JOE: Joining us in the studio we have Admiral Michael Mullen, who’s the Chief of Naval Operations, and Admiral Mullen will be a guest on a Pittsburgh Global Press Conference coming up in the near future with Sky Foerster. Admiral Mullen, good afternoon. Thanks a lot for joiningus here.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Oh, it’s great to be here. Thanks a lot, JOE.
JOE: When we say Chief of Naval Operations, what are we talking about?
ADMIRAL MULLEN: I’m the senior U.S. Navy officer in our Navy today, and that really has two principal purposes. One is to oversee everything that’s in the Navy, and specifically what we call organize, train our people, and equip our people, so I also handle the budget for our Navy. I also am a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each service chief, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, has a seat as one of the joint chiefs. So those are the two principal responsibilities I have as the Chief of Naval Operations.
JOE: So if someone wants to know how the Navy is doing, its status today, you’d be the one that had that answer.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: That’s true. I would have that answer. Actually, it’s doing pretty well. We’re deployed, almost 40% of us, around the world. What a lot of people don’t know is you think about the Navy and ships and we’ve got 281 ships today, not enough, we need a few more, but we’ve got almost 4,000 Sailors on the ground in Iraq and almost 10,000 sailors on the ground in the Central Command Theater, which is Iraq, Afghanistan, down around the Horn of Africa. So the Sailors are not only at sea anymore, but they’re also doing great work ashore.
JOE: Is there a change in the Navy perhaps? You mentioned you could always use more ships. I know aircraft carriers are really expensive and I think that’s pretty much the focal point of the naval battle groups these days. But with the possibility of the change in armament and the third world threats with all kinds of wacky weapons out there on the market, is there perhaps a shift to different kinds of ships that the navy may be looking at in the future?
ADMIRAL MULLEN: We are looking at, in addition to the blue water ships which I would characterize and describe as our aircraft carriers and other ships that support that kind of capability, we’re also looking to develop capability in what I call the green water and the brown water, and the brown water is really the rivers. I’ve engaged with heads of navies from around the world, upwards of 72 different countries, in the concept that I call a 1,000 ship navy. It’s a thousand ships of like-minded nations working together to get at the emerging challenges of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists, drugs, weapons, pirates, human trafficking and immigration. These are challenges we all have, and we need to work together to ensure that the sea lanes are secure.
JOE: Part of the discussion that you gave today was securing U.S. global interest in the 21st Century and the challenges that it’s bringing to the navy. When we talk about securing U.S. global interest, are we talking diplomatic interest? Are we talking monetary interest? Are we talking both?
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Well, I think actually it covers the full spectrum of our interest in this global world. It is my belief we will continue to be engaged in the world. Ninety plus percent of our commerce travels by the sea in and out of ports. These are tremendous multipliers for us in terms of our long-term security, and we have challenges which are global. Whether they’re in the Western Pacific over time, we’ve got good allies out there in Japan and South Korea. Certainly, China is an emerging nation that has great positive potential, but they’re also a nation that I’m not certain what their intent is. So that piece is something that is of concern in that part of the world, but it’s the Western Pacific. But it goes down south of us in our own hemisphere to South American gauging our allies down there. I recently, before this tour was in Europe for about 7 months, and we spent a lot of time looking south in Africa. There are challenges there as well in addition to the continuing challenges that we have in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
JOE: You’ve been involved with some NATO operations I understand in Iraq and the Balkans,...
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Right.
JOE: ...the Mediterranean, is there still a future for NATO in the 21st Century?
ADMIRAL MULLEN: I think there is. While I was there, and it was a brief seven months, but NATO is really working hard to transform itself to make it relevant for the future in ways that allowed it to respond quickly, and actually in some ways respond out of area. Certainly, in Iraq I was in charge of standing up the training for the Iraqi Security Force, it’s War College, its Staff College, it’s Military Academy, and that clearly wasn’t in the classic NATO area of operation. NATO is working hard to try to transfer itself, 26 countries, and there are half a dozen or more who also would like to join NATO. That can be a challenge politically, but there is a commitment to try to make sure that it’s relevant and be able to handle the world that we’re living in or the world of the future.
JOE: Admiral Mullen, thank you very much for spending a few minutes with us here in the studio at KQV. I’m gonna turn you over now to Sky Foerster for the Pittsburgh Global Press Conference.
ADMIRAL MULLEN: Thank you, Joe.
JOE: Thank you, sir.