NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (NNS) -- The Navy League's 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition began with a Sea Services Update and Global Pacific Panel, April 9, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, Vice Adm. William R. Merz; Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters; Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Charles D. Michel; and Administrator of the United States Maritime Administration, Retired Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby served as panelists for the update.
Merz's remarks focused primarily on how the Navy is working to improve readiness, increase overall capability across multiple warfare domains and build capacity fleet-wide, while not sacrificing the quality of training and equipment Sailors receive.
"The vice chief [of naval operations] sat here last year and said, 'Going forward, we need to address the readiness and decline, we need to stabilize our accounts and we need to improve our accelerated acquisition," said Merz. "I think we have set a strong trajectory on that. It's been galvanized through our battle cry through the last budget cycle - readiness first, then capability, and then capacity. We just dedicated a large sum of money into readiness over the last two cycles - 2017 and 2018, and we're going to continue that through 2019. Capability is where we would really like to put most of our energy ... and then there's the capacity piece, the 355-ship Navy."
Merz also spoke about how the fleet is addressing necessary repairs to its ships, submarines and aircraft, how Sailors are adapting to physical changes around the world and across the cyber domain, and how the Navy is working to improve upon its strategic deterrents in the future.
"Learning, competing, and winning; I think those are entrenched into the American DNA," he said. "Our efforts to recapitalize the Ohio-class submarine, and the Columbia class ... [are] fundamental to our homeland defense. Although we're focusing on capability, we'll make sure we have the right lethality now for the size Navy we have. This size Navy is still too small, [but] we'll fix that to be in all the places we have to be to have that visual deterrence in the enforcement of international law."
During the Global Pacific Panel, Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) West Director of Operations and Intelligence, Capt. Grant Jackson, served as a panelist alongside Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps Pacific Division Director, Gayle von Eckartsberg.
Jackson highlighted ongoing efforts to stop the movement of narcotics across the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) area of responsibility. He also spoke about JIATF West's missions, which fall under two major categories - to defend the homeland and to support the rebalancing and restabilization of the region - and how the U.S. is working not only to keep drugs from reaching North America, but from being produced and trafficked to other Indo-Asia-Pacific countries as well.
"The U.S. PACOM Commander, Admiral [Harry B.] Harris, sees us as an important tool," Jackson said. "We run operations spanning more than half the world. We run operations off the coast of Vancouver, Canada, all the way to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Covering half the world's surface is a logistical challenge, but we embrace and overcome the geographic challenges."
By having such a large area of responsibility to track surface vessels, Jackson finds an advantage in being able to have more time to monitor ships and boats potentially carrying illicit cargo. He spoke of how JIATF West can better coordinate and share information with partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific because of how long it takes to cross the Pacific Ocean to the U.S, Canada and Mexico.
"We deal directly with governments that we generally don't have strong military-to-military relations with, but because we have that law enforcement flavor to us, we're able to get into places generally the military can't," Jackson added. "Building some of those combined, joint and interagency relations ... helps us to coordinate, cooperate and share with our partners - [particularly] our law enforcement partners."
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