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Esper Talks With Sailors About Navy's Role in National Security

Sept. 18, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper spoke with sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Pacific Ocean, where it is currently conducting flight deck certifications in preparation for future operations.

The defense secretary speaks to a group of sailors in a hangar bay on a ship.
USS Carl Vinson Speech
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper addresses sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of San Diego, Sept. 17, 2020. Secretary Esper toured the Navy platform that's critical to maintaining naval power across the Indo-Pacific region.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 200917-D-ZZ999-204

Yesterday, a sailor asked Esper if aircraft carriers will continue to play a central role in the Navy or go the way of battleships, which are no longer in the fleet.

The secretary assured the sailors that carriers will not be going away and will continue to play a pivotal part in defense strategy.

We have the most advanced aircraft carriers in the world, and we have more of them than anybody else, and we will continue to maintain that overmatch."
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper

Besides their lethality, carriers, along with the other ships, are important for showing America's presence abroad and its commitment to allies and partners and deterring bad behavior from others, he said.

A fighter jet lands on the deck of an aircraft carrier as it sails on the ocean.
Flight Operations
Flight operations on the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, underway in the Pacific Ocean, as seen while Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper was aboard for a visit, Sept. 17, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200917-D-BN624-0308A

The Navy also plays the key role of maintaining freedom of navigation and commerce around the globe, he added.

Looking into the future, the Navy will have a more balanced force, which can deliver effects from all domains: sea, land, air, space and cyberspace, he said.

A more balanced force, he noted, will include surface, subsurface and air unmanned vehicles. "Unmanned will enable us to grow the United States Navy well beyond 355 ships. It will add more lethality, survivability and capability."

Another sailor asked how the U.S. aircraft carrier fleet stacks up against those of the rest of the world.

"We have the most advanced aircraft carriers in the world, and we have more of them than anybody else, and we will continue to maintain that overmatch," Esper replied. 

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks from behind a dias.
Esper Remarks
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to sailors in an all-hands call on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, underway in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 17, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200917-D-BN624-0462

That overmatch is not just the number of planes or self-defense systems a carrier has, it's the sailors and leadership of the officers and noncommissioned officers, how effectively they work together, how quickly they turn aircraft, launch and retrieve, Esper said.

Besides having good leaders, the Navy and Marine Corps team has the best training, readiness, operational art and doctrine of any navy, he added.

An important part of boosting readiness is the Navy's commitment to ensuring sailors' health and fitness and taking care of their families, he mentioned.

Sailors listen to speaker.
All-Hands Meeting
Sailors attend the all-hands call conducted by Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper on the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which is underway in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 17, 2020.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200917-D-BN624-0367A

A third sailor asked what the department is doing in the face of the growing military threat from China, which has been modernizing its forces.

"We need to outcompete China and are doing just that," he said. "We are going to maintain that overmatch."

The department has the largest research and development budget in history, and it is investing heavily in such technologies as artificial intelligence; a 5G network; unmanned ground, air, surface and undersea vehicles; and hypersonics. 

Esper said, "AI will be a game-changer. It will change the character of warfare."