Defense Forum Washington 2015

Thank you to all who participated in the 2015 Defense Forum Washington. Photos from the conference can be found on Flickr.  The video from the event is below. We hope to see you next year.


The Knight Conference Center at the Newseum is conveniently located between the U.S. Capitol and the White House on historic Pennsylvania Ave. and just one block from the National Mall.

Physical Address
555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20001

If you are looking for the best place to park, check out Parking Panda for real time space availability and rates within walking distance of the conference center at the Newseum.

Two Metro stops are within walking distance of the museum:

There are several MetroBus routes with stops located within a quarter mile of the Newseum. To find the route closest, visit Metro's website


On-Site Report

Welcoming Remarks

VADM Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.), CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute, opened Defense Forum Washington 2015, “From South China Sea to ISIS: What is the Role of American Sea Power?” with a welcome to the attendees, guests, and sponsors. He opened his remarks by observing that as we consider today’s theme, it’s important to consider the role of the service chief. The service chief has a global focus, but the combatant commander has a regional focus. The combatant commander’s focus is two to three years out. The service chief supplies, the combatant commander demands. The service chief must supply a balanced budget, but for the most part the combatant commanders are unconstrained. And finally, the service chief sets the tone for the culture and the people. He then welcomed the 31st CNO, ADM Richardson.

ADM John Richardson

ADM John Richardson, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, opened his remarks by acknowledging that today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which every American should keep foremost in their mind. At Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial represents what the oath of service can demand, and the USS Missouri represents what that oath can deliver. He also marked that passing of ADM James A. Winnefeld, Jr., one of our great Naval leaders.

One of ADM Richardson’s favorite quotes is attributed to Einstein: “If I were given an hour to solve the problems of the world, I’d spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute solving it.” Defining today’s problem will lead in to how the following speakers will tackle the problem. Certainly, from the South China Sea to ISIS it’s easy to talk about the players, but just as important is a sense that the rules and the playing field of the game is changing in many ways. You can have the best defense, but if you can’t respond to your opponent, you won’t be able to keep up with the pace of the game.

ADM Richardson reviewed the mission of the US Navy, and noted that in the future, we’re going to have to do this in multiple domains simultaneously. He talked about the forces that will define our system going forward. One force is as we become increasingly globalized, global economic, security, and diplomacy systems are tested. One of those global systems is the network of oceans and seas. As nations rise and economies grow, the use of that fluid system for traffic and trade is steadily increasing. Inevitably, some of those sea lanes go through choke points. The entire Mediterranean, for example, is increasingly a choke point, particularly with the refugee flow and the growth of Russian naval traffic; Similarly, the South China Sea is increasing too. The increasing stress and contest is defining the global system of oceans and seas.

Another system is technology, which has allowed us to reach resources that were previously unreachable, and they help define the global setting and become increasingly stressed and contested. Similarly, there is an asymmetric network of undersea cables on which flows 95% of global information. This network connects us perhaps even more than the oceans and seas. These physical and virtual systems influence how we must do business now. The highly ordered global network of satellites provides asymmetric power at incredible speeds. And the exponential pace of the introduction of technology affect all of those systems; not only is technology being introduced faster, it’s being adopted faster as well. And these issues must be addressed. But we have not responded to the pace of growth as quickly as we should. ADM Richardson asked, “Is our Navy postured to respond to that pace going forward, and to outpace any potential adversaries?”

ADM Richardson then turned to a discussion of the players in the dynamic environment. He said that we are once again in an emerging multipolar great-power environment. He noted that the recent assertiveness of Russia has revived a Cold War instinct among many, but he believes that it would be a mistake to revert to the bipolar perspective of the Cold War architecture. Technology now makes it possible for regional powers such as Iran and North Korea to become superpowers more quickly. In addition to all these challenges and the increasing complexity and demand faced by the Navy, one can also add the resource challenge. It’s also important to be mindful of the fact that our greatest competitors are very close to us in terms of resources and the ability to respond to them.

VADM Charles Michel

VADM Charles Michel, USCG, the Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, noted that the Coast Guard, like some of the organizations that ADM Richardson discussed, is an asymmetric organization. It’s an armed force as well as a law-enforcement, regulatory, safety, environmental, navigation, and communications agency among many other things. But the Coast Guard also does symmetric activities as well, for example the activities of the Coast Guard cutter Taney, which served in World War II and is the sole surviving vessel that was present at the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Today’s Coast Guard operates many old vessels and has many needs in terms of shipbuilding and sea power, which he addressed using three vignettes.

Looking at the strategic challenges in the South China Sea, you will see that the ships asserting Chinese sovereignty are white-hulled coast guard vessels, not gray-hulled warships, reflecting China’s masterful assertion of its claim of sovereignty in the area; its current fleet size significantly outclass the tonnage of the US Coast Guard, while also operating many newer vessels. This is particularly important when you consider that the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the United States is 13 times larger than that of China.

Turning to Arctic operations, the US Coast Guard operates just two relatively old polar icebreakers in service, which compares unfavorably with the coast guards of our competitors; Russia, for example, has 40 polar icebreakers, many of which are nuclear, operating in the Arctic and Antarctic. Our icebreaking fleet is the smallest it has been since World War II, and it is insufficient to assure access and assert sovereignty in the polar regions. Construction of a new heavy icebreaker is scheduled to begin in 2020, and planning for additional icebreakers is underway. “I am hoping that we are going to able to move this from top dead-center and that we will actually get to where we need to be,” said VADM Michel.

In his last vignette, VADM Michel discussed the maritime drug transit zone that straddles the South and North Atlantic. Over the past decade, the traffickers have compressed their routes, resulting in a sharp growth in homicide rates and refugees moving north out of the conflict zones. The drug trade is a “primary contributing factor” to the regional instability in Central and South America, according to VADM Michel. Traffickers are also using a wide variety of highly sophisticated maritime vessels to move drugs to the United States, which is the world’s largest consumer of cocaine. The people of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia – the only three countries where cocaine is produced – pay the price every day for being along that route. The traffickers have become increasingly sophisticated, and that should be a concern because there’s no reason that they can’t carry cargoes other than drugs. According to VADM Michel, drug trafficking is “the fuel for the fire” for the high homicide rates in Central and South America, which is contributing significantly to the regional instability, which is uniquely susceptible to maritime interdiction more successfully than those nations’ border security and internal law enforcement forces. The US Coast Guard has had a significant impact on the maritime drug trade.

In conclusion, VADM Michel noted that the maritime interdiction capability of the US Coast Guard is a unique advantage and affords a unique ability to assert sovereignty in a more nuanced way that also fosters cooperative relationships with partner nations. In fact, the US Coast Guard has working relationships with the Chinese and Russian coast guards, offering crew exchanges and training, environmental enforcement, border security, and search and rescue missions, as well as recently hosting the first international forum for the eight Arctic nations. “We don’t specialize in symmetric warfare,” VADM Michel concluded, “but we are a unique instrument of national security and we bring a lot of unique capabilities into the fight.”

Sen. John McCain

Senator John McCain (R - AZ), chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, a member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, began his remarks by noting that the title of the forum is a testament to the fact that the United States is confronting “the most diverse and complex array of global crises since the end of World War II.” China’s naval buildup is asserting its authority in Southeast Asia, and while the United States’ so-called “pivot” policy has failed to address the shifting military balance. In Europe, Russian aggression against Ukraine has threatened access to the Baltic and Black Sea, while it has increased its shipbuilding and military patrols, engaged in provocative actions near undersea cables, and engaged in destabilizing rhetoric. In the Middle East, ISIL continues to radicalize and grow, while maintaining is sanctuaries and is growing while unleashing terrorist attacks around the world. The fight against ISIL also represents an inherent reminder of the power and capabilities of the US Navy.

Today, a strong Navy is central to our ability to deter adversaries, assure allies, and defend the nation, but our fleet is too small. While today’s ships are more capable than their predecessors, we still haven’t given our ships the ability to be in more than one place at a time. “The size of our fleet translates directly into presence, which is essential to protecting shipping lanes, responding to crises, and deterring aggression,” said Sen. McCain. “And we cannot be present with the ships we don’t have.”

High operational tempo coupled with reductions in spending, he argued, worsens the situation, and until the Budget Control Act is rescinded a downward spiral of military capacity and readiness will continue. Citing the effects of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Naval planning and strategy, Sen. McCain argued that in addition to rebuilding the Navy, we must also reimagine it. “We must summon that same spirit again today,” he argued. Forward basing, additional surface combatants and carrier groups, and other means should be examined. The United States may need to consider creating a new hub in the Mediterranean based on another carrier group.

Sen. McCain questioned whether the construction of the new Ford class carriers represented the best use of taxpayer dollars, noting that each carrier in the class has experienced over $2 billion in cost growth, plagued by a host of unacceptable technical and program management problems. He predicted that the mandated review of alternative carrier programs would provide real options. He noted that in addition to focusing on carriers, there should be a review of the carrier air wing concept as well. Recent studies have warned about the shrinking range of carrier aircraft and the growing range of the arsenals of our potential adversaries. This gap could be addressed by adding unmanned aircraft. The Navy’s top procurement priority, to replace the Ohio-class submarines, will come at a steep cost and place pressure on the Navy’s ability to meet multiple threats. If the replacement program turns into a procurement debacle, the effects on the nation will be drastic. “There is no margin for error,” Sen. McCain said. “We must get it right the first time.”

Sen. McCain noted that the Navy’s large platforms are only as effective as the payloads they are able to deliver; sensors, jammers, and other technologies must not be overlooked, and innovative ways to deliver existing payloads should be considered. “We have to face the reality that America’s military technological advantage is eroding, and eroding fast,” Sen. McCain said. Assumptions of our unfettered access to the sea and sky have led to operational and programmatic decisions that are inappropriate for the current global situation. The Senate Armed Services Committee has been holding a series of hearings to explore this issue and identify necessary reforms.

In conclusion, Sen. McCain said that American sea power is as vital as ever for the nation’s security, and to maintain it, America must innovate as it has time and time again. “That’s what we do,” he said. “That’s who we are.”

Ronald O'Rourke

Ronald O'Rourke, Naval Affairs Specialist at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), explained that the purpose of his presentation was not to make recommendations, but to present options. The title of today’s forum reflects that the world has undergone a shift in strategic eras in the past few years, and his presentation focused on some of the implications that this shift could have for US Naval forces.

Starting in late 2013, many observers argued that we were undergoing a shift from a post-Cold War strategic era to one of renewed great-power competition and challenges to key elements to the US-led international order that has been in place since the end of World War II. Though we may be two years into that new era, the markers of this shift are a lot less clear or abrupt that signified the shift from the end of the Cold War. Additionally, the markers are much less positive than those that accompanied the end of the Cold War. A third challenge is that many young people have not had to deal with such a paradigm shift, while older workers are faced with a second shift late in their careers, which can cause resistance as well. It can be challenging to get out of our grooves and inertia and to break out of our old assumptions. Vested interests may also create disincentives for acknowledging such shifts. Lastly, the new strategic era doesn’t yet have a consensus name, which is slowing down the process of recognition and adaptation.

What are some of the characteristics that might define this new strategic era? As Mr. O’Rourke mentioned earlier, two key points are the renewal of great-power competition and challenges to the old international order. The former has political, ideological, and military competitive dimensions; the latter is affected by the recognition that force and coercion aren’t effective means of solving disputes, and by freedom of the seas. Other elements that help define the new strategic era include continuing regional security challenges from countries like Iran and North Korea, the continued emphasis on countering transnational terrorism, and the problems of failed states and ungoverned or weakly governed regions.

What are the implications of these defining features? First is the renewed need to think at a broad strategic level and to continuously integrate a framework for addressing individual issues, neither of which we have had to do for the past quarter-century. “As a country, we need to rebuild our mental muscles to try and think at that level,” Mr. O’Rourke said. Second, we need to decide on a grand strategy for this new era. For the United States, that means the world as a whole, not a series of individual regions or countries. Traditionally, the United States has had a goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in Eurasia; the question is, do you want to continue having that as a goal? That is a major policy question. And if it is not a goal, then what does the grand strategy look like?

Another implication is the need to reassess the terms of debate on national defense, from strategy and budgets to plans and programs. This is because many of the terms of the current debate predate the new strategic era. The last time there was a shift in the terms of the debate was following the strategic shift from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Perhaps now we have an opportunity and even a need to undertake a new shift in the debate now as a result of entering the current strategic era.

Other factors that are affecting the nation’s strategic policy include concerns over our military and deterrent posture in Europe, hybrid and gray-zone warfare, nuclear deterrence, submarine and anti-submarine warfare, undersea warfare, our reliance on components that originate in China and Russia that could be denied to us, and growing competition with other countries that have accelerated their military procurement.

O’Rourke selected four consequences for naval forces that emerge from the new strategic era. The first is Europe as a potentially growing region for US Naval forces. Formerly a forward operating hub for the US Navy, it may potentially become one again in the near future, which has implications for US Navy force structure, for example, station-keeping multipliers for aircraft carriers. The re-emergence of Europe as an operating area while maintaining our presence in the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf region and the Pacific Ocean without gaps in coverage and maintaining normal rotations would essentially require at least five more carriers than we have. The lack of a European region carrier presence today is in part due to the loss of Piraeus as a Mediterranean base in the 1970s. But the costs include more than just ships; there is also base construction, staffing, and maintenance; host restrictions on operations; “regional lock-in;” and the negative economic impact arising from base closure. Currently, the US Navy ship presence in Europe is smaller than in other regions, so increasing the Navy’s activities there would affect the overall force structure. Today, the number of forward-deployed ships is higher than it has ever been, and the length of forward deployment is longer. This happened in 2011, which could be an indicator of the emergence of the new strategic era.

The second issue is the potential for “game-changers” in undersea, air, and surface warfare. Two of them are the very-long-range anti-ship cruise missile and new surface ship defensive systems such as lasers, electromagnetic rail guns, and hypervelocity projectiles. They offer much lower cost per shot and greater depth of magazine, which are needed to ensure a more robust capacity. The third issue is acquisition. During the Cold War, when the United States didn’t face active competition, the focus was not on growth, but on cost, affordability, and test and evaluation. Now that we have competitors who are moving at speed, we need to think about greater risk-taking and development speed while also maintaining those other focus areas. We may need to become more failure tolerant as a way of making progress. The fourth issue is the Navy’s vision statement, which gives meaning and coherence to the entire discussion. The vision statement dates from 2011, which is at the end of the last strategic era. And it is very long. “There’s a lot of good stuff in there,” O’Rourke said, “but there’s a lot to keep in your head.” Is it time for an updated vision statement that can be articulated quickly? One possible model for a new Navy-wide vision statement is the overarching concept developed by the surface warfare force called “distributed lethality,” which encompasses a lot in only two words.

O’Rourke suggests aiming at filling in the blank at the end of the sentence, “We are working toward a Navy that will be _____.”Most people would either not have anything to put in that blank, or else have something that would differ from the person sitting next to you. This will help people organize their thinking, integrate the concept into their activities, and be able to explain it to others.

Rep. Joe Courtney

The final speaker at Defense Forum Washington 2015 was Rep. Joe Courtney (D - CT), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, and co-chair of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus. Rep. Courtney shared his thoughts on his experience on the subcommittee. He has been pleased to get the defense bills done early the past two years, and the plans for nine new ships this year. “We’re paying the price for the holiday this country went on in terms of shipbuilding,” said. Rep. Courtney. “You can’t just snap your fingers and create a new attack sub.”

Rep. Courtney said that he believes we are getting back in the right direction and the NDAA was a strong outcome of that. The two-year budget resolution partially lifted sequestration, which gives people at the Pentagon a planning horizon. And lastly, there has been progress on the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund. Even with the NDAA and the budget relief, though, we are still below the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan. “We still have a great challenge ahead of us in terms of trying to move the ball forward on new shipbuilding and meeting the demands that are out there,” he said.

The next challenge is the shipbuilding plan and the Ohio Replacement Program. As a representative of a district where much of that work it’s taking place, he is able to see that this is really happening. The important question is what the impact on the rest of the fleet will be if we don’t have a significant reallocation of the Navy’s “portion of the pie chart” of the Pentagon or whether we come up with creative ways to reduce the impact on the rest of the shipbuilding account. The National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, which was created two years ago by statute, is not a gimmick; having separate funds has a real precedent that allows the military to take the pressure off an essential component of the fleet. Congress has strengthened it, enabling the Navy to do more with the fund, including a cost savings of 10%.

There have been two efforts to scuttle the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund on the floor of Congress; the debate surrounding the efforts led to strong support in both caucuses in favor of the prevailing provision. “That’s not bad in terms of showing that we are starting to break through with these arguments,” explained Rep. Courtney. “That’s why I’m bullish.” The votes speak volumes about the effect of the advocacy of the USNI and other organizations that spoke up for it. But there are still many changes ahead, particularly with funding the Ohio Replacement Project fund. His experience on the committee has strengthened his resolve and his awareness of the central importance of sea power, and that’s why the mission of the USNI is so important.

Rep. Courtney closed his remarks by recalling his recent trip to Honolulu to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender, during which he met with several commands, during which ADM Harris expressed his belief that the failure of the United States to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea hinders our ability to assert claims against China’s behavior in the South China Sea. Since then, Rep. Courtney has become an advocate of the cause and has been trying to reopen the debate on the subject because it has effectively shut the United States out of the multinational efforts to address Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. “We’ve handcuffed ourselves,” he said, noting that we have to rely on Italy and Australia as proxies. “The fact that we’re on the bench and not on the field is, in my opinion … causing real harm to our ability to have a coherent maritime strategy with our allies, who are looking at us in disbelief.”

“It is time to get this done and get in the game,” he said.

# # # 

General Registration Information

Online registration has closed. If you wish to attend, onsite registration will open at 8 am on Monday, December 7. 

If you need assistance, please contact Member Services.


Printer Friendly Schedule

Monday, December 7, 2015
8:00AM - 8:30AMRegistration and Continental Breakfast
8:30AM - 8:45AMWelcoming Remarks: VADM Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.), CEO, U.S. Naval Institute
8:45AM - 9:45AM
9:45AM - 10:25AM
10:25AM - 10:55AM
  • Featured Speaker: Senator John McCain (R - AZ), Chairman, Senate Committee on Armed Services; Member and former Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and Member, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (Confirmed)
11:00AM - 11:40AM
  • Featured Speaker: Mr. Ronald O'Rourke, Naval Affairs Specialist, Congressional Research Service (Confirmed)
11:40AM - 12:10PM
  • Featured Speaker: Representative Joe Courtney (D - CT), Member, House Armed Services Committee; Ranking Member, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces; and Co-Chair, Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus (Confirmed)
12:10PM - 12:10PMClosing Remarks: VADM Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.), CEO, U.S. Naval Institute

Representative Joe Courtney (D - CT)
Representative Joe Courtney (D - CT)

Featured Speaker

Member, House Armed Services Committee; Ranking Member, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces; and Co-Chair, Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus


Congressman Joe Courtney was elected in 2006 to represent the Second Congressional District of Connecticut in the House of Representatives. He serves on the Armed Services, and Education and Workforce Committees.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Courtney serves on the Seapower and Projection Forces and the Military Readiness Subcommittees. Along with Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, he co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus. As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, he serves on the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee, as well as the Higher Education and Workforce Training subcommittee.

As a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Courtney has worked to strengthen our nation's defense by leading the call for increased submarine production. To date, Courtney has secured more than $500 million in funding for advanced procurement and production of a second submarine. When Courtney arrived in Congress, Electric Boat was facing significant workforce reductions, and, for the first time in 50 years, was not actively designing the next generation of submarine. Because of funding secured by Courtney, the men and women of Electric Boat will build two submarines annually beginning in 2011, marking the first time two subs will be built at the yard in a single year since the 1980s. Courtney has also fought to secure critical support for new design and engineering work on the replacement for the OHIO-class submarine, which has added hundreds of jobs in southeastern Connecticut. This design and engineering work prompted Electric Boat to expand into the former Pfizer building in New London to accommodate its growing workforce.

Additionally, Congressman Courtney secured more federal funding outside the President's budget for SUBASE New London in his first two years in Congress than were secured during the entire previous decade. The over $80 million that Courtney has brought home to the base will ensure that New England's largest military installation will thrive well into the 21st century.

Since his swearing-in, Congressman Courtney has distinguished himself as a tireless advocate for both our nation's veterans and our men and women in uniform. He successfully fought to expand the Montgomery GI Bill for post-9/11 veterans and their families, and led the fight to extend TRICARE benefits to dependents under age 26. Congressman Courtney also fought and won support for an 18-unit supportive housing facility for homeless and at-risk veterans in Jewett City. In 2009, Courtney secured $200,000 towards the project which broke ground in the fall of 2010. He also partnered with Senator John McCain to introduce the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act to help members of the military transition into the teaching profession. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of veterans, Congressman Courtney has been awarded the Connecticut National Guard's highest honor, the Meritorious Service Award. He has also earned recognition from veteran’s organizations, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, which named him Legislator of the Year in 2009.

Having served as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Courtney is a vocal proponent for nearly 2,500 farmers across eastern Connecticut. Courtney is the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus, and has worked tirelessly to protect family farms from foreclosure and fix the flawed milk pricing system. Congressman Courtney also fought for lobsterman in the region when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission proposed a five-year ban on lobstering. After Courtney raised the issue and its disastrous effects, the commission ultimately shelved the proposal. In addition, the Congressman worked with federal, state and local officials to ensure recreational and commercial access to waterways in Westbrook and Clinton by advocating for and scheduling work by a US Army Corps of Engineers dredging ship.

Dedicated to preserving our green space and protecting the environment, Courtney introduced and won passage of a law that designated the Eightmile River in Connecticut as a part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Thanks to his efforts, this pristine and scenic watershed will be preserved for generations to come.

Before serving in the House of Representatives, Joe Courtney represented the citizens of Vernon in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1987 to 1994. During this tenure, then state-Rep. Courtney served as House Chairman for both the Public Health and Human Services Committees and also chaired the Connecticut Blue Ribbon Commission on Universal Health Insurance.

Courtney was recognized in a legislative poll in 1994 by Connecticut Magazine for his bipartisan efforts, and named the "Most Conscientious" and the "Democrat Most Admired by Republicans." Since he came to Congress, Courtney has received numerous awards from several national organizations including the National Patient Advocate Foundation's 2010 Healthcare Hero award, The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers' Legislator of the Year Award, and the American Farm Bureau's Friend of the Farm Bureau award.

Congressman Courtney is a 1975 graduate of Tufts University in Boston. He earned a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1978.

Senator John McCain (R - AZ)
Senator John McCain (R - AZ)

Featured Speaker

Chairman, Senate Committee on Armed Services; Member and former Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and Member, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs


John McCain entered the Naval Academy in June of 1954. He served in the United States Navy until 1981.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona in 1982 and elected to the United States Senate in 1986.

He was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in the 2008 election.

He currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

ADM John Richardson, USN
ADM John Richardson, USN

Featured Speaker

Chief of Naval Operations


Admiral John Richardson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Physics.  He holds master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and National Security Strategy from the National War College.

At sea, Richardson served on USS Parche (SSN 683), USS George C. Marshall (SSBN 654) and USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716).  He commanded USS Honolulu (SSN 718) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Richardson also served as commodore of Submarine Development Squadron (DEVRON) 12; commander, Submarine Group 8; commander, Submarine Allied Naval Forces South; deputy commander, U.S. 6th Fleet; chief of staff, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa; commander, Naval Submarine Forces, and director of Naval Reactors.

His staff assignments include duty in the attack submarine division on the Chief of Naval Operations staff; naval aide to the President; prospective commanding officer instructor for Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet; assistant deputy director for Regional Operations on the Joint Staff; and director of Strategy and Policy at U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Richardson served on teams that have been awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Navy Unit Commendation, and the Navy “E” Ribbon.  He was awarded the Vice Admiral Stockdale Award for his time in command of USS Honolulu.

Richardson began serving as the 31st Chief of Naval Operations September 18, 2015.

VADM Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.)

CEO, U.S. Naval Institute

VADM Charles Michel, USCG
VADM Charles Michel, USCG

Featured Speaker

Vice Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard


Vice Admiral Charles Michel assumed the duties as the 30th Vice Commandant on August 6, 2015.

Prior to this appointment, Vice Admiral Michel served as the Deputy Commandant for Operations, responsible for establishing and providing operational strategy, policy, guidance and resources to meet national priorities for U.S. Coast Guard missions, programs and services.

His previous flag officer assignments include Deputy Commander, U. S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area; Director, Joint Interagency Task Force South; Military Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security; and Director for Governmental and Public Affairs, U. S. Coast Guard.

A native of Brandon, Florida, he graduated from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering (with high honors) in 1985. In 1992, he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law as the salutatorian, receiving membership in the Order of the Coif.

Tours of duty afloat included serving as Commanding Officer, USCGC RESOLUTE; as Executive Officer, USCGC DAUNTLESS; as Commanding Officer, USCGC CAPE CURRENT; and as Deck Watch Officer, USCGC DECISIVE. Vice Admiral Michel also served as Chief of the Office of Maritime and International Law, Washington, DC; Staff Attorney, Eighth Coast Guard District, New Orleans, Louisiana; head of the Operations Division, Office of Maritime and International Law, Washington, DC; and as Legislative Counsel for the Office of Congressional and Governmental Affairs, Washington, DC.

Vice Admiral Michel’s awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, and the Coast Guard Letter of Commendation Ribbon. Vice Admiral Michel was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the Colombian Navy. Vice Admiral Michel was the American Bar Association Young Lawyer of the Year for the Coast Guard in 1995, the Judge Advocate’s Association Career Armed Services Attorney of the Year for the Coast Guard in 2000, and is currently a member of the Florida Bar.

Mr. Ronald O
Mr. Ronald O'Rourke

Featured Speaker

Naval Affairs Specialist, Congressional Research Service


Mr. O'Rourke is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, from which he received his B.A. in international studies, and a valedictorian graduate of the University's Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, where he received his M.A. in the same field.

Since 1984, Mr. O'Rourke has worked as a naval analyst for the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. He has written numerous reports for Congress on various issues relating to the Navy. He regularly briefs Members of Congress and Congressional staffers, and has testified before Congressional committees on several occasions.

In 1996, Mr. O'Rourke received a Distinguished Service Award from the Library of Congress for his service to Congress on naval issues. Mr. O'Rourke is the author of several journal articles on naval issues, and is a past winner of the U.S. Naval Institute's Arleigh Burke essay contest. He has given presentations on Navy-related issues to a variety of audiences in government, industry and academia.

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