To Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, America’s security is tied to the sea and the U.S. Navy’s ability to adapt to new, unconventional challenges.
Roughead says that means reshaping the Navy into a force that can be quickly deployed to any hot spot in the world and provide a range of deterrence or combat options. With threats coming from rogue states, terrorists and extremists, Roughead envisions a fleet of super carriers that can deliver air power, warships capable of launching ballistic missiles as well as shooting them down, submarines that prowl the sea undetected, and smaller ships designed to operate near shore that can be reconfigured for different missions within 24 hours.
In a meeting with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s editorial board, Roughead says such a force could patrol the world’s trade routes, protect American interests, come to the defense of allies and also be ready to provide humanitarian aid in the event of a disaster.
» On future deployment of forces in the Pacific:
"I think what you’re going to see is a continued emphasis. … As you know we’re moving a higher percentage of submarines into the Pacific … there’ll be more aircraft carriers in the Pacific than the Atlantic. The demands on ballistic missile capability will continue to increase and the opportunities to work with other navies in the region will continue to grow.
"As long as the Pacific remains a place from which our prosperity is driven, and that prosperity is underpinned by trade, and trade moves across the ocean, navies are going to be there to ensure safety and security. So I think you will not see a diminishment, you will see the best of what we have coming this way.
"I think you’ve already seen it in the Virginia-class submarines, the advances in ballistic missile defense and the new maritime patrol aircraft, the Poseidon, the P-8, that will be replacing the P-3s that are based out of Kaneohe."
» On the relationship between the U.S. and Chinese navies:
"I’ve had the unique experiences through a series of assignments, primarily here in Hawaii going back to 1993, to have some unique opportunities to be around the (People’s Liberation Army) Navy, to visit them there, to have them come here, and several opportunities to sit down with my counterpart in the PLA Navy. … I think many are surprised when I say that for the last two years the U.S. Navy and the PLA Navy have been conducting military operations every day. People say, ‘What’s that about?’ It’s called counter-piracy off the coast of Somalia.
"They have been deploying ships there. We work with them. We exchange information. In fact, they just had a couple of ships visit Bahrain, where we have our Navy headquarters in the Middle East. My objective is to get that same level of cooperation and interaction and involvement between our navies in the western Pacific as we’re able to do off the coast of Somalia.
"I have watched the PLA Navy grow and develop and change in the last 17 years. There is no question their navy is growing and changing because their economy allows them to do that. It’s not unusual in history for that to happen. … As your economy grows, as you become dependent on trade, as you become dependent on resources, navies tend to be there to guarantee that. Because 90 percent of everything that’s moving is moving on the ocean."
» On the "offshore option":
"I use the term ‘the offshore option,’ and I’m not sure it’s a term of art, but for me what it describes is a future that I see where the maritime environment will remain important, because commerce and trade is going to continue, probably just increase, and the trade routes will change. … As I’ve been able to see things over the last 15 years or so, countries are becoming more sensitive to their own sovereignty. And the idea of being present in someone else’s country for a long period of time, assuming you can drop into someone else’s country and everything is going to be fine, I’m not sure that’s what the future will hold for us. Similarly, I think that within our country, whether it’s for economic reasons or political reasons, I think there will be reservations about committing troops ashore. … Being offshore, with the kinds of capabilities that we have, allows us to be there but not really be there. And I think that will become more important in the future. …
"I wouldn’t say that’s gunboat diplomacy. Being present allows us to assure friends and partners that if you need us we’ll be there. It also allows us to respond in other ways, and I’ll cite a couple of cases. Just in the past year we had a Marine-Navy amphibious group operating in the Middle East and when the floods hit Pakistan we were there to set up aid, and it made a huge difference. The ability to respond as quickly as we did in Haiti … much of that initial response came from the sea, and in fact I’m very proud of the fact that the first Navy ship to respond to Haiti came from the Pacific Fleet and its last mission was ballistic missile defense in Europe, which gives you a sense of the range and flexibility of what we have in the Navy and also how our people can shift from doing this very, very complex ballistic missile defense mission and then a couple of weeks later they’re setting up clinics in Haiti after the earthquake.
» On his outlook for the Korean peninsula:
"My hope is that (the tension) does not (escalate). But I think there’s a succession process going on (with Kim Jong Il setting the stage for his son Kim Jong Un to take over). I would also say that I think in North Korea there are some significant economic strains. From things that you can read and from what information comes out, it’s a pretty tough place. But I do think that a lot of what we are seeing is due to succession. (The U.S. Navy’s role) is to support South Korea, who are our allies. We have a commitment to them.
"I have always appreciated the type of relationship we have with Korea. I have an affinity for the Korean people. Whenever I go there, there’s a sense that there is a special relationship. There is a line in our U.S. military and the Republic of Korea military — "katchi kapshida." That’s ‘We go together.’ And it’s heartfelt, really heartfelt, because we shed a lot of blood in Korea and that has not been forgotten. And the bond between our militaries is really quite strong.
"I think China continues to work with North Korea to try to see that the situation there is one where the differences can be solved peacefully. It’s in no one’s interest to have anything happen there. We have a very ready Navy, we have significant force structure forward-deployed in the region and if you look at the capabilities we have there it’s the very best in the Navy. George Washington, the aircraft carrier, is the most capable because when we sent it forward we made sure it had all the latest capabilities on it. The combatant ships that are there are ballistic missile defense capable. And that force up there operates at a more intensive pace than the rest of the Navy, and therefore their competence, their proficiency and their readiness is much higher than the rest of the Navy … and that’s exactly the way I want it to be."
» On emerging maritime trade routes:
"We will see a greater interest moving up toward the Arctic because as we see changes in the climate, temperatures are changing and fish are migrating. And as the Arctic opens — and it will open — I predict the first thing you’ll be seeing will be larger fishing fleets up there. Transportation won’t break through the Arctic for probably another 20, 25 years, but already countries are beginning to look at what does that mean? … I’ve also been very interested in looking at trade from the standpoint of the expansion of the Panama Canal (in 2015), which will significantly increase the amount of tonnage that can go through there. And then a couple of decades from now, when the Arctic opens, what does that mean? What it means is that you can go from Asia to Europe in about six or seven days less time and it will cost a large merchant ship roughly a million dollars less.
"And the reason I’m interested in these changes is what does this mean for the Navy? Where does the Navy have to be? What kinds of capabilities should we have? How do we work with other countries who have like interests, so that we can have a cooperative effort?
"But the most important thing we need to focus on is how do we work out the issues, the competing claims in the Arctic. The issues about the routes that will be used in the Arctic are going to be resolved through something called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We are not party to that treaty. We will not be at the table when those decisions are being made. And for that reason I think it is so important for us as a country to become part of that treaty. It in no way erodes our ability to operate. There are some who say that many of the things we as a Navy can do would be hampered if we became party (but) all of those issues were resolved over a decade ago. … As in all things that are treaty-related, they have to be ratified by our Senate and I’ll leave it there. I’m not a politician.
» On the transition following repeal of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy:
"We have to change some policies because of the change in bringing gay and lesbian sailors into open service. As I said at the congressional hearing, gays and lesbians have been serving in the Navy for a long time. This just allows them to serve openly. So we have to go into the Uniform Code of Military Justice because there are certain things that have to be changed there. We have to give a look at how we deal with benefit issues for gay and lesbian service members. We have to make sure the rest of the force understands what the standards of conduct and the rules are. Our approach is that there is a small minority of people within the military who because of moral reasons don’t approve. Our objective and our training is not to change their views, but let them know it’s all about conduct. And that’s all we can do.
"I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, getting into the survey that we did, the most extensive survey that has ever been done on the military in our history. And I came to the conclusion that this can be done and should be done and as a result of the change in the law, it will be done. But we’ll go through a period of making sure we’ve addressed the policy issues, the standards issues, we’ll train the force, and then the president and the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will certify that the force is ready and then, as the law is written, there is a 60-day period after that and that’s when the law takes effect. But I’m very comfortable in where we’re heading and have every confidence in the Navy."