We entered the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) confident about the relevance of naval forces to the fights we are in today and those we seek to prevent tomorrow. Our maritime strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (CS21), accurately described the emerging strategic environment and the partnerships that were becoming central to warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and our peacetime operations throughout the world. In the end, the QDR confirmed many of our core strategic tenets and resource priorities, and it provides a much clearer picture of where our Navy should be headed today, over the next several years, and beyond. Here's what it means for us:
Maritime Strategy Meets National Strategy
The 2010 QDR strongly reaffirms the imperatives of CS21, which focus on winning our nation's wars and preventing and containing conflict with a combination of tailored, globally distributed forces and regionally concentrated, combat-credible forces. Fundamental to both the QDR and CS21 is the understanding that our national interests depend on global stability and that winning today's wars is as important as deterring future conflict. Both documents highlight the key role partners play in addressing regional conventional and hybrid threats. Most significant, the President's budgets for Fiscal Year 2010 and 11 that accompanied the QDR parallel or expand capability efforts we started in line with our strategy.
Both the QDR report and CS21 identify stability of the global system and free use of the global commons as foundational to U.S. national interests and those of our allies, partners, and friends. Our interests are inextricably linked to highly integrated systems of law, commerce, trade, finance, and information that depend on free access to air, space, cyberspace, and sea. Our nation depends on naval forces that operate in and assure our access to each of these commons.
Our highest priority for both today's operations and future deterrence remains the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our success in these fights will tell our potential adversaries much about our resolve, adaptability, and resilience and will bear significantly on our ability to deter them-whether they are a large state competitor or a loosely organized terrorist group. The Navy will continue being essential to both fights, where we conduct a third of the fixed-wing sorties for close air support and reconnaissance, and where 13,000 Sailors are on the ground. They are SEALs, Seabees, medical personnel, and Sailors in reconstruction teams, counter-improvised explosive device (IED) and explosive ordnance disposal detachments, and combat-support units. The demands on us in the Middle East will likely grow when U.S. ground forces draw down as we provide protection and support to our partners and departing troops.
As evidenced in Iraq and Afghanistan, partners are central to our strategy, capacity, and ultimately, to our success. CS21 articulated this emerging reality, and the QDR directs that partners play roles in future operations to the maximum extent possible. Partner capability and capacity can reduce the burden placed on U.S. forces and enhance the overall mission, if we and they are able to come together. To guard against the possibility that partners cannot take on this effort, though, we will maintain our own capacity for operations such as maritime security, humanitarian assistance, or counter-terrorism.
Partnerships will also continue to be essential to overcome growing political, geographic, and military challenges to U.S. freedom of action. Access is a major concern of the QDR and CS21, and the Navy assures it through a combination of tailored, cooperative overseas posture and warfighting capabilities that defeat operational challenges. As our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan shows, gaining access is both about fighting our way in and overcoming impediments such as flight restrictions, basing denial, and a lack of infrastructure. There is no question that in future fights we must continue being able to operate from the sea and defeat widely proliferating threats to access such as computer network attack, ballistic and cruise missiles, communications jamming, and sophisticated diesel submarines.
As anticipated by CS21 and described in the QDR, these advanced weapons will be employed in increasingly hybrid forms of warfare. In addition to non-state actors such as insurgents using weapons and technology normally reserved to nations, we must be able to defeat states that use regular and irregular tactics and surrogate forces such as terrorists.
These elements of military strategy will be affected by trends identified in the QDR and CS21 that portend a growing Navy role in conflict prevention and combat. Climate change will likely create instability in island and littoral nations where rising sea levels may impact prosperity and force migration. Demographic trends will cause major shifts in regional power and national strength. And resource rivalry, whether over water, oil, or food, will be an increasing cause of disruption and disorder.
A Comprehensive Approach
Improving our whole government's capacity for security and partnership building is essential to accomplish the QDR's national objectives. The versatility of the Navy's ships, aircraft, and people and their ability to operate without infringing on sovereignty makes them effective means to support development, defense, and diplomacy. Today we routinely deploy ships to Africa Partnership Station with hundreds of partner, non-governmental organization, and U.S. interagency personnel. Responding to disaster, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), USS Bataan (LHD-5), USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), and thousands of Sailors, Marines, and aid workers quickly brought relief to Haiti. Such missions will continue to define our global-response capability.
The QDR comprehensively addresses the role of international and interagency partners. Although we must retain our ability to act alone, we cannot address every challenge unilaterally or with a military-only approach. While our government and international partners must invest in the capabilities they need to address security challenges in their portfolio or region, the Navy must continue to be the service with the enduring forward presence and capacity to support and sustain these efforts. We will expand our existing security force assistance activities with partners in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia to improve their ability to secure their own resources, territory, and people and continue security force assistance with our allies in Europe and East Asia for higher-end capabilities such as missile defense, anti-submarine warfare and amphibious operations.
Recapitalizing the Force
Sustaining the Fleet's capacity is my top priority. We must continue to maintain today's ships and aircraft and procure tomorrow's Fleet in the face of rising costs from our high operational tempo. This tempo, initiated to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will likely remain high to support our partners in the Middle East, meet growing demands for ballistic-missile defense, and continue today's deterrence, security force assistance, and humanitarian missions. For the Navy to reduce reliance on supplemental funding, we must find cost savings elsewhere to sustain operations, maintenance, and procurement.
The QDR confirmed the need for today's Navy force, centered on 11 Carrier Strike Groups, 31 amphibious ships, and a growing number of specialized groups for ballistic-missile defense and engagement. To sustain this Fleet capacity, we will make some tough choices in our budget. As identified in our shipbuilding plan, we will need $18-19 billion annually in ship construction for several years in the next decade, compared to $13-15 billion in each of the next five years. These funds will build the SSBN(X)-the next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine-while maintaining adequate production of nuclear-powered attack submarines and guided-missile destroyers, the backbone of our Navy and the limiting factor in our ability to deploy combat-credible forces overseas. Our primary aviation programs (F-35, MH-60, and P-8) must continue to be funded to manage capacity challenges in aging P-3s and F/A-18s resulting from today's high operational tempos.
The QDR supported with words and resources Navy capabilities that have become key to today's fights and the emerging security environment:
- Sustained operations from sea with our existing amphibious fleet and the new Mobile Landing Platform. The QDR reaffirmed the utility of our amphibious force in the current fight through counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa, security force assistance in the Gulf of Guinea, and humanitarian assistance in Haiti, while being prepared for forcible entry when necessary.
- Expanded flexible and adaptable ballistic-missile defense from the sea, from which we will consider innovative ideas to source this important and growing mission.
- Increased surveillance and strike from submarines and new long-range unmanned aircraft to leverage the sea as maneuver space in confronting anti-access and area-denial threats.
- Sustained airborne electronic attack with additional E/A-18G Growlers to counter terrorist and insurgent communications and attacks, while developing capabilities to defeat advanced adversary systems.
- Expanded littoral operations with the Littoral Combat Ships, Joint High-Speed Vessels, and an additional riverine squadron to provide greater access, intra-theater lift, and partner-building capacity regionally.
The Risk Factors
Managing risk will be essential to implementing the QDR's strategy and direction. Four specific areas of risk require our utmost attention: strategic, operational, programmatic, and fiscal risk.
Strategic Risk-While we will devote significant effort toward developing and integrating with partners, we must remain capable of unilateral action if need be.
Operational Risk-While the Navy has always addressed geographic impediments, access is becoming increasingly challenged politically and militarily. We must continue building on and protecting our asymmetric advantages of stealth, cyber operations, and global reach.
Programmatic Risk-We must reduce the long-term risk in our investments by pursuing common hull forms and addressing total ownership costs, including the increasing cost of fuel.
Fiscal Risk-Our economy underpins our security, and the nation faces significant fiscal challenges with growing debt and entitlement spending. We must mitigate this budgetary risk by synchronizing our infrastructure and manpower with the expected size, composition, and laydown of our Fleet.
Our Sailors and Navy civilians continue to do a tremendous job sustaining our global responsibilities while fighting two wars. The demands on our Navy will not subside, and the resource challenges will not wane. Our Navy continues to be the best in the world and the best it has been in my 37 years of service. With the strength and competence of our people, and effective and thoughtful leadership at all levels, we will continue to be a global force for good well into the future.