Navy to Maintain Focus on Middle East, Strait of Hormuz

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2012 — The Navy will remain focused on the Mid­dle East, par­tic­u­lar­ly the strate­gic Strait of Hor­muz, while ensur­ing its sailors oper­at­ing there are remain prop­er­ly equipped for the mis­sion, the chief of naval oper­a­tions said yes­ter­day.

Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Green­ert told a Cen­ter for New Amer­i­can Secu­ri­ty forum that ten­sions over the Strait of Hor­muz top his list of con­cerns.

“If you ask me what keeps me awake at night, it’s the Strait of Hor­muz and the busi­ness going on in the Ara­bi­an Gulf,” he said dur­ing a ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion fol­low­ing his keynote address.

Green­ert, who dis­cussed the impor­tance of coop­er­a­tion and part­ner­ships, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of the new defense strate­gic guid­ance, told a reporter he sees no major move­ment of naval assets from the Mid­dle East.

“There won’t be a tak­ing of my eye off the ball,” he said.

He cit­ed ten­sions over the Strait of Hor­muz, the only sea pas­sage to the open ocean for petro­le­um-pro­duc­ing nations in the Per­sian Gulf region. An esti­mat­ed 20 per­cent of the world’s oil sup­ply pass­es through the strait.

Iran has flexed its mus­cles, threat­en­ing to cut off access to the strait if the Unit­ed States con­tin­ues to main­tain an air­craft car­ri­er pres­ence there.

Defense offi­cials have empha­sized that clo­sure of the strait will not be tol­er­at­ed. They called car­ri­er strike group deploy­ments vital to main­tain­ing con­ti­nu­ity and oper­a­tional sup­port to ongo­ing mis­sions in the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand area of respon­si­bil­i­ty.

“Our inter­est is in safe and secure mar­itime pas­sage for ships tran­sit­ing the Strait of Hor­muz,” Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle told reporters last month when the issue first arose.

Green­ert told reporters yes­ter­day he rode the Strait of Hor­muz dur­ing his recent vis­it to Bahrain. “I … took a look around and view that as an impor­tant aspect,” he said. “So the Navy won’t be tak­ing their eye off the ball.”

He promised to work to ensure naval forces that oper­ate in these waters “have the right equip­ment to do the right thing.”

“It’s some­thing I mull over … again and again,” Green­ert said.

“Our folks that tran­sit in and around that area, I want to make sure that they’re able to deal with the things that they need to deal with,” he added.

That, Green­ert explained, includes self-pro­tec­tion and anti­sub­ma­rine war­fare assets. It also includes “anti-swarm” assets to pro­tect against “swarm attacks” by small high-speed boats that have been called the Navy’s equiv­a­lent of the impro­vised explo­sive device issue.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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