Building Maritime Collaboration for Security and Stability

Samuel Perez
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Jakarta International Defence Dialogue (JIDD)
Jakarta, Indonesia
March 19, 2014

(As Prepared)

Modernization, Partnerships and Maritime Domain Awareness

Thank you for inviting me to participate in the Jakarta Defense Dialog. I assure you I am not sailing under false colors, I am indeed a Naval Officer but I am currently on assignment to the State Department and the uniform of the day at our State Department is a Business Suit. My assignment to the State Department underscores our military’s commitment to develop increased partnerships across two departments that have very different roles but share the same goal of better partnerships. I’ll touch more on that later but for now, I relish the opportunity to discuss Maritime topics so thank you once again for providing me with this opportunity to participate.

I am going to start my remarks by first addressing Modernization. If we take a look at the newest naval systems you might be impressed by cruise missiles with terminal speeds far in excess of the speed of sound. You will also see a proliferation of unmanned vehicles, stealthy aircraft and ships that are more connected in a command and control sense than we have ever seen. Gone are the days when a Sailor determined a ship’s might by the tonnage she displaced. Instead, we look at these ships and first ask, how far can the ship see, how well connected is the ship with all the other sensors available to the commander?

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, with the new systems I am going to describe to you, the United States Navy has taken a quantitative and qualitative leap forward. And Asia will be a great beneficiary of this new equipment. As we rebalance toward Asia, we will increase the percentage of our surface ships in the Pacific theater from about 50 to over 60. But it’s not just a quantitative shift, it’s also a qualitative one. The United States is also rebalancing its most technologically advanced platforms to the Pacific. For example, all the ships of the Zumwalt Guided Missile Destroyer Class will come to the Pacific. The first P8s—an incredible improvement in Maritime Patrol Aircraft capabilities—will come to the Pacific first. Our Navy’s newest surface combatant, the Littoral Combat Ship has already completed one deployment to the South China Sea and we will see another rotational deployment this summer. When we do field the Joint Strike Fighter, it will go first to the Pacific theater—I won’t dwell too much on the F35—it’s bad form for a surface officer to give too much credit to any airplane, no matter how amazing, and I think I’ve exhausted my effusive aviation quota on the P8!

Yes, these systems will make a difference but I want to take this opportunity to look at another aspect of modernization: Partnerships in the maritime domain. True, there is nothing new in partnerships, what I’m talking about is Partnership 5.0—or whatever the latest I-Phone iteration is.

The challenges in the maritime domain remain complex and complicated. Our Chief of Naval Operations has spoken at length about partnerships and their ability to contribute to the global challenge of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight. These partnerships will enable all navies to take advantage of each other’s strengths and build a maritime community that enables all of us to sail the seas without intimidation or interference. Working together in partnerships, whether bilaterally or multilaterally, allows us to also respond more quickly to humanitarian and disaster assistance when needed. The U.S. Navy was able to respond to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines quickly, which saved lives and brought needed assistance on a large scale, and opened the way for other countries to donate critical assistance to the affected area. Again, I would like to take an extra second so we can remind ourselves that navies, aside from being able to destroy or defend, can also heal.

Of equal importance, partnerships provide us with a tool that in the end will prove to be more valuable than any Mach ++ cruise missile or the stealthiest aircraft: this tool is Maritime Domain Awareness. Yes, we have all been talking about MDA but why is it worth the effort to establish Partnerships to attain?

None of us can surveil our territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones to the extent where we know precisely what everyone is doing at all times. Is someone overfishing our valuable resources? Are criminal elements using our waters to conduct illicit traffic or other activity (smuggling drugs or people, piracy or other illegal actions)? Maritime Domain Awareness provides us with the first element we need to establish control of our own territorial seas and ensure we maintain control of the valuable resources in our EEZs.

I’d like to take you back to the iPhone phone example I shared earlier. There was nothing particularly innovative about making a mobile phone smaller or putting a screen into the phone. But adding the ability to take pictures and mark them with GPS coordinates, for example, expands its usefulness into a tool that helps someone find something. You can use your phone as a radio; you can use it as a search engine, or to catch up on the news. Today the power of the mobile phone is that it is so much more than a means to talk to someone. There are apps that turn your mobile into a very powerful tool, useful for so much more than talking to just one person.

By the same token we need to take our partnerships to the next level and connect our resources so that we can truly take our maritime partnerships into the next level. Again, let us look at the telephone. In the earliest days of the telephone, we had to call through an operator. Then we could use rotary dials and digit dials. It was a huge breakthrough to get cordless phones, and the next step was mobile phones. And remember those first mobile phones? They were the size of your forearms, with bulky antennae. Now, we can fit them in the palm of our hand. And with these phones, we are better connected to each other. These partnerships, this maritime APP if you will, will enable us to cultivate new and understanding and ensure that our U.S. presence, particularly as we send out more ships, continues to be reassuring to the region. It will enable us to use our individual strengths to build capability, capacity and competence across the Maritime Domain. In the end it will enable us to legitimately use the maritime space for legitimate purposes, better enable us to prevent those who would use the Maritime Domain to intimidate weaker nations and prevent the theft of valuable resources or unlawful development within our EEZs.

The United States is committed to the rebalance toward Asia. We have demonstrated that our focus goes beyond just words: we are dedicating diplomatic, public diplomacy, military, and foreign assistance resources to the region in a way that demonstrates the truly comprehensive nature of our engagement. As part of the rebalance, the United States is committed to creating new partnerships and strengthening existing relationships to provide us all with better Maritime Domain Awareness. We are committed to increasing the capabilities we need to prevent the illicit use of commons and the theft of our resources. Modernization, both in a technological form and in the form of new partnerships will enable better Maritime Domain Awareness.

Maritime Domain Awareness is important. We build it through partnerships. With it, countries protect prosperity and grow relationships. Part of that is through modernizing navies, not just with technology, but new thinking. Our “Rebalance Toward Asia” is part of our effort to build our diplomatic, economic, democratic, multilateral and security relationships with our partners in East Asia and the Pacific. We have always been a Pacific nation and we will continue to be one.

Ultimately, what we all want is freedom of navigation, freedom for our ships to operate pursuant to the rules of reflected in international law. Lawful commerce should flow without impediment or coercion.