America's military faces reductions in force and spending that could have a ripple effect. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world's sea services: Some see U.S. global naval engagement diminishing and the world's power structure realigning itself over the coming decade. In what ways would this affect your navy?
The economic crisis has altered the global balance of power. It has accelerated the emergence of China, India, and Brazil, who now reconsider their strategic thinking and develop ambitious national strategies, established with powerful navies. Driven by the financial margins offered by their economic growth, those countries are investing in their defense, when our budgets are shrinking.
In that context, our navies are confronted with the fragile balance between resources and needs. Therefore, we have to follow the appropriate routes, those that enable to apply the right strategies, leaning on an effective management of the available joint, interdepartmental and multinational capabilities.
The White Paper on Defence and National Security, published in 2008, adapted our naval policy to today’s environment. It confirmed, for France, the need for a “fighting navy” and an ocean-going navy.
The answer given by the French Navy to the defense and control of air and sea areas is therefore carried out primarily through maritime surveillance, which assures vigilance and preparation. Then, the navy implements the French defense policy. Finally, the French Navy intervenes by carrying out projection and prevention actions at sea or from the sea. A major strategic intervention direction has been defined in the Indian Ocean, which reflects our current priorities of naval engagement. But our forces also ensure a permanent presence and influence ability at sea worldwide, particularly in the Indian Ocean.
But in this context, it should be appropriate to lean on the versatility of the tools. Thus, for law enforcement at sea, the French Navy shares some capabilities to deal quickly and at lower cost with the wide scope of missions. The recent creation of a “coastguard functions” now allows for organization of the human and material resources of all government services involved at sea and on the coast, around clearly identified priorities.
More than ever, international cooperation is the key word for the success of maritime operations, and in this sense, our relations with foreign navies is essential. To be effective, this cooperation should be pragmatic and bring together protagonists who share similar objectives. It must be targeted on strategic locations—threat sources—and enable not only greater interoperability of our equipment, but also of our procedures.
If the crisis reinforces the uncertain and unstable nature of the world, the French Navy is helping to give to France the action ability consistent with its ambitions for defense and security, as well as a foreign policy serving the French state and citizens. Today, our navies have a decisive role to play as our expertise is well known and the methods are rigorous.