CNO Speaks at a Press Conference with First Sea Lord, Commandant of the Coast Guard, and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps

by From Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs
10 May 2021
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday held a press conference with First Sea Lord Adm. Tony Radakin, Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz, and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary Thomas, May 5.

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Below is a transcript of the Press Conference:

ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY:  (In progress) – talk about more substantive things that we’re going to work together going forward.  It’s great to have you here, sir.

ADMIRAL TONY RADAKIN:  Well, sir, thank you.  I mean, it’s – likewise.  It’s both a privilege and an honor to be here.  But this is just a manifestation of an astonishing relationship that we have as two navies.  And we’ve worked together for years and years.  We are going to continue working together for years and years.  And that transcends pretty much everything that we do all around the globe and all our entities – whether it’s nuclear, whether it’s carrier, whether it’s with the U.S. Coast Guard, whether it’s in the Caribbean, whether it’s in the Gulf, whether it’s in the NATO heartlands of the Euro-Atlantic, or whether it’s further east in the Indo-Pacific.  It’s a phenomenal partnership and one that we enjoy, and is alive and well and continues to strengthen.

MODERATOR:  Commandant Schultz.

ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ:  Yeah, I would just like to amplify the CNO’s welcome to the first sea lord.  And you know, our history is richer, through the World Wars and currently today.

We partner in the Caribbean, as the first sea lord mentioned, on thwarting illicit narcotics, as they have their ships here about half the year advancing British protectorate interests.  We were recently in the Arctic with our Polar Star.  We had two U.K. Royal Navy sailors from the HMS Protector onboard.  So we share interests in the high latitudes and the polar regions. 

And we have an exchange program – engineer exchange program.  We have some Coast Guard engineers serving in the fleet.  They’re going to be part of the carrier strike group.

And we’re going to kick off a revisiting of an aviation exchange.  We had that for many years.  And then, when the Royal Navy got out of the search-and-rescue business, that kind of withered in 2016.  But we’re bringing it back.  And we use airborne use of – use of force for law enforcement missions.  We’re going to sign that next week, I believe, here in Washington.

So welcome back, Tony.  Good to see you, sir.

ADM. RADAKIN:  Thanks, Karl.

MODERATOR:  And, ACMC, if you have a few words, or not.

GENERAL GARY THOMAS:  Thank you.  I would like to echo the CNO’s comments about welcoming the first sea lord.

You know, what’s fascinating to me is you look at Carrier Strike Group 21, and you look at the Queen Elizabeth, the USS The Sullivans, the Marine Corps F-35B onboard, it speaks to the special relationship, as the first sea lord describes, but it also speaks to a capability that I believe is greater – much greater than the sum of its individual parts.  So we are excited to be a part of that and we look forward to a continued relationship going forward.

MODERATOR:  All right. Idrees, we’ll let you kick off the questions.

IDREES ALI:  Sure. Admiral Radakin, if I could just start off, you mentioned the carrier strike group going to the Asia-Pacific.  Do you foresee an increased British naval presence in the region, or is this sort of a one-off?

And then for Admiral Gilday, you know, the U.S. for years has been – has been talking about allies doing more in the region.  Are you satisfied with what allies like Britain, France, Australia are doing, or do you think they should be doing even more?

ADM. RADAKIN:  So absolutely there will be an increased naval presence in the Indo-Pacific, but we will continue to be strong in the Euro-Atlantic.  We’ll continue with our responsibilities in the Falklands, in the Mediterranean, in the Caribbean, and in the Gulf.  But as our integrated review said, the U.K. is tilting further to the Indo-Pacific.  And that straddles the whole of defense.

And for the Navy, that means at the western end of the Indian Ocean we’re looking to have a littoral ready group, so our war marines operating at that end of the Indian Ocean so that we strengthen our partnership with India.  We reach out to our Gulf nations.  We use our own territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean – the British Indian Ocean Territory to Diego Garcia – and reach down to East Africa.

But then we’re also reaching further east, and we’re building on the relationships that we already have – the Five Powers Defense Agreement, our base in – or, our sort of facilities in Singapore, our army laydown in Brunei, and these phenomenal relationships that we have with the likes of partners, whether it’s the United States, Canada, France, other nations that operate there, but also the nations that are founded in the Indo-Pacific.  So Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore.  These are great friends and allies.  And we have great interests there, whether that’s economic or being strong partners to our – to our friends and allies.

So that’s what we’re doing, and we’re trying to do it in as open a way as possible and as strong a way as possible with these great friends.

ADM. GILDAY:  There’s a silver – there’s always a silver lining with challenges, even like the pandemic.  And what we’ve observed over the past year is closer operating ties with most of our allies and partners around the globe.  So while – as an example, while it was rare beforehand to go up into the high north and up to the Arctic, now we’re doing that routinely, some 20 times in the past 18 months – many of those operations with the Brits, with the Coast Guard, and certainly with the – with the Marines.

The first sea lord talked about interchangeability in his formal remarks a few minutes ago.  So it’s not uncommon to have a British ship escort a U.S.-flagged vessel through the Strait of Hormuz or the Bab al-Mandab.  And so we do that for each other quite often.  In the Indo-Pacific, our relationship with allies and partners, we’re sailing and steaming together every single day.

So there’s not a week that goes by where we’re not doing a half-a-dozen exercises or operations with allies and partners, and I just see that increasing.  I think – I think now much of that will have to do with President Biden’s emphasis on those partnerships.

MODERATOR:  Alistair, we’ll come to you next.

ALISTAIR DAWBER:  OK.  Just to the CNO, if I may:  Would you like to see the strike group sail through the Strait of Taiwan?

ADM. GILDAY:  So I don’t want to talk about those kind of operational details.  That’s always a possibility.  But that’s something that has to be worked out between nations and operational commanders.


ROZINA SABUR:  Hi.  For the admiral – (off mic) – you know, this deployment – (off mic) – thinking about other areas of concern that you – (off mic)?

ADM. RADAKIN:  So the strength of our phenomenal relationship means that that’s just an exemplar of something that is much, much broader.  So I think what you’re seeing here – you’ve heard about our relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard, this phenomenal relationship with the U.S. Navy, which straddles everything from our ships around the world to our submarines and our – and our nuclear relationship.  And then you’ve also got this carrier strike relationship both with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.

So this is – it’s an exemplar of something that is much bigger, much more enduring, which straddles everything.  And that’s from technology, to exercises, to operational deployments, to exchanges with our – with our personnel.  And that’s what we end up talking about.  And its foundation is that we have shared values and interests, and we also know that we’re stronger together.  And we support multilateralism, and we support that we work together in order to further the notions of security, stability, and prosperity for our nations.

MODERATOR:  Mallory, I’ll come to you next.

MALLORY SHELBOURNE:  Admiral Radakin and Admiral Gilday, I have a two-part question, if I may.  So this interoperability and interchangeability you’re talking about, there’s a squadron of Marine F-35s as well as Navy F-35s; what are you hoping to learn about that on the deployment the next few months?  And also, when you’re thinking of what you learned, how do you see future opportunities for doing similar things with other navies, other partners around the world?

ADM. GILDAY:  So I think that this deployment of the F-35s, as I said in my remarks, it’s unprecedented.  And so we’re going to learn a lot about how we – how we use that fifth-generation capability in ways that perhaps we haven’t even thought of yet.

Every time we have a – we have a pilot that does a sortie in one of those aircraft, they come back with more insights in terms of how we can use them.  With fourth-gen as an example, how we can use them with allies and partners.  And so I think that there’s an interoperability piece to that for sure, but also, I think, an interchangeability piece in the future with respect to how those aircraft – how our aircraft in both navies and the Marine Corps work together.

ADM. RADAKIN:  And for me it’s exactly that.  And this notion that allies and partners militarily, we want to – we use the phrase “interoperability” so that we’ve got shared communications systems, we can share information around the battlespace, we can use each other’s operational units.  When we talk about interchangeability, it’s at another level again.  And it’s not just with jets and carriers and escort ships.  It’s our nuclear submarines as well, that we have shared missions in the North Atlantic where it could be a U.S. Navy submarine, it could be a Royal Navy submarine.

And then, to your point about do we look – do we envisage doing all of this in the future, we already do it with other partners.  We’re part of the world’s greatest military alliance, called NATO.  And for us as navies, it’s instinctive that we work with other nations and that we want to strengthen that and continue adapting, and that’s what you see with the carrier strike program.  This is something that is enduring and is real, and it’s also being shaped for the future so that we share each other’s technology and innovations and ideas.  And that’s constantly going on. 

MODERATOR:  Caitlin.

CAITLIN M. KENNEY:  Hi.  In your speech you kind of called out China without naming China when talking about, you know, the intellectual property and using it for their own.  I was just wondering for, like, the South China Sea, how concerned are you with, like, the increasing militarization of the area?  And I guess what is the U.K. Navy doing – going to be doing in that area?  Is the carrier strike group going to be operating there?  Is this kind of like the – you know, your increased focus on the Indo-Pacific, right, are we going to see more U.K. vessels in that area?

ADM. RADAKIN:  So I think we’ve been very clear in our integrated review that through a security lens we see Russia as being a distinct threat, and we see China as being a challenge and a – and a competitor.  And I think when we – when we talk about a tilt to the Indo-Pacific, it’s about recognizing the economic weight of the Indo-Pacific.  By 2040-2050, 40 percent of the world’s GDP is going to be harbored in that region.

So we’re an outward-facing, maritime trading nation that has interests all around the globe.  And therefore, we’re reaching out and following those interests.  And that, to me, is – it’s incredibly normal.  It’s part of our nation’s history and trading traditions.  And that’s what’s happening with the Indo-Pacific. 

And so it’s – we reach out and we stay close to our allies and partners.  And this amazing thing called the high seas, this global commons, which allows trade and prosperity to flourish, that exists all around the world, and so the Indo-Pacific is a crucial part of that.  And therefore, we will – we will look to signal our belief in the freedom of the high seas and in a free and open Indo-Pacific.

So this is – this is normal business.  And it’s us extending a bit further to the Indo-Pacific, following our recently announced foreign policy.

MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen, very much.  Thank you.


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