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As Prepared: US Naval War College International Seapower Symposium/ Panel Title: “Food, Energy, Seabed Infrastructure, and Commerce”

Tuesday, September 19, 2023



AT US Naval War College International Seapower Symposium


Thank you for the introduction. It is an honor to be here this afternoon. I want to thank the Acting Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Lisa Franchetti, and her staff -- Rear Admiral Pete Garvin, Superintendent, Naval War College, and his staff for hosting this event – as well as Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro and, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, for their presence and remarks, and now, thank you to our distinguished panel members:  

Admiral Sir Ben Key, The Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Fahd Bin  
Abdullah Al-Ghofaily, Commander, Royal Saudi Naval Forces  
Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, Chief of Naval Staff, Nigerian Navy  

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy 

Thank you also to you, our audience members, many whom have traveled from the far corners of the Globe to be with us here today.  

As mentioned by __________ before being appointed as Maritime Administrator, I served nearly 31 years on active duty in the United States Navy and like my colleagues here today on this panel, my time then was often spent focused on global missions working with United States allies and partners to protect common values and goals. 

As Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, I twice planned and executed BALTOPS –—a multinational training exercise focused on scenarios dealing with potential real-world crises and maritime security.  In planning and executing these and other multi-national exercises, I witnessed first-hand two critical truths.   

The first truth—the United States benefits greatly from a world that is free, open, secure, and prosperous. 

The second, we must work together with allies and partners to ensure rules-based frameworks are not allowed to abandon or fray. One other thing I learned in my decades working on maritime issues, while we may face new challenges that stem from supply chains that stretch around the globe, climate change, and sea-bed communications systems, the oceans,  are just as important for the prosperous future of the American people as they were when Alfred Thayer Mahan was teaching strategy in these very halls. 

As the Maritime Administrator my job is to foster, promote, and develop the maritime industry of the United States to ensure our nation’s economic and security needs are met.  Tying that mission to this panel’s theme -  

Maritime commerce, includes commercial and military transport ships at sea, coastal vessels, and the infrastructure that supports all maritime operations, including port facilities, cargo handling systems, ship repair/construction yards, and intermodal transportation systems. Covid revealed, in no uncertain terms, how disruption in our maritime commerce supply chains can have dire, life-threatening effects to communities around the world.  To protect against such disruption, we at MARAD facilitate maritime commerce through various programs, including: grants to build resilience into our nation’s port infrastructure and small shipyards, and loans to provide funding for vessel construction, now focused on but not limited to those that support the off-shore wind energy industry. 

Next, MARAD also supports the Department of Defense with our fleet of Ready Reserve sealift vessels—and we oversee the nation’s Maritime, Cable Fleet, and Tanker Security programs, providing capacity to DoD in response to national security or defense needs.   

Our Cable Security Program Fleet in particular, helps us protect and maintain support for the U.S. seabed infrastructure.   

Making the seas safe for commerce is not only vital for the global economy, including for food security. The war in Ukraine has led to the decline in Ukrainian grain shipments—increasing grain prices and causing a significant deleterious effect on global food security; so much so that the G7 has stated that 43 million people are being pushed towards famine. 1 (Pause)  

Here MARAD works with government entities like USAID to make sure precious cargo such as food aid is shipped quickly on U.S.-flagged vessels – thereby ensuring reliable food aid assistance and economic security. But we still need more bulk carriers under U.S. flag to better support such critical needs. 

In addition to what I have just described, recent challenges in choke points across the globe—present some of our greatest shared threats.  To be sure -- defense and protection of maritime trade in wartime is the Navy’s business. 

Today our distinguished panel will be discussing these topics, however, before we begin - I would like to add one more consideration – climate -  because of its obvious impacts on all four of these topics. 

The Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 20232 makes clear that rapid and far-reaching transitions are needed across all sectors and systems. Additionally, the IMO recognizes that the reduction of greenhouse gases from ships can no longer be an aspirational goal—it must be mandatory.  To that end, just this past summer IMO – by unanimous agreement - adopted new measures aimed at reducing emissions from international shipping.    

And for our part, the Department of Transportation is committed to meeting the President’s climate commitments to ensure a 50-52% reduction in US emissions by 2030, and a net-zero economy by 2050.  

I would now like to invite each of our panelists to speak on the topic of “Food, Energy, Seabed Infrastructure, and Commerce,” from their perspectives and related to its influence on our rules-based order. Having had a preview of their discussion, I know you will be fascinated by their perspectives.    

 Each panelist will speak for 15 minutes—and I will have the august task of making sure timelines are kept by reminding our panelists when they have five minutes left for their prepared remarks.  

 Afterward there will be time for questions so please be sure to think of some as they go through their remarks.