Rear Admiral Michael Smith. Rear Admiral Michael E. Smith is Director, Strategy and Policy Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Last Tuesday, at the Sea-Air-Space Expo, I had the opportunity to sit on a well-attended panel with USMC Major General (sel) Rocco and USCG Rear Admiral Lee to discuss a range of issues for the three Sea Services relating to the Asia Pacific rebalance. In the exchange with audience members following our remarks, we fielded a number of very pointed questions that were really variations on the same concern: will the rebalance negatively impact our commitments to Europe?
From my perspective, the answer to these questions is a resounding no - as long as we approach the future with a new way of thinking. NATO is without question the most powerful military alliance in the world and will continue to be a centerpiece of security in an unpredictable world, and the Navy's relationship with the maritime forces of our European allies and partners remains a cornerstone of cooperative activities across the globe as we confront numerous, collective challenges together. In fact, the Navy continues to pursue greater integrated and cooperative activities with our European counterparts. Examples of continued and enhanced U.S. commitments to Europe include the forward deployment of four of our most advanced Aegis ships to Rota, Spain, where they will support a broad range of missions in addition to their focus on NATO ballistic missile defense, and our ongoing feasibility study of deploying new Littoral Combat Ships and Joint High Speed Vessels to the region. Further, Navy’s contribution to Ballistic Missile Defense of Europe includes not only the maritime BMD piece but also Aegis ashore with the first site planned for Romania in 2015.
Especially in light of fiscal challenges felt across the NATO alliance, we should approach this era of fiscal austerity with significantly greater focus on the potential we all can gain from a more advanced approach to cooperation and engagement between allies and partners - this issue was the focus of an article I recently wrote for Proceedings, Strategic Cooperation: Everybody Wins.
In short, if we take an approach that more fully leverages allied and partner contributions then not only will we maintain our commitments in Europe; we will more efficiently manage resources globally. Now is the time to grasp this opportunity and approach allied and partner contributions in a new light. While the Asia Pacific rebalance is a current area of focus, our commitments to Europe and the Mediterranean are not wavering and can in fact be strengthened if we are willing to challenge our previous planning assumptions and embrace the full capabilities our partners can bring.