PHILLIPS: We’re joined by Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations. He’s joining us for a few moments for a quick word from our Pentagon, Washington, DC, and, of course, Marine Corps central as well as Navy central, and with that Admiral Mullen, thank you very much for taking the time for being with us and welcome.
ADM. MULLEN: Well thank you, Lockwood. It’s great to be here.
PHILLIPS: Obviously, recognizing both your relationship with the Navy and the Marine Corps, a lot of questions going on now about the future of the Navy, and I recognize quickly that of course the Navy and Marine Corps are in fact one unit. But the question is, what is the Navy’s new role for the War on Terror? Is there any new focus that is going to present to the Navy?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, it clearly has presented a new focus, but to your first point, Lockwood, the Navy and Marine Corps team is still alive and well and always will be, and we’re working hard to support our Marines in everything that they’re doing. Right now our Navy is in terrific shape and we are still deployed, about a third of us deployed around the world, which is over 100 ships and has about 36,000 Sailors deployed. They’re the best Sailors I’ve ever served with, and I’ve been doing this since the late 60s. I recently spent some time with our Seabees down in Gulfport, Mississippi, and you asked about the Marines. Of course, Seabees are such a critical part of what the Marines do and they’ve just been spectacular. So all those Sailors -- over 400,000 of them that are in the Navy these days -- great young men and women serving the nation in uniform.
But this is a new world we’re living in, a post-911 world, and I really believe we have to look at what is sea power for the new era. Now I’ve got over 4,000 Sailors who are on the ground in Iraq right now. I’ve got almost 12,000 who are on the ground in the Central Command area of responsibility. There are new missions; new talents; foreign languages; cultural understanding of various parts of the world to fit in with what we’ve always been, which has been ambassadors around the world. The other challenge I have right now is to make sure we have the size of the fleet that we need to deal with this new era. We’re moving from not just covering the blue water, but really the littorals, in close to shore with some of the new programs we have.
We’ve stood up a new command down in Norfolk, Virginia to get at the expeditionary requirements that we have very near ashore, which includes the Seabees, our security forces, our EOD, our explosives personnel and the like. So many new challenges. This war is gonna last for a significant period of time, and the Navy is very much in the fight.
PHILLIPS: Admiral, you mentioned that, of course, your training on Sailors as we speak, and also the force up in Middle Creek, in the resurgence of what we knew back in the Vietnam War as the Brown Water Navy, so yet again, new focuses, new futures for the Navy. In that regard, anything significantly changing for the Navy? What else is happening these days in the Navy that might in fact be something we’ll be seeing in the news short term?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, recent events, I’m not sure I’m very good at predicting from the news standpoint what would be coming up immediately in the future. But recent events, whether it was the missiles that North Korea shot, clearly, we had Navy ships involved out there in the Western Pacific. We have ships homeported in the Western Pacific because that’s such a critical area to us. We’re in command of the Joint Task Force in Guantanamo Bay. We’ve got a two star admiral who’s in command of a Joint Task Force off of the Horn of Africa, all of these being joint forces. Clearly, the challenges that exist in the maritime domain from piracy to the transportation of drugs and illegal immigration, arms, weapons, weapons of mass destruction, all those things are challenges of the sea, which we think is really important to get our arms around in terms of future maritime security. That doesn’t mean that we’re not just as interested in some of our traditional duties, which include the deterrent, keeping our sea lanes open, and also providing the kinds of relief that our hospital ship just recently returned from a five month cruise out to Indonesia, the Philippines and Bangladesh providing medical aid to over 60,000 citizens of those countries.
PHILLIPS: In mentioning the hospital ship, of course the Navy also was an active participant of the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
ADM. MULLEN: Absolutely. Clearly, having come from the tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia, and then the Navy was a significant participant in Katrina relief in our own country. In fact, in Navy/Marine Corps talk, we basically conducted a non-combatant evacuation in our own country, which of course we didn’t expect to do. We still have a lot of work to do down there in that part of the country. I’ve got Sailors that still… We are working hard to make sure that they and their families can continue to dig out of the challenges that that whole situation presented them.
PHILLIPS: Again, our guest is Admiral Michael Mullen. He’s the Chief of Naval Operations, and he’s joining us for just a few more minutes. Admiral, again thank you for taking the time to be with us. Obviously, a moment ago you were telling us about, with something that even I, a squiddie, a former naval officer, even forgotten, and that is the reliance on the Navy, for as all intents and purposes, our first line of a defense, particularly in the area of terrorism, you mentioned a moment ago the subject of protection on the high seas,…
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
PHILLIPS: …protecting lanes, as well as for protecting our own shores. Amidst all these challenges plus a relatively unstable world still to this day, do we have enough ships under your command and in the Navy to solve and to meet all these needs? What about the future? When I was in the Navy, the 600 fleet Navy, what about the 1,000 fleet Navy? I’ve actually heard a 1,000 ship navy term in and about from time to time. Is this the future there?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, Lockwood the short answer to do we have enough ships? No. We’re 280 ships today, and I need to arrest that almost free fall that we were into a Navy that was gonna get us to around 200 ships and turn that in a positive direction. I’ve worked hard on a plan to do that, and Congress has supported us and the administration have both supported us tremendously well in the ’07 budget to accept the plan and to move us in that direction, and that plan would take us over 300 ships. I think if we get both headed fair in that direction and get up to about 313 ships is the number I use right now, then I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.
The 1,000 ship navy is a concept that I discuss in terms of involving maritime ships and agencies and capabilities from around the world. So navies around the world willing to cooperate against these challenges and work together in a time of great uncertainty, great challenge, and in recognition of the security problems and challenges that we have around the world. I’ve just recently, a week before last, returned from a conference in Italy where over 30 navies were involved in discussing this kind of security. I’ve done the same thing in South America. I’ve seen navies from around the world and leadership of navies from around the world embrace this, and the whole idea is that we have a common challenge. The barriers to entry are very low and we recognize that there’s a bond of going to sea, and we understand the need to address these security challenges and there’s a way ahead here. So this 1,000 ship navy is a fleet in being, if you will, that addresses the time we’re living in.
PHILLIPS: But in the actual case for the Navy, the U.S., we’re looking at, you’re hoping that working towards 300 ships.
ADM. MULLEN: 313 ships is the number that I would like people to remember, and we’re headed in that direction.
PHILLIPS: Outstanding. Our guest again, Admiral Michael G. Mullen. He is the Chief of Naval Operations. And Admiral, I know that you’re short on time so I’ll be very quick. I have two issues of a local nature here…
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
PHILLIPS: …in our community, and of course one of them is, not very nearby, well, definitively within our flight plans, and that, of course, is the Navy’s efforts to establish an outlying landing field
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
PHILLIPS: … OLF in the areas of Washington and ports of Beaufort County just…
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
PHILLIPS: The condition of that… I know it’s been under challenge both by the Federal Court as well as obviously residents in the community. What is the future? How does that look? What is the purpose? What do you see as the purpose of the OLF?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, the outlying field is really a readiness issue and it’s an issue that – it’s a place that would allow us to prepare our tactical aviators, our carrier aviators for the incredibly challenging skills that they must master. In the outlying field that is proposed would in great part, actually, dramatically improve our ability to do that, consistent with what has been such strong support from the State of North Carolina for both the Navy and for all of our services. I obviously speak most specifically about the Marine Corps and the Navy because that’s were I live.
So this is designed to again heighten the readiness of our forces, reduce flight operations late at night, which would dramatically reduce the impact on communities. I recognize there are challenges associated with this in the long run. We are working our way through the overall process, which is mandated at this point for us to work through, and we want to do it with the people of North Carolina to see if we can arrive at a point that’s mutually conducive to the readiness of our Navy, as well as to the people who live in North Carolina.
PHILLIPS: I would assume and very quickly that the location of the OLF is determined briefly by the essence of current facilities, mainly Oceania as well as Cherry Point and Marine Corps Air Station.
ADM. MULLEN: Clearly, its proximity is what makes it very attractive in terms of being able to do this in some kind of reasonable way. Back to the world we’re living in, we’ve got to have opportunities to train and train like we fight or like we would be in a position to fight should that arise. This issue of a balance between, obviously local communities and their support and what our national security needs are, is something that we have work very, very hard on.
PHILLIPS: Again, our guest, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral, bring the subject a little closer to home for our communities here in Carteret, Onslow, Craven, Pamlico counties of course as the proposed Undersea Warfare Training Range ...
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
PHILLIPS: … and recognizing that the Navy is engaged in an EIS, the subject being worse preparing, and you mentioned earlier the issue of littorals defense…
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
PHILLIPS: …that is our coastlines, the impact of a warfare training range of this nature and the importance of that to the Navy.
ADM. MULLEN: It’s critical to us. It’s a critical mission area, and I talked about the developments which are ongoing throughout the world. The threat in fact, the undersea warfare threat is growing, and we need to be able to address it. I, as someone leading the Navy, understand that threat, and I never want to put any Sailors or anybody else, but in this particular, this threat, anybody in harm’s way without conducting the proper kind of training. So this range is vital for that. We are working hard through NOAA, which is the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, to cooperate in the development of the Undersea Warfare Training Range project, and we very much appreciate the concern and the involvement of all the local citizens with respect to that.
What I would hope to be able to do as we determine the best way ahead is to understand, particularly in this area, the science that’s available, the science that has been done. There’s a great deal of science that has not been done in terms of any indication that we would have a significant impact on marine mammals. We are as a government institution, and as a Navy, and I as a leader very committed to being responsible stewards in the environment in which we operate. As I said that for the outlying field it’s another part of making sure our troops, our Sailors are trained to the highest possible level in order to provide the opportunity for them to perform as they essentially provide the security for our country and put their lives on the line.
PHILLIPS: Admiral, we do appreciate your time. I’ve got to ask one last question recognizing you’re a graduate of the Naval Academy 1968. A lot’s happened since your departure from the Academy, and I know that the Academy is training the very best and is consequently thinking, look forward into the future. Over the past almost forty years, did you anticipate, in any way, shape or form the changes you’re facing now as Chief of Naval Operations both in world politics, but also specifically in the need to protect the country and defend freedoms.
ADM. MULLEN: Clearly, I did not. You know as we look back through history, there’s always significant change which occurs over time. Certainly, I expected some change, but I did not expect us to be in the world that we’re living in right now. I do worry about that world in terms of the security for my children and their children, and in the long run that’s what this is all about, providing a secure environment so our young people can grow up. It’s not just our young people here, its young people throughout the world. My biggest challenge right now is to deal not just with change, but with the pace of change which is occurring at a much higher speed than I had anticipated. We all need to pull together to meet that for a secure future.
PHILLIPS: Admiral, we do appreciate your time. Thank you very much. I know it’s been a very hectic day for you, but this is an important message for both, particularly for our Marines and Sailors in the neighborhood, but also the Coast Guard, the U.S. Army, Reservists, and the National Guardsmen. Admiral Michael G. Mullen again, Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral, thank you for your time.
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you Lockwood.