I testified yesterday for the first time as your CNO before the House Armed Services Committee. The subject was the ongoing budget discussion here in Washington. I was there with my fellow service chiefs to talk about how those potential budget decisions could impact the force. Based on the questions and responses, there is unanimous support out there for the great work you are doing and the need to keep the covenant we have with each of you for pay, for retirement, for family services, and for the readiness of the ships and aircraft you operate.
I talked with the Committee about where we are globally and the great work we are doing, and I used the map you see here to explain the importance of operating forward and something I call “maritime crossroads.” The valve symbols on the map show these maritime crossroads. These crossroads are extremely important to the flow of commerce. By being forward at the “maritime crossroads,” where sea lines of communication intersect, like the Straits of Gibraltar, Hormuz, and Malacca, we can influence events and protect the security and economic prosperity of our nation as well as our friends and allies.
The squares on the map signify “places” from which we can regularly operate. They are not all places we homeport ships today. Most are places we can refuel, resupply, repair, and rest while on deployment. You’ll see a square on Darwin in northern Australia, where the government there has proposed we operate from with ships and Marines. It wouldn’t be a base but another place in close proximity to the crossroads in Southeast Asia for our Navy to operate. Other places include Guantanamo Bay in the Caribbean, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Singapore, Guam, Djibouti, Bahrain, Rota in Spain, Naples and Sigonella in Italy, and Souda Bay in Greece. Each of these places allow us to remain forward – where we are most effective. They will become increasingly more important as we find new ways to remain global in tough budgetary times.
Being forward is essential for deterring aggression, promptly responding to crises like Libya or the Tsunami in Japan, and supporting ground troops in Afghanistan. Today, naval aircraft supply about one-third of the close air support missions in Afghanistan, a number that will probably grow as we begin to withdraw forces and land-based aircraft from the country in the coming years. Having places like Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti to operate from is essential to our ships remaining on station for this mission – as well as the ongoing counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.
As our ground troops begin to come home from the Middle East, our Navy and Marine Corps will retain the watch forward. As General Amos said yesterday, we are an affordable “insurance policy” against threats. To provide that insurance, we will focus forward on the strategic maritime crossroads and continue to build the capabilities of friends and allies. So if the nation calls we will be ready to provide an offshore option. An option that could deter, influence and win in an era of uncertainty.
Until next time, we’ll continue to head into these rough seas together and I’ll continue to keep you informed. I am still confident we can stay on course. As your CNO, I am fully committed to you and your family — you remain the greatest maritime force in the world with the most talented and diverse Sailors. You know it, I know it, and as your CNO I will never forget it as we shape the future of the Navy.
JONATHAN W. GREENERT
Admiral, U.S. Navy