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Well, thank you very much for that kind introduction. Good evening, and I have to say, Happy New Year to everyone! It is so great to be with you here in this historic and really beautiful setting. And it’s great to see so many people here tonight to celebrate the history and think about the time that we were foes, and now friends.
I want to thank the White House Historical Association for organizing this wonderful event.
And thank you, Secretary Dalton, for inviting me and for pursuing me to make sure I would be here tonight and for your kind words.
And thank you very much for your life-long service. First, in uniform as a naval officer, then, later, as our 70th Secretary of the Navy.
And as you said, I do think back to our time when you were the Secretary. I was also in the Pentagon, I was right down the hall serving as the Flag Aide to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, who was Admiral Harold Gehman at the time and then Admiral Donald Pilling.
And now, about 25 years later or so, it’s really an incredible honor to be here with you and be serving as the 33rd Chief of Naval Operations.
I’d also like to recognize Secretary Braithwaite, thank you very much, sir, for your leadership, your mentorship, and friendship for over all these years. And of course your service to our Navy and to our Nation, both as the Secretary of the Navy and as one of our amazing ambassadors. So, again, Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here tonight.
I do want to thank everyone that’s here who serves or has served, in uniform or as a civilian member, and of course our veterans that are here tonight. I always say that it’s our people, not our platforms that give us our true warfighting advantage.
And if we look back on the successes of Stephen Decatur, we know that behind every 24-pounder cannon there was a committed crew and that victory belonged to them.
And that ‘them’ that I speak of right now, that really is all of you. Thank you very much for those who have served and are serving today for your commitment to service and for being a part of our winning team.
I do want to extend a special thank you to our Royal Navy shipmates and friends, as well. Because you really are the glue that keeps our alliance so strong, like Gorilla Glue. I really feel that everyday. And because of you and your efforts, our like-minded navies remain the most powerful in the world.
So, thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate Commodore Stephen Decatur — a storied leader whose historic exploits are cemented in our Navy’s rich history.
You can see an inspirational link to the past in the video that we just got to see from Commander Matt Furtado, the CO of the Decatur. No doubt about it, the crew of the Decatur is, as Lord Nelson might have said himself, “Bold and Daring” indeed!
But I’ll save the historical references tonight for the great group of panelists that we have here this evening, and they should be able to shed some more light on how we, the United States and Great Britain, traveled a path through war that took us from foe to friend. And friends we certainly are.
If you look at today, if you look at Ukraine and the unified response to Russia’s continued, unjustified aggression against that sovereign country, we see the United Kingdom leading right there with us.
We see the same sense of cooperation in the wake of Hamas’ 7 October attacks on Israel.
And when we look to the Red Sea, it’s not only the U.S. warships — like Carney, Laboon, and Mason — that are working hard to keep the sea lanes free and open, it’s also fiercely capable warships like the Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond.
So when you consider these events and all that aims to disrupt the peace, the stability, and the security that we seek to preserve, I thought what I would do tonight is to share with you some of the things that we are doing with the UK, more strategically, to strengthen our collective naval power.
And I use the term ‘Naval’ here to indicate that it’s not just the two navies, but it’s also the United States Marine Corps and Royal Marines, as well.
So, together we’re expanding our naval cooperation through a framework that we call ‘Delivering Combined Seapower.’
About a decade ago, in 2014, we took our already strong navy-to-navy relationship to the next level.
We wanted to align ourselves in a more structured way. Where our navies would move beyond interoperability and pursue the higher-end goal of interchangeability.
So, just a few months ago, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Ben Key, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Eric Smith, and I held what we called an Azimuth Check on ‘Delivering Combined Seapower,’ about ten years later.
It was an opportunity for us to assess our progress, refine our shared vision towards increasing lethal, agile, and interchangeable naval forces.
And of course, for me, the best part of this most recent Azimuth Check was the setting: we met at sea on a crisp autumn day onboard one of the UK’s newest aircraft carriers, the HMS Prince of Wales.
Late last year, you may know, the Prince of Wales operated alongside our Navy in our side of the Atlantic, just off the Maryland and Virginia coasts. And I can’t help but wonder what Stephen Decatur would have thought of such a capable British vessel mere miles from the Chesapeake Bay.
Today, of course, we are allies and we are friends.
Our two navies, along with Royal Marines and the Marine Corps, are working and sailing together every single day to preserve the peace, respond in crisis, and prepare for war — and if necessary, to fight and win.
We are focused on four key areas. That's where our naval partnership is most evident. So, let me just take a few minutes to highlight each one of these areas.
The first area is our efforts toward interchangeable carrier strike forces.
Earlier, I mentioned the Prince of Wales, well, just over four years ago when I was serving as the Commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet.
I was fortunate to represent our Navy at the commissioning ceremony in Portsmouth.
Since that time, our Navy and Marine Corps has made great strides with the Royal Navy towards interchangeable carrier strike capabilities.
We have done this not only with the Prince of Wales, but also with the lead ship in the class, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
During Carrier Strike Group 21, U.S. Marine Corps F-35s operated and integrated with the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
All told, Carrier Strike Group 21 sailed more than 50,000 miles with U.S. and Dutch warships, including the USS The Sullivans.
We’re looking ahead to Carrier Strike Group 25, to what the UK will call Operation High Mast. Where the HMS Prince of Wales will lead another multinational deployment to the Indo-Pacific.
But, we’re not just focusing on the surface and air domains. We are of course looking to the undersea domain, as well.
And that brings me to our second focus area, undersea superiority. This includes strategic deterrence, which, of course, sits atop the priorities of our National Defense Strategy.
As you all know, America’s Navy provides much of our nation’s strategic deterrence — about 70% in total.
And for well over half a century, the Royal Navy has been right there.
2023 marked 60 years since the Polaris Agreement, which paved the way for our two navies to provide round-the-clock strategic deterrence below the wave tops, a capability that the UK calls ‘Continuous At-Sea Deterrence.’
In the coming years, we will enhance our capabilities with our new Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines, and the Royal Navy with their Dreadnought-class.
And we are making steady progress with AUKUS as well. In the coming decade, we will begin delivery of Virginia-class submarines to Australia.
And at the same time, the US, UK, and Australia will work in parallel on a nuclear-powered submarine, known as SSN-AUKUS.
Maintaining our distinct advantage in the undersea domain is really important — it’s critical — and our priorities show this. But, we’re also taking a hard look at how we operate in those maritime spaces that are a little bit closer to the coast.
In this third focus area, which we call Littoral Operations. We’re bolstering our expeditionary forces to engage land-based targets from the sea.
Here’s where our navies will rely on the Marine Corps and the Royal Marine teammates that we love so much.
These forces will provide a rapid-response, maritime-centric option that always seems to punch a little bit above their weight.
So, as we look ahead, we look to increase that integration across our Navy and Marine Corps teams.
And, that will bring me to the fourth, and final, focus area, which really has us looking far into the future, at opportunities for integrated warfighting.
This is an area where we are taking a more concerted approach to systems and processes, and even warfighting doctrine. all of which will make our forces that much more interchangeable.
The future of integrated warfighting will include a blend of crewed and uncrewed systems. And we are both taking steps that will put more players on the field.
We know that our enterprising efforts today will field the capabilities that we will fight with tomorrow. But, delivering these capabilities will require an “all hands on deck” effort, including from all of our industry partners.
So, we are looking forward to working together, to identify innovative and disruptive solutions, to put them through the paces and see what works. We want to do that at-scale, across all of our naval forces.
So, I know we are focused tonight on history, but I hope this really helped you see a little bit about what we’re thinking about together for the future.
And again, as we drive along this course, towards ‘Delivering Combined Seapower.’ I look forward to our next ‘Azimuth Check’ and hopefully it will be at sea.
I could not be more proud of our Navy team’s that are operating today at the point of friction to preserve the peace and provide options to our Nation’s decision makers every day.
Looking back over more than two centuries, we could say the same of Commodore Decatur, whose service embodied the hallmarks of our Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
Thank you for your support. And thank you very much for preserving Stephen Decatur’s legacy.
These events are always a great reminder that sometimes we need to look back at history to fuel the torch that lights our future path.
Thank you again, and it’s really my honor to be here with you tonight.
Adm. Lisa Franchetti
04 January 2024
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