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CHIPS Articles: "Our Mission is Clear" But SECNAV Sees "A Long and Difficult Struggle"

"Our Mission is Clear" But SECNAV Sees "A Long and Difficult Struggle"
By Honorable Gordon R. England - January-March 2002
On 11 September 2001 our view of the future changed. The brutal and savage terrorist attacks that shocked America and the world were events that no one could have imagined. The follow-on threats of anthrax attacks via the postal system and the tension generated by the possibility of additional terrorist attacks have raised the level of concern, uncertainty, and vulnerability felt by many citizens. Despite the initial shock caused by these premeditated and despicable attacks, our nation's foundation has remained rock-solid, and the determination and resolve of our leadership have strengthened. Amidst the destruction, a more united nation has emerged.

Today, everyone feels more vulnerable than before 11 September. But our citizens have voiced full faith and confidence in the government and in the leadership of our Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush, in waging the war on terrorism. This confidence is based on, among other things, the respect and trust our people have in the U.S. military.

History provides a perspective on the events of 11 September. Having achieved victory over the Axis powers in World War II, most people in the United States and elsewhere around the world concluded--particularly following the fall of the Berlin Wall--that, having prevailed over the two greatest threats to freedom and democracy in the 20th century, the world was on the verge of a long period of peace and prosperity. Some historians, recalling the 200 years of stability during the Roman Empire, suggested that the fall of the Berlin Wall might be the beginning of a new Pax Americana.

This view was slightly clouded by Saddam Hussein and Desert Storm a decade ago. But, once that conflict was over, the quick and decisive Allied victory was considered a validation of previous conclusions. The 1990s seemed much like the 1920s as economic prosperity expanded and few threats to U.S. and allied security and/or our democratic way of life were apparent to the public. On 11 September 2001, everything suddenly changed. We can now see that the attacks on the Khobar Towers, on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, on the Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided-missile destroyer USS Cole--and those of 11 September--were not isolated incidents. They were, rather, part of a larger plan the real target of which was our way of life and the liberty and freedoms that we hold dear.

What did they think they would accomplish with their murderous attacks on innocent men, women, and children? Did they think that our government would collapse, that we would overreact or that we would panic? Did they think we would abandon the cherished values of freedom and liberty that generations before had secured for us? If they did think that they were sorely mistaken, and obviously don't know much about our history or the spirit of the American people. Instead of breaking our spirit it has brought us together like never before.

These vicious attacks by international terrorists have once more awakened the sleeping giant that is America, and have filled us once again with a terrible resolve. The feelings that many have experienced are unsettling. But they are not new. In the summer of 1950, after having won the most devastating war in the history of mankind, we were ready for a time of peace. But we and our allies were stunned by the surprise offensive of communist troops across the 38th parallel in Korea. At the time, the Korean War was thought to be a "brushfire" conflict confined to the Korean Peninsula, but we now see it as the first battle of the Cold War, when the world decided to stand up to communism.

History will likely judge the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as the first battle of the war on terrorism--and the precise point in time when the global community took a stand against international terrorists. This will be a long and difficult struggle. Even after those responsible for the 11 September attacks are brought to justice those who direct and support them may fanatically hold on to their beliefs for decades to come. Those who attacked us see the world far differently from the way we see it. They do not believe in freedom, equality, or tolerance.

Never Forget

Our mission is clear. We must, and we will, defeat the threat of global terrorism--just as the "greatest generation" of Americans who preceded us defeated both fascism and communism. During his visit to the Pentagon on 12 September, President Bush inspected the damage done there and met with rescue workers. Later, he met with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and with the service secretaries and uniformed chiefs of the nation's armed services. The Pentagon was still burning at the time, and the number of injured and dead was still unknown. The building smelled of smoke, emergency vehicles were everywhere, and the events of the previous day were still being evaluated.

The President was there as Commander in Chief, to lead the military leaders of our nation. He pointed to each one of us and said, "Never forget. I will never forget. You must never forget." The president also said that the American people will go on with their lives, and that it is appropriate to do so. But he emphasized that this war will take a long time and we must therefore be patient and remain focused on the task at hand. The President also underscored the importance of rooting out the cancer of terrorism now, so that it will not threaten future generations and lead us into a world in which our children and grandchildren will live in constant fear. Finally, he told us to--"Get ready!" Our armed forces have been doing just that.

President Bush has made it clear to all that the war on terrorism will be the principal focus of his administration. This war is our focus as well, and we will work together within the Department of Defense (DOD), and with many other agencies of government, to meet this challenge--no matter how long it takes. We will remain vigilant and prepared to carry out the President's orders. We shall spare no effort in defending the American way of life, and we all support the President's pledge that, "Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."

This war is more important than any ever before fought by our nation because the stakes are so high. For the first time in almost two centuries, citizens within our own borders are at serious risk. As we steer our course through the uncharted new waters of global terrorism we are blessed to have a team of skilled professionals leading our Defense Department and our Navy and Marine Corps Team. Secretary Rumsfeld, who already has proved himself to be an exceptional wartime leader, aptly described the battle ahead when he said, "This new war will be more akin to the Cold War rather than to the Gulf War."

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark and Marine Commandant Gen. James L. Jones are consummate leaders who possess both the vision and the courage of conviction that will provide the decisive leadership needed by the Navy and Marine Corps. There are no easy answers, but we must not flinch from the challenge to stay the course in a sustained campaign that roots out terrorism wherever it is found, using all the means at our nation's disposal.

The President and his team have laid out a broad and comprehensive plan that includes diplomatic, financial, legal, humanitarian, homeland-security, and military actions to combat terror. We will do our part to achieve victory in this war. The Navy and Marine Corps have a vital role to play and have already made an impact in the war on terrorism. This is very important, because military operations must succeed for the other parts of the President's plan to have any chance of success.

One could see these terrorists as a nest of hornets. Taking on hornets one at a time is ineffective. To be successful the nests must be eliminated wherever they are found. We must deny the terrorists the ability to concentrate their people and money, and to coordinate their planning and capabilities in a way that allows them to plan major attacks on a global scale. After removing the nests, law-enforcement and other agencies of government can detect, detain, or eliminate these criminals and prevent other nests from forming.

Recently I was privileged to visit Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and some of our ships in the Arabian Sea--including the Aegis guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton, the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt, the conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, and two minesweepers. Seeing our wonderful young men and women on station and the might of America's naval forces taking the fight to the terrorists was an awesome sight.

The thousands of combat sorties already launched against Afghanistan by our sea-based strike aircraft have confirmed the utility and flexibility of the aircraft carrier as a national asset. Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from our surface ships and submarines, as well as those launched from submarines of the Royal Navy, again proved to be an effective weapon in influencing events ashore. Marine forces aboard our amphibious ready groups sharpen their skills as they prepare for the call to strike from the sea.

The Kitty Hawk, which deployed with only a partial air wing, serves as a staging platform for Special Operations Forces. She clearly demonstrates the value of having four-and-a-half acres of sovereign U.S. territory on station when and where it is needed--any place in the world from which we can conduct operations unimpeded. In the months ahead we will face new challenges and therefore need to adapt and be ready to respond to any maritime mission.

Adapting to the New Threat

A defining characteristic of our Navy for the past 226 years has been our willingness to adapt and to incorporate change. Our Navy has progressed from sail to steam, from cannonballs to cruise missiles, from battleships to carriers, and from signal flags to IT (information technology) systems of all types. And we have extended the reach and influence of the U.S. Navy from the high seas to the far corners of the earth. Today, our challenge is to boldly describe our vision and aggressively adapt new organizations, command structures, tactics, and forces that can respond rapidly, prevent future surprises, and adapt to the new world environment that became the norm after September 11.

We must continue the transformation of our naval services and write the next chapter in naval history. This will be partly an issue of finding and developing the next technologies needed to continue our evolution. However, while essential, adapting to technological change is not the most important strength of the U.S. Navy. People and leadership are the real foundations of our naval capabilities. They also are, as they always have been, the backbone and enduring strength of our great nation.

America's people have always found a way to succeed--against every adversity we have ever faced--and this will not change. During my visits with our Sailors and Marines, both active and reserve, and our civilian work force, I continue to be impressed with their dedication, professionalism, and commitment. They are rising to the occasion, and they are, to a person, ready to answer their nation's call and do whatever it takes to achieve victory.

From the opening days of this first war of the 21st century I have seen leadership from the deckplate to the bridge, and from the Pentagon to the commander in chief. Admiral Clark and General Jones both moved quickly to address the terrorist threat. On 29 October the Marines established the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which will bring together 4,800 highly trained personnel in a unit ready to dispatch forces anywhere in the country within six hours in support of homeland defense.

At the same time, the CNO and the Naval War College launched an effort to develop new methods and techniques to support homeland defense, to counter terrorism, and to devise other methods to take the battle to this uncivilized and unconventional enemy. We also have strengthened our historic ties with the U.S. Coast Guard to assist in tracking ships at sea and in protecting our ports and waterways.

Unmatched Combat Capability

Whenever I testify before Congress I always stress that our marvelous physical platforms, whether submarines or carriers or fighter jets, have no "asset value" to the nation until manned by trained and motivated people. Once manned, they have immeasurable value. People must for that reason also be our highest priority. Thanks to the initiative of the president and the support of the Congress, the "economics" of military life--including basic pay, sea pay, and quality-of-life programs--have been greatly improved.

When I assumed office one of my primary goals was to enhance the combat capability of our Naval services. The objective was to focus our resources on combat capability--which includes people, training, infrastructure, equipment, and operations and maintenance. We need more openness and clarity in setting requirements and in budgeting. The senior leadership of the naval services, both within and outside the Pentagon, also needs to participate. To shape the force of the future we also need the best minds of our users and operators.

The recently completed Quadrennial Defense Review has reaffirmed the principle of forward deterrence. Even before the attacks of 11 September it had identified asymmetric threats and homeland defense as areas that require greater emphasis and attention both from ourselves and from our allies. Our experience thus far has shown that conventional forces will be needed in unconventional warfare operations but will not be fully sufficient to meet all of the numerous challenges posed by this new type of threat.

In the months ahead we must ask ourselves what other types of systems are needed to fight in this new warfare arena. We also must determine how best to decentralize authority and improve the speed of decision-making in this new environment. Improved intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance assets also are needed, and better ways to analyze and disseminate information. Intelligence has been critical to the success of U.S. Naval forces throughout our history. Whether it was the rumors that helped us intercept British shipping during the revolution, or the painstaking work of the codebreakers who discovered the Japanese plans for the invasion of Midway, information has always been a key to victory. Intelligence and information have never been more important than they are today. Without accurate and timely intelligence there will be no targets in this new type of war.

Intelligence is only the start, though. We also must develop better ways to integrate sensors with other networks. With rapid decision-making we magnify the capability of our assets to put weapons on target both faster and more accurately. Precision munitions are now the weapons of choice for our armed forces. They are expensive to purchase but they are essential to ensure target kills, thwart enemy ground fire, and limit collateral damage.

Fortunately, upgrades to existing systems, and new capabilities, already are funded and soon will become available. The conversion of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines to nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines (SSGNs) that will soon begin will give our Navy a new type of platform capable of carrying not only scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles but also a number of Special Operations Forces. The SSGNs will be a deterrent as well as a useful new tool in the war against terrorism. This unique combination of firepower, special operations, stealth, and sustainability promises to add a new dimension to our combat capabilities.

Force protection is an area that has long been given attention overseas, especially since the attack on the USS Cole. It has now taken on a new urgency in our homeports; accordingly, we will be expanding the master-at-arms rating. Investment in new technologies will enable us to improve how we monitor and control our bases both at home and overseas. I saw some of these systems in Bahrain, but better systems are needed.

In the areas of force protection and homeland defense we are working closely with the Coast Guard and with local law-enforcement agencies to protect our people and America's coasts and harbors. This is primarily a Coast Guard responsibility, but the Coast Guard is a relatively small force, so we can help them and make a difference. The Congress has been very responsive during this crisis, displaying a unity of purpose unmatched since World War II and providing the supplemental funds needed to meet the costs incurred by the terrorist attacks and to conduct our much-expanded operations.

New Technologies

An important key to maintaining the highest degree of combat capability will be the continued development of new weapons systems such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and new ships and information systems. A major area of concern is the increasing age of our combat and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) aircraft. In late October a contract for the Joint Strike Fighter was awarded to Lockheed Martin. The JSF will serve as the cornerstone of Navy and Marine Corps aviation for the next 40 to 50 years. This aircraft--in both its carrier and short-takeoff/vertical-landing variants--will provide the affordability, reliability, survivability, and lethality that our forces will need to maintain air dominance in the years ahead.

In the meantime, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are being produced and delivered each year to replace older F-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats. Likewise, new C-40 Clipper aircraft, based on the Boeing 737, are beginning to replace the reliable but aging C-9 Skytrains that have served the Naval Air Reserve Force for so many years, supplying logistic support to the fleet on a worldwide basis. The V-22, another important program, is being put back on track. This unique aircraft is needed to replace our aging Marine Corps helicopter fleet and will give us entirely new ways of conducting amphibious-assault and vertical-envelopment operations at ranges never before possible. The Marine Corps and Bell-Boeing team are hard at work reviewing the studies done by NASA's Ames Research Center and others to ensure that when this versatile aircraft returns to the air it will do so safely and successfully. One lesson from the war against the terrorists based in Afghanistan is that range and speed are crucial.

In the months ahead we will address replacements for other important aircraft systems in the areas of electronic warfare and reconnaissance. As we move ahead we also will look to unmanned systems to take on more of the routine but frequently dangerous missions now carried out by manned aircraft. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) already have seen extensive action, and their use is expanding. As UAV technology matures the JSF quite possibly will be the last manned combat airplane built in large numbers.

Technologies such as electric drive and other advances across a wide spectrum of ship-design possibilities are other areas of interest. While we continue to build the extremely capable Arleigh Burke-class DDGs we are carefully looking at new technologies for our future combatants from destroyers to aircraft carriers to newer ships for the littorals. Information technology is another area that we are aggressively pursuing both from a warfighting perspective--to enhance combat capability--and to improve essential command and control capabilities. Our forces already have a high degree of interconnectivity, but the opportunity for additional improvements is vast. An instant common view of the battlespace with very-wide-band data flows will greatly leverage our existing force.

Better Business Practices

Information technology also will serve the warfighter by improving the processes of our supporting infrastructure and freeing up much-needed funds and billets for combat purposes. Using IT we can leverage better business practices to achieve savings and improve the overall organization. Information technology is just one area where significant progress can be made that will help our forces and our business practices now and in the future. But the broader issue of improved business practices has many other areas on which to focus.

Through the newly formed Senior Executive Committee (SEC) and Business Initiative Council within DOD, we have made significant inroads in the past few months, [we] have already saved an estimated $200 million, and have improved our business processes. This is a positive beginning. By further streamlining outdated processes we will improve both efficiency and effectiveness. Like the war against terrorism, this will require determination, leadership, and patience.

We also are working to replace other business processes and to revise the current Program Planning Budget System. Efficient organizations are clearly more effective, and we need to work continuously to improve processes throughout the naval services. My view is that DOD is walled off from much of the mainstream U.S. economic system because of unique rules and regulations that in many cases make DOD more expensive and bureaucratic than it should be or has to be. The SEC will be working to tear down these walls and to streamline every organization and process in DOD.

No one could have predicted the events of 11 September. And who knows where we will be a year from now? Prosecuting the war is our first priority, but our area of responsibility includes the business of war and overseeing the vast infrastructure that supports warfighting. Our existing support systems have been likened to a voracious dinosaur that siphons dollars from our combat capability. Business practices and warfighting are intertwined. We cannot fully prosecute the latter without fully improving the former.

Major Challenges Ahead

Our biggest challenge now and in the years ahead will be to ensure that we are not surprised again. To do so we must: (1) maintain military superiority across the full spectrum of conflict; (2) integrate the information and intelligence generated worldwide by federal, state, and local organizations; (3) encourage our people to constantly improve our processes and systems, not only to remain current and able to respond to any future threat, but also to seek out new ideas and to accept a diversity of ideas; and (4) remain steadfast in our resolve. This is not a war against any people or against any religion but, rather, against a band of international criminals. We cannot and will not flinch, falter, or fail in our resolve. With our friends and allies we have the capacity and strength to maintain the pressure on terrorism across a broad front for as long as it takes to see that justice is done and to ensure that freedom endures.

[Each of us] has a crucial role to play in the war on terrorism. I ask you to maintain your own resolve and bolster the resolve of every person in your community. President Bush said that this will be a war of patience. So keep our citizens informed of the peril we face and of the essential need for a strong military as the foundation for our multi-agency worldwide effort. Support our naval services at the local, state, national, and deployed levels. Carry out your mission personally, politically, and publicly. As this war of patience and vigilance continues, your resolve--and your support for our commander in chief and our Naval services--will be crucial to ultimate success.

As they have throughout history, our Navy and Marine Corps will play a vital role in achieving victory. America will emerge from this struggle a stronger and better nation. The future is in our hands: Let history write that our generation preserved the freedoms and liberties we cherish. United we stand--and together we will prevail!

God bless our men and women in uniform, and God bless the United States of America.

This article was reprinted with permission of SeaPower magazine, December 2001

The Honorable Gordon R. England, Secretary of the Navy
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