By Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Mullen told students and faculty at the Naval War College during a visit there Aug. 31 that the Navy needs to take a fresh look at sea power to better meet the challenges of the 21st century.
“We have a pretty good idea of what we can't do without [sea power], but do we really know all the things that we can accomplish with it?” Mullen asked the audience.
“We need a new - or as you will see, maybe a not-so-new, but very different - image of sea power.”
Mullen began his comments by expressing his sympathy for all those hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. "I would just like us all to keep it in our thoughts and prayers, all those people who are suffering right now from Katrina," he said.
"Over the last 24 hours we have deployed a number of units, a number of capabilities - and again, this is a team effort; we're not alone in that regard - to be able to both assess and respond," CNO added.
Mullen said that when he came into the Navy, it was all about "big ships and blue water
for the big fight, training to fight the big bad 10-foot-tall Soviets." Today, however, "we face entirely new challenges, the likes of which we couldn't have even imagined just a few short years ago," CNO said.
As 70 percent of the world's surface is covered by water, and more than 50 percent of the world's population lives within 16 miles of the shore, "without mastery of the sea - without sea power - we cannot protect trade, we cannot help those in peril, we cannot provide relief from natural disaster, and we cannot intercede when whole societies are torn asunder by slavery, weapons of mass destruction, drugs and piracy," Mullen stressed.
Sea power today
, according to Mullen, must also include providing medical assistance, infrastructure repairs, intercepting drug shipments and pirates, providing port security, operating with international naval forces
, as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Border Patrol.
He pointed to the international relief efforts
in Indonesia after the devastating tsunami in December 2004 as an example of how the sea can be used to foster security and build lasting relationships.
“We literally built a city at sea for no other purpose than to serve the needs of other people,” he said. “That was the Sea Base during those critical days, when the entire world rushed to reach suffering people in the midst of unthinkable devastation.”
Sea power is "not just a force to wage war...but a force to wage peace as well," he continued.
The ability of the U.S. Navy to influence events is at its highest ever, Mullen said. "We are the most ready we have ever been, and our Sailors are the best trained and most highly skilled warriors I have ever seen."
He credited his predecessor, Adm. Vern Clark, for getting the Navy into the shape it is in today. "Now it's my responsibility to make sure we don't squander that readiness for the future," he said. "I have spoken with thousands of Sailors recently. Their eyes sparkle, they are eager, ready and they are executing the mission."
Mullen also stressed the need to build naval capabilities for littoral warfare.
"I want the ability to go close in and stay there," Mullen said. "I believe our Navy is missing a great opportunity to influence events by not having a riverine force. We're going to have one."
The time has come for the Navy to look at sea power as a team effort, not just with the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, but also with international maritime relationships based upon "understanding and trust, enduring relationships that bloom into partnerships," Mullen concluded.
“As we build upon ideas like Theater Security Cooperation, the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Regional Maritime Security Initiative, we find that every nation has a stake in security, and a distinct, unique capability - as well as a great desire - to contribute."
Mullen called for something akin to a “1,000-ship navy,” where ships of navies from around the world cooperate and operate routinely with one another.
“We need to be a team player, a leader, for that 1,000-ship navy and a citizen in good standing for the city at sea,” he said.