Chief of Naval Operations Nominee Cites Future Needs, Challenges
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 27, 2007 Maintaining the U.S. Navy’s sea and air deterrent and recruiting and retaining enough qualified sailors to man the fleet are among the U.S. Navy’s top challenges in the years ahead, the officer nominated to lead that force told a Senate panel here today.
Adm. Gary Roughead, selected by President Bush to become the next chief of naval operations, appeared on Capitol Hill before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The admiral is the current commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, which organizes, mans, trains and equips U.S. naval forces for assignment to combatant commanders.
“Maintaining our current readiness gives us the ability to be an effective force anywhere in the world,” Roughead told committee members at his confirmation hearing today.
Building tomorrow’s Navy requires responsibility, accountability and an obligation “to clearly and thoughtfully define how we will fight and what we need -- not want -- to be able to do that,” he told committee members.
In his current position, Roughead provides key advice to current naval chief Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who on Oct. 1 is slated to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Marine Gen. Peter Pace.
Today’s Navy plays an important role in the U.S. military’s joint-force concept, Roughead reported, noting that sailors and naval aviators are deployed worldwide with members of their sister services in support of the war against terrorism.
Naval forces also serve alongside other U.S. military forces posted in other regions vital to national security interests, such as South America and Africa, Roughead reported.
It’s paramount that America’s Navy maintains its forward-leaning warfighting posture, in line with the force’s Fleet Response Plan concept that stresses force agility embodied by rapid-deployment capabilities, Roughead said. The Fleet Response Plan calls for agile, robust U.S. naval forces that can quickly respond to any contingency.
Being ready and responsive to carry out a range of diverse missions requires new approaches to delivering operational capability at the best cost, the admiral explained.
Technology is ever-changing, therefore, the Navy must also ensure that its equipment is the most advanced in the world to deter possible future enemies, Roughead reported.
U.S. naval ships, submarines, aircraft, weapons and networks must outpace potential adversaries, the admiral said in written responses to questions from the committee. However, rising costs of advanced technology are challenging the Navy’s ability to provide a balanced force, he added.
In addition, the Navy’s sailors and pilots constitute the bedrock of that service, Roughead emphasized in his written response, noting that the Navy is facing increasing competition from the civilian workplace in meeting its recruiting goals. Attracting and retaining a diverse, high-quality force of sailors and Navy civilians must remain a high priority, the admiral pointed out.
“Our policies must enable us to recruit, to retain, and to fulfill the young men and women of America, and the Navy must reflect the demographic of our diverse nation,” the admiral said at today’s hearing.
If he is confirmed as the nation’s top sailor, Roughead said he’d labor to address what he considers to be the Navy’s three most serious problems:
-- Properly balancing current resources needed to sustain, train and equip the Navy;
-- Obtaining resources necessary to build and man the future Navy; and
-- Ensuring continuity among the Navy’s requirements, resourcing and acquisition realms in conjunction with the service’s planning, programming, budgeting and execution processes.
To address and solve these vital issues, Roughead said, he’d work closely with senior Navy leaders, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chairman, the secretary of the Navy, the secretary of defense, and the U.S. Congress.
The Navy’s current 277-ship fleet is adequate to meet today’s warfighting missions, Roughead reported to the committee. However, the Navy’s fleet will need to grow to 313 vessels to meet envisioned needs in the next decade or so, he added.
“I believe that the shipbuilding plan that we have in place right now is giving us the balanced fleet that we need,” Roughead told committee members today at the hearing.
The Navy has stated that it envisioned a 48-vessel attack-submarine fleet for service over the next decade or so, Roughead reported. However, new projections based on the impact of newer models, rehabilitation work and lengthened deployments, he noted, have reduced the number of subs needed, which could fall to as low as 40 and remain below 48 subs over the next 10 years.
Roughead said he supports U.S. participation in the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. Joining that compact would benefit the U.S. Navy through ensuring the sovereignty of American warships and stipulating the right-of-passage of U.S. vessels through strategic straits used for international navigation, he reported.
“Our operations at sea will be enhanced by the Law of the Sea Treaty,” Roughead emphasized at the confirmation hearing.