Greenert: The Navy's Pivot to Asia Going Strong

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The following is a selected transcript of an interview with Admiral Jonathan Greenert at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA on November 16, 2013. 

REALCLEARDEFENSE: The U.S. China-Commission is coming out with its annual report on November 20th. An excerpt came out in the Washington Times in which they say the combination of Chinese military modernization and sequestration is “altering the balance of power in the region and reducing the deterrent effect of the rebalance policy.” Do you share that assessment?

GREENERT: Well, we’re only about a year and a half into it if you will – the rebalance. Sequestration has had one year’s worth of impact, if you will.

So I would disagree with that in the current term. I would have to extrapolate out and say, let’s see what the situation is in 2020 – our situation, China’s situation. A decade worth of sequestration, if you will, will slow the rebalance, what my endeavors would be in 2020 without sequestration versus with sequestration.

But I would tell you this: we are continuing our focus, our priority in that budgetary environment to the Asia-Pacific. And there will be growth in that arena as opposed to just less reduction. And it’s in [forces, capability, homeport shift west, intellectual capacity].

I would tell you that capability would be slowed. I won’t be able to deliver some of the [anti-submarine warfare], electronic warfare, electronic attack capabilities that I would have wanted to have. But the endeavor would still be there.

REALCLEARDEFENSE: I wanted to ask you briefly about the Navy’s anti-surface, anti-ship capabilities.  At the Defense One Summit this week, the Director of DARPA said that she was concerned the Navy could be “out-sticked” in the Pacific. I did an interview with Randy Forbes recently in which he expressed a similar concern. What are the plans going forward to bolster that kind of capability? The Navy’s cruisers are reaching the end of their lifespan. We haven’t built a ship with the Harpoon missile since 2000. Are you worried about that at all, and how are you going to address it?

GREENERT: By the way, that was a good interview, not only that you had and your questions , but Congressman Forbes. I thought his comments were right on the money. I really welcome the congressional interest in Seapower and their views on establishing and furthering that. So thanks for that interview.

But to your point, fifteen years ago, we established in the Navy the fact that, let’s look at our overall capability rather than platform and systems versus platform and systems. What’s the overarching approach to that? And we felt pretty comfortable with that clearly and took actions accordingly. 

But about four or five years ago, [the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet] came forward and said, “Hey, look, Harpoon missiles aren’t going to carry me out into the future as I extrapolate out. We need a replacement.”

So there’s two approaches we took. What can we look at longer term that is more transformational? We looked at DARPA and said, “What do you got really high speed? Hypersonic." And they said they had the projects you’re probably familiar with [the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM)].

What can we do in the near term with the missiles we have? Can we upgrade the Harpoon? What about sensors? Being out-sticked means you’re within weapons range. So the idea is: can you get within weapons range without being detected? So that becomes a sensor and an electromagnetic problem as well. And then what kind of longer range missiles do we have that we could then make more survivable in that arena?

So it’s what do we have now, and what kind we kind of strap on for seek for seeker-wise, booster-wise, sensors or jammers? What’s the longer range approach? So we’ve got about four initiatives on that.

REALCLEARDEFENSE: So would you say you feel comfortable now, but that over the long term you recognize that there’s more of a concern in that area?

GREENERT: That would be reasonably fair. I’m not dissatisfied, let’s just say impatient in the near term to get something out there with what we have. Industry can come up with some pretty interesting payloads pretty quickly, and I’d like to see what they’re going to do in the nearer term.

But once again, I’d just like to emphasize that we don’t think of things like, ship-to-ship, air-to-air. It’s really the systems, but the need is there to deliver something from the ship.

Dustin Walker is the Editor of RealClearDefense.

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