DCFR had the honor to receive Navy Admiral Chris Sadler last week. To say that the security job performed by the U.S. Navy is wide ranging and far reaching is an understatement. Given that 70% of the globe is covered by water and 90% of trade by volume is by sea, one can imagine the tasks. As Sadler definitely stated, “What happens on the sea matters.” The Navy can conduct defense from international waters, anywhere. It is fast and flexible— from below, above or on the seas and oceans. The Navy carries out both combat and humanitarian missions simultaneously, as happened through Operation Odyssey Dawn because of Libya’s political turmoil and Japan’s tsunami, respectively.
The scale and scope of this operation is impressive. Though the Navy SEALs are deservedly in the news, there are so many layers to the Navy. And their role keeps growing with new foreign policy twists in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. Their presence in the Middle East is ‘robust.’ But as ice continues to melt in the Arctic and sealanes open to previously unavailable resources, their role may expand once again.
The relationship between the U.S. Navy and other countries navy’s or similar government arms is key. As with any business—relationships matter—and it is also true with the U.S. Navy, says Sadler. There are “theaters of security cooperation” and new “Rim of the Pacific” exercises between navies of other countries with the U.S.
Interestingly, the Navy has a rich history dating back to the 1812 war with Britain. The important role of the Navy 200 years ago has been maintained, and even expanded as the world has become increasingly interconnected, complex and at times, volatile. The Navy has also kept pace with the times, even being a progressive innovator. Since fuel costs weigh heavily on their budget, as we all feel, they are increasingly becoming green. They intend to be a leader in alternative energy, and meet the Secretary of the Navy’s goal of producing at least 50% of shore-based energy requirements from alternative sources by 2020.
The need to cut the U.S. federal budget, and where to cut, was given new meaning when faced with the reality of how reductions would impact the U.S. military. Seems a scalpel is needed for the real priorities. The work of the Navy underpins a complex system of global interdependencies between nations. And when they are needed, you want those called upon to take on tough challenges to be optimally supplied, trained and have the capabilities to deliver.