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Navy of the future will be smaller, but must be able to maintain its global reach, retired admiral tells local military affairs council
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There's no consensus on how to proceed, Harvey said, "but we do know that the path we are on is unsustainable."
While developing a strategy, policymakers must keep in mind a drastically changing economic reality.
"More than ever, we are an island nation. Ninety percent of what comes into this country comes by sea. We are an incredibly connected global economy."
And trade "choke points" around the globe, such as the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, through which much of the world's oil flows, are, he said, of vital interest to the U.S.
Such challenges will pale in comparison with the looming "fiscal cliff" and future defense reductions, Harvey said.
If Congress does not act, expiring tax cuts and deep spending cuts will take effect on Jan. 1.
Accounting for upwards of $780 billion of the federal budget, the nation's military faces tens of billions in cuts. Lower-tier defense contractors, Harvey said, would be particularly hard-hit--a big concern in the Fredericksburg area, where scores of contractors do business with Marine Corps Base Quantico and Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.
Harvey said there have been other steep reductions in defense spending since World War II--for example, after the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s--and that more are inevitable.
What kind of Navy does that create?
"I think it's going to be smaller. I think it should be smaller. But if it is, it can't just be a smaller version of today's Navy," Harvey said.
Advances in technology--unmanned aerial and seaborne vehicles, for example--will help fill gaps in coverage and save lives.
"So investment in autonomous vehicles will be of extraordinary importance to the future of this Navy and the Marine Corps."
Harvey said the nation is facing a "perfect storm" of change.
With change comes opportunity, he said, noting that the biggest period of innovation for the Navy was the time between the Great Depression and the end of World War II.
"So our challenge is your challenge. How do you ride this wave of change?"
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
The Military Affairs Council of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce on Monday presented its first-ever Military Friendly Business of the Year award to Reality Realty Professionals. The firm, owned by Sam Cachola, is a Virginia affiliate of Homes for Heroes.