Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the subcommittee, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be here today and provide you my perspective on the fleet, as an operational Fleet Commander.  Although I will address FIFTH FLEET operations and my mission assessment in detail, I want you to know up front that FIFTH FLEET is fulfilling our national security requirements and that the nation should be proud of the job that our Sailors and Marines are doing in the Central Region.  Just a few weeks ago, I briefed our yearly Training Assessment to General Zinni, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command.  In preparation for the brief, as my staff and I reviewed and assessed 1999, even we were amazed with the magnitude and breadth of operations that our naval forces had successfully conducted in the Central Region.  From engagement with our regional partners, to enforcing United Nations sanctions, to Desert Fox combat operations, our naval forces have met every mission, every time.  As I summed up in my brief to General Zinni, FIFTH FLEET forces today are operationally capable and combat proven.  We have the necessary numbers and mix of forces in-theater, the naval forces rotating into theater are fully trained and combat ready, and our Sailors and Marines are professional, motivated and committed.  In short, FIFTH Fleet is being given the right tools to get the job done.


          To adequately assess FIFTH FLEET's ability to fulfill National Security Strategy requirements, I would like to provide some background on FIFTH FLEET, the region, and our mission.

          As I stated, FIFTH FLEET is currently being given the right tools to get the job done.  Since FIFTH FLEET combat forces are all sourced from outside the theater, I am not the right commander to address naval force pre-deployment training issues, pre-deployment combat readiness issues, or evaluate the overall adequacy of the Navy global force structure.  Admirals Lautenbacher and McGinn are much more qualified to address those areas.  I am the operational end user, and therefore, I will limit my assessment to what I know - the readiness and combat capability of the naval forces I receive, and FIFTH FLEET's ability to fulfill national security requirements.  

          To provide that assessment, I need to put some specificity to our national security interests in the region.  The United Sates recognizes that it is in our vital national interests to ensure the survival of our key allies, maintain a global economic and energy equilibrium, and stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We demonstrate our commitment to our regional partners though our combat force presence.  It is our military presence in the region that reassures our friends, demonstrates our resolve to those who would threaten peace, and provides an immediate combat capability to respond to crisis.  It is also our military presence that ensures unrestricted access to the critical resources in the region.  I consider the Strait of Hormuz as the most critical strait in the world.  More than two thirds of the world’s known oil reserves lie in the region surrounding the Arabian Gulf, and 43% of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.  75-80% of Japan's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.  In the case of a major theater war, 90% of our joint military capability will need to flow, by ship, through the Strait of Hormuz, as it did during Desert Storm.  Threats to regional stability include states that either have or are developing weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear.  Additionally, these same states have a demonstrated theater ballistic missile capability, which they desire to marry up with their weapons of mass destruction.  The threats to regional stability are clear, as is the fact that our military presence has been the stabilizing force.  The continuous presence of one Carrier Battle Group, and periodic presence of two Carrier Battle Groups, over the last 2˝ years has not gone unnoticed by our friends or potential adversaries.  Regardless of world crises, Kosovo being the latest example, the decision by the United States to maintain a robust combat force level, reflects our understanding of the importance of the region, our commitment to our regional partners, and our desire to deter, and if necessary respond, to any destabilizing opportunistic action.


          To fulfill our National Security requirements and Central Command’s objectives, FIFTH FLEET has six mission areas. 

          First, keep the chokepoints open.  Although I have three chokepoints in my area of operations – Suez Canal, Bab Al-Mandeb, and Strait of Hormuz - as stated, I consider the Strait of Hormuz as my most critical.  Protecting the sea lines of communications is a historic and enduring naval mission.  Only naval forces can operate in the littoral and physically clear mines.  With the presence of a Carrier Battle Group, the availability of follow-on contingency forces, the increased in-theater Mine Counter Measure capability, and a developing organic Mine Counter Measure capability, I am confident of our ability to deter, and if necessary, respond to any attempt to hinder passage through the Strait.  

          Second, FIFTH FLEET is a primary contingency response force for national and transnational threats.  As demonstrated by operations Desert Fox and the anti-terrorist strikes into Afghanistan and Sudan, FIFTH FLEET’s current force structure is adequate to meet national security objectives during crisis.  FIFTH FLEET units fired 330 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles during Desert Fox, and over 70% of the operation’s aircraft combat missions originated from the carriers ENTERPRISE and CARL VINSON.  FIFTH FLEET units also fired 79 Tomahawks in support of the National Command Authority’s decision to retaliate for the terrorist bombings of our Embassies.  FIFTH FLEET forces arrive combat trained and ready, they leave the theater combat proven.

          While FIFTH FLEET has the proven capability to meet contingency response requirements, there are areas of concern.  First, the need for increased Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) presence in-theater.  During Desert Fox, one ARG/MEU was ordered to the Central Region to provide the immediate in-theater capability to land ground forces in the defense of Kuwait, while a second ARG/MEU, already in the region on a scheduled deployment, positioned three separate afloat units to respond to possible non-combatant evacuation operations in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.  Since an ARG/MEU is only present in-theater approximately 50 percent of the year, FIFTH FLEET’s contingency response can not always be as robust.  My second concern is our ability to surge to meet a Major Theater War.  FIFTH FLEET has the forces in place to assure access for follow-on forces.  I am not certain that we, as a Navy, have the necessary global force structure and sustainment capability, especially in precision weapons, to meet the force flow requirements for a Major Theater War.      

          The third mission area is support of Operation Southern Watch – enforcement of the southern no fly zone over Iraq.  Our Carrier Air Wing provided 60% of the strike aircraft, 100% of the EA-6B electronic combat aircraft, 50% of the coalition tactical reconnaissance aircraft, and 100% of the U.S. tactical reconnaissance capability when UAVs were not available in-theater.  Additionally, Carrier Air Wing and Maritime Patrol Aircraft provided 40% of the overall Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability supporting Operation Southern Watch.  This translated into an average of 750 sorties a month, which only scratched the surface of the Air Wings capabilities.   Additionally, the Carrier Air Wing brought the CINC’s only available standoff precision weapons, JSOW, JDAM, and SLAM-ER.

          Fourth, FIFTH FLEET conducts maritime interception operations in support of United Nations Resolutions 661, 665, 687, 986 and 1284.  Maritime intercept operations enforce the economic embargo on Iraq and facilitate and discipline the Oil for Food Program. In conducting these operations, multi-national maritime forces have to date conducted 28,746 queries, 12,551 boardings, and 695 diverts.  FIFTH FLEET’s ability to conduct intercept operations was recently demonstrated with the intercept and subsequent divert of the Russian flagged tanker Volganeft 147.  We had the in-theater Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capability to identify Volganeft 147 as a smuggler and continuously track her progress.  We had the surface combatants, Naval Special Forces, and helicopter boarding capability organic to the Carrier Air Wing to board and divert her.  Additionally, because of our regional engagement, we were able to coordinate closely with coalition partners to close off avenues of escape. 

          Our fifth mission is to engage our regional partners and support General Zinni’s regional engagement plan.  In Fiscal Year 99, FIFTH FLEET units conducted 47 exercises with 12 countries in the AOR.  These exercises not only demonstrated our commitment and friendship in the region, they also increased our regional partners’ military capability, increased operational interoperability between FIFTH FLEET forces and regional navies, air forces, and ground forces, and helped to sustain the training and readiness of our own forces.

          Another invaluable aspect of our Theater Engagement Program is our Port Visit Program.  These are port visits specifically designed to open up new ports, and reinforce our relationship in ports where we already have access.  In FY 99, FIFTH FLEET ships conducted 472 port visits, opening up 2 new ports.        

          My final mission area is force protection.  I view force protection from two perspectives.  First, operational defense, or FIFTH FLEET's defensive capability to protect itself and Joint and Combined Forces across the spectrum of warfare.  Second, our ability to provide protection for our shore infrastructure and personnel ashore from terrorist attack. 

          FIFTH FLEET units are trained and equipped for Joint and Combined Force defense.  The Carrier Air Wing brings 50 combat aircraft and supporting E-2s to coordinate the air battle.  The Surface Combatants bring Harpoon anti-ship missiles, SM-1 and SM-2s surface-to-air missiles in great numbers, and the Aegis Combat System.  Organic to the Carrier Battle Group are anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopters, and an attack submarine.  The force protection capability of a Carrier Battle Group is formidable.  The Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit bring 2100 Marines, 25 helicopters, 6 Harriers, 5 LCACs, and 40 armored vehicles.  As demonstrated during Desert Fox, these forces are available for the immediate defense of Kuwait and other regional partners, or for non-combatant evacuation operations.  The forward presence of naval combat capability ensures the access for follow-on Joint Forces to flow into theater in the event of a Major Theater War.

          From a terrorist force protection perspective, FIFTH FLEET and the Navy have expended a great deal of resources to protect our personnel.  The new MILCON at Naval Support Activity Bahrain is state of the art for force protection.  FIFTH FLEET's Force Protection Program is recognized as the best in the Navy.  We recognize force protection as an operational issue, and therefore, we factor it into our daily operations.


          Yes, FIFTH FLEET is meeting our national security requirements – but the cost is not cheap.  Our mission requirements make it necessary to maintain a robust, full spectrum combat capability in-theater; a substantial strike capability – be it air, surface or sub launched;  operational defense capability – to protect our forces and assure access;  numbers of forces – not only for strike and defense, but also to conduct Maritime Intercept Operations and engage our regional partners; sustainment capability – to ensure the necessary combat power in types and numbers of weapons for contingency response; Mine Counter Measures capability – to keep the straits open; and  an Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance capability – to ensure the situational awareness and common operational picture to effectively fight our forces.  This robust, full spectrum combat capability translated into the following force requirements:

·       Over the last two years, one Carrier Battle Group was assigned continuously and two Carrier Battle Groups for a quarter of the same period.

·       Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit assigned for 207 days in FY99.

·       One - two Surface Combatants, above what is organic to a Carrier Battle Group, to conduct Maritime Intercept Operations and ensure we meet in-theater Tomahawk requirements.

·       One - two attack submarines conducting anti-submarine missions, fulfilling Tomahawk requirements, and conducting national and tactical Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance missions.

·       Six P-3s for anti-submarine warfare, and especially tactical Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, and Maritime Patrol.

·       Two, soon to be four, Surface Mine Counter Measure ships and four Mine Counter Measure helicopters permanently stationed in-theater. 

·       One Combat Logistics Force task element comprised of a T-AFS, an AOE, and a TAO to provide underway replenishment for the combat force. 

          Even with these forces, FIFTH FLEET operational tempo was higher than the Navy standard of 51 days per quarter while deployed.  While assigned to FIFTH FLEET, the average carrier was underway approximately 74 days per quarter, surface combatant 71 days, ARG/MEU 72 days, and submarines 76 days.  The operational tempo is high to stretch the limited forces to meet operational mission requirements.  

          Unfortunately, FIFTH FLEET force levels are being maintained at the cost of other numbered fleet operational requirements.  SIXTH FLEET’s carrier presence is at an all time low.  In the last two years, SIXTH FLEET’s carrier presence was 40-60% of CINCEUR’s requirements.   When THEODORE ROOSEVELT was held in the Mediterranean for Kosovo, KITTY HAWK was surged from SEVENTH FLEET to ensure FIFTH FLEET maintained one carrier in-theater.  The ripple effect left the Western Pacific without a carrier presence.

          Although I am receiving the necessary forces to meet FIFTH FLEET obligations, the fleet is stretched and I am uncertain how much longer the Navy can continue to juggle forces to meet the varied regional requirements, including FIFTH FLEET’s.  I am also uncertain that we have the surge capability to meet a major contingency, or theater war. Eventually, the increased operational tempo  on our fewer and fewer ships will take its toll on their availability and readiness.  Eventually, the immediacy of contingency requirements in other areas of the world will limit the Navy's options to surge a carrier to support the Central Region.  As Vice Admiral Murphy states – numbers matter.

          As I noted in my introduction, I have the benefit of receiving my forces fully trained and combat ready.  I can not over emphasize the importance of training and deploying our forces ready for combat.  As operations Desert Fox and Southern Watch demonstrate, forces need to be ready to conduct sustained combat operations on arrival.  Therefore, we need to continue to ensure that our aviators, surface warriors, and submariners are fully trained to conduct all aspects of their mission.  Only fully trained combat personnel can meet mission objectives at minimum risk, and with minimum collateral damage. 

          We need also to ensure that we are capable of sustaining the combat force once it is in theater.  Currently, the Carrier Battle Groups, Amphibious Ready Groups, Marine Expeditionary Units, and Middle East Force Ships arrive in-theater with the necessary ordnance to meet contingency requirements.  But, I am not so certain that we have the necessary precision weapons to sustain the force in the event of a major contingency, or Major Theater War.  Again, it may be a case that we will have to dangerously draw down the stocks in adjacent theaters to address the most immediate threat.     


          FIFTH FLEET will continue to successfully meet national security requirements as long as we are assigned the necessary forces, and those forces are properly trained and ready.  The following points summarize my concerns for the future:

·       Numbers count - We need to ensure we have the necessary forces to meet our global interests, including surge capacity for Major Theater War. 

·       Training is essential - We must maintain our combat training level, unless the forces are combat ready we can't complete the mission. 

·       Sustainment keeps us in the fight - Without the precision weapons, we can't fight and win. 

             Naval forces have developed into the force of choice for the Central Region.  Naval forces, operating in international waters, have the freedom of operation to conduct unilateral operations when necessary - be it in support of Operation Southern Watch, clearing the strait, or any other contingency operation. The mobility, strike and self-protection capability of naval forces provides the forward combat presence to deter, fight, and assure access to follow-on forces.  Operating from the sea allows naval forces to minimize shore footprint, which minimizes host nation sensitivities and shore force protection problems. The same forces that conduct strike operations and maritime intercept are flexible enough to be a primary engagement instrument with our coalition partners.  Considering the vital national interests at stake, the naval mission in the Central Region is only going to grow.  We need to ensure we have the necessary forces, trained, ready and sustainable to meet that challenge.