Some of our friends and international partners have expressed concern that budget reductions will affect the Fleet’s ability to conduct humanitarian assistance missions. We have a new strategy and some budget changes, but we will continue to answer the call when a humanitarian need arises or natural disaster strikes. Our forward presence allowed us to rapidly respond to tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, earthquakes in Haiti, or floods in Pakistan. Because they operate forward and are ready, our deployed ships and Sailors help save lives in the critical first days after a disaster.
In addition to disaster response, since 2004 our Navy has integrated humanitarian assistance missions into our normal operational schedule. Annual events such as Pacific Partnership in the Asia Pacific region and Continuing Promise in South and Central America provide medical care and training to build the capacity of our partners in these important regions and enhance our combined ability to respond to disasters when they occur. On these missions, our ships embark Sailors and Marines, Army and Air Force medical professionals, development experts, interagency representatives and Non-Governmental Organizations to provide medical and security support to our partners.
Our hospital ships will continue to deploy and provide medical capacity building and care to thousands of people each year. USNS MERCY is conducting Pacific Partnership 2012 in Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. Our Sailors and embarked NGOs such as Project Hope, World Vets and Hope Worldwide work together to serve the host nations they visit.
Our amphibious ships also can respond to natural disasters, but more often conduct theater security cooperation mission including mil-to-mil engagement, security force training and community projects. Although we plan to place two Dock Landing Ships (LSD) in reserve status in fiscal year 2014, there will not be a noticeable decrease in our ability to support HA/DR operations.
During the next 10 years, our capacity for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions will increase as the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) enter the fleet. Each of these ships will operate forward more than today’s ships because they have rotational crews, such as in LCS, or are manned by a core crew of civilian mariners.
We will also increase our deployed presence by stationing or homeporting more ships overseas. We will forward station LCS in Singapore and additional Patrol Coastal ships in Bahrain, and homeport four destroyers in Rota, Spain. These forward forces will increase our ability to respond to crisis and provide more ships and Sailors for humanitarian assistance operations.
Our focus on warfighting and our new strategy do not reduce the importance of assisting our partners and friends. As the world’s preeminent maritime power, we have a duty to, as our maritime strategy states – mitigate human suffering and prevent or contain local disruptions.
JONATHAN W. GREENERT
Admiral, U.S. Navy