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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Releases > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Remarks > Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Remarks (2006)

Meeting Global Maritime Challenges with Global Ideas

Michael Coulter, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs
Remarks at the Johns Hopkins International Maritime Security Symposium
Laurel, Maryland
September 12, 2006

Building Global Capacity and Global Capability Through Global Cooperation


Admirals, distinguished guests and colleagues, on behalf of Secretary Rice, I am honored and very grateful for this opportunity to speak to such a distinguished and select audience of maritime security experts from around the world. My State Department colleagues and I look forward to working along side you in sharing ideas and formulating concepts to further the Navy’s vision for shaping our global maritime environment.

Over the next few minutes, I will share with you some thoughts on how the political-military playing field has changed and share with you some of the State Department’s efforts and initiatives that hopefully will lend support to many of the leading edge concepts to be discussed in this forum over the next three days.

The Changing Nature of Warfare

Throughout our history, the great oceans, lakes, and rivers that surround and run through our borders have been vital to our prosperity and to our security. Today, we continue to depend on these maritime highways for a global transportation system that delivers goods and materials "just- in-time" around the world. For most of our history, conventional warfare and perils such as piracy were first on our minds when we thought of threats to maritime security. Today, however, along with response to natural disasters, we are faced with a resurgence of piracy, trafficking in narcotics, weapons, and humans, and a determined and resourceful terrorist enemy that would use the seas and waterways as a means to deliver dreadful instruments of devastation.

Through history, we have come to realize that no one nation can single-handedly secure every ocean and every waterway around the world. And because the oceans play an indispensable role in the safety, security, and economic stability of the international community, all nations have a vital interest in ensuring that the maritime domain remains secure and open for the free and legitimate use of all. This vision is the hallmark of our navies and the backbone of international security.

Today’s threats have not only changed the principles of war, but have created some non-traditional, or ‘unholy’ alliances that operate in back rooms and dark corridors. Those uncommon alliances, however, have also caused like- minded leaders in industry and government to gather together in venues such as this to discuss what can done, collectively, to unhinge and defeat these unsavory actors before they can strike and do grave harm. We have a moment of opportunity unlike any in our lifetime. Five years after the 9/11 attacks, there is still no global maritime security strategy. However today, I believe we are making a giant leap in that direction -- nation by nation and region by region -- until all the pieces come together to fill the gaps and close the seams. We will, in our collective effort, use the seas to unite and not divide, presenting no hiding place for those who seek to kill and destroy.

A Convergence of Themes and Ideas

There is a remarkable convergence of themes in academic and policy circles about the changing nature of threats and challenges to national and international security. Within the U.S. government, a quick comparison of objectives in the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and Secretary Rice’s vision for Transformational Diplomacy supports that convergence. But now the hard part begins, bending institutions and bureaucratic muscle memory to the new set of tasks at hand. During half a century of hot and cold wars since the end of World War II, the U.S. has maintained a strong forward presence, shaping the security environment by cooperating closely with our friends and influencing potential foes, simply by being on-station. Centered on multi-mission Carrier Battle Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, forward-deployed naval forces have been formidable instruments for peacetime engagement and crisis response, as well as conflict deterrence and conflict resolution. The introduction of sea-based forward presence has also enabled the United States to support regional stability in the least intrusive way, avoiding the stationing of ground forces on foreign soil. However, that forward presence has not necessarily signaled to our friends and enemies alike a long-term presence.

Enemies of freedom and prosperity in Afghanistan are finding that the absence of U.S. military troops in some immediate vicinities does not signal their victory and our defeat. Because where U.S. forces are not, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is, or Coalition forces are, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are... All of these actors in the international community stand ready to support the Afghan people and their freedom, which signals the defeat of the terrorists. The vision for the 1,000 ship navy, as eloquently portrayed by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), brings this permanent forward presence for international stability to the ungoverned spaces of the seas. Together our navies and the world’s commercial shipping can present that stability and peace through a persistent presence, even if one of us is not physically present.

Compression of the Levels of Warfare

We have seen a dramatic compression of the political-military space in recent years. I noted early that the days of discrete political and military domains are over, with the everyday blurring of these roles in today’s operations. The pol-mil interface we manage now is geographically ubiquitous and present at every level of action. Similarly, we should recognize that the days of three distinct and linear levels of politics-free warfare -- strategic, operational and tactical -- have ended. We now operate in a very different kind of strategic environment, one which requires different organizations and different rules than those by which we have played and, in some cases, now play.

The conventional view of the levels of warfare, in which they are linked but separate, with different players at each level, presumes that if we get the policy right, all else will follow. This view is mechanistic, militarily-intensive, and Washington, or "pick-your-capital"-centric when it comes to policy and diplomacy. It fails to take into account the inherently political nature of the military’s activities on the ground today, let alone the effects of instantaneous media visibility, the ubiquity of information and communications, and the rapidly declining impact of traditional public diplomacy on public opinion. The old view of the levels of war and pol-mil spheres fails to appreciate the fact that, on today’s battlefields, one junior officer’s actions on a street corner in an urban combat zone may have more political impact than the most forceful diplomatic pronouncement our capital can deliver. The point where the "political" and the "military" interface to create strategic impact used to occur in capitals or, at it’s most forward point, in Eisenhower’s headquarters. Today, that pol-mil interface is having strategic impact with a lieutenant on a Seal Team in Mindanao, or an ensign aboard a Pakistani ship off the Horn of Africa, or with international navies protecting our "Third Border" as part of Operation Enduring Friendship.

Today we must subscribe to a more complicated model in which the three levels of warfare are overlapping and compressed. This model is interactive and non-linear; it is politically intense at every level, and adaptive. This is a field-centric model, in which major actors may emerge at levels and locations other than where we might traditionally expect, and who therefore may require different initial orientation, training, and guidance, to the extent that we can identify and prepare them. In this model politics, policy, diplomacy, and military activities interact at every level and all the time.

In the world we face, military actions must be designed and undertaken with the best political and diplomatic advice we are capable of providing -- both before and during the fact. We must commit to providing holistic, comprehensive, integrated, multi-agency support at every step of military operations including the "shaping" phase, and not just during the initial and post conflict phases of operations.

State’s Role in the New Interface

Success in this security environment requires nothing short of a total government effort from the United States government. Agencies like the Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, Homeland Security, and Energy have critical roles to play on the front lines. And the State Department is committed to its part. We will get our people, our assets, our know-how into the proverbial fight, to shape a more secure and stable world. One of the ways we are doing this is through the Political Advisor (POLAD) and State-Defense Exchange Officer programs, by providing expert State Department advice, resources, and reach-back to our military. These programs are being expanded to make the POLAD program more prestigious, more robust, and importantly, more ubiquitous -- so that good political advisors to military forces are present at all levels -- especially in the field -- and not simply on 4-star headquarters staffs.

We have been experimenting with deploying POLADs or POLAD-like capabilities in the field at all levels. Recent successes have included the approval for three new POLAD positions and the stand-up of a "Virtual" POLAD to Commander Second Fleet. A tremendous demonstration of interagency collaboration, the Virtual POLAD is remotely available 24/7 and ready to deploy when requested in support of training exercises and real world contingencies. The Second Fleet’s Virtual POLAD embarked and deployed during JTFEX-06 as the commander’s political advisor. We are expanding the POLAD capacity to include "surging" POLAD capability to embark and deploy in support of major exercises. The surge POLAD concept was successfully demonstrated in May in support of PACOM’s SEACAT/CARAT 2006 exercise as a member of the Naval Post Graduate School’s Regional Security Education Program. As part of a four-person team, a State Department representative spent 10 days at sea with the Strike Group providing valuable pol-mil briefings to the staff and in return getting invaluable first hand insight into military planning and operations. These first-ever initiatives provide significant reciprocal dividends for both Navy and State.

These programs are but a few examples of what Secretary Rice refers to as "Transformational Diplomacy" -- reshaping our structures, our people, and the way we do business to address the environment we now face. Similar efforts are underway in the areas of security assistance, public diplomacy, and economic affairs just to name a few. Our comprehensive pol-mil strategy seeks to rear a new generation of programs, initiatives, and leaders who understand and can operate effectively in the complex new world of inextricably intertwined political-military affairs. Transformational Diplomacy will require taking on new tasks, breaking old habits, working with people who are also trying to make those transformations themselves, and being partners with those around the world who share our values and want to improve their lives. If we are to succeed, we must transform faster than the threats emerge, even as we plan strategically for the uncertainties of the future.

Time To Turn the Lights On

In the 2002 National Security Strategy, President Bush stated that "the great danger our nation face lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology." In the 2006 National Security Strategy, the President opened with a very definitive policy statement that "the United States is to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world...and that the goal of our statecraft is to help create a world of democratic, well-governed states that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. This is the best way to provide enduring security for the American people." I believe this global policy statement captures and embraces the intent of this gathering and underscores the Navy’s vision of the future…partnering together at all levels and sectors of our governments to enable States to achieve the maritime capability and capacity necessary to patrol and protect their national borders and international interests.

Incidents at sea involving state sponsored proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and non state sponsored acts of piracy on the high seas and the littorals, requires us all, as free nations, to rethink our maritime strategies. The blurring of the lines between the illegal acts of piracy and trafficking and the illicit acts of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands that we all look beyond our own territorial borders to find a solution to the malfeasant threats to our individual and collective national security. It is high time that we work together to illuminate the dark corridors and crevices in which these bad actors operate. The Quadrennial Defense Review coined it "Unity of Effort", I will rephrase it in mariner’s term as "coming along side and rigging fenders."

As stated earlier, the QDR recognized that developing this kind of capacity will require a mental and programmatic shift from a Defense-centric to a National Security focus -- a shift in thinking from military combined arms to multi-agency combined actions -- what the Joint Forces Command is calling "Unified Action." It requires a real ability to apply and integrate all elements and all functions of national power. Our nation’s strategic objectives are unattainable without a unified approach and success requires unified statecraft to bring to bear all elements of national power at home and to work in close cooperation with allies and partners abroad.

Plotting A Fix

The concept of unimpeded sea lines of communication underpins the very meaning of an effective national security strategy…a strategy primarily based on global engagement. Freedom of access now means more than just maritime supremacy. Today, freedom of access means the awareness and control of the entire spectrum of the maritime domain… rivers, coasts, littorals and the open ocean to ensure its access to good actors and deny its access to bad actors.

Over the past three years, the Navy has led, through example, global integration and interoperability and stands now on the cutting edge of truly new operational concepts. As you will discuss during this symposium, initiatives and strategies such as the 1,000 Ship Navy, Global Governance, Global Fleet Stations, the Gulf of Guinea initiative, Operation Enduring Friendship, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), and others are all devised to strengthen our friends in their ability to secure their own maritime domains, as we cooperatively secure international waters. These are in fact, strategies of engagement that are based on the principles of persistence and presence:

  • During the TSUNAMI, international naval vessels created the first international sea-base to support government and non-government operations ashore.

  • During the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts, more than 121 countries and 13 international organizations stepped forward and offered the assistance to the United States. The cornerstone of facilitating, coordinating and implementing that operation came from U.S. and foreign naval assets.

  • During the Pakistan relief effort, the Navy took the lead in putting together a successful interagency and coalition operation primarily supported from sea based assets.

  • During the recent Lebanon crises, it was the Navy that provided the command, control and coordination to conduct the assisted departure of thousands of U.S. and foreign nationals.

  • International navies, under Pakistani leadership, are patrolling the waters off of the Horn of Africa as part of CTF-150.

  • Today, the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy with crew members, nongovernmental organization (NGO) volunteers, and foreign military medical professionals is out there providing hope, comfort, aid, assistance, and community outreach to millions of people.

  • Recent success demonstrating and deploying technologies has shown that international navies, coast guards, the shipping and insurance industries, and international organizations can jointly enable Maritime Domain Awareness throughout the Global Commons.

Together, we have demonstrated the ability to operate together to meet sizeable global challenges and now we are taking the initial steps in developing a global maritime capability that can conduct and sustain persistent maritime operations through unity of effort.

Recently, the President signed the National Strategy for Maritime Security which underscores the importance of securing the Maritime Domain. Although the strategy highlights the need for national efforts, it also strongly emphasizes the vital importance of coordinating with foreign governments and international organizations, and soliciting international support for enhanced maritime security. Within the strategy, he stressed the need for Coordination of International Efforts and International Outreach to develop an over-arching plan that addresses all of the components of the Maritime Domain: domestic, international, public, and private. A global, cross discipline approach to the Maritime Domain centered on a layered, defense-in-depth framework, if you will. The shaping function of this mission must be interagency and international. Only some of the tools to shape the international security environment, and to reach into the ungoverned sea spaces, reside in the U.S. Navy or international navies. We have to reach out to interagency participants with their tools and even further into the private sectors. The net beneficiaries of these efforts in the international community must also be proud and robust contributors.


Harnessing the power of the international community, in ways that are in the interests of individual nations has traditionally not been an easy task. But in today’s rapidly shrinking world, the international community shares an interest of the most strategic and real kind: addressing the all-threatening scourge of terrorism and it’s supporting tentacles of instability in the shape of piracy, trafficking, and ungoverned spaces. We have a moment of great opportunity to break down the interagency and international stove pipes that impede our ability to organize quickly and seamlessly. Stakes for international stability and the security of our peoples demand that we be more agile and resourceful than our adversaries. Together, we must integrate, through technology and cooperation, our different enterprises -- be they interagency or international -- in our current activities and our future capabilities.

As you grapple with the issues of how to promote naval collaboration, build a common picture of maritime activity, and define the required maritime security capabilities, please consider that while our respective organizations may be independent, our activities are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. And together we can shape a future that is secure and prosperous. United and innovative, we succeed.

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