By Admiral Cecil Haney
As Americans enjoy Labor Day weekend, I ask that you pause to remember the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II. On Sept. 2, 1945, Imperial Japan surrendered aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor. Among those accepting the terms of surrender was Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, a Texas native and warrior in whose wake I am proud to sail as the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander. Fittingly on this anniversary, we will dedicate a new bronze statue of Adm. Nimitz aboard Missouri, now permanently moored here at Pearl Harbor next to the USS Arizona.
During WWII, Missouri was part of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, the command that just completed exercise Dawn Blitz this summer while operating with naval forces from Japan, Canada and New Zealand. In war-weary 1945, no one could have imagined former enemies working together so effectively. Today, multilateral exercises enhance our ability to operate collectively during crises, while preserving the peace and prosperity currently enjoyed in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Stretching from Hollywood to Bollywood, this region is vital to U.S. economic and security interests. That is why our military is rebalancing a larger portion of our capabilities and intellectual capital here. Instability is the enemy of economic growth and prosperity, so our focus is on preventing regional disruption while ensuring the $5 trillion in annual commerce flows freely across the vast Indian and Pacific Oceans.
While the rebalance to the Pacific began almost two years ago, our commitment to this region has never waned. You have to be here to make a difference, and America’s Navy has maintained a persistent presence in this region for decades. Adm. Nimitz helped create the U.S. 3rd and 7th Fleets in World War II, and this year marks their 70th anniversary on station.
In the aftermath of war, our fleet has shaped a legacy of preserving peace. Our Sailors and Marines have helped build a system of established maritime rules that ensures free access to maritime trade, encourages peaceful resolution of disputes, and has fostered the development of the U.S. and many war-devastated Asian countries. Our continuing naval presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific supports freedom of the seas and the global commons, maintaining economic openness that allows for prosperity, security and stability. In fact, we believe that our decreased presence from this vital region would be destabilizing and thus harmful to America and all Pacific nations.
That is why leaders in government and industry are sounding the alarm about severe budget cuts that threaten the pace and scope of our current Pacific rebalance. Being judicious with American taxpayer dollars is one of my guiding principles, and while we work to address fiscal realities, it is imperative that the U.S. remain a Pacific naval power. This is a strategic investment we must continue to make.
With continued resourcing, the rebalance will eventually homeport 60 percent of U.S. Navy ships in the Pacific by 2020. Our newest and most capable naval platforms have or will soon debut in the Pacific, including littoral combat ships, Virginia class submarines, the P-8 maritime aircraft, the MV-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. With these new ships and aircraft at our disposal, we will deter threats not only to our homeland but to the homelands of our allies and partners. As America’s ultimate ‘Away Team,’ our Navy provides a good return on investment for the taxpayers.
Our fleet also operates forward with our five Pacific treaty allies (Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand) and other partners to improve maritime security while also preventing nations like North Korea from disrupting regional stability. For example, the annual Pacific Partnership just concluded where USS Pearl Harbor worked with civilian non-governmental organizations and partner navies from Australia, Canada, Columbia, France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea to improve disaster response preparedness for Oceania countries. This year marked the first time partner nations – Australia and New Zealand – took the lead of individual phases. Sharing the lead responsibilities and logistical resourcing will keep this impactful mission sustainable. Multilateral efforts like Pacific Partnership are critical because they deter conflict by building trust and enhancing cooperation, an approach that benefits all nations.
As in World War II, the U.S. Pacific Fleet is always ready to answer our nation’s call. Whether called to fight and win or to protect the peace, we operate alongside our allies and partners to ensure a stable and secure Indo-Asia-Pacific where all nations can prosper.
A peaceful future in the Pacific is what Adm. Nimitz and his G.I.’s fought for, and why we still operate forward today. So as you enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend, take a moment to remember the American patriots who fought, died and prevailed seven decades ago, and those who still stand the watch today to help keep our nation safe, prosperous, and secure.
––– Admiral Cecil Haney is the 33rd officer to command the U.S. Pacific Fleet since it was established in February 1941 with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. ––