The Chinese navy intrudes on the maritime rights of its neighbors, bullies other nations and is determined to build a force strong enough to counter the U.S. Pacific Fleet, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer told an audience at the WEST 2013 convention in San Diego on Thursday.
China’s navy, said Capt. Jim Fannell, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and operations at the U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Hawaii, is a force that “is focused on war at sea.”
The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet told a morning audience at the WEST 2013 convention that the Pentagon’s decision to rebalance its focus to Asia and the Pacific is strategically sound militarily and is vital in helping to ensure a stable world economy.
Adm. Cecil D. Haney noted that 15 of the world’s 20 largest seaports are in Asia and the Pacific, and $5.3 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea alone. “Clearly, we, the United States of America, have an interest in that area,” Haney said.
Sequestration dominated the first day of WEST 2013 at the San Diego Convention Center on Tuesday, with Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offering a sober assessment on the limits of American military power should the additional $500 billion in military cuts go into effect.
Proceedings, Jan. 2013
The Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyers are the backbone of the Fleet. For the past 20 years, the DDG-51s have evolved to meet the latest threats. Originally designed to combat Soviet aircraft and submarines, the Burkes proved their versatility and flexibility in two Persian Gulf wars and cemented the Navy’s role in ballistic-missile defense (BMD).
Lockheed Martin Photo
In a joint news conference on Thursday afternoon, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs announced the discontinuation of the 19-year-old Combat Exclusion Policy. The removal of existing gender barriers will be implemented on a rolling timeline: the services must report initial plans by this May, and by January 2016 all fields should be opened to qualified service members regardless of gender. The timeline delays are planned to give the services time to comply, to figure out how to apply for any desired waivers, and to evaluate resulting questions or concerns. The end of the Combat Exclusion Policy seems anticlimactic yet absurdly necessary.
The Pentagon announced yesterday it would end its official policy banning women from serving in ground-combat roles, opening an estimated 230,000 positions to female servicemembers. The unexpected move by departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has met mixed reaction, and numerous questions remain about the practical effects of the decision.
The Thursday announcement by Panetta—who was joined by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey—settles one of the last remaining policy disparities between men and women in combat, allowing females to join infantry, artillery, armor, and other combat-coded posts previously reserved solely for men, including the special operations components. But, while the policy change topples some of the last remaining walls for women in uniform, it also poses serious questions for policy makers, chief among them being the status of women vis-à-vis the Selective Service System.
Lance Cpl. Stephanie Robertson, a member of the female engagement team (FET) assigned to 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010. USMC Photo
Navy Under Secretary Robert Work torpedoed nostalgia for a 600-ship Navy on Thursday, arguing that today’s Sea Service would far outmatch the peak Fleet size of 1989, and adding that it may be downhill from here.
Work, who spoke at the Surface Navy Association’s 2013 symposium, methodically rebutted claims that the Navy had ever been as large as 600 ships. He pointed out that goals for a much larger Navy than today’s were based on reports that never received official approval or were interim targets as the Fleet drew down.
Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work offers remarks during the fiscal year 2011 Department of the Navy Acquisition Excellence awards ceremony at the Pentagon in June. U.S. Navy Photo
While acknowledging that the surface combat fleet has shrunk by about 28 ships, he pointed out that the tradeoff has been for more capable cruisers and destroyers, all of which have guided-missile capability, unlike the ships of old.
Even as the Coast Guard gets a grip on the Arctic, drug smugglers in the eastern Pacific are slipping through its fingers, Commandant Adm. Robert Papp acknowledged Thursday.
At the Surface Naval Association Symposium, Papp told reporters he has been forced to give some things up as demands on the Coast Guard increase in the warming Arctic. As he has sent the service’s new National Security Cutters into the frozen north, it has been at the expense of man- and ship-hours for other missions, including drug interdiction in the eastern Pacific.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf sails in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, Aug. 28, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo
“We don’t have enough ships out there to interdict all the known tracks that we’re aware of,” he said. “We intercept as many as we can.”