Last May, at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered his perspective on the challenges facing America’s Sea Services in the decades ahead. Many in the audience and those who later read his speech focused on his comments about the current cost of the Navy’s carriers and other surface ships, and the future cost of its strategic submarines. But the heart of the Secretary’s comments really focused on two broad questions:
• What kind of qualities should the maritime services encourage in a new generation of leaders?
• What new capabilities will our Navy–Marine Corps team need, and which ones will potentially be made obsolete?
On the first question, Gates cited a number of exemplary naval leaders who provided visionary and intellectual leadership during periods of great uncertainty and reduced defense spending. He referred to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and his contribution to carrier warfare. He also cited Lieutenant General Victor Krulak, who championed amphibious tractors and the famous Higgins boat in the 1930s.