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Naval Forces More Critical Than Ever, Navy Secretary Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2014 – The ever-changing global security environment makes the worldwide presence of naval assets more important than ever, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Mabus testified alongside Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos about the current state of the Navy and Marine Corps.

“In today’s dynamic security environment, naval assets are more critical than ever,” Mabus said. “In military terms, they provide presence worldwide.”

“They reassure our partners that we are there and remind potential adversaries that we’re never far away,” he added.

This presence, the secretary said, provides immediate and capable options for the commander in chief when a crisis develops anywhere in the world.

“Over two centuries ago, the United States had a crucial role in the world,” Mabus said. “Today, that role is exponentially greater.”

“Whether facing high-end combat or asymmetrical threats or humanitarian needs,” he said, “America’s maritime forces are ready and present on day one of any crisis for any eventuality.”

Mabus detailed global naval operations this past year from across the Pacific to Afghanistan, and from the Gulf of Guinea to the Arctic Circle.

“The 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the newly released [Quadrennial Defense Review] are both maritime in focus and require presence of naval forces around the world,” he said.

The secretary explained four “key factors” that have made that global presence and action possible -- people, platforms, power, and partnerships.

“In these fiscally constrained times, we’ve used these priorities to help balance between the readiness of the force, our capabilities, and our capacity,” Mabus said.

Our people are our biggest advantage, he said, and we have to make sure they continue to get the tools they need to do their jobs.

“In compensation, we’ve increased sea pay to make sure those sailors and Marines deployed aboard ship are appropriately recognized,” Mabus said.

The secretary noted this budget also seeks to control the growth in compensation benefits, which “threatens to impact all the other parts of our budget.”

Quoting Greenert, Mabus noted “If this is not addressed, as the CNO so forcibly puts it, the quality of work for our sailors and Marines will almost certainly decline.”

On platforms, Mabus said shipbuilding and other platforms remain key elements of maritime power.

“The number of ships, submarines and aircraft in our fleet is what gives us the capacity to provide that global presence,” he said.

“While we have the most advanced platforms in the world, quantity has a quality all its own,” Mabus said. “I think it’s important to understand how we got to our current fleet size.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. Navy stood at 316 ships, he explained, and by 2008 that number had dropped to 278 ships.

Mabus said in the four years before he took office, the Navy put 19 ships under contract, but since then, he has added 60 ships under contract.

“By the end of this decade, our plan will return the fleet to 300 ships,” he said. “We’re continuing our initiatives to spend smarter and more efficiently.”

The Navy is driving down costs, Mabus said, through things like competition, multi-year buys and driving harder bargains for taxpayer money.

The secretary said projecting power is a “national security issue,” central to U.S. naval forces and their ability to provide the presence needed.

“Dramatic price increases for fuel threaten to degrade our operations and training,” Mabus said, noting the potential impact to the number of platforms acquired.

“Having more varied, stably priced, American-produced sources of energy makes us better warfighters,” he said. “From sail to coal to oil to nuclear, and now to alternative fuels, the Navy has led in energy innovation.”

In today’s complex security environment, Mabus said partnerships with other nations, evidenced by interoperability, by exercises, and by operations, continue to increase in importance.

“The Navy and Marine Corps, by nature of their forward presence, are naturally suited to develop these relationships, particularly in the innovative, small footprint ways that are required,” he said.

Mabus said the fiscal year 2015 budget submission seeks to provide the Navy and Marine Corps with the necessary equipment, training, and tools needed to carry out the services’ missions as expected.

As he concluded, Mabus lauded the courageous and faithful service of his sailors, Marines, civilians and their families.

“There are never any permanent homecomings for sailors or Marines,” he said. “In peacetime, in wartime, and all the time, they remain forward deployed, providing presence, and providing whatever is needed by our country.

“This has been true for 238 years,” Mabus continued. “It is our task to make sure it remains true now and in the future.”

(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS

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