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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | Jan. 12, 2021

33rd Annual SNA National Symposium

By ADM Phil Davidson U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Public Affairs Office

ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

33rd Annual National Symposium (Virtual Keynote Address)
12 January 2021
As Prepared for Delivery


Aloha from Hawaii!  Thank you Terry, for the kind introduction – it is great to see you again.  

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to join you for this virtual edition of the SNA National Symposium. 

Of course, I would certainly prefer to meet with you in-person in Crystal City – but believe me – this opportunity is not something I take for granted, as this event is always a thrill for me. 

I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of the Surface Warfare Community for nearly 39 years, serving alongside so many amazing shipmates.  It has absolutely been the honor and the privilege of my lifetime.

I would like to acknowledge all of the brave men and women of our sea service deployed around the globe and in harm’s way. 

I salute those preparing for deployment as well –Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen, and Guardians alike – it is their service to our nation (each and every day) that truly makes the difference. 

Now, I would like to offer a warm welcome to our:

- Distinguished guests,
- Fellow Flag Officers,
- Industry partners, and 
- All of the Surface Warriors (both past and present) in the audience – thank you for your participation throughout the week.  

I want to thank the Surface Navy Association for inviting me back to speak again and for demonstrating adaptability and flexibility in hosting this year’s symposium – especially Bill Erickson, Julie Howard, and all the individuals who worked tirelessly to make this event happen.  

Events such as these are even more important in the current environment given the significant disruptions to our standard practices and our ability to come together. 

Indeed, this invaluable symposium brings together our officers and Sailors, our Surface Warfare Community leaders, industry partners, and academia to improve upon our future and our ability to evolve our warfighting capabilities to remain the world’s premier naval force.

Before I continue, I have been asked to reveal the Grand Prize-winning photograph for the Captain Raymond A. Komorowski Photography Award.

The 105 photograph submissions were judged on their overall ability to represent the professional activities and life of the Surface Warfare Community, as well as their contribution to naval warfare.  

It is my pleasure to announce this year’s Grand Prize winner: IT2 James Greeves for his photo of the Avenger Class minesweeper USS CHIEF (MCM 14) while sailing in the East China Sea off Mt. Iodake on the coast of southern Japan. 

Congratulations IT2 Greeves, and thank you for your motivating photo showcasing United States Navy Sea Power in the Indo-Pacific.

Now, as you are all well aware, our naval superiority is being challenged, and without swift, bold, and necessary action to modernize and transform not only the Fleet – but the entirety of the Joint Force – we will lose our competitive advantage.
And as this balance – specifically in the Indo-Pacific – becomes more unfavorable, we are accumulating additional risk that may embolden our adversaries to unilaterally change the status quo before our forces can deliver an effective response.  

Make no mistake, the greatest danger we face in the region is the erosion of conventional deterrence vis-à-vis China.

Those of us who are old enough remember the value of a strong deterrent – and the principles of deterrence have not changed over time.   

Deterrence is only effective if the adversary believes a combat credible opponent force exists, with the capability…capacity…and will to fight and win. 

By definition, there are two types of deterrence: deterrence by punishment and deterrence by denial. 

Of course, there will always be an element of deterrence by punishment, where the deterrent lies in the promise of punishment on the adversary generally following its aggression.  

Our nation’s strategic deterrent lies at the core of that element.

But, I think we can all agree that deterrence by punishment alone leaves very few options should deterrence fail – and the consequences are enormous. 

The value of deterrence by denial stems from placing the burden of doubt on our adversary.  We must convince them – unequivocally – that the costs of achieving their objectives by the use of military force are simply too high. 

Deterrence is not something you can necessarily measure; however, it proves effective when a likely adversary chooses not to take a provocative action after calculating the consequences of those actions.  

To effectively deter, we need to arm the Joint Force with the proper capabilities, capacities, authorities, and indeed the doctrine to support rapid force employment, accurate offensive power, and effective defenses.  And we have to demonstrate – and communicate – our will – our commitment to the political object at hand.  

Today, new geo-political realities, expanding warfighting domains, and emerging technologies and capabilities are challenging the status quo.  

The Joint Force must continue to transform or we will have little to fall back on except our recent experience in counter-insurgency and constabulary operations – which we learned a great deal from, but the lessons are not wholly adaptable to today’s strategic competition.  

At the heart of it, our forces must be maneuverable – agile if you will – and that includes having the depth of multi-domain fires needed to achieve positional advantage. We must leverage our advantage in allies and partners, and we must demonstrate the “deterability” to deny and defeat. 

Now, I realize I am speaking to an audience that is well aware of the military threat that China presents to the region.  So today, I will focus on China’s strategic threat to the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. 

The Communist Party of China represents the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st Century, not only in the Indo-Pacific, but to the entire globe.  

The Party is actively seeking to supplant the established rules-based international order with a new order – one with Chinese Communist characteristics – where Chinese national power is more important than international law.   

China’s very pernicious whole-of-party approach to the region – and the globe – is fraught with pure corruption, coercion, and co-option designed to distort the strategic landscape in its favor.

Beijing’s lawless practices throughout the region fuel widespread corruption in developing economies and have a devastating impact on regional security. 

We are observing a shocking amount of corruption, including under the table payments with business and governmental elites.  

China uses a whole of DIME (diplomatic, information, military, and economic tools) approach to coerce allies and partners around the globe as well.   

There are countless examples of the coercive ways in which China conducts business with governments and civilian entities to leverage agreements that largely benefit Beijing at the expense of others.  

One need look no further than the economic punishments against Australia, the Republic of Korea, Canada, Norway, and elsewhere to understand  the extent of PRC coercion. 

China is also conducting an all-out assault to co-opt international organizations to garner the support and influence necessary to reshape relationships and gain accesses in the region that are more favorable to the Party’s interests.  

Beijing has secured spots at the helm of several U.N. institutions that set the global standards for air travel, telecommunications, and agriculture - to name a few. 

The Communist Party of China seeks to sway the opinions of many global organizations (like the WHO) so they adhere to the Party’s terms. 

Indeed, an emboldened Communist Party of China continues to exploit the current global pandemic crisis with increased military aggression and malign activity throughout the Indo-Pacific.

The PLA is increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea, East China Sea, in the vicinity of Taiwan, and along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border. 

The PLA’s development of multi-domain capabilities across its joint force continues, and the deployment of these capabilities is reaching farther afield and across the globe. 

These are but a few examples of why the United States – and the region – must be ready to compete – now, in peacetime, or in Phase 0 (if you will), in the gray zone with hybrid means, in three warfares – indeed, all the means necessary to prevent war, protect our interests, and preserve the opportunity to be prosperous. 

But I want to be clear, this competition is not meant to put us on the road to conflict.  We must do everything possible to deter conflict. 

And, AND, we must be prepared to fight and win should competition turn into conflict.  

Without an effective, conventional deterrent, China will be emboldened to take action to limit access to the vital seas and airways in the region and threaten or coerce the sovereignty of its neighbors – hence the need to implement an effective deterrence strategy for competition. 

In doing so, we must achieve an advantageous security environment by demonstrating the capability, capacity, and will to deny China’s objectives and – if necessary – to impose costs on their military forces.

There are four key focus areas that guide INDOPACOM’s approach to providing combat credible conventional deterrence in the region.

First, we must increase our joint force lethality.  

The fundamental design is an integrated Joint Force that can deny an adversary’s ability to dominate in the sea, air, land, space, and cyber domains – and in turn, support our own ability to dominate in the same.  That requires the ability to control and project in all domains, sometimes periodically, and sometimes persistently.

This requires a focus on ensuring access to shared domains, especially as it relates to integrating space and cyber, as well as assuring access to the free and open airways and seas. 

Our Joint Force must more fully integrate its special operations forces, cyber capabilities, space forces, and ground forces equipped with long-range fires to present the “lethality” – the effective deterrent that holds an adversary and all that adversary holds dear at risk. 

And it is not enough to play defense alone – catching missiles with missiles is the hardest thing we do – we must maintain a strong offense as well. 

We continue to develop and field new technologies, operational concepts, and warfighting capabilities necessary to deter aggression and prevail in armed conflict, should deterrence fail. 

Our investments and modernization efforts must harness the advanced capabilities provided by a network of leading-edge technologies, such as:

Integrated Air and Missile Defenses that employ multiple sensors and interceptors distributed across the region to protect – not only the Homeland including our U.S. territories, but also our U.S. forces forward.  These IAMDs must leverage, integrate, and protect our critical allies and partners as well. 

AEGIS – a system our community has operated for decades – established in fixed locations like Guam, will deliver persistent 360-degree, integrated air missile defense from the Second Island Chain. 

We have billions of dollars in military capability and infrastructure, numerous command and control nodes, repair and logistics and sustainment facilities, and thousands of U.S. citizens to protect and defend in Guam.  

An AEGIS Ashore site in Guam will also free up our CRUDES assets from this single-role mission for other vital multi-mission tasking elsewhere in the region.

And here in Hawaii, the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii represents the solution for the gap in our ability to detect, track, discriminate, and defeat ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missile threats. 

The Long Range Precision Strike to hold at risk a variety of target sets from distances both “in the clinch” and from outside the ring. 

These advanced weapons systems are significant and absolutely require an integrated, cross-Service and cross-system design to exploit the full potential of the joint force.

The deployment of Tomahawk, SM-6, LRASM, HIMARS, and Long Range Hypersonics are but a few examples of these long range fires that will require our adversaries to consider further investment in defense systems.  

Joint Command and Control (C2) Networks provide speed and flexibility in decision-making, which allows penetration and then disintegration of an adversary’s systems, thereby defeating their offensive capabilities. 

The Tactical Multi-Mission Over-the-Horizon Radar (TACMOR) will provide a persistent, long-range, detect and track capability of air and surface targets west of the International Date Line.  

This capability will dramatically increase our situational awareness with wide-area, detection, and tracking of air and surface targets in the Western Pacific and provide early warning to prevent surprise attacks. 

Additionally, a constellation of Space-Based Persistent Radars with rapid revisit rates to provide the ability to maintain a heightened situational awareness of PLA activity. 

Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, remote sensing, machine learning, big data analytics, and 5G technology with well-designed architecture to ensure we are interoperable and able to leverage these offensive and defensive capabilities. 

Combined, these technologies will provide the Joint Force with the necessary sensing, C2, and deep fires capabilities to support our maneuver forces in any contested arena. 

Indeed, these capabilities are critical enablers to deter day-to-day, in crisis, and key to our ability to fight and win.

Second, we must enhance our force design and posture.  

A historical look at the region over the past 50 years highlights the shift of our U.S. force posture as we moved out of Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan in the 1970s and then out of the Philippines in the 1990s. 

Now, we are adapting from our historic Service-centric focus on Northeast Asia and Guam toward a more integrated and distributed Joint Force blueprint.  

This includes revising our Indo-Pacific force laydown with our allies and partners to account for China’s rapid modernization. 

Our force design and posture in the region must enable the convergence of capabilities from multiple domains and create the virtues of mass without concentration.

This is accomplished by distributing a forward-deployed, joint force across the battlespace's breadth and depth while balancing lethality and survivability.

It requires a deterrent posture that possesses the sustainment and force protection to be resilient, survivable, and supportable. 

Persistent presence thru forward-based and rotational joint forces is the most credible way to demonstrate our commitment and resolve to potential adversaries, while simultaneously assuring allies and partners.

The third focus area is exercises, experimentation, and innovation – not only within the Joint Force – but with our other allies and partners as well.

The most effective way to combat the security challenges we face in today’s dynamic operating environment is through a continuous campaign of joint experimentation and high-fidelity, multi-domain training.

To accomplish this, we are pursuing the development of a joint network of live, virtual, and constructive ranges in key locations around the region. 

Unfortunately, our current range, test, and/or training facilities are built separately by each Service – sometimes by their Service test and development community – and rarely with the Joint Force in mind.  Further, they are not funded to enable joint training.

The Joint Force must have the ability to advance capability at scale – through accessible, large-scale, all-domain, and integrated ranges to support critical joint and combined training and exercises.  

USINDOPACOM is home to – and in close proximity to – numerous Service and national training, testing, and operational ranges and related facilities.  

Some CONUS-based, joint examples include:

- The Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base,
- The Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC) at Pt. Mugu,
- The Nevada Test and Training Center at Nellis Air Force Base, 
- The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, and
- The Fallon Range Training Complex in Nevada.

And there are also several OCONUS facilities in the region:

The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) provides an unmatched, realistic training environment and allows commanders to train for full spectrum engagements, large-scale operations, and multinational training,

The Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands on Kauai is world's largest instrumented, multi-dimensional testing and training range, and when combined with the Pohakuloa Training Range (PTA) – the only brigade-size live-fire and maneuver training range in the Indo-Pacific – these two ranges present an incredible joint training opportunity, and

The Reagan Test Site (RTS) on the Kwajalein atoll is uniquely qualified to support live missile testing and space surveillance operations due to its isolated location. 

The only way to combat the security challenges we face in today’s dynamic operating environment is through a continuous campaign of joint experimentation and high-fidelity, multi-domain training.

The evolution of innovative operational concepts – directed by the NDS – cannot occur without the capability to execute rigorous experiments and the ability to take measured risks in the development of a more agile, integrated, and lethal force.   

Integrating our U.S. ranges in the region with allied ranges in Japan and Australia will allow us to advance joint and combined capability and capacity in a fully instrumented live-virtual-constructive proving ground – something our allies and partners do not have yet.

An integrated U.S. and coalition force that regularly demonstrates operations across all domains presents new challenges and dilemmas to potential adversaries.  

Indeed, a Joint Range Network provides us with the ability to reveal certain capabilities we want our adversaries see and conceal the things we do not want them to see.  

This is a major component of any strategy of deterrence.

The final focus area is strengthening our allies and partners.  

Our constellation of allies and partners is the backbone of the free and open international order, providing a powerful force to counter malign activity and aggression.

Even in the face of the COVID pandemic, we are increasing interoperability with our allies and partners across the region to enhance our capabilities and improve our coordination for competition.

This manifests itself in information sharing agreements, foreign military sales, key leader engagements, and expanded military cooperation.  

We are developing an integrated architecture to horizontally expand data-sharing among like-minded nations through the use of information fusion centers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

These future fusion centers will combine and analyze sensor data from aircraft, ships, and space-based systems, building a common maritime picture between the U.S, our allies, and our partners to improve our collective surveillance of potential illegal fishing, trafficking activities, and transnational threats.

To accompany these info-sharing functions, we must have a robust command and control network for interoperable execution.

The Mission Partner Environment (MPE) is a critical investment that provides for resilient and redundant joint and combined command and control to compete across all domains. 

From the strategic to tactical level, MPE will provide theater-wide battle management and automated decision-making by accessing a multi-domain sensor network that functions across all domains. 

This environment uses cloud-based technologies, integrated systems, and secure access controls to provide assured C4ISR with our allies and partners.

We are seeking every opportunity to increase the frequency and intensity of our combined operations, exercises, and training with our allies and partners as well.

We will only accomplish this if we regularly fly, sail, command and control, train, exercise, and – if necessary – fight together across the globe.

The end state is an integrated coalition that can demonstrate operations effectively in all domains, assuring our international norms are protected and dissuading potential adversaries from military action. 

The United States – alongside our allies and partners – must implement an evolving conventional deterrence strategy that demonstrates its capacity, its capability, and its will to fight and win this competition. 

In closing, I will leave you with a few closing thoughts for our Surface Warriors.

I contend that the Surface Warfare Community is well-suited to lead the way in informing the Department of Defense on how to accomplish the necessary joint force integration for Great Power Competition. 

First, we have been conducting multi-domain operations for decades.  One need only look at the importance of “control,” even when only fleeting, to understand it takes “control” – in space, at sea, under the sea, in the air, and in cyber to understand how Tomahawks get to their targets in the last 30 years. Indeed, All-Domain operations are nothing new to us.

Second, our surface combatants are capable of conducting the full-spectrum of the detect-to-engage sequence – the sensing, the networking, and the delivery of fires to support maneuver – the whole shooting match – which is the key to joint force integration. 

Third, we SWOs have a deep understanding of supply, logistics, and lift in sustaining operations both in peacetime and in conflict – which is vital to the entirety of the Joint Force (regardless of Service). 

Next, the surface community has a long history of conducting amphibious and expeditionary operations with our Marine Corps teammates, providing some of the key tenets in conducting joint operations with the other Services. 

Finally, our highly-capable and survivable surface platforms serve as the ideal setting for All-Domain Command and Control of Joint Force assets and our surface units routinely demonstrate tremendous interoperability alongside allies and partners across the globe. 

Of course, our success in leading this transformation within the DOD will require a great deal of work and will not happen on its own.

As we modernize our Navy for competition – we must seek every opportunity to work closely with the other Services – through acquisitions, training, exercising, and operating – in order to truly integrate the Joint Force and to unequivocally win this competition. 

I thank you for your time today and for your desire to advance our Surface Community, our Navy, and our Joint Force for the future.

May God bless the United States Navy and our Surface Warriors – and May God Bless the United States of America.


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