October 1, 2007
Pg. 10 Service has excelled in its larger role, Joint Staff chief-to-be Mullen says
By Zachary M. Peterson
As he leaves his job as head of the Navy to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen says the readiness of the sea service has “never been higher,” filling a “rapidly expanding mission set” at a high operational tempo.
Mullen took over for Adm. Vern Clark as chief of naval operations in 2005. He leaves office to take over for Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace as the top uniformed military official.
“We’ve got a rapidly expanding mission set,” Mullen said in a Sept. 18 interview with Navy Times. This mission set “covers a full spectrum,” the admiral noted. This full spectrum includes:
*143 ships underway in myriad missions around the globe, ranging from counterterrorism and piracy engagements around the Horn of Africa to conducting humanitarian relief in Latin America.
*Sailors ashore in Afghanistan and Iraq serving as individual augmentees for Marine and Army units.
*Newly created riverine units.
*Seabees doing construction projects in various places.
*Electronic warfare squadrons countering improvised explosive devices in Iraq.
*Corpsmen serving with Marine units down range.
“There’s an enormous pressure on the Navy in a very dangerous time in our world and our missions are actually expanding,” Mullen said. “I’m very proud of what we’re doing and our ability to meet that.”
The Navy is no longer focused exclusively on blue water but also on brown and green water closer to shore.
“We’ve still got the traditional high-end capabilities, which we still have to be mindful of in the long run,” he said. “My goal is not to want to have to use that, but we’re certainly ready to use that if called on and it’s certainly the strength to deter a potential future adversary.”
As the world changes, the Navy’s engagement capability around the world has remained an essential core competency for the service, according to Mullen.
“The world’s getting smaller,” he said. “The term ‘globalization’ gets misused at times, but it’s getting smaller, faster, we’re more inextricably linked around the world, and so the ability to exercise with, exchange with, have relationships, understand cultures — it really is a core strength of the Navy.”
The western Pacific Ocean is an area of great strategic importance, Mullen said.
“There is a tendency to focus [on the Middle East], but what sometimes gets lost is the pace of business in the western Pacific,” he said. “I’m fond of saying it’s a big body of water; it takes a little while to get around in and you need assets to do that. And there are many, many nations out there that border the ocean. We have long-standing relationships and emerging relationships with others.”
The admiral cited enduring relationships with Japan, Singapore and South Korea and emerging relationships with Indonesia and Malaysia — all countries he visited during his time as CNO.
“One of the first places I went [as CNO] was Indonesia and Malaysia,” Mullen said. “We’ve had a pretty rough road with these countries in the past, but I think continued engagement is really important and they sit in a vital economic node in the Straits of Malacca. And I’ve been very pleased. I’ve watched Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore — a long-standing ally of ours — provide security in the Straits of Malacca and therefore the United States doesn’t have to do that.”
Partnerships and cooperation with other nations are part of the 1,000-ship navy concept Mullen first introduced at the International Seapower Symposium in Newport, R.I., in September 2005.
“Our theme, a global network of maritime nations for a free and secure maritime domain, is about voluntarily harnessing the power of the international community, in ways that are in the interest of individual nations, in order to effectively and efficiently confront the challenges we all face today,” Mullen said at the time.
Two years later, the concept — and Mullen emphasizes that the 1,000-ship navy is a concept — continues to generate discussion worldwide, he said.
“I wouldn’t want it to be anything else but that concept and it’s in that concept and in the discussions we’ve had in regions globally that it has military leaders and other governmental leaders — even in our government it’s been well-received by our State Department — thinking about how to engage and create enduring partners from emerging partners against these common challenges that we all have,” Mullen said. “In the end, security in the maritime domain is vital.”
“Nobody can do it alone anymore,” he said. “Not the United States, not the United States Navy. We’ve got to have partners and relationships to [promote maritime safety and security].”
“I’ve actually scratched my head about why it’s been so well-received,” Mullen said. “Sometimes it gets discussed as if it’s my 1,000-ship navy. It is not my 1,000-ship navy. It is a navy that is composed of navies or other maritime capabilities, coast guards, port security authorities, around the world. It’s voluntary. One of the things that has really struck me about it, and the receptivity it’s received in so many parts of the world, is the barriers to entry are almost nil.”
Further, the admiral argued that maritime security is often taken for granted.
Demonstrating the Navy’s relevance to the American population has been part of Mullen’s push for a new maritime strategy co-authored by the three maritime services, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
The new strategy has taken a little over a year to write and is currently being finalized.
“We haven’t had [a maritime strategy] for some 20 years or so,” Mullen said. “We’re in this new era and we really need a new one and we’re closing on that.”
The new strategy is expected to be signed by Mullen’s successor, Adm. Gary Roughead, he said. Roughead is awaiting a Senate confirmation hearing before taking his new post.
“And I don’t think it’s going to be another 20 years before it gets updated again because things are moving too quickly,” he said.
“It’s a very busy time,” Mullen said. “The Navy and our partner the Marine Corps are at a time in making a difference in the world that matches that need and will continue in the future.”
Mullen said he will miss serving as the Navy’s top officer, but emphasized his deep appreciation for sailors and their families around the world who are serving in the Navy.
“Our high-quality people — and it all happens because of them — are making such a difference,” the admiral said.