By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2015 – Producing more amphibious ships, staying on top of cybersecurity needs and facing new challenges in the Asia-Pacific region are some of the priorities of the sea-service leaders, a panel concluded at the Western Conference and Exposition in San Diego yesterday.
Panel members included Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle J. Howard and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft. The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International and the U.S. Naval Institute organized the two-day exposition.
“Making sure we have Navy ships for the future is the most important part of our budget,” Howard said.
Navy and Marine Corps strategies come from the seas, Dunford added. And the Marine Corps needs about 20 more amphibious warships than the 31 now in existence, he added.
More Amphibious Ships
“There is a requirement for over 50 [amphibious] ships on a day-to-day basis,” Dunford said, adding that number is what combatant commanders need.
Connectors to move Marines from sea to shore, whether for forward operations or crisis response, also is a critical need, the Marine Corps commandant said.
The Navy is looking at its “best balance” in ship building, given budget constraints, Howard said.
“We’ll continue to [look at] how to build [ships] for the long term,” she said.
The Coast Guard sees as challenges the rising poverty, corruption, increased cocaine trafficking and smuggling in some Central American countries, Zukunft said. Crime in the region is putting strain on Coast Guard capabilities and assets, he said.
Rising crime and instability in some Central American countries has also led to a significant increase in the amount of cocaine the Coast Guard intercepts, Zukunft said.
Meanwhile, he said, the Coast Guard’s acquisition budget has declined 40 percent.
Cybersecurity is another top concern of the three sea-service leaders.
“The Navy has a big focus on cybersecurity,” Howard said. “[But,] we must have better systems. We’re working to be premier warfighters in the [cybersecurity] domain.”
Dunford agreed that cybersecurity concerns present numerous challenges. Zukunft noted that private industry has solicited the Coast Guard for cybersecurity tips following the Sony attack.
“Cybersecurity is critical to our economy,” Zukunft said. The Coast Guard, he added, expects to roll out its latest cybersecurity strategy next month.