Leaders Encourage New CNO to Continue Navy's Transformation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md., July 22, 2005 The Defense Department's top civilian leaders challenged the new chief of naval operations to continue the sweeping transformation under way to prepare the Navy for the challenges ahead.
Adm. Michael Mullen, took the helm as the Navy's top-ranking officer today during ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy here. He had served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Allied Joint Force Command Naples. He succeeds Adm. Vern Clark, whose retirement was marked in today's ceremonies.
"The Navy Admiral Clark inherited (in July 2000) still reflected aspects of the Cold War posture," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the audience gathered in the academy's Alumni Hall. For example, Rumsfeld noted, "large, blue-water battle groups made regular six-month deployments across the world's oceans, and then experienced drops in combat capability on their return home."
No more, the secretary said, noting that programs Clark championed have enabled the Navy to provide sustained striking power on short notice, with expeditionary strike groups and the "Sea Power 21" concept and fleet-response plan.
These innovations already are benefiting the United States, the Rumsfeld said, giving the Navy more capability and making it more responsive.
For example, they enabled the Navy to be on station in the Arabian Sea within hours of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and provide "incredible firepower" for operations around the world, he said.
"Today, sailors are on the front lines of our country's defense and they contribute to a wide range of efforts," from combat operations to humanitarian efforts like the tsunami relief effort in South Asia, he said.
Navy Secretary and acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England praised Clark for the "indelible imprint" the changes he directed have made on the Navy.
Those changes, however beneficial, were not always easy, he noted. "People talk about transformation and change as if you just go do it," England said. "(But) it is extraordinarily difficult and hard to do. And I think it is even harder as a service chief, because there is a lot of pressure to maintain the status quo."
Mullen noted the major changes made under Clark, and promised to keep the momentum going. He assured the defense leaders that he welcomes the changes made under Clark and plans to continue them, full steam ahead, as chief of naval operations.
"In almost every conceivable way, we are not the same Navy we were five years ago," Mullen said. "We don't think the same; we don't plan the same; we don't operate the same or fight the same."
By adapting to new technology and new ways of doing business, Mullen said the Navy is now "more capable, more ready, more effective and more efficient."
"The only constant in our future is change," Mullen said, noting that making that change will demand "hard work and the willingness to adapt."
Mullen promised to continue to "sharpen the blade that is naval warfare," both at sea and ashore. "Though we are clearly more ready today than we have ever been, we have much work yet to do and effort yet to expend to be ready for tomorrow," he said. "We must be able to transform ourselves and our thinking quickly in response to an ever-changing, ever-challenging and ever-more-joint environment."
Much is riding on that ability, the admiral noted.
"Our nation and our citizens are depending on it. Our allies and our sister services are depending on it," Mullen said. "The men and women who are walking point in harm's way, fighting, and yes, dying to keep freedom's hope alive are depending on it."
Clark called the sea "the greatest maneuver space in the world" and said the United States must "use every capability our great nation can muster to accelerate our advances" in that domain.
"When we send the sons and daughters of America into harm's way to defend our way of life, we are looking for overwhelming victories," Clark said. Assurance of those victories demands "every possible technical and tactical advantage we can think of," he said.