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Mabus stresses forward presence despite fiscal problems

Jan. 14, 2014 - 06:44PM   |  
Surface Navy MWM 20140114
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told an audience at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium outside Washington, D.C., on Tuesday that the Navy's recent disaster-response efforts in the Philippines showed the importance of a global fleet presence. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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The Navy’s top civilian stressed the importance of a global presence — and the way people, platforms, power and partnerships come together to support it — in a keynote address Tuesday at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium outside Washington, D.C.

When a national security or humanitarian crisis arises, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, it’s the Navy’s job to be ready and offer the nation’s leadership multiple response options.

“It’s that presence and options that the commander in chief and the American people have come to and should expect,” he said.

And it’s that presence, he said, that’s threatened by budget woes, declines in shipbuilders’ output and reliance on fossil fuels to power the fleet.

Congress hasn’t passed a budget on time since 2005, Mabus said, and the continuing resolutions put forth in their place don’t allow any wiggle room for new projects.

“At some point, the work on the next carrier would’ve just stopped because we were going to spend more in [fiscal year 2014] than we did in [2013],” he said.

Despite fiscal concerns, Mabus is pushing forward on shipbuilding and energy efficiency efforts, aiming at increasing the fleet from 283 to 300 ships — with half of their energy coming from non-fossil fuels — by 2020.

In his four years as Navy secretary, Mabus said, his office has put 60 ships under contract toward that goal.

In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, he said, the Defense Department spent $3 billion on unexpected fuel price increases. Today, the Navy Department is working with the agriculture and energy departments, along with private industry, to develop a biofuel to power the Navy both ashore and afloat.

“These programs aren’t about today’s climate issues, or politics,” Mabus said. “They’re about finding ways to diversify the fuels we need to maintain that global presence, making sure we have something that we can plan on that’s stably priced, so we that we can budget.”

Mabus also gave a nod to the ships underway, maintaining presence whether it’s in the name of defense and humanitarian relief.

“Every time North Korea starts rattling sabers and shooting missiles, our ballistic-missile defense ships are already there on patrol,” he said. “There’s no escalation. We already have that presence.”

And when our allies are in need, he said, the Navy and Marine Corps are there. He specifically mentioned members of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, who were on scene to aid in typhoon relief efforts last fall in the Philippines.

“Nobody doubts our ability to act,” he said. “We don’t have to move ships from home. We’re on the scene.”

Last year at the SNA event, Mabus debuted his “Four Ps” — people, platforms, power and partnerships, focus areas he’s mentioned frequently in speeches and on social media. “Presence” has joined the list, at least informally, with #PresenceMatters now featured prominently on Mabus’ official Twitter page.

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