Navy Strategy of Engagement Builds Trust

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
By Edward Lundquist Senior Science Advisor Alion Science and Technology

The United States must engage with maritime partners around the world to create and build trust, according to senior Navy leaders speaking at the 2007 Surface Navy Association West Coast Symposium, held pier side at Naval Station San Diego, in August. Surrounded by ships and cooled summer breeze coming off the harbor, the many attendees heard about the Navy’s efforts to create and build upon meaningful partnerships.

Rear Adm. Pete Daly discussed the Navy’s efforts to create a new maritime strategy. The previous maritime strategy addressed a Soviet threat that no longer exists. “We had one big enemy. We understood that enemy. We knew where they were coming from. That world has changed.”

In the past, military powers knew that military adventurism would be met with reciprocal force. “There was an understanding that if you damage to my nation, I will do damage to yours. That doesn’t work with a movement like Al Qaeda.”

In the 1990s, there was no major competitor, and no new strategy. Today the world is a more dangerous place, with shadowy terrorist movements replacing nation states as threats. The U.S. used to enjoy a technological edge over our adversaries, Daly said. But today, potential enemies can buy whatever technology they need, from cellular communications to night vision equipment.

“We must minimize local disruptions before they spread, and we must deter, localize and limit regional conflicts,” Daly said. “Naval forces allow a rheostat of capabilities that we can dial in or out as needed. When not involved in a high-intensity conflict, a navy can perform softer tasks. But if you take away from the higher intensity capability to do softer tasks you will reduce the ability to win wars.”

“We must foster and sustain cooperative relationships with an expanding set of international relationships. Force can be surged,” Daly said. “But trust and confidence cannot.”

Daly, the deputy director for operations on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, emphasized the critical importance of outreach and engagement. The fleet of today and the future must win wars for the nation, but must also serve as a force of diplomacy around the world. During a wartime situation, you can surge forces almost at will, but that in today’s geo-political environment, trust is often more important than force, and, Daly said, “you can’t surge trust.” New initiatives, such as “Global Fleet Stations,” have replaced more traditional port visit schedules. A ship shouldn’t call just once at a port, but must do so more frequently, to build relationships. These new operations require a different mindset, Daly says.

Capt. John Nowell, the commander of Destroyer Squadron 60, has been active in establishing a meaningful U.S. Navy presence in Africa to enhance mutual maritime security and safety. Nowell says a number of ships have called at African ports and operated with our enduring partners such as the British, French and Portuguese, as well as West African navies. “We’ve learned a lot on the ground and in the littoral,” Nowell says. “Relationships are critical to successful engagement. You don’t get there by engaging episodically and sending different people every time. When we call at a port, they ask us if we’re coming back.” Nowell says the U.S. is working with maritime forces in countries like Ghana, Gabon, Cameroon and Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde Islands, and other African nations to improve theater security cooperation. In some cases, the U.S. Navy is working with the local Coast Guard or gendarmerie Cmdr. John Wade gave a captivating presentation on his assignment leading a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan. “Our mission was to deploy to the remote areas of Eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border to bolster security; strengthen the reach, influence, capacity, and legitimacy of the Afghan Government; and, lastly to facilitate reconstruction and development by creating jobs, spurring economic growth, treating the sick, providing humanitarian assistance. We tried to separate the enemy from the people; connect the people to the Government; and enable the Government to help meet the needs of the people.”

Wade worked with other Sailors, as well as personnel from the Army, Air Force, State Department, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Army Corps of Engineers. There are 25 PRT’s in Afghanistan, according to Wade, with 12 led by the US in the east, with the rest, located throughout the country, led by NATO partners. Of the 12, six are commanded by Navy and the other six commanded by Air Force. “We came not to hurt, kill, or capture… we came to contribute to the betterment of others, and to provide hope for the future in Afghanistan. Our ultimate goal was to set in motion the conditions for enduring security and safety, and for democracy to take hold, a critical component of our strategy to combat terrorism.”

Rear Adm. Sonny Masso, commander of the Navy Personnel Command, addressed the symposium on the latest Navy personnel and Surface Warfare Officer community issues. “It is our warfighting wholeness that enables us to bring so much to a humanitarian response.”

Another highlight of SNA’s West Coast show is the very diverse group of exhibitors and sponsors. This group has grown from just a few to a “tent full” of companies in recent years. They range from insurance company USAA, Navy Postgraduate School and the Anchor Scholarship Foundation to such large industry companies as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Rolls-Royce. Other exhibitors included Ultra Electronics and Wartsila Lips, as well as several outside static displays including BAE Systems’ MK-38 display and Lockheed Martin’s unique research and development vessel Sea Slice. “These exhibits provide active-duty personnel, as well as industry professionals with hands-on opportunities to get acquainted with the latest in technology and benefits.” said Bill Erickson, executive director of SNA.

Commander Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Rear Adm. D.C. Curtis, told the attendees that SNA is not an organization just for the senior officers. “We are a team of active duty and retirees; contractors and civilians; khaki and enlisted.” Curtis said the Surface how the Atlantic and Pacific Surface Forces had different way of doing business, with different rules and instructions just a few years ago. “Today, we are one team, one fight,” Curtis said.

Edward Lundquist is a senior science advisor with Alion Science and Technology. He is a retired Navy captain and an executive committee member of the Surface Navy Association.

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