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Effective Seapower for Global Security
Remarks by Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay L. Johnson , International Seapower Symposium, Newport, R.I., , Tuesday, November 04, 1997

Defense Issues: Volume 12, Number 51-- Effective Seapower for Global Security Seapower for the 21st century must deter potential aggressors, defeat them in battle if necessary. It must be an activist agent for stability on the world stage and responsible for developing peace, not simply deterring conflict and restoring peace.


Volume 12, Number 51

Effective Seapower for Global Security

Remarks by Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay L. Johnson at the International Seapower Symposium, Newport, R.I., Nov. 4, 1997.

Dalton. It is such a tremendous honor for me to be able to address this audience of most distinguished senior naval leaders. ...

My recent visit to Chile was part of an extensive trip to six nations of South America, where I had the distinct pleasure to meet with more of you personally, including Adm. [Carlos] Marron [chief of naval operations] of Argentina and Adm. [Cristobal] Moncayo [commander] of [the] Ecuador[ian navy]. I also visited with Adm. Sir Jock Slater [chief of naval staff and first sea lord, United Kingdom] of England and Adm. [Angelo] Mariani [navy chief of staff] of Italy this summer. It is a pleasure to be with all of you again.

My trip to our Southern Hemisphere underscored the importance of the engagement of our navies there, through Unitas [unity] and our many other exercises of that region, as well as the many we undertake all over the world -- Rimpac [Rim of the Pacific] in the Central Pacific, Northern Wedding in the North Atlantic, Tandem Thrust and Cobra Gold in the Pacific, and many others.

I was rather taken by the symposium's theme this year: "Seapower and Security in the 21st Century." I say that because not only do the words "seapower" and "security" translate differently in our many languages. Even where we speak the common language of naval affairs, those words have begun to take rather broad definitions.

Seapower for the 21st century must be defined in two ways. First, it must have the ability to deter potential aggressors and if necessary, defeat them in battle. This is, of course, a rather traditional definition, but seapower for the 21st century -- what I will call effective seapower -- demands a more expansive definition.

The fascinating history of seapower as we know it has essentially been an evolution of faster and more capable ships and aircraft which could project power at increasingly greater ranges and force in support of national interests. But today, the political complexity of our world has begun to alter our understanding of the uses of effective seapower.

Quick, decisive application of combat power, combined with complex rules of engagement to minimize damage to nonmilitary targets, requires that force be delivered with precision and finesse. Additionally, battle groups must field weapons systems that both exploit information across the entire electromagnetic spectrum while still maintaining more traditional methods and tactics for sea battle.

Today's effective seapower must also be adaptable for nontraditional uses of military forces, requiring not just flexibility in equipment and logistics, but smarter sailors and Marines who are trained in additional mission areas such as peacekeeping and disaster response. These missions require our people to be not only warriors in the classic sense, but compassionate and discriminate in the human sense. This requires time, training and a truly multifaceted and motivated sailor or Marine.

Today's effective seapower must be cognizant of the expanding complexity of what defines our national interests. We as naval leaders are generally not responsible for the definition of those interests, but rather we are the defenders of them. Nevertheless, we must be increasingly aware that those interests are often transnational in character, as our linked economies and advances in technology continue to shrink the globe.

Secondly, to meet our more expansive 21st century definition, effective seapower must be more than a deterrent and a striking force, and even more than a force ready to respond to human crises or nontraditional missions. Effective seapower must be, in and of itself, an activist agent for stability on the world stage. It must be responsible for developing peace, not simply deterring conflict and restoring peace.

I believe this is revolutionary, for it goes well beyond development of naval forces and doctrine for strictly national ends. It goes well beyond sovereignty, and it forces our naval doctrine to address supranational issues, at the very least as a starting point.

Before I am accused of misplaced optimism, I must say that I am certainly not suggesting that our naval cooperation be a method to subordinate our national interests.

But I do suggest that effective seapower for the 21st century must include a belief by all of our navies that only through constant, aggressive development of our naval partnerships at every possible opportunity can our navies be agents that build regional stability. In the end, that is what our own national interests demand of our navies.

This is an exciting prospect, for I believe this type of effective seapower is our first early glimpse of a common tool that addresses human issues, while at the same time preserves the pride of our own national heritage. Each of the cultures present in this room brings unique strengths to the world that are worth protecting at a supranational level.

Allow me to address the second word in the symposium's theme: "security." Like seapower, the word "security" can take on so many different meanings. The inherent desire for security is the reason our nations have each tailored unique maritime forces. From the protection of valuable fishing rights and the maintenance of safe navigation to fears of a blue water clash of political ideologies, our national needs have produced unique navy and Marine forces.

We could never reach a consensus in this room, except at a very human level, on what security means to our nations. But that in itself is a positive thing, for those varied definitions of security have produced a spectacular array of naval capability that contains an inner strength through its own diversity.

That diversity is a virtual gold mine for all of us who will live in the 21st century. We will increasingly need an extensive toolbox to address the many complex security issues that we do hold in common.

How do we access this diversity of naval talent available to us? Access to valuable partnerships is, of course, limited by the reality of political constraints. But political constraints are often overcome by the tremendously positive experiences we enjoy so often with our naval partnerships.

We are overcoming political constraints, and all of you understand exactly how. Our constant interaction starts here in this room and extends to the many bilateral and multilateral exercises around the world.

To build effective seapower for the 21st century, we must believe that there are always new ways to operate together, there are always new forums for dialogue and there are always new tools and solutions that the largest and smallest navies bring to the table.

Many of you know that our gracious host, Adm. [James R.] Stark, was before his assignment to Newport the NATO commander, Standing Naval Forces Atlantic. One brief period during Adm. Stark's tenure is worth highlighting today, for I think it is very telling about where we are today in terms of the complexity of naval cooperation, the nuances of national politics and supranational politics and most importantly, the strength in our naval diversity.

In the early spring of 1995, Adm. Stark's flagship, the American destroyer USS John Rodgers, stood at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. The mission performed by the ship was to carry out United Nations sanctions against Bosnia as well as to maintain the standing NATO surface force in readiness for the Atlantic region. At the same time, John Rodgers was available to the U.S. Sixth Fleet should the need arise.

USS John Rodgers flew the U.S. flag and the NATO flag while carrying out the Bosnia mission sanctioned by the greater world community. The multinational NATO staff on board stood the watch. For one week of this period, when Adm. Stark transferred to a different ship, the flag of the Western European Union flew at the mast of USS John Rodgers -- an unprecedented event up until that time.

An Italian admiral stood at the flag plot, supported by his multinational staff, simultaneously representing the U.N., the WEU and the national interests of Italy.

Where mission tasking called upon the NATO force to board a suspect vessel, the U.S. was prevented from doing so due to national political factors. Italian forces, instead, successfully carried out the boardings for the NATO force.

Meanwhile, a U.S. carrier battle group of the Sixth Fleet transited through the block of ocean ostensibly "owned" by John Rodgers en route to the northern Adriatic Sea to support Operation Deny Flight.

Once there, the U.S. carrier worked in harmony with the British carrier Invincible. Both carriers coordinated well alongside a third carrier, the Foch, on station to conduct its own national mission requirements in the Adriatic.

A complicated picture, certainly. Could the operations have been streamlined by a more coherent, political backdrop? Of course. But reality continues to dictate political complexity among our nations. The good news is that the operation in the Adriatic was ultimately successful and the diversity of naval capabilities which carried it out fostered an environment which helped erode much of the underlying political complexity.

Again, we can expect to see more of this -- naval forces of the 21st century which through cooperation at all levels, can become the embodiment of a new definition of seapower and begin in their own right to be positive agents for peace and stability.

In closing, let me say that this summer I had the tremendous pleasure of being aboard one of America's national treasures, the USS Constitution, when she sailed for the first time in over 116 years. Constitution is docked not far from here in Boston Harbor, and I urge all of you to visit her if you can.

As I took the wheel of that great tall ship and felt her move on wind power alone, it occurred to me that despite all of the revolutions we have undergone and have yet to undergo in naval matters, one thing will remain a constant. Whether we have sailed by wind, steam or nuclear power, whether we have protected ourselves with steel or stealth, it is our sailors and Marines who continue to experience the sea in virtually the same way the world over.

Once under way, our sailors face the same challenges of the elements, operate in an environment free of sovereignty and speak the common language of the sea. At sea, we are not so different. At sea, we are sailors, and people, of the same community. That is why cooperation between our navies is a unique and powerful way to build the relationship between our nations.

Our navies are, first and foremost military forces designed to protect the unique security needs of our own nations. Because those needs are so different, our navies are very different. But fortunately for the maritime community, navies are much more than just military forces in readiness. Our navies and our sailors are also ambassadors of all that which contributes to our respective national identities. Our sailors represent the very finest of our respective cultures, and they showcase the best among us.

I want to thank you for your service to your nations and our maritime community. I look forward to building upon our existing partnerships and creating new ones as we develop our collective seapower for our shared security in the 21st century.

God bless you, and may you continue to have fair winds and following seas. Thank you very much.



Johnson. It is truly a special honor for me to speak to such a distinguished group of colleagues. I want to extend my appreciation to all of you for having traveled so far to be here. The presence of 48 chiefs of service and a total of 73 nations represented demonstrates the depth of your commitment both to our profession and to its impact on peace and stability in the world.

This is a special time in history. We stand on the verge of a new century. It is a time of hope, a time of opportunity and a time of challenges. It is a time for exchanging views and for thinking together about the roles seapower can play in the next century. That is to say, it is a particularly good time for a symposium like this.

There is no escaping the magnitude of the challenge which confronts us. We are all products of the turbulent century that is passing. Many of our nations were created or forever changed by its conflicts. Many of us fought in its battles. Yet we now need to look beyond this century to the next and to think not of what has been but of what might be. We need to rethink much of what we have accepted as eternal truths about the sea and about navies.

We are being asked to innovate, to deal with new technologies, to attempt new untested missions and to prepare for uncertainties and contingencies that we cannot begin to predict. Finally, most of us are also being asked to do all of this on declining budgets as our governments move to address urgent social and economic needs.

These are the same kinds of challenges that drove the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to produce the "... From the Sea" white paper in 1992, just as the Cold War was ending. We have since continued that effort with "Forward ... From the Sea" in 1994 and with the "Navy Operational Concept" earlier this year. All are part of a single continuing effort -- an ongoing attempt to deal with the challenges of a new age.

What began in 1992 was a process of innovative thinking about what 21st century navies could do and where our navy, in particular, was going. That process did not stop with the white papers or with the operating concept. It continues today in the thinking and experimenting that is going on across our Navy and especially here in Newport.

I won't pretend that we have found all the answers. We certainly have not. Our efforts to date have probably produced as many additional questions as they have answers. But that is a good sign. It means that we are being innovative in our thinking. Such thinking and experimenting is by no means unique to the U.S. Navy. We clearly have no monopoly on good thinking nor on understanding the problems we all face.

You have been pursuing similar efforts in your own countries. So let us think and discuss and experiment together. That is really what this symposium is all about. It is my hope that over the next few days we sailors of many nations gathered in this room can take a step toward finding at least a few of these important answers and toward further unlocking the potential of the sea.

Let me take a few minutes to share with you some of my thoughts on where we are heading.

I believe that the century ahead can be a golden age of seapower, a maritime age in which the sea will be more important than ever for the commerce that ties our destinies together, for the resources it contains and for shaping a stable and enduring peace.

That may sound incurably optimistic, but I think it reflects a reality that is rooted both in the changes now taking place in our world and in the unchanging nature of seapower itself.

What has changed?

From my perspective, our world is undergoing three fundamental "sea changes" with which we must deal: the creation of a new global security environment, the rise of a global economic interdependence and the accelerating pace of global technological change.

You will notice that I said "global" three times there. That is because the word "global" underlines a key aspect of the change confronting us. We can no longer think in purely national or even regional terms. The problems and threats which confront our navies are global, and the responses we must consider will involve us all.

I'll start with the emerging global security environment. It is clear that the end of the Cold War dramatically altered the world we knew. Potential opponents turned into partners almost overnight. We created a new basis for international cooperation and new opportunities for building a stable peace.

Perhaps because of the nature of seapower and the common bond between sailors, we have been quick to seize those opportunities and have made considerable progress in erasing the Cold War's legacy of mistrust.

However, before we start congratulating ourselves on a job well done, we need to take stock of the true magnitude of the change we have seen. The Cold War's division of the world into two camps has ended. One byproduct of that strategic shift has been the unleashing of long-dormant international disputes and a succession of local crises and conflicts around the world.

Similarly, while the danger of global nuclear war receded, we now confront spreading threats of terrorism, international drug trafficking and localized employment of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. With the Cold War's end, our world, in short, became a much more complex and unpredictable place and in some respects, perhaps an even more dangerous place.

This mix of new challenges and rapid change has forced us to reassess the Cold War roles of seapower and to ask critical questions:


  • How can we work together to help create a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world?
  • How do we act more effectively to deter the recurrent conflicts that have marked these past few years and prevent new crises?
  • How do we "shape" a lasting peace and not simply respond to crises?

A stable and peaceful world does not just happen. It must be built. We do not create stability simply by responding to instability. That does not mean that we should not respond to threats to peace or deal forcefully with terrorism or attempt to block the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction. We must aggressively focus on these missions. Yet a larger objective will frame these efforts and propose an even more difficult mission -- that is, to prevent these threats from arising by building a stable peace.

How do we do that?

One thing that the past few years ha[s] taught us is that we must pay greater attention to a wide range of "peacetime" operations. To be effective in keeping the peace, deterring aggression and maintaining stability, we must sustain the capability to act decisively across that entire spectrum -- and not just in high-technology operations.

That means anticipating the unexpected and being prepared for everything, including enforcing economic sanctions, combating the drug trade, assisting with disaster relief and humanitarian aid, evacuating nationals and law enforcement at sea. It means the kind of balanced capabilities that have always been the hallmark of naval forces. And it puts an unprecedented emphasis on cooperation with friends and allies.

For the U.S. Navy, more than ever, it means operating "forward ... from the sea." It means forward presence -- presence to help shape a stable peace, presence to enable us to work together, presence to help assure a favorable environment for increased world trade and presence to discourage aggression.

A large part of preventing conflict has always been the ability to act quickly and decisively with local partners before a situation gets out of hand. To do that, we must and will remain forward, visible and ready.

As you might have gathered from that last remark, another thing we have learned is that our allies and partners have never been so important. None of us can take cooperation for granted. We must renew our friendships and alliances and deepen our understanding of the new security environment. And we must update our patterns of cooperation to reflect the new challenges confronting us.

We and our navies must work together routinely in peacetime, or we will be unable to work together in crises or contingencies, and we will be unable to collectively deter threats to our common peace. We are committed to being there and working with you.

In fact, that second "sea change" -- global economic interdependence -- only reinforces the need for presence and the need for strong ties to our friends. If anyone has any doubts as to what "global economic interdependence" means, just take a look at the world's financial markets over the past 10 days. Within 24 hours, a financial crisis in Hong Kong had spread to Wall Street -- and to London, Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, Sao Paolo. I could go on, but the message is obvious. Our economies are interlocked to a degree that is difficult to comprehend.

As the next century unfolds, that interdependence will not diminish; it will be a central fact of international life. Indeed, we will probably find ourselves dealing not only with global economic interdependence, but with global interdependence in a much broader sense. The Internet is already giving us an inkling of the scope of what that can mean to our daily lives.

But what does that mean for navies?

To start with, it means that we must move beyond the narrow notion that the economic role of navies is securing sea lanes or ensuring access to essential resources in time of war. That role is still vital, to be sure, but there is much more to it than earlier thinking illuminated.

The great naval strategist, writer and former president of this Naval War College, Alfred Thayer Mahan, used to refer to the sea as the "great common" of mankind. Today, that "great common" has taken on a new dimension. The scope and scale of our international maritime trade is mind-boggling. Products from around the world have become such a routine part of our everyday lives that we do not give a second thought as to how they reach us.

It is a testament to how far we have come in securing the world's commerce. Yet it is also a warning of how far we can fall and how great the impact would be if we fail to protect the ports and sea lanes which keep that trade flowing.

In fact, the consequences of our failure to do so would be immediate and worldwide. Repeated crises in the Arabian Gulf have underlined that any threat -- just a threat, mind you -- to the oil supply quickly translates into higher prices, which adversely impact economic growth around the world even if there has been no real change in the readily available oil supply. We also have ample evidence that when we demonstrate our collective ability to deal with such threats and to secure the sea lanes, such fears quickly diminish and economic stability is restored.

Today, however, not only the sea but the airspace above it and the fiber-optic cables under it have become a part of our global highway. Today, the resources of the sea are no longer limited to what we fish, but extend to oil, minerals and even information. The "great common" has really taken on a new importance, as has our shared stake in protecting its security. Still, the role of naval forces in our emerging global economy has another dimension.

Peace, stability and prosperity go hand in hand. When we cooperate in combating terrorism, when we prevent crises and turmoil, when we deter aggression, we help build the foundations for increased prosperity -- particularly in the areas of the globe where that prosperity is most threatened. But that also works in reverse. When we help build prosperity, we help lessen the threats to our global peace. That suggests the complexity of the task which we face in building peace and the need for cooperation. However, it also underlines that our collective efforts to deal with the unrest can have a dual impact in shaping both a stable and a prosperous world.

Finally, let me say a few words about that third "sea change": the accelerating pace of global technological change.

Frankly, the pace of technological change just in everyday life can be a bit daunting. It can be even more daunting when we begin to imagine the military impact of these changes.

It is easy to focus on the opportunities and challenges that new technologies bring to warfare. But that would ignore a key feature of the change we face: that it is global. The new technologies of the 21st century are not, and will not be, the monopoly of any one country. In the age of the Internet, it is hard to see how any such monopoly could be enforced for very long.

The new technologies, and especially the information technologies which so fascinate us, are largely the products of the civilian economy, not the result of military research and development as was so often the case during the Cold War. The vast majority were intended for commercial use.

Nowadays, the phrase "dual-use technology" has taken on a new meaning. We, the world's navies, find ourselves trying to adapt civilian technologies to military use. And we are scrambling to keep up. This situation is unlikely to change any time soon, and our predicament will only be worsened by declining defense budgets.

We must take advantage of the opportunities these new technologies present. Indeed, because the technology revolution is global, and because new technologies can be bought by those who would disrupt the peace as well as by those who would defend it, we ignore the implications of change at our collective peril.

Do the new technologies equate to a "revolution in military affairs?" The real "revolution" will be in thinking, not things.

For the U.S. Navy, any revolution in military affairs will grow out of the process we started five years ago with " ... From the Sea." That is where our revolutionary thinking is taking form, and as I pointed out earlier, we are very far from being finished. To the contrary, it is a process in which you can take part. It is a dialogue and in many ways what this symposium and its efforts to look at the role of seapower in the next century are all about.

It is appropriate that we should meet here at the United States Naval War College to do that. As many of you know, Newport and the Naval War College occupy a place that is unique in the history of the U. S. Navy.

It was here that the United States Navy undertook two previous "revolutions in military affairs." One, a full century ago, produced Mahan and the strategic linkage between naval might and national power. Another, in the 1920s and 1930s, produced the carrier Navy and amphibious warfare.

As we approach the dawn of a new century, it is appropriate that we sailors of many nations meet here where those two earlier revolutions began to chart a course for the future of sea power.

Perhaps together we can launch yet another revolution, a revolution of shared purpose, operational integration and common effort. That is really the challenge to this symposium. It is an invitation to think together, to exchange ideas, to build on each other's experience, and to consider what the navies of the 21st century can be. It is also an opportunity to renew old friendships and establish new ties for cooperation in the years to come.

The fact that we are all sailors gives us a unique advantage. We share a common love and respect for the sea, the "great common" which binds us together. We, more than anyone, know the potential the oceans hold for mankind. And we, more than anyone, appreciate its importance in peace and war.

But we know something more: The sea can be harsh and unforgiving. It teaches sailors early that they must prepare for the worst, even as they hope for fair winds and following seas. It teaches us to be realistic, flexible and pragmatic, and to adapt to changing conditions.

Most of all, the sea teaches us to work together or risk great peril if we do not. It was true in the days of sail; it is no different today. It will be even more true tomorrow. We must seize upon that timeless reality if we are to ensure the primacy of naval forces in the new century.

Thank you very much.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at