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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday Holds Media Roundtable Interview, Jan. 14

by Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
15 January 2021
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday spoke to members of the press for a roundtable media interview, Jan. 14.

NATE CHRISTENSEN:  Hello, everybody.  I’m here with Admiral Gilday.  I’m just going to do a quick rollcall and make sure – make sure I know who’s on the line.  Luis Martinez from ABC.

Q:  Hi, Nate.  Here I am.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  OK.  Joyce from The National.

Q:  Hi, yes.  Joyce is not going to be joining us.  But I’m Nina Ajoubi (ph) from The National.  I’m going to be joining instead.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Sandeep from Gulf Daily News.

Q:  Yes, I’m here.  Thank you.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Do we have Al Arabiya on the line?  Nope?  OK.  And do we have Caitlin from Stripes?

Q:  Yep, I’m here.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  OK.  All right.  Just to kind of go over the ground rules, we are going to have this be embargoed until our departure, as you guys know.  And that will be tomorrow – (inaudible, technical difficulties) – Bahrain time.  So I’ll send out an email to you all and let you know when the embargo is lifted.  And we will be sending out a press release, as well, about the trip, just so you’re all aware of that.  And same embargo for us as it will be for you.

So we’ll go ahead and start the call here.  We’ll kind of – you know, we’ve been in Bahrain for a few days visiting sailors and the Bahrain leadership here.  And so with that I’ll go ahead and turn it over to CNO.  And then I’ll go ahead and call on you, one question apiece, and then we’ll try to keep it to 30 minutes – (inaudible, technical difficulties) – and waiting for us on the line.


ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY:  Yeah.  Ready to go.

So they all know we’re in Bahrain.  I’ve been here for – this is our second day and we’ll be leaving tomorrow.  A really good opportunity for me to get out and see the fleet, and at a pretty busy time over here.  And also, it’s been a good opportunity to engage with the Bahraini leadership.  They’re an important partner for us regionally.  And, as you all probably know, we’ve had a relationship between the United States Navy and the Kingdom of Bahrain for about seven decades.  And so we consider – Bahrain’s the home of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. Fifth Fleet.  So it’s an important relationship for us.  And I thought this was a good opportunity for me to come out and visit.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  Thank you, sir.  All right, Sandeep, since you’re here local, we’ll go ahead and start with you.

Q:  Thanks for doing this, Admiral Mike. 

How do you see – I’ll just straight jump to the Tehran question.  How do you see the escalation from Tehran in the past few weeks, from testing of domestic drones to holding missile exercises with this whole tension with the U.S.?  And on the other hand, we also see U.S. Navy deploying the aircraft carrier, submarine and flying in the B-52 bomber as a show of force.  What is your assessment about these developments?  Thank you.

ADM. GILDAY:  Right now things seem to very stable in the region.  I think that we have not only the United States but almost three dozen nations that are working together, navies at sea, keeping the sea lanes free and open.  And so things are going pretty smoothly.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Luis Martinez, I’ll come to you next.  ABC.

Q:  Hi, sir.  Thanks for doing this.

Can I just follow up on that?  With regard to the Nimitz’s operations, I know we can’t talk about how long it’s going to be in the region.  I mean, how – what kind of constraints does that place on your service in terms of rotation capability for maintaining a presence there in the future and for right now.  And also if I could just transition – I know you’re visiting the sailors right there.  What are their thoughts about what happened at the U.S. Capitol last week and what’s been happening there?  And most noteworthy, these messages to servicemembers reminding them about their loyalty to the Constitution.  What kind of messages did that not only send to the servicemembers but what does it also imply, that you have to reinforce those messages?

ADM. GILDAY:  First of all, with respect to Nimitz, I did a video teleconference with their senior leadership yesterday, including their senior enlisted leadership – the strike group commander as well as the other commanders that are embarked on that ship.  And to a person they are doing very, very well.  Their sailors are doing well.  They understand the mission that they’ve been assigned to do.  And although they’ve been extended, they understand the importance of it.  And it’s to maintain stability at a time when things could potentially become unstable. 

And so, you know, I’ve been in a position before on a ship where I’ve been extended.  And when you have a clear mission to do, and it matters, you stay focused on it.  And that’s what Nimitz is doing.  I called to see if I could do anything for that team, and they’re doing just fine.  And you know, I can’t speak specifically in an unclassified nature about her future schedule, but we are working on next steps with the Nimitz strike group.

And your – if you could repeat your follow-on question, sir.  I’m sorry.

Q:  Sure, no problem, sir.

ADM. GILDAY:  Oh, we talked about – you were talking about the events at home and what I’m hearing from sailors.  So two full days of engagement with sailors and I have not been asked any questions by sailors about the events at home.  I think they’re pretty well-informed of what’s going on at home.  And I think that they understand why the Joint Chiefs sent that memo.  And essentially we all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  That’s what we protect and defend – that idea that is the Constitution.  And that’s our job. 

And I think that, you know, we just need to keep our heads down.  And you would expect – the American public would expect – that we would be focused on mission, and that there would be nothing but stability in the United States military.  And that’s what you have right now.  And testimony to that I think is the fact that I’m traveling overseas to the Seventh Fleet in Bahrain, you know, in the context of other things that are going on.  And I had the full support of my chain of command in doing that.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  We’ll come to Joyce with The National.

Q:  Thank you so much.

I would like to go back to the Iranian issue, if it’s OK.  Can you please elaborate more on how the international community is cooperating together to combat Iranian naval threats in the Gulf?  Thank you.

ADM. GILDAY:  Yeah, thanks for that question.  So one thing we are extremely proud of is the Coalition Maritime Force.  And so that is 33 nations and growing that have come together with a unified effort to keep the seas free and open – whether that’s the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman.  So essentially they sailed together and worked together in this – in this area of operations.  And that – as I said, that includes 33 countries.  And we expect those numbers to grow by at least two and maybe more over the next year or so.

That informal organization has been around for 20 years now.  And yesterday I spent about an hour/an hour and a half getting briefed on all of the missions that they’re doing, to counter – from countering illicit trafficking, to providing maritime security in critical waterways.  And as you all probably know, for the United States Navy this area is critical to what we do day in and day out.  And I say that because there are three critical choke points – the Suez Canal, the Bab el-Mandeb, and then the Strait of Hormuz. 

And so the Central Command area of operations really is – we consider to be a maritime-heavy – heavy maritime-centric geographical area.  And so though the heavy U.S. Navy presence you see here and the great relationships that we have with our partners are pretty important, we think, to – you know, to maintaining stability, regional stability as well as keeping trade moving as it should.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  And, Caitlin, we’ll come to you last here, Stripes.

Q:  Hello.

So once again on Iran, you said that right now it seems to be stable in the region but, there – you know, there’s ongoing, like, drug smuggling.  Iran, you know, unveiled a new warship.  You know, last night it seems that there was a strike in Syria that hurt potentially Iranian fighters.  And that you say you’re keeping the Nimitz there just in case things become unstable.  But do you feel that there’s going to be an increased naval presence in the region in the coming months due to kind of this activity.  And just a kind of quick follow up, for the NDS, you know, it’s really focused on Russia and China.  Are you seeing an increase in their country’s military or commercial activity in the region at all?  Thank you.

ADM. GILDAY:  So with respect to the National Defense Strategy, there’s five missions in the National Defense Strategy.  And two of those, I think, directly apply to what the Navy’s doing here, principally to deter with conventional forces.  So we’re making sure that we have – we have the presence that the Central Command commander has requested in the AOR at a time when there could potentially be the opportunity for a malign actor to do something.  But we’re sending a very clear signal to Iran and others that we have the capabilities in place to respond, should we be required to. 

We’re not looking for – we’re not looking for trouble.  We’re not trying to instigate anything.  Again, our focus is to maintain stability in the region.  And right now, my assessment is that we have the right forces in place, and we’ve been sending the right messages publicly in order to reinforce that across the region.  And I think that those messages have been well accepted.  We’ve been able to not only deter malign activity, in my view, but also to assure allies and partners, which is also critically important.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right, everybody.  Thank –

Q:  And have you seen an increase in China and Russia activity?  I’m sorry.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  So, China and Russia.

ADM. GILDAY:  Right.  So with respect to priorities, China and Russia are certainly priorities.  But Iran is among those priorities as well.  And depending on what’s going on day to day, as you know, priorities can change, the focus of effort can change.  And so that’s a sliding scale based on the indicators that we received and day-to-day operations.  And remember, those can be the U.S. priorities, but those countries always get a vote in terms of how they behave and what they do, and when they do it.  And so our priorities sometimes shift in order to ensure that we’re responding – or, postured correctly, depending upon what’s going on in the international environment.

CDR. CHRISTENSEN:  All right.  Thank you, guys.  I really appreciate your time in dialing in.  And we’ll see you all next time.


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