Archive for February, 2009
By Jim Dolbow
Q: Admiral, can we get an update on PACOM’s partnership with the country of Mongolia? There’s been a lot of news over the past year or two about their peacekeeping efforts.
ADM. KEATING: You bet, Jim. I had the privilege of going to Mongolia a while ago, saw the concluding exercise events and the ceremony attendant to Khaan Quest, conducted in the Mongolian steppes, which is a fabulous training area. The Mongolians were very cooperative training partners for about 10 countries who sent troops — I think the number was 10 — sent forces to participate in the exercise.
Mongolians have joined us in Iraq, as you know. I saw a number of their forces when we went, visited them Thanksgiving a year and a half ago. They were tasked with providing perimeter security for a camp southeast of Baghdad, a singularly important mission, as you appreciate, particularly if you’re inside the camp. And they were doing a magnificent job.
The Mongolian chief of defense has gotten to be a pretty good friend. He has come to our Chiefs of Defense conference. They’re in, of course, a strategically critical spot for us, with Russia to the north and China in the south. They have some marvelous natural resources upon which they intend to capitalize. So they’re a good partner of ours, they’re good friends, and we enjoy working closely with them.
The emphasis the Mongolian Armed Forces places on peacekeeping is a success story that can’t be told enough. It is also important to note that Mongolia considers the United States to be it’s 3rd neighbor and English is the primary foreign language learned in Mongolia.
Didn’t go fast (‘cept down hill). Didn’t do afterburner flybys. Boss and Handler generally tolerated us, barely, unless we went stiff wing in the wires, then all hell was unleashed. Usually got the back-end pick of the Ready Rooms (“Viking ready room? yeah – it’s back aft under the wires, next to the Hummers…”).
And now of course, there’s one less in the family.
Rifling through my rapidly dimming synapses pulls some fond, funny and sad memories to the fore – of time spent by a Hawkeye guy with my Viking buds… (more here)
For shipbuilders worrying about the bottom line, what is more important: A very highly trained, committed workforce or a complete, finished design?
What do you think? Answer–from one of America’s shipbuilding legends–comes tomorrow!
From an interview with the senator, an interesting comment:
RCP: Now that John Warner has retired, you’re the only former Secretary of the Navy in the Senate. There was a report recently that our Navy fleet is dwindling from 600 twenty years ago down to 200 in the next ten years. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, what can you do or what you have done to ensure we have the best Navy fleet possible?
When I was commissioned in 1968, we had 930 ships in the United States Navy. It went down to 479 in 1979 after Vietnam. And then we had it up to — I think I had it up to around 580, 586. When I resigned as Secretary of the Navy I made a statement — it was over a budget issue with cutting the Navy back — I made a statement: ‘I did not choose to become the father of the 350 ship Navy.’ Little did I know, it got down to the 270s. It’s now 282.
I think the Navy has huge challenges right now. They got leadership challenges. They came in $4.6 billion in unfunded requirements. They’re trying to get it up to 313 ships. Their air procurement programs are in disarray. They had ship building programs in disarray, cancelled. They really need a stronger focus, and they need to be rebuilding their structure and those sorts of things. So we’ve been back and forth on this. They need to really get a much stronger focus on where to use their money.
The economic crisis has trumped bullets and bombs in the intelligence agencies’ latest assessment of threats to the United States.
It is a reflection of the depth of the unfolding recession, but also of the progress made in the war against terrorists and the Obama administration’s more expansive definition of national security.
Sounding more like an economist than the warfighting Navy commander he once was, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told a Senate panel Thursday that if the crisis lasts more than two years, it could cause some nations’ governments to collapse.
And a number of allies the United States depends on might no longer be able to afford to meet their own defense and humanitarian obligations, he said.
Blair said already the financial meltdown, which started in the United States and quickly infected other countries, has eroded confidence in American economic leadership and belief in free markets.
“Time is probably our greatest threat. The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee, as Congress prepares to vote Friday on a $789 billion stimulus package.
Blair’s 49-page statement opened with a detailed description of the economic crisis. It was a marked departure from threat briefings of years past, which focused first on traditional threats and battlefields like Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
It seems pretty clear to those of us that spend time parsing the language of senior officials that big changes are in the cards. Predictions anyone?
[Update] ADM Blair’s statement has been posted on the Senate web site. Here’s some of the rationale:
Time is probably our greatest threat. The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to US strategic interests. Roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown. Europe and the former Soviet Union have experienced the bulk of the anti-state demonstrations. Although two-thirds of countries in the world have sufficient financial or other means to limit the impact for the moment, much of Latin America, former Soviet Union states and sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient cash reserves, access to international aid or credit, or other coping mechanism. Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period. Besides increased economic nationalism, the most likely political fallout for US interests will involve allies and friends not being able to fully meet their defense and humanitarian obligations. Potential refugee flows from the Caribbean could also impact Homeland security.
Based on ADM Blair’s conclusion, here’s how he ranks other security priorities:
2. Neutralizing extremist groups using terrorism
3. Controlling the proliferation of WMD
4. Developing codes of conduct for cyberspace and space
5. Mitigating and slowing global climate change
By Jim Dolbow
Moderator Vince Patton posed the above-mentioned question to his panelists and they replied:
“Teamwork family environment. No other place like it?”
“The availability of mentors.”
“The Coast Guard is very good at taking care of its people.”
“Leadership in combat and back at home.”
Now it is your turn to answer MCPOCG Patton’s question. What say you, loyal reader?
The USNI/AFCEA Thursday Breakfast Roundtable; “China: Friend or Foe?” provided a highly informative analysis of the history, present, and possible future of US-China relations.
The discussion was moderated by David Hartman, former award-winning host of NBC’s Good Morning America. The roundtable consisted of Dr. Jacqueline Newmyer, President of Long Term Strategy Group, LLC, and accomplished scholar, and RADM Mike McDevitt, USN (Ret.), Director of the Center for Naval Analysis Strategic Studies.
After a concise summary of the history of US-China relations since the late-18th Century, China’s complex and evolving relationship with the US was defined as being that of a partner, economic rival and competitor, and potential military adversary, particularly with reference to Taiwan. Dr. Newmyer observed that, despite a tendency to think to the contrary, the shaping of China as modern industrial and military force is out of our (US) control.
To the moderator question of the significance of US relations with China, Dr. Newmyer pointed out that China, alone among the world’s nation-states, has openly expressed a goal of challenging the United States in the competition for influence. Admiral McDevitt offered that the Obama Administration has inherited a foreign policy success in Asia, with US relations being very good with all of the major powers in the region.
When examining a decades-long “grand strategy” of both China and the US, Admiral McDevitt opined that the US desired to retain both an economic presence and a military footprint in the region. China, in the opinion of both participants, desired to maintain stability and security, avoid isolation, and maintain a certain level of friendly dependence to China among her neighbors. Chinese national security strategy is not, however, a public proclamation and must be gleaned through nuances of words and actions of her leadership and diplomats.
Dr. Newmyer warned that US Naval presence is shrinking proportionately vis-à-vis Chinese and Indian Naval strength, and we are in danger of losing our historical role in Asia if such presence is not maintained in sufficient strength to allow the US to be a counterbalance to China among other Asian countries.
Both guests pointed out that the modernization of the PLA has included naval forces, with guidance in doctrine coming from both US and Soviet sources to be adapted to Chinese methods. China has become notably more focused on maritime issues, building a naval capability (submarines, maritime reconnaissance, land-based aircraft carrying cruise missiles, MIRV-tipped TBMs) that can effectively deny US access to areas near her waters, raising the possibility that the US Navy might find coming to the aid of an ally against the wishes of China much more difficult than previously estimated.
Discussion of the Chinese political and economic system was heavily flavored by the current global economic downturn. As both Dr. Newmyer and ADM McDevitt discussed, the People’s Republic of China remains politically Communist, with the sole organization of any consequence being the Party. The Party has moved to quash any real or perceived attempts to create organizations outside of itself. The Party remains anti-cleric, and has been extremely effective in decapitating any and all dissent that might threaten its primacy.
China was described as being a Communist country with a capitalist economy. Inherent in that seeming anachronism is the fact that the Party no longer draws its legitimacy from any Marxist or Maoist philosophy, but rather from the promise of economic prosperity. The current economic situation has the potential to create serious problems for China’s party elite. Even before the downturn, questions were raised regarding the ability to sustain double digit growth, and doubts about the fragility of a manufacturing economy tailored to a purely export market remain.
The last major point the roundtable made, again discussed and assented to by both participants, was that of China’s view of the use of military force as an instrument of foreign policy. Her record since 1949 shows a surprising number of conflicts, each initiated by China, when she struck first and unexpectedly. These were:
- 1950 Intervention in Korea against UN/US forces
- 1962 Sino-Indian conflict
- 1969 Sino-Soviet border war
- 1979 Invasion of Vietnam
- 1988 Naval action off the Spratly Islands
China’s “militarized responses” show her willingness to use the military instrument as diplomacy, rather than after failure of diplomacy. The US should remain cognizant of this willingness and keep eyes cast toward China’s actions and intentions in Asia and elsewhere.
The roundtable discussion provided a great deal of insight into the challenges of maintaining relations with China. China remains a complicated and multi-faceted issue. US foreign policy needs to tread carefully regarding this emerging superpower.
My participation in several Title X war games in recent years has witnessed a rather naïve and ill-advised willingness on the part of even senior officers to wish to “co-opt” China into US-led efforts in an area of US vital interests. The discussion this morning should be cause for extreme caution regarding such ideas. It is not clear who will be co-opting whom, in the long run. Such decisions, even when US and Chinese interests seem to align, need to be very carefully considered as a function of US foreign policy at the highest levels, most definitely beyond even the considerable authority of a Combatant Commander. The US long-term goal of remaining engaged militarily and economically in Asia and elsewhere will depend on coexistence with this sometime ally, rival, and potential enemy.
By Jim Dolbow
VADM Al Konetzni, Jr., (USN-Ret.) is moderating the above-mentioned panel this afternoon. Since many of you are unable to attend this panel, USNI Blog wants to hear from on this important topic. Fire away in the comments section. So, how do we? Inquiring minds want to know…
Dr. Scott Truver is moderating Friday AM’s panel entitled “How Can We Fix Navy Shipbuilding?” Any advice for the moderator and his group of West 2009 panelists?
Is the topic of a panel this afternoon moderated by MCPOCG Vince Patton (USCG-Ret.) My question for you, loyal reader, what do you need to stay in uniform?