CNO Franchetti: Indo-Pacific Still Top U.S. Priority

November 24, 2023 7:22 PM
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti wishes the crew a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ over the 1MC during a visit to the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John Finn (DDG-113), Nov. 23, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Indo-Pacific remains the United States’ foremost priority and “that is why no matter what is happening around the world, the United States Navy continues to deploy and operate forward here in the Indo-Pacific,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti in a Thursday media call from Busan, South Korea.

Franchetti is on the last stop of a weeklong tour of the Indo-Pacific with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James Honea. They visited Guam and Japan before Busan.

“I purposefully chose to come to the Indo-Pacific region for my first trip because of the strategic significance of this region. The security and stability of this region affect every American, it affects every nation around the globe, and again, I’m really happy to be here with the MCPON in our concerted effort to underscore our focus in the Indo-Pacific” said Franchetti.

She reiterated that the U.S. would always be present to support its allies and partners in the region and that a shared common thread with Indo-Pacific partners and allies is the shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and the alliances the U.S. has in the region underpin the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific, and facilitate the preservation of the rules-based international order, “No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms” said Franchetti.

Along with the trip’s focus on key allies and partners in the region, she said she and the MCPON wanted to spend time with the Navy’s sailors, civilians, and families to thank them for their operations in this critical region and “thank them for their service and their sacrifice, serving overseas and deployed, especially during this holiday season”.

The CNO highlighted the ongoing deployment of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and the recently concluded patrol by the Ronald Reagan CSG along exercises such as Sama Sama in October, Noble Wolverine in September, and Malabar in August together with numerous other exercises and operations in the region as examples of the priority the Navy places on the region, operating forward with allies and partners,

“Each exercise and operation demonstrates that we are committed to working together to increase our interoperability and strengthen deterrence across the region,” Franchetti said.

The Navy’s training, exercising, and cooperating with allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific is just not to ensure interoperability but, where possible, interchangeability.

“Our allies must be fully integrated into our planning and our operations,” said the CNO. Underscoring this have been activities by the two CSGs which have seen them conduct a multiple large deck exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) in November, the Vinson CSG participation in the JMSDF’s annual exercise, and the Reagan CSG’s patrol where not only did the CSG participated in numerous multinational integrated military exercises with various partners, including the JMSDF, Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), and the Indian Navy but also operated in the Indo-Pacific with NATO Allies, including the French Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and Italian Navy.

Interoperability with Indo-Pacific partners has not just been at the commander level but at all levels such as the senior enlisted level said MCPON Honea giving the example of the Pacific Fleet master chief having a master chief from the Royal New Zealand Navy working side by side with him at Pacific Fleet headquarters, “we have partnerships across the region, at all levels, and we have continued to work on these partnerships so that we have a great interoperability and to be able to keep our focus and our eye on all things across the globe at the same time” said Honea.

On China posing a strategic challenge in the region, the CNO said that the ability to operate with allies and partners is the United States’ strategic advantage, something which China along with many of the U.S.’s other and potential adversaries around the world do not have.

“As we watch China and the development of their military, I’m focused on what we can do to develop incredible capabilities with our allies and partners and be able to operate together in the maritime ecosystem to deter, to defend, and, if necessary, defeat any adversary,” said Franchetti.

Franchetti stated that the U.S. submarine force is a strategic advantage and she was excited about the opportunities presented through AUKUS. Among the activities under AUKUS is the rotation of U.S. submarines in Western Australia beginning in 2027.

“Having a strong submarine force that can operate together with our three strong partners, as well as integrate with other submarine forces in the Indo-Pacific, provides an incredibly strong deterrent message to anyone that would want to change the rules-based international order and rewrite those rules to be in their favor,” she said.

On China’s recent aggressive behavior in military encounters, the CNO said that the Navy continues to operate around the globe with its allies and partners, and expects all navies to operate in international waters to uphold the rules and norms of proper military behavior on, under, and above the sea.

“We lead, by our example with our allies and partners. And we expect the PRC and every other navy around the world to abide by those customs and traditions of safe and professional operations at sea that do not endanger the lives of our sailors around the world,” Franchetti said.

China this year has conducted several unsafe intercepts, along with harassing Australian and Canadian ships and aircraft operating in the region with the most recent incident being the use of sonar against RAN divers from frigate HMAS Toowoomba (FFH156) in November.

She said that the Navy is a global force posturized to work effectively around the globe with the 7th fleet in the Indo-Pacific having most of the Navy’s high-end capability, as the CNO prioritizes sending the Navy’s most up-to-date capabilities there with its best-trained people, though despite all the capabilities, the Navy’s personnel is its true secret weapon.

“Our Navy has the very best ships, submarines, and aircraft, but without our people, they go nowhere and they do nothing. I think our people are our true secret weapon. They give us a decisive edge, and because of them, our Navy remains the preeminent fighting force on, under, and above the sea” Franchetti said.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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