Navy Adm. Gary Roughead cited a need to boost the effectiveness of this cooperation during a speech at the Naval War College’s International Seapower Symposium in Newport, R.I.
Naval cooperation is the cornerstone of America’s maritime strategy detailed in a 2007 document, Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, Roughead said.
“That strategy, with conflict prevention and international partnerships at its core, has served our Navy and our nation exceedingly well and continues to guide our thoughts, our plans and our actions,” he said.
Global maritime partnership is a central aspect of the strategy. “The U.S. services’ interest in global maritime partnership stems from our desire to seek out cooperative approaches to maritime security and promoting the rule of law,” the admiral said.
This fits in with the greater U.S. strategy that one country can’t do it all.
Personal trust is the cornerstone of maritime cooperation, the admiral said. “Trust cannot be surged,” he said. “With that as my guiding principle, I have spent the past two years traveling the globe, meeting with many of you and learning from your experiences so that I can better understand your concerns and proposals to make the maritime domain a safer place.”
Personal military-to-military relationships are the first step in building trust, said Roughead, who has met with many naval leaders in their countries and in the United States. He said he values these relationships and uses them in the everyday missions of the U.S. Navy.
“Indeed, in those moments when disaster or crisis demand the most from us, our relationships may yet pay the highest dividend,” he said. Navies need to know how to work together before a crisis or disaster hits, he added.
“These efforts confirm that there need be no contradiction between defending our country’s sovereign rights and sailing together, against the common threats to our welfare,” he said.
A prime example of this is in the Straits of Malacca patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. This has drastically reduced piracy in those waterways, he said.
The Economic Community of Central African States is another example. These nations agreed to work together on patrolling waters of mutual interest and to monitor an operations center in Cameroon.
Making this international cooperation more effective is important for the future, he said. Information sharing and the pursuit of maritime domain awareness remain focuses for partner nations.
“Our goal should now be to bridge the regional security awareness initiatives in support of yet broader awareness and partnerships,” Roughead said. “Besides information-sharing, we must also work toward greater interoperability. There are many ways to improve our interoperability and lessons learned of how to work together. Those lessons start again at the personal level.”
Senior level partnerships are important, but it is on the decks of ships where the partnerships pay off. Roughead wants to expand the international partnerships “to encourage the interaction of our young sailors and noncommissioned officers and officers. I do not think we can underestimate the lasting benefit of such contact.
“In an age of instant communication and even imperfect translation software, we have unparalleled opportunity to ensure that the naval chiefs a generation from now will have known each other since their earliest days at sea, regardless of distance or language differences,” he said.
Training together and exercising together remain the best ways to facilitate this communication, Roughead said, adding that he wants to expand these opportunities also.
“Ultimately, the time we spend learning and improving interoperability is time well spent when it comes to issues of maritime security,” the admiral said. “There is perhaps no better example today of maritime partnerships than the work so many of us are doing against piracy, the Navy’s oldest foe, in the Gulf of Aden.
“The presence there of navies from all over the world is truly unprecedented, and very much needed for a security challenge that affects such a large ocean area,” he said.
Roughead urged the symposium members to use the time together at Newport as a way to further cooperation among navies.
“Common use of the high seas has been a driver of international cooperation and institution-building for centuries,” he said. “Today, in the early years of the 21st century, I am convinced that our new partnerships – informal as well as formal, local as well as global – are writing a new chapter in the development of international society.”
The symposium, in its 40th year, brings together leaders of the world’s navies. The first symposium in 1969 attracted representatives from 37 nations. The current iteration had representatives from more than 100 countries.