navies of other nations.
But expeditionary warfare is changing. It is changing because the threat environment has changed—dramatically so. The certainties of the Cold War—a Soviet Union with a fixed geographical location, understood doctrines, and known capabilities—have been replaced by a world of great uncertainty.
Our enemies today obey no rules of warfare. They could strike from anywhere on the globe. No method of attack, no tactic—however barbaric—is beyond their consideration. The logic of deterrence has been replaced by the logic of the suicide bomber.
In addition to the uncertainty of terrorist enemies, we see the uncertainty of emerging nuclear powers and the rise of unstable, potentially dangerous regimes.
All this adds up to a changed world in which uncertainty is the only certainty, and in which expeditionary warfare capability plays an increasingly important role in combating a great number of potential threats.
A second trend now underway is unprecedented transformation. We are transforming the force at the same time that we are executing an array of operations in the Global War on Terror.
This transformation is shifting our focus from blue water to green and brown water as the demand for operating in the littorals increases. Movement towards a balance between blue water and green and brown also includes a greater use of Special and Joint Forces across a wide range of activities.
I would note that shifting our focus does not mean that traditional roles and missions are no longer vital. They are, and will remain so.
We are transforming because we must position the force to best meet future threats across a broad spectrum of operations—from Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief to the Global War on Terror to Major Combat Operations. We must win today’s war, and we must be prepared to defend America against future threats.
The scope of the Navy and Marine Corps transformation is truly massive, given our hardware-intensive nature. Our platforms are made to last 30 to 50 years, so, as one would expect, it takes time to fully implement transformational change within the entire Department—and yet time is of the essence.
This audience is quite familiar with the many areas in which new platforms are being developed. But just think about the number of major new platforms being developed simultaneously:
The Littoral Combat Ship.
And that’s just on the surface combatant side.
In addition to those developments, we are also bringing online Virginia class submarines, the Joint Strike Fighter, and MV-22—as well as converting SSBN to SSGN.
2006 was a banner year for the Surface Navy. Three surface ships were commissioned—SAN ANTONIO, FORREST SHERMAN, and FARRAGUT—and seven new surface ships were christened: GRIDLEY, SACAGAWEA, GREEN BAY, MAKIN ISLAND, SAMPSON, FREEDOM, and ALAN SHEPARD.
In addition to the platforms that are years and decades in the making, there are also elements of transformation that we are taking advantage of immediately. The use of unmanned air vehicles is a compelling example, and the deployment of UAV’s on surface Navy ships has become a key advantage in fighting GWOT. Scan Eagle onboard USNS Stockham and USS Saipan is proving its value daily in operations from Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance to Maritime Security.
But there is not going to be a single-minded focus on the development of a single set of technologies and capabilities in the way that, by of contrast, we saw with the Cold War focus on Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles.
Here it is worth taking a moment to discuss an aspect of transformation that receives enormous attention: technology. We are accustomed to many decades of the Cold War, where technological breakthroughs were capable of giving one side a decisive edge. Think of the development of nuclear weapons and rocketry. They are clear examples where technology was the critical factor. Whoever had the latest technology had the superior force.
Speaking as someone who previously was directly involved in the intense competition between superpowers to develop a technological edge, I have a profound respect for the ability of America to compete with anyone in the world. In many ways, the great rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union turned on the many scientific wonders our premier research laboratories such as Draper, Los Alamos, NRL, and various industrial laboratories regularly produced.
But things are different today, and we are fighting a very different kind of war.
Today there is a basic set of advanced technology that is available to virtually everyone—cell phones, computers, micro-electronics. That is why we are increasingly seeing that Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures—and the people who utilize them—are more important than the technology itself.
Consider the transformation in focus that we see in the conversion of SSBN’s to SSGN’s. There are no technology breakthroughs in this new platform, but with SEAL team insertion capability, SSGN now has mission flexibility and an ability to take the initiative in missions against a new kind of enemy.
The contrast between the two missions is striking. SSBN was a cornerstone, and remains a cornerstone, of our strategic deterrence, with very precise, scripted procedures that all but eliminated independent actions. SSGN reflects exactly the opposite qualities.
SEAL’s, as our enemies have come to learn, write their own script. SEAL’s have transformed a stealth platform into a lightening-fast shore insertion vehicle, able to project a new kind of power in response to a wide variety of situations. Using Ohio class submarines to launch SEAL’s instead of D-5 missiles is an interesting example of, in a sense, substituting people for technology and using them in new ways.
The surface Navy’s equivalent of this kind of transformation is the Littoral Combat Ship. The challenges associated with LCS are numerous. Among the most important are related to personnel: How do we find people who are capable of adapting to constant change, and what do we need to do to best support them?
In the case of LCS, I have confidence in the technology that supports the program.
The focus of our attention must be on the true innovation of LCS—the application of that technology, and what that means for the crew.
The bigger questions we are grappling with include:
How will we use the platform?
Can a crew of only 40 or 50 operate LCS across a full range of missions?
How do we use and maintain the various mission modules?
LCS is a transformational platform for the threat we face today.
In the Global War on Terror, those waging war against the United States have chosen the kind of battles we face—irregular warfare.
Our technological prowess is one of America’s greatest strength. But the unfortunate fact remains—there is no technological breakthrough that is likely to change the course of this war. What will win this war is the human factor.
This brings us to the third trend that is emerging—a greater focus on people. The Sailors and Marines being trained at Fleet Training Concentration Centers are central to our transformation efforts.
There is also a clear trend towards putting greater responsibility on younger personnel, with junior officers commanding Masters-at-Arms at ABOT and KBOT, and 24-year olds leading Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure Teams in maritime interdiction operations. As we develop a Riverine Force, this trend will continue, again suggesting that our investments in the people side of transformation are increasingly critical.
To ensure that our transformational platforms and systems live up to their potential, Sailors receiving significantly broader training will have to make the real difference in operating the most capable force the world has ever known. Our ability to compete at this level, I submit, is another strategic advantage of the United States.
Warfighters in this new war will need greater support in terms of highly specialized training, and an ability to carry out a wide range of missions.
This greater focus on people—combined with the increased reliance on expeditionary warfare and the fleet-wide transformation that is now underway—is shaping the Surface Navy that so many of you are a proud part of it. These three trends add up to a future in which the Commander-in-Chief will increasingly look to the Surface Navy to meet our national security requirements.
There is little doubt that the world entered into a period of enormous instability and uncertainty at the end of the Cold War. Today’s Global War on Terror, North Korean nuclear tests, Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons, the war in Lebanon, and threats, however nascent, from our own hemisphere are merely the latest examples of this instability.
Today we are engaged in a Global War on Terror that we cannot afford to lose.
We must work this balance between fighting today’s Global War on Terror and transforming the force for an uncertain future—and we don’t have much margin for error.
America in this era of uncertainty needs you, and I salute all of you for your outstanding service. May you be inspired by the tales of the many heroes who have come before you, among them, the story of Lieutenant Jerry Ford’s heroic actions during World War II.
Many Americans were—until very recently—unaware of his service in the Navy as part of Admiral Halsey’s Third Fleet, and the courage he displayed in helping to save USS MONTEREY from disaster during a typhoon on a December morning in 1944.
President Ford’s recent death brought attention to his distinguished naval career, and reminded the entire country that his lifetime of public service began as a young man in the United States Navy.
In closing, let us recall President Ford’s declaration on the occasion of America’s 200th birthday:
“Independence has to be defended as well as declared; freedom is always worth fighting for; and liberty ultimately belongs only to those willing to suffer for it.”
It is this generation’s duty to defend freedom, protect it, fight for it, and pass it on to future generations. May the price of aggression never be cheap.