Thank you Admiral Gilday, for those salient observations, and for hosting this gathering of the world’s greatest naval strategists.
On behalf of President Biden, Secretary Austin, and every U.S. Sailor and Marine around the world, I’m honored to welcome you all.
President Chatfield, thanks for welcoming me back on campus.
I have great memories of studying here as a young naval officer, in my small closet office under the stairs at 134 Jones St on base-housing while my wife cared for our 4 small children.
I’ve got a bigger office now thank goodness. But the world feels much smaller than it did back then, and far more connected.
Right now, colleagues are joining us around the world, through high speed video networks that rely on undersea cables.
Goods and services move between our nations at unprecedented speed and volume.
And as Admiral Gilday pointed out, much of that commerce is carried on the seas.
So in a very real sense, the world’s economy relies on the cooperation and commitment of our naval forces.
In this very interconnected world, it’s never been more important to strengthen and build effective, respectful global partnerships.
I’m talking about true partnerships, rooted in common values, and a shared commitment to international rights.
Our economic prosperity depends on maritime freedom.
Our security depends on cooperation, communication, and mutual respect for each other’s national security interests.
And our ability to respond to danger, disasters, and threats depends on the work we do together today.
Every nation here brings their own experience, capabilities, and specialized knowledge that can help protect our mutual interests.
Respect and cooperation, at every level of command, has never been more important than it is today.
The global security environment has never been more complex, nor more at risk by those who mean us harm.
The rules-based international order - the bedrock of civil society - is under assault. Particularly in the Indo-Pacific.
Echoes of cold war aggression are on the rise in the skies, on the surface, and under the seas.
Terrorism threatens ports, facilities, and straits around the world.
The Arctic is opening up, with new sea lanes and opportunities for collaboration – but also the unfortunate potential for conflict.
The impact of climate change, in places like here in Newport and in Annapolis, you can see in the flooding right here in Newport, poses an existential threat to us all.
And a global pandemic has changed the way we all train, build, maintain and operate our forces.
Our response to each of these challenges must resonate in this year’s theme: “Strength in Unity.”
I’m here this week with two goals:
In my five weeks as Secretary, I have made these a priority, because I’ve seen the value of those partnerships first hand.
It was here at the Naval War College that I was privileged to study Mahan and Sun Tzu alongside officers from other nations under the tutelage of Professor Hattendorf, then the Director of the Advanced Studies Program.
While I learned much from the scholars, the most valuable lessons were the ones we learned from each other.
And those are the friendships that still hold today.
Later, as an Executive Officer in the Pacific, and a Commanding Officer in the Atlantic, I sailed beside you, our partners at sea.
I learned there is no substitute for the shared experience of allies working together, to deter our adversaries.
That’s why we’re proud to be a part of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH’s historic deployment to the Indo-Pacific.
It’s why we conduct exercises around the globe, including:
TRIDENT JUNCTURE, with our NATO allies.
RIMPAC in the Indo-Pacific,
PHOENIX EXPRESS, on the North African coast,
And UNITAS, con nuestros colegas en este hemisferio.
Right now, USS HERSHEL WOODY WILLIAMS is training and operating with partner navies from Senegal to Djibouti, Tunisia to South Africa, and everywhere in between.
These Naval deployments strengthen us in “Strength in Unity.”
It’s a strength that goes well beyond just the exercise of military power, as we stand ready together to heed the call of humanity for a more just and peaceful world.
Following the recent earthquake in Haiti, our Sailors and Marines worked alongside their counterparts in the French, British and Dutch Navies to move critical supplies ashore.
We also partnered with military members and relief workers from Mexico and Panama to move supplies inland and get medical attention to people in need.
During the recent events in Afghanistan, we worked with our partners in Italy, Spain, Bahrain, and many others, to help thousands of Afghan refugees reach safety.
And it was a Norwegian Field Hospital at Hamid Karzai International Airport that cared for our very own personnel following the bomb blast that took the lives of 13 American service members.
And I truly appreciate all of your messages of support following that cowardly attack on our troops and over 100 Afghani civilians.
The Sailor, Soldier, and 11 Marines who died that day were serving with honor, putting the lives of others above their own.
I know that’s also true of the thousands of others who serve in your armed forces.
I know you are always driven to make sure they are prepared, equipped, and led properly to the fullest extent possible.
And that’s why we gather today, many as one.
To work together and make sure our Sailors and Marines have what they need to confront a dangerous world, and return home safely.
Let’s spark the innovation we need to stay ahead and preserve the freedom of the seas – and that of our people.
President Biden has said we should “lead through the power of our example, not the example of our power.”
Over the next few days we will set the example for all nations to follow.
We may not agree on everything, but we will agree that cooperation and principles must always stand above aggression and isolation.
But unfortunately, not all nations share that commitment.
Now let me state clearly, that the United States believes every nation has a right to defend itself when truly threatened.
Every nation has a right to build, exercise, and operate military forces to protect legitimate national security interests.
Every nation has the right to promote the prosperity, opportunity and innovative capabilities of its own people.
And every nation has the right to navigate the sea lanes and the skies in accordance with international law.
But no nation… I say again… No nation has the moral high ground to deny these rights to its peaceful neighbors.
No nation has the right to claim longstanding international waters as its own.
No nation has the right to sponsor cybercrime and theft.
And no nation has the right to endanger sailors and pilots with reckless approaches and harassing bullying behaviors.
Our hand will always be extended to any nation willing to support and defend the international norms we all depend on.
We stand prepared more so than ever, along with all of you, to protect those norms whenever and wherever there is a need to do so.
We will always stand by our allies and partners in defending your right to be free, especially those democratic nations that are most threatened. And we are fully prepared to do so.
Our Navy and Marine Corps are modernizing our equipment, tactics, procedures, and operating concepts for the trials ahead.
We’re fielding a distributed, agile and connected fleet, to project unified power from many places at once.
And we’re transforming our Marine Corps for the modern battlespace, ready to protect the shorelines and contested spaces.
We’re promoting a higher culture of learning and excellence for our warfighters, from the most junior personnel to our most senior flag officers.
And great institutions like this one are using the lessons of the past to keep us on the leading edge of tomorrow.
So let’s be inspired by the history of innovation surrounding us.
Let’s live up to the Mahanian legacy that Admiral Gilday so eloquently described.
Be innovative. Be bold with ideas. And be blunt with concerns.
Let’s pose hard questions for each other, and develop actionable plans we can take back to our respective fleets.
And above all else, let’s continue to stand firm in defense of the security, prosperity, and values that we all hold dear.
To quote a former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, President Franklin Roosevelt, “Together, we cannot fail.”
Carlos Del Toro
15 September 2021
Subject specific information for the media
Events or announcements of note for the media
Official Navy statements
Updates on sailors from around the Fleet
HASC, SASC and Congressional testimony