WASHINGTON — In the first major revision of U.S. naval strategy in 25 years, maritime officials said Wednesday they plan to focus more on humanitarian missions and improving international cooperation as a way to prevent conflicts.
"We believe that preventing wars is as important as winning wars," said the new strategy announced by the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
The strategy reflects a broader Defense Department effort to use aid, training and other cooperative efforts to encourage stability in fledgling democracies and create relationships around the globe that can be leveraged if a crisis does break out in a region.
"Although our forces can surge when necessary to respond to crises, trust and cooperation cannot be surged," says the 16-page document entitled "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower."
Show of force
It also says forces will be concentrated "where tensions are high or where we wish to demonstrate to our friends and allies our commitment to security" — something the U.S. did earlier this year in sending an additional aircraft carrier to the Gulf region as a show of force toward Iran.
"Credible combat power will be continuously posted in the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean to protect our vital interests, assure our friends ... and deter and dissuade potential adversaries," the strategy document said.
The strategy was being unveiled before naval representatives of 100 countries who are attending an international symposium on the seas at the Naval War College. It will be described to them by Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations; Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Adm. Thad W. Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard.
It represents the first time that the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard have all collaborated on a single, common strategy for defending the U.S. homeland and protecting U.S. interests overseas.
Winning hearts and minds
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted at the cooperative strategy during his recent five-country swing through Central and South America. Pointing to the recent tour of the Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, which delivered medical care to people in 12 Latin American countries, Gates said such aid is critical to solidifying U.S. bonds with other nations. The USS Peleliu amphibious ship recently returned from a four-month tour in the Pacific and the USS Fort McHenry is heading this week for a seven-month mission along the west coast of Africa.
Adm. Mike Mullen — who just left his job as head of the Navy to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — has said he sees the Navy's humanitarian work as key to the effort to defeat terrorism by winning hearts and minds.
When Roughead succeeded Mullen at the Navy last week, he called in a speech for more international partnerships to make the Navy a "force for good" around the globe.
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