Our New Maritime Strategy and the Fifth Fleet

By Vice Adm. John Miller
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet

The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard released its new maritime strategy March 13, a plan that describes how America’s sea services will design, organize, and employ naval forces in support of our nation’s security interests around the world and in the United States going forward.

The new strategy, titled A Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century: Forward, Engaged, Ready, accounts for changes in the global security environment, new strategic guidance, and a changed fiscal environment since the last such document was produced in 2007.

Certainly a great deal has changed here in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations since 2007.  Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom have ended and been replaced by Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria.

The necessity of ensuring the free flow of commerce through this region’s sea lanes remains as important as ever as the threat of high seas piracy reappeared from the pages of history only to be pushed back by the combined effort of international naval forces.

Security threats have become more sophisticated and widespread; we face new and evolving threats from violent extremist organizations like ISIL. Additionally, we face new and evolving challenges that threaten our access in cyberspace and in the global commons.

Skyrocketing demand for energy and resources, as evidenced by aprojected 56 percent increase of global energy consumption by 2040,underscores the criticality of the free flow of commerce through strategicmaritime crossroads including the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb, as wellas the Suez Canal.

As the new strategy notes, although the United States is exportingmore energy than it imports for the first time in decades, we remain tied tothe global economy that depends on the uninterrupted supply of oil andgas from the Middle East. This uninterrupted supply canbe placed at risk due to rising political instability and regional conflict such as we now see in Iraq and Syria.

Inparticular, Iran continues to develop an increasing capability to threatencommerce transiting the Strait of Hormuz. A disruption in energy supplywould immediately and significantly affect the global economy.

And that’s where we come in.

ARABIAN GULF (March 4, 2015) The guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) during a replenishment-at-sea.

ARABIAN GULF (March 4, 2015) The guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) during a replenishment-at-sea.

To meet these challenges our new strategy continues emphasizing combat-credible forward naval presence—being where it matters, when it matters—as well as our commitment to allies and partners – already the foundation of how we operate each and every day here in the Fifth Fleet.

The sea services will continue to develop the global network of navies concept, because we recognize that no one nation can meet these threats alone, and every country can contribute in some way. We have to remember that collective security is just that, collective. That doesn’t mean that a handful of big nations provide all of the security for the collective, it means all nations benefitting from the collective security need to contribute to it in a meaningful way. We all benefit from the way that shared economic success helps us limit conflict and war.

By helping to secure the world’s oceans, and respond to crises early to limit escalation, our navies play a vital role in the world.

Our historic naval functions—deterrence, sea control, power projection, and maritime security—remain essential to our strategy, but the security conditions in which we conduct them have changed.

In the new document, the essential functions of the 2007 maritime strategy released were adjusted to include a new function called “all domain access” which underscores the challenges forces face in accessing and operating in contested environments.

The strategy calls for increasing the Navy’s forward presence to 120 ships by 2020, up from about 97 ships today. This includes increasing our presence in Middle East from 20 ships today to 40 by 2020.

The strategy reinforces the continued need to strengthen partnerships and alliances by stressing the importance of participating in international training exercises, such as the Fifth Fleet led International Mine Counter Measures Exercise and the other more than 50 annual exercises we conduct here each year.

Additionally, the strategy outlines plans to maintain readiness by implementing the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan which improves readiness and leads to a predictable cycle for maintaining, training and deploying carrier strike groups and amphibious ships here to the Fifth Fleet and around the world.

The strategy balances forces and capabilities against regional threats. It embraces innovation and efficiency in building a modern and capable force of more than 300 ships that will overcome any challenge to fight and win. I encourage all of my shipmates to read A Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century: Forward, Engaged, Ready, and reflect how we can implement it to better meet the dynamic maritime security needs of the Middle East.

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Our New Maritime Strategy and the Fifth Fleet