WASHINGTON (NNS) -- President Barack Obama's choice to be the next Chief of Naval Operations outlined his priorities during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing July 28.
Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert will be the 30th officer to serve in the Navy's top uniformed post, succeeding retiring Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, if the Senate confirms his nomination.
"If confirmed, my priorities will be to remain ready to meet the current challenges today, to build a relevant and capable future force, to continue to take care of our sailors, our civilians and their families, and institute a manning strategy that recruits and nurtures a motivated, a relevant and a diverse future force," Greenert said.
Meeting those priorities in the current budget environment will not be easy, he acknowledged. "We must be clear-eyed in communicating what we will and what we won't be able to provide the nation in the future," he said.
Half of the Navy's ships are underway, and 43 percent are deployed, he said, while 12,000 sailors are on the ground supporting U.S. Central Command and another 10,000 are serving as individual augmentees to current operations.
"Your Navy remains ready. It is agile, and it's global, and it's relentlessly been busy," Greenert said. "Operating tempo has been high, [and] our missions have evolved."
The Navy's key mission, he said, is to "assure the security and freedom of the seas, in all the domains, so that the economies of the world can flourish." To accomplish that mission, the Navy must be forward deployed, able to influence events, assist allies and provide the United States an offshore option, the admiral added.
Large cuts in the defense budget would create a conundrum that will require a strategic approach to resolve, he said.
"Our options are limited; we can't hollow the force," he said. "If we reduce force structure, that would exacerbate the problem we already have. And if we reduce modernization -- that is, go to the shipbuilding and aircraft accounts -- I'm concerned about the industrial base."
Greenert said that as vice chief of naval operations, he has provided data for the Defense Department strategic review, but is not currently involved in major deliberations.
"We have been told we would be part of any final ... decision process in this comprehensive review," he said.
Committee members asked Greenert for his views on China's expanding naval capabilities, noting that Chinese military officials said in June they are refurbishing a never-completed Soviet-era carrier.
"I believe it's clearly ... a prototype for what they ultimately want to have, which is a better aircraft carrier, indigenously built and tailored to their needs," the admiral said.
An aircraft carrier is typically an offensive capability, made to project power, Greenert noted. "The Chinese say they built it for defensive measures," he said. "It's hard to gauge their intent."
The admiral said China's recent growth in maritime capabilities shows that nation is "interested in expanding its operations to blue water" -- open-ocean depths -- and thereby expanding its influence.
Greenert's career as a submariner includes assignments aboard the USS Flying Fish, USS Tautog, Submarine NR-1 and USS Michigan and as commander of USS Honolulu. He also served as commander of Submarine Squadron 11, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, U.S. 7th Fleet in the Pacific and U.S. Fleet Forces Command before he assumed the Navy's No. 2 uniformed post in August 2009.
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