Newport, Rhode Island - Maritime security leaders gathered at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island, March 25-26, to focus global military attention on seapower during the EMC Chair Symposium "Maritime Power and International Security."
Experts from the military, academia, national security, corporate interests, United Nations, government, and non-governmental organizations all took part in the two-day event that focused on power projection, deterrence, humanitarian assistance, special operations and security and strategies.
"NWC is home to Navy thought and Naval War College should be leading the Navy and the nation on maritime issues," said Derek Reveron, EMC chair, professor in National Security Affairs and organizer of the annual event. "This conference gives us the opportunity to do that."
The symposium was timed to coincide with the release of a new maritime strategy by the U.S. sea services March 13 titled, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready.
The new maritime security, released by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, outlines maritime priorities in support of the national interest. It replaces a similar 2007 document and accounts for changes in the global security environment, new strategic guidance, and a changed fiscal environment.
One of the areas highlighted at the symposium, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, is already being explored by experts from NWC and Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The two schools currently exchange faculty to discuss this topic and bring two different perspectives to the subject.
"As the number of humanitarian disasters expands (some due to natural disasters, others to conflict), we can expect that increased civil-military engagement will be required to meet the life-saving needs of affected populations," said Vincenzo Bollettino, executive director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative who was a member of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief panel at the symposium.
"It is imperative that we begin more systematic study of civil-military engagement, both to help guide normative discussions about civil-military interaction as well as to inform conversations related to the efficiency of the response," he added.
Both military and civilian groups are needed to assist when large disasters happen, according to Bollettino.
"Today's humanitarian emergencies, particularly complex emergencies that entail aspects of natural disasters and conflict require that both military and humanitarian actors better train for and participate in conversations about civil-military engagement," he said. "These conversations should be taking place in multiple fora (military, academic, humanitarian) and in various countries."
Another aspect of maritime power was discussed in the power projection session where a panelist focused on the changing nature of the challenges faced by the country.
"I think the biggest challenge facing the U.S. military is to adjust to the rise of small, smart, and cheap weapons systems," said T.X. Hammes, distinguished research fellow at National Defense University, Washington, D.C., and panelist at the symposium. "Poor nations and even small groups will have access to precision, long-range weapons in significant numbers. Thus our base areas, supply convoys, fuel dumps, ammo dumps, air and sea ports will be subject to attack. We have to figure out how to deal with this type of threat."
The symposium touches on many aspects of maritime power in just a few days. Reveron says that addressing all of these issues in a short time is not intended to solve the problems, but to serve as a platform for the experts to think about the issues that will eventually lead to answers.
"This event will help me and my colleagues think through these important issues and serves as an incubator for ideas," said Reveron.
Reveron also said one of his aims is to encourage attendees to write about maritime issues after the event and hope they incorporate some of the discussion points into their own writings.