Analysts: CNO choice shows priority shift
Posted : Saturday Aug 11, 2007 14:39:27 EDT
Adm. Gary Roughead’s recent nomination to become the next chief of naval operations is a prominent example of a shift in the Navy’s focus from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and Indian oceans, according to naval observers.
Over the past few years, the sea service has dedicated more attention to the western Pacific and Indian oceans. The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review called for the Navy to move more assets to the Pacific in light of the potential future threats of China and North Korea.
Roughead, a former commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, has experience in Asia meeting with foreign navy counterparts, fostering ties with China and organizing relief efforts in the wake of the 2004 tsunami.
With a large portion of the world’s natural resources and good and services coming out of China and India, the Navy must engage more in Asia, retired Adm. Bob Natter told Navy Times.
Roughead’s familiarity with the region will be a plus for the Navy, Natter said, adding, “His civilian bosses will encourage his perspective.”
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, said Roughead’s career is “emblematic of how the United States is migrating maritime assets from the Atlantic to Pacific.”
“Roughead is an impressive fellow,” Thompson said. “He is competent in the world of politics, ideas and operations.”
Thompson cited the admiral’s experience as chief of legislative affairs for the Navy, head of the U.S. Naval Academy and Pacific Fleet commander.
Roughead will be able to understand the “threats and distances” of the Pacific region, said Robert Work, an analyst for the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments. The admiral’s experience in Asia will be “fortuitous” to making decisions about requirements, basing and positioning of forces in the region, Work said.
The key to the Navy’s engagement in the Pacific is “engaging and hedging,” Work said. With no imminent threat in the region, U.S. naval forces must engage with Asian countries, while simultaneously hedging against potential future foes by bolstering capabilities such as anti-submarine warfare.
In interviews before his CNO nomination, Roughead discussed both the benefit of building partnerships and the need for increasing anti-submarine warfare assets.
The Pacific is not the only region where Roughead, pending Senate confirmation this fall, will be required to watch as CNO.
Norman Polmar, a naval scholar and author, said the newly formed U.S. Africa Command and South America will require increased naval forces in the next decade.
“In Roughead’s time as CNO, I think we’ll see an increased need for naval forces along with special operations troops and Air Force reconnaissance and logistics in all of those places [around the globe] where we’re not going to want to put troops on the ground,” he said.
The Navy will play a key role in AfriCom due to the limited number of airfields on the expansive continent, Polmar argued, adding, “We won’t be shooting at many people in the next decade,” he said.