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Remarks of the Secretary of the Navy
The Honorable Gordon R. England
at the National Press Club
Washington, D.C., May 26, 2004
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Sheila
for the kind introduction and thank you SGT Shaft (aka John
Fales) for helping arrange for me to speak here today. John,
thanks also for the great work you do for our veterans - you are
a great American.
First, a bit of history. On this day in 1944, the USS
ENGLAND, a U.S. escort destroyer, sank its 5th submarine in the
Pacific campaign and would later sink a record 6th submarine.
These extraordinary feats prompted Admiral Ernest King,
then Chief of Naval Operations, to proclaim: "There will always
be an England . in the United States Navy." I do hope that at
the end of this hour, some of you will somewhat agree with
Admiral King's proclamation!
I also want to extend best greetings from the current CNO,
Admiral Vern Clark, and from the Commandant of the Marine Corps,
General Mike Hagee . both of whom are magnificent leaders and
warriors ... and close friends of mine. America is truly
blessed to have their service.
It is delightful to be with you during this otherwise slow
week in Washington. The Congress is out, the news is slow, and
the cicadas are loud. An article yesterday in The Washington
Post said that the cicadas are like time capsules, but I doubt
if any of you will remember the speaker today when you look back
to 2004, 17 years from now. Frankly, I just hope that I'm still
around in 2021 to look back one more time!
We all realize the serious state of the world. But, being
an optimist, my remarks will focus on the bright side of the
Navy-Marine Corps team. You may have noticed that lately the
tone inside the Beltway has been gloom and doom . but I'm not
from here. I'm from far away and fortunately so is much of
America . where the mood is brighter.
Even more fortunately, so are almost all of our men and
women in uniform, whose morale is terrific. I'm also not a
politician . even though a political appointee. Napoleon said
leaders are dealers of hope, and since my job is to be a leader
of the Navy-Marine Corps team, I'm very hopeful.
In the Department of the Navy, we are dealing with today .
while preparing for the future. After carefully analyzing the
ways and means that America and our allies will depend upon our
service, we are concentrating on five major initiatives. They
1. Support fully our brave men and women engaged in the
global war on terror and in the transition of Iraq
to a better future.
2. Look beyond Iraq to help promote security and
stability in other important areas . so the seeds of
terrorism are not sown in the first place.
3. Focus our capital investments for the next fight.
4. Size and shape our human capital for the future.
5. Use smart business practices as we invest the
American taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.
To my first point, last week I was in Iraq to visit our
gallant Marines and Sailors . there and in the Persian Gulf.
This included time with Marines in tactical units in Fallujah,
Al Asad, Taqqadam and Al Qaim on the Syrian border.
I went aboard ships in the Persian Gulf and visited the
oil terminals . where you will recall that an international
naval coalition thwarted a terrorist attack a couple of weeks
ago. Despite the tragic loss of two of our Sailors from the USS
FIREBOLT . when a dhow blew up . the attack was beaten back.
Iraq's terminals to export its oil to free trade partners around
the world are secure and pumping revenue back into the Iraqi
During my visit, there were three international oil
tankers filling up at one offshore terminal . and one tanker
filling up at another terminal just a short distance away.
Iraqis were manning that second oil terminal, and it was
operating for the first time since the Iran-Iraq War. Frankly,
I was surprised and impressed with the flow of oil from Iraq to
the rest of the world.
My time with the Marines in Iraq was limited to the
western Al-Anbar sector, an area west of Baghdad . about the
size of Montana . and under the control of the 1st Marine
To set the stage, let me excerpt a few telling lines and
phrases from the commander's intent . issued by the Marine
ground combat element commander:
* "My aim is to make common cause with the Iraqis, providing
security until Iraqi forces are trained, organized with
trusted leaders, and equipped to assume the mission.
* Create a model of stability in our zone for all Iraq.
* Reward those Iraqi areas that turn against Anti-Iraqi
* Facilitate establishment of the political, civil,
administrative, and social conditions for a free Iraq.
* Through patient, persistent presence/influence, we will
diminish fear and conditions that cause Iraqis to support
As all of you know, his intent has not yet been achieved.
Last month the Marines were occupied with offensive operations .
including those in Fallujah after the horrific deaths of the
four contractor civilians in town. The Marines also conducted
successful counterattacks in Husaybah near the Syrian border.
One positive outcome of these encounters is that the
populace has renewed respect for the awesome fighting power and
tenacity of the Marines. And the local security situation has
improved commensurately. The Marine adage remains true: best
friend, worst enemy.
Let me now share with you the Marine leadership's view of
the threats they face in the Al-Anbar Province. There appear to
be layers of networks with "transactional" alliances. These
networks and alliances also seem to be loosely united among
three groups: traditional mercenaries (the lawlessness and
criminals, like you would find anywhere), the jihadists (radical
Islamic fundamentalists), and those politically motivated (anti-
To each of them, destabilization works in their short-term
favor . get the Coalition out, and then resurface to try to gain
their own objectives.
The bright side is that these networks are having some
difficulties getting traction among the Iraqi populace. And the
networks are being rolled up . the Marines and the Iraqi
security forces working together have apprehended 27 of 28 named
targets. It seems that for now, the fight against the networks
is being won. The fight for the trust and acceptance of the
general Iraqi populace is more difficult . that's still TBD but
with a cautiously optimistic outlook.
As the President outlined Monday evening in his address at
the Army War College, building strong Iraqi Security Forces and
Iraqi governing institutions is job one. It's been job one for
our Marines in Al-Anbar. It's working in Fallujah and Husaybah,
with a calming effect on the entire province.
The Iraqi Brigade is manning the checkpoints around
Fallujah and also patrolling the streets in Fallujah. The
Marines are in support, but it's definitely an Iraqi operation.
The same is true in Husaybah where the Marines are graduating
certified policemen who are taking over policing in the city.
By the way, Husaybah is on the Syrian border, and just
recently the Iraqi Central Government took over from the locals
the customs functions . one small sign that the country is
starting to become unified.
The result of the Marines' actions to empower Iraqis has
been a decline in the number of attacks against Coalition forces
(improvised explosive devices, mortar attacks, and the like).
As the economy expands and local institutions take root, the
populace should have something to be "for" rather than just
having to be "against". We need to be aware, however, that the
emotions that cause violence continue to lie just under the
surface. One telling differentiator will be our success in
transitioning authority and responsibility to the Iraqis.
I am a novice in the great game of international politics,
but based on this recent exposure, the objective to transition
sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30 certainly appears right on
target. The Marines' initial experience is that the Iraqis want
to have control of their own destiny. When they do, havoc is
reduced and hope brightens.
Having local security forces in Iraq also tends to
parallel the approach we took in the Department of Homeland
Security during stand up early last year. We made the decision
that security would primarily depend on national and not Federal
We realized early on that you cannot secure America from
inside the Beltway but, rather, you need to rely on the
innovation and expertise of the private sector and local and
state governments throughout this great nation. This has
parallels to the security situation in Iraq.
The transactional alliances I mentioned earlier will be
attempting to disrupt the 30 June transition. But, our fine
Marines are intensely training and supporting the Iraqi security
forces and will be there to support them after 30 June as
Let's look beyond Iraq to some global naval operations.
The Navy is working to promote global security and stability .
so the United States and its allies can encourage developing
countries to strengthen their economies as well as to protect
the safety of their citizens and regional neighbors.
This summer, the Navy will surge some of our aircraft
carriers from their homeports . to generate as many as seven of
12 carriers on station . for Coalition operations with our
friends around the world. The ability to push that kind of
military capability to the four corners of the world is quite
remarkable and recent. Several years ago, we could deploy only
But times have changed and so have we. Through this
series of deployments, surge operations and exercises, the Navy
will demonstrate and exercise our new approach to operations and
One of the many benefits inherent to navies is their
ability to deter or dissuade while also being able to promote
and protect the lifeline of the global economy -- the oceans of
the world. And, in time of crisis, the ability to surge our
carriers gives the President options that do not depend on
access rights or bases ashore. Around the world - on call - not
needing a permission slip - to protect - or dissuade - and
defeat if necessary - that's what your Navy is all about.
Since last October, I have had two occasions to join with
the CNO to host navies from around the world. At Newport, Rhode
Island, we had 55 CNO's from other navies plus commandants of
coast guards and commandants of marine corps. Several weeks
ago, we hosted 19 CNO's from the Americas. These gatherings are
literally coalitions of the willing, representing navies of the
world joining together to defeat global terrorism.
I have found that navies have common bonds that can
transcend governments. Navies rely on each other to save ships
in distress, to thwart piracy, to keep sea lanes and ports open
for international trade and the like. These common bonds
provide a foundation upon which to build and strengthen
friendships and relationships among nations across the globe.
With the help of Marine General Jim Jones, the Supreme
Allied Commander in NATO, we are looking to enhance our
operations in the ungoverned regions of Africa. The Gulf of
Guinea, for example, is an area where a Navy presence would
constitute a strong message. Security, stability, and
reconstruction operations are needed in this important region,
and the U.S., along with our NATO allies, will be there to help.
Speaking of NATO, did you know that all 26 NATO countries
are in Afghanistan today advancing security and stability?
Just a few weeks ago when I caught up with General Jones
at his headquarters in Belgium, he had just returned from Kabul,
the capital of Afghanistan, with 26 NATO Ambassadors or their
deputies. I salute them all for the measurable progress the
world is witnessing when a country that once hosted the Taliban
turns away from constant strife and toward progress for the
Let me shift gears and speak for a moment about our third
major initiative in the Department of the Navy - our
recapitalization plan. Tomorrow will be a news day.
We will announce up to two system design awardees for the
new Littoral Combat Ship or LCS. This exciting new ship is
being designed to operate in the environment where the next
fight is likely to occur - that's close in to shore where
shipping lanes merge near the approaches to ports, oil
terminals, or canals. The LCS will be built with agility and
flexibility in mind. Using a modular concept, these ships can
be rapidly modified and tailored to the danger at hand.
This new way of thinking about the kinds of ships we will
build is part of an emerging concept of operations called Sea
Basing. We envision not only the Navy and Marine Corps
operating from these Sea bases, but the Army, Air Force and
Coast Guard will use them as well.
Access without a permission slip is the fundamental
imperative for this new joint approach.
Moving on to our 4th initiative, we spend a lot of time
investing in the right human capital for the future. Aware that
the manning needs differ between the Navy and Marine Corps, we
are working on the Navy side to shape both the size and talent
base of the future force. In a measured, balanced and gradual
way, the number of people in the Navy will get smaller over
time. By way of reference, 2000 sailors manned our battleships
in WWII; today our destroyers and cruisers have 300; and future
surface combatants will have about 125, and in the case of LCS,
We must and will use care in this reshaping effort, always
mindful of the fact that we are dealing with an all-volunteer
force of American patriots. But in this reshaping effort, we
will never sacrifice our high standards and accountability to
those standards. Our Sailors, Chiefs and Officers know they
must perform in order to stay and serve, particularly our
Commanding Officers. When necessary, we relieve Commanding
Officers whenever moral, ethical or performance standards are
As we tailor this force, we increasingly emphasize
technical expertise and education. Our new concept of
operations depends on our technological superiority coupled with
our most important asset - our people.
I spoke earlier about our courageous men and women in
Iraq. Let me also speak about the new way of doing business
with our indispensable civilian employees in the Department of
Defense. Secretary Rumsfeld has asked me to help with the
implementation of the new National Security Personnel System or
The Department didn't initially appreciate the size or
complexity of the task of changing a personnel system for about
650,000 people, perhaps the largest redesign ever of a personnel
However, this system is hopefully now on track, and we
are working very diligently to include in the design phase all
of our constituent groups, including our represented employees,
our non-represented employees, the Congress, and the Office of
Our objective is to make this a win-win-win for our
employees, for the Department of Defense and for the American
people. This is an achievable objective and as a step along the
way, we met yesterday with five highly professional and
respected union leaders who head unions that are prominently
represented in our employee ranks. This program will take
several years to fully implement. We have a nominal schedule,
but we will take whatever time it takes to do it right.
Finally, we owe it to America to make our business
practices as efficient as we can. Our approach is to achieve
efficiency through greater effectiveness. For three years, we
have been examining and redesigning every aspect of our
organization, always to improve our performance. Our firm
belief is that as we improve performance . we reduce costs, and
so far we are not disappointed. As I commented earlier, this
includes our deployments, how we maintain our assets, how we
train and assign our people. Nothing is sacred.
I am pleased to tell you that this constant search for
improved effectiveness, better efficiency and overall excellence
is engrained within the organization . and has been embraced by
the leadership team throughout the Department.
We have metrics and measures, and we know we have a total
savings approaching $50 billion dollars, including both direct
savings and cost avoidance. Let me say, however, that there are
still many more opportunities. What's most important to me is
being on the right path. Continuous improvement is the path
we're on and the one we will pursue.
On Friday, 1,000 new officers will graduate and be
commissioned at the United States Naval Academy. Across the
country, hundreds of others are earning commissions through Navy
ROTC programs. These are the future leaders of our Navy and
Marine Corps and our Nation. They are highly motivated and
committed to serving their country.
It's appropriate that a new generation begin their careers
this week as we honor the Greatest Generation on Saturday . at
the dedication of the WWII Memorial on this special Memorial Day
Thank you for letting me focus on the bright side of our
future. I know you have many questions about very serious
issues, and I will be honest, forthright and direct in answering
Let's never forget our men and women in uniform who serve
throughout the world . those who stand the watch for liberty and
for freedom . and for our veterans who served before them . and
for all of their families.
As President Coolidge said after WWI, "The Nation which
forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten."
God bless them all.
God bless America.
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