I am sure each of you is familiar with the recent speeches by our Secretary of Defense at both the Navy League Sea Air and Space Symposium and the Eisenhower library. I have read many of the editorials and blog comments on SECDEF’s remarks and I believe some people have focused very acutely on a few pieces from his speeches and have then taken his remarks out of context.
I don’t believe Secretary Gates was questioning the value of our Navy or our people; rather, he was challenging us to figure out how to sustain this value into the future, and to do so under the very challenging conditions laid out in his addresses. In my opinion, SECDEF’s themes are consistent with what I have tried to address in my Commander’s Guidance, my engagements with the chain-of-command, and on this blog:
First, our Nation cannot continue the sustained growth in national defense spending we have experienced over the past nine years. Our nation’s economy and the resources it can dedicate to our national defense are inextricably linked. But even without our own economic problems or the global economic uncertainty, our nation’s investment in national defense has followed a 15-20 year cycle ever since the Korean War – a change to our resourcing trend was inevitable.
Second, because our resources will not continue the same trends of the previous nine years, our plans, programs, and processes cannot follow the same path either. He has challenged all of the Services, not just the Navy, to take a hard look at how we operate and what we buy so that we are prepared for the new strategic and fiscal environments we are about to enter.
Third, the theme that I think most readers have overlooked is that it is our people, not our platforms who make our Navy the best in the world. Secretary Gates ended his Sea-Air-Space remarks by saying, “What must be unchanging, what must be enduring, is the quality of the Sailors and marines onboard these ships and serving ashore. They must have moral as well as physical courage; they must have integrity; they must think creatively and boldly. They must have the vision and insight to see that the world and technology are constantly changing and that the Navy and Marine Corps must therefore change with the times – ever flexible and ever adaptable. They must be willing to speak hard truths, including to superiors – as did their legendary forebears.”
No matter what uncertainties in the world we face, no matter how much we don’t get exactly right as we look downrange – with the right people we will have the capacity to adapt ourselves to confront the utterly unpredictable, the entirely unknown. And thus ensure the security of our nation.
The many challenges in front of us are clearly ours to meet and we will do so - deliberately, expeditiously and with a strong sense of purpose. All the best, JCHjr.