Back to Maritime Security Conference


  • CDR Philip Walker, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
  • RADM Philip Wisecup, President, U.S. Naval War College
  • Damon Wilson, Vice President and Director, International Security Program, Atlantic Council
  • Ambassador Mary Yates, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor on Strategic Planning, National Security Council

October 14, 2009

CDR. PHILIP WALKER:  Good morning.  Welcome to the Atlantic Council of the United States.  My name is Philip Walker and I am the Navy fellow here at the council.  Welcome to our Maritime Security Conference for the 21st Century, “Pirates, Ports and Partners.”

In this conference we’ll bring together a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the maritime domain, all of which have an interest in maritime security.  Disruptions within the maritime domain can have damaging second- and third-order effects to global security and U.S. national interests. 

As illustrated in the U.S. Navy’s Cooperative Security Strategy for the 21st Century, our security and prosperity are inextricably linked to those of others as we strive to protect and sustain the peaceful global system comprised of independent networks of trade, finance information, law, people and governance.

It’s for this reason that the Atlantic Council and the United States Navy, though the U.S. Naval War College, has organized this event, and that’s really to open this dialogue, particularly in Washington, D.C., and to explore maritime security options for moving forward.

Since the late 19th century, under Alfred Thayer Mahan’s leadership, the Naval War College has heavily influenced maritime strategy and naval strategy, particularly in the United States, and today is no different.

I’m proud to welcome the partnership – the expanded partnership of the Navy, with the Naval War College, to the Atlantic Council in support of this event and look forward to future partnerships.

The Naval War College is represented today by many, but of course we also have the 52nd president of the Naval War College, Adm. Phil Wisecup.   Adm. Wisecup is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and holds graduate degrees from the University of Southern California, the Naval War College, and the University of Strasbourg in France.

He commanded the destroyer USS Callahan, the Destroyer Squadron 21 and Carrier Strike Group 7 that was embarked on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.  Adm. Wisecup took command of the Naval War College in November of 2008.  Please join me in welcoming Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup.  Sir?  (Applause.)

ADM. PHILIP WISECUP:  Thanks very much.  I’m grateful to the Atlantic Council for hosting this event in Washington, D.C., and very, very pleased that we could be a part of it.  This conforms to my idea of linking the intellectual capabilities of Newport with the greater international security community. 

This is the inaugural event of EMC Chair Professor Derek Reveron.  Derek Reveron conducts – which he conducts cutting-edge research and teaching that explores the intersection between national security and information technology.

This event was made possible by the energy of Professor Reveron, Magnus Nordenman of the Atlantic Council and Cdr. Phil Walker, who is the Navy fellow here.  Further, the Naval War College Foundation provided generous financial support for this event.

Last week in Newport we came together in what’s called the International Seapower Symposium.  International representatives from 106 countries, 106 navies, were represented – navies, coast guards, maritime folks.  Over 90 chiefs of navies were in Newport last week to talk about issues, some of which you will talk about today.

In the end, topics which I saw here on the agenda were discussed among the chiefs, and so I see a wide avenue for cooperation.  I’m very pleased that this dialogue is commencing here.  Partnerships cut across many lines:  military, government, industry, labor, public, private.  This joint workshop, for example, pools our unique resource to consider the challenges of maritime security and safety, and maybe we’ll have another one of these up in Newport.

It’s a full day, many distinguished from across the military, government, industry and labor.  It gives us the opportunity to forge new friendships, raise awareness of maritime security and safety issues, discuss strategic approaches to improving maritime security and safety and inform the interagency thinking on maritime security.

So I’m very, very pleased to be here with you today and hope this will be a full and productive conference.  Thanks very much.  (Applause.)

DAMON WILSON:  Thank you all for joining us at the Atlantic Council today for this conference on maritime security in the 21st century.  My name is Damon Wilson.  I’m vice president and director of the International Security Program here at the council.  We’re especially pleased to co-host the conference with the Naval War College.  So thank you, Adm. Wisecup, and your team for your terrific support and the participation in this conference.

I’m particularly delighted because I had the opportunity, when I served at the National Security Council, to work with the admiral when he was director of the White House Situation Room.  So it’s just a delight to welcome you back to Washington and to be able to work with you in this capacity.

I want to offer a particular thanks to Dr. Derek Reveron, to Cdr. Phil Walker – thank you – and to Magnus Nordenman who really helped put today together and make it a success.

I only want to say just a few words about why the Atlantic Council, an organization focused on renewing the trans-Atlantic partnership in the 21st century chose to host this conference together with the Naval War College.

We believe that maritime security is one of those key 21st century challenges.  Obviously there are both EU and NATO counter-piracy operations underway or off the coast of Somalia, alongside with the coalition led by the United States.  Furthermore is the strong economic link between the United States and Europe as one of the supporting pillars of the trans-Atlantic relationship, and it relies on the safe and secure use of the oceans to facilitate that relationship.

I really don’t have to mention our reliance on the international waterways for global commerce or the importance of the maritime aspect of homeland security on both continents.  But maritime security is also an opportunity for our relationships.  It’s one of those areas where the United States and its friends and allies can find common ground to work together to safeguard international peace and security, as well as to ensure continued global prosperity.

Maritime security cooperation can be an enabler to advance cooperation on other strategic issues such as energy security or health security.  In short, there are many challenges to maritime security, ranging from piracy to environmental degradation, but it also presents a unique opportunity for U.S. leadership to tackle global challenges in concert with other partners in both the public and the private domains.

This is particularly the case in Africa.  In fact, today’s conference grew out of a series of conversations that we’ve had over the past months with several of our board members, such as Adm. Ulrich, who joins us today; Frank Kramer, who will be with us; Gen. Chuck Wald; Ambassador Cliff Sobel, as well as members of the administration, about how the United States can work with partners, not only in Europe but also in Latin America, in particular to assist African maritime security efforts.

In fact, two weeks ago we were able to host Gen. Kip Ward of U.S. AFRICOM, where we also touched on these issues.  And this fall we launched the Ansari Africa Center under the leadership of Dr. Nancy Walker. 

So we very much look forward to today’s conference and to see how today’s discussions can carry forward the conversations we’ve been having, and in particular to develop practical ideas, practical initiatives that are useful to policymakers today.

And with that I would like to introduce a key policymaker and dear friend of the council, Ambassador Mary Yates of the National Security Council, who will help us kick off this conference.  Ambassador Yates is a special assistant to the president and senior director for Strategic Planning at the National Security Council. 

As I’ve said before, she has the impossibly large mandate of serving as the White House policy planner.  But nonetheless, she has maintained a real interest in maritime security and the opportunities for partnership that it offers. 

Before taking on this duty, she was the deputy to the commander for Civil Military Activities at U.S. Africa Command.  And, as you all know, AFRICOM is the youngest combatant command and Ambassador Yates was instrumental in helping it stand up and move out in this crucial region of global security.

Before taking up her post with AFRICOM, she was political advisor at U.S. European Command and has also served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Burundi. 

Ambassador Yates, thank you so much for joining us today.  We know how difficult your schedule can be at the White House, so we appreciate your time.  The podium is yours.  (Applause.)

MARY YATES:  Good morning.  Thanks, Damon.  Thanks, Phil and Adm. Wisecup.  Very nice to see you again.  I know how hard you worked over there at the White House in the Situation Room.  Mark, good to see you.

I really want to thank the Atlantic Council for pulling this together.  And I think the theme is exactly right, “Pirates, Partners and Ports:  Maritime Security in the 21st Century.”  This is a lot to think about and you have pulled together an impressive group of speakers but also a very impressive audience.  We were just reviewing that before we came out here.

It is not a surprise that the Atlantic Council would do something like this with a name like “Atlantic Council,” and of course with our Navy, but I also want you to know it isn’t the first time that the Atlantic Council has done something like this.

We had a brainstorming session last summer, a small group of us.  And the reason I raise it – it was a private session but it underscored the point that maritime security and domain awareness is a very, very complicated issue that no one person can – no one nation, no company, you know, no multilateral organization can own.  We’ve got to work together and we’ve got to partner if we’re going to get this right.

So I mean, to me that was – I mean, it’s not a revolution to think about that, but that conference that day made my head hurt when I saw the complexities and the layers of complexities, and I know you will explore that in the course of the day today because maritime security concern and the sovereign – it’s the sovereign right of all nations to use the global commons, the world’s oceans.

And working in policy and strategic planning at the White House, the word “global commons” comes up often, but I’ve found that a variety of people either know or think they know what the term means.  So I went to Wikipedia – (laughter) – and Wikipedia tells us, “that which no one person or state may own or control and which is central to life.” 

In old English law, the commons was a track of ground shared by the residents of a village and it belonged to no one.  It’s where the cattle could graze.  It’s where they would meet in a village square.  But the property was held for the common good of all.

So I think the term “global commons” really applies to the oceans and I think it’s something we all need to think about when we become stakeholders in trying to solve the problems.

I think the other point that I would make from the perch where I am – this is also not just a United States issue but certainly within the United States it has to be a whole of government effort with our international partners in multinational organizations.

And just to give you a quick example, you know, on the piracy, looking again at the whole of government, it’s the U.S. State Department that leads the contact group for countering piracy off Somalia, but they are actively engaged with the United Nations on a multilateral level.  And their goal is to build judicial capacity and identify the courts that are willing to prosecute and hopefully ultimately incarcerate those found guilty of piracy.

Next, the Treasury Department.  They’re engaged with many key allies and regional partners to establish procedures for tracking and reporting the ransoms paid to release the hostages or the cargo.  This is a critical link, this partnership, to get the cases before the court.

Thirdly, the Department of Homeland Security.  They have standardized security practices on U.S. vessels, and this has promoted an acceptance of those practices and international codes. 

The Department of Defense of course plays a key role.  They’ve deployed surface vessels, boarding teams that are trained to stop the pirates, detain and gather evidence, et cetera.  The U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, they’ve developed a Web site portal to provide the maritime community with relevant threat information. 

And the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration are working closely together with U.S. Merchant Fleet to increase awareness and establish the best practices for piracy.

I give that as a snapshot, for, again, it’s a whole of government within the government, which is where I work, but it’s far more than that, you know, and I know you’ll hear today.  I’m only sorry I can’t stay for the whole day but I have a few other things I’m doing.

I also will make my final comment based on my own passionate experience of working with the U.S. military and in Africa.  There are so many things we can do to really, in your phrase of “partnering,” to partner with our African partners to help build capacity. 

And I say that even in President Obama’s recent trip, you know – and he did stop in Ghana, a country near and dear to my heart.  The request that came was for maritime assistance.  So the leaders in these nations recognize that they need assistance. 

I think that that’s probably more than I needed to say.  I just get rather wrapped up about this, don’t I, Damon?

Oh, I did – let me leave you with a couple of questions.  I think we need to figure out how we can work regionally as well as individually because monitoring borders is not just one nation.  So I think if we can look at how we do that – and we also have to look at the root causes, the root causes especially getting back to piracy or illegal drugs, illegal trafficking in persons, migration.  There are causes that need to be considered as well. 

And I want to introduce the two people from the NSC who will be staying for a good part of the day, Col. Ron Tuggle, who works with me in Strategic Planning, and Sean Regan, if he is here, the director of Maritime Security in the new transborder directorate at the NSC. 

You know, Gen. Jones has combined – and the president, I should say, has combined Homeland Security with National Security in the National Security Council.  And so we are looking at responsibilities that were before in the Homeland Security transborders, and that’s where our maritime security is placed at the National Security Council.

Sorry I did more than my time.  Anyway, I wish I could stay.  (Applause.)

Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.

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Related Experts: Magnus Nordenman and Damon Wilson