Navy Warfighters deploy all over the world, preserving peace, protecting commerce and deterring aggression. We asked Vice Adm. John Miller, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, and Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, to discuss how operating forward makes accomplishing the Navy’s #Warfighting mission possible.
The maritime domain is a very complex and challenging place to operate. Those who seek to compound those challenges through aggression, malign activity, or criminality in the sea lanes of the Middle East present a threat not only to regional stability but the entire global economy. That threat must be confronted by a collective body of mariners operating forward, far from their shores.
The U.S. Navy is operating forward to meet maritime threats, far from our shores, before they are able to directly or indirectly harm the prosperity or security of the American people. Our presence forward also ensures security and stability for many nations here in the Middle East.
The U.S. Navy has operated forward in the Arabian Gulf for more than 60 years. We enjoy a strong friendship and partnership with our hosts here in the Kingdom of Bahrain, with many other Gulf nations and with partners across the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Ensuring regional security is not something we do alone.
Mariners have a set of common bonds that will always link us together. We each have an understanding and respect for the sea that comes from challenging the oceans throughout our naval careers. When we couple those bonds with a commitment to service and sacrifice in support of our respective nations and a desire to work collectively with our friends to solve common problems we form a powerful collective force.
Sailors operate forward alongside our regional partners and other nations from outside the region whose interests intersect here. They conduct maritime security operations, counter-piracy operations and are poised to conduct humanitarian assistance operations each and every day here in the Gulf, in the North Arabian Sea, in the Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea.
For example, we just completed an International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX 12) which brought 33 Navies from every continent on the planet, save Antarctica, for an opportunity to operate together to build our capacity to confront the threat of mines in international sea lanes. Also, the U.S. Navy recently conducted a counter-piracy drill with a Chinese ship from the People’s Liberation Army Navy in a cooperative engagement. Exercises like these fuse international resolve to confront threats to the maritime domain and to the flow of commerce in and out of the Middle East. But they can not be accomplished by a Navy that does not operate forward.
The U. S. Seventh Fleet was established in the Pacific in 1943. During the following sixty nine years we have remained consistently and constantly forward deployed in the Asia-Pacific region, working with Allies, Partners and Friends expanding their security capabilities to further ensure stability is maintained in the region. It is on this foundation of regional stability, partnership and shared mutual interests that the economic growth and prosperity of this important region has been built.
Seventh Fleet has been, and remains, the most powerful fleet in the world. A power that is focused on engaging the numerous and vexing challenges that face this diverse and dynamic region. We view these challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to ensure emergent tensions are addressed through dialog and diplomacy, not diatribe and dictum.
The strength of the Seventh Fleet is much better focused on encouraging the use of international norms, standards, rules and laws to resolve regional differences while discouraging the use of coercion or force to achieve national goals or views.
We have numerous treaty obligations our Area of Responsibility (AOR). In fact, of the seven treaties held by the United States, five are in the Seventh Fleet AOR. But we do not limit our obligations to our treaty partners. International seas are the lifeblood of the global economy. Seventh Fleet embraces its responsibility to provide for the common security and stability of those seas. As many have said in the past, with great power comes great responsibility. A responsibility to respond to natural disasters to limit destabilizing effects on good governance and national economies, limit the loss of life and property and reinforce the belief that regardless of capability or capacity, there is an obligation common to all mariners to provide what assistance they can to those who need it.
An alternative responsibility that comes with great power is to ensure that power is responsibly used as a deterrent to counter coercion or force by those who choose to force their will or mandate on others. The only way to achieve this deterrence is to ensure the power of Seventh Fleet is relevant and, most important, credible. Seventh Fleet participates in over 125 exercises a year throughout the AOR. It is a force comprised of over 80 ships, 200 aircraft and 40,000 Sailors and Marines. It has a long history of success where diplomacy and dialog has failed, which is a strong motivation to get deterrence right. But where deterrence and diplomacy fails, a rapid response of a ready and responsive force is the quickest way to counter aggression and regain the stability required to ensure the current prosperity trends the region enjoys remain the norm.
We have taken these responsibilities and obligations seriously for over sixty nine years, never having failed to answer a call to right where security has been put at risk. We are committed to preventing conflict, but when conflict has come, we have always prevailed, and we are assured we will if called on to do so again in the future. This is who Seventh Fleet is, this is what we do.