Navy must adjust to evolving conflict, says vice admiral

Cybersecurity, training and weaponry among top concerns for Third Fleet commander

As the Navy faces a rapidly changing world of asymmetric warfare, it must evolve its training and capabilities and sharpen its unique skills to secure the maritime domain, according to a top Defense Department official.

“Our ships, planes, operations, planning – it all needs to adapt to a changing environment," Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, commander of the Third Fleet, said in the kickoff address for AFCEA West 2011 today in San Diego. "We need to take a look at our capabilities at all levels. We must be unpredictable...with a show of force and strength.”

Hunt outlined what he sees as top future challenges for today’s high-end conflict, including violent extremism and a landscape complicated by globalization, competition for key resources, climate change, rapid technological expansion and a global economy.

“Do we understand the complications?” Hunt said. The Navy "must play to our strengths. We need to focus on what only the Navy can do. We must be bold and unafraid of failure, and get back into experimentation" with capabilities.

Hunt stressed the importance of properly equipping the Navy in a timely manner in order to steel the force against an unpredictable threat, including through advanced training and high-tech tools and training.

He also cautioned against letting red tape trip up progress.

“Our bureaucratic process sometimes puts us at risk,” he said.

For the future, Hunt said the Navy must focus on identifying existing risks and developing “high-definition” capabilities to fill the gaps, including offensive abilities in cyberspace and high-end weaponry for more traditional, kinetic warfare. He called for increased attention to developing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tools and praised the Navy’s launch of its own cyber component under U.S. Cyber Command.

“Standing up the 10th Fleet [Navy Cyber Command] reflects the [Chief Naval Officer’s] and the Secretary of the Navy’s focus on technology and cybersecurity,” Hunt said.

But Hunt warned against falling behind and stressed the need for the Navy to remain proactive in the future.

“We are now on the reactive side of the equation,” unlike in past conflicts like the Cold War, Hunt said. “We must generate asymmetric actions.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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