Naval de­fense con­sul­tant speaks to Cam­bridge Ro­tary

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­

CAM­BRIDGE — Re­tired naval of­fi­cer, author, and pub­lic speaker Bryan McGrath kicked off a statewide speak­ing tour at the Cam­bridge Ro­tary Club meet­ing on Thurs­day, Oct. 6.

The pur­pose of his tour is to in­crease aware­ness of the im­por­tance of seapower to the na­tion’s se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity.

“Seapower is rep­re­sented pri­mar­ily by the forces of the United States Navy, but also by the U.S. Ma­rine Corps and the Coast Guard,” said McGrath. “I’m here to ex­plain how this coun­try’s pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity is dis­pro­por­tion­ately pro­tected and sus­tained by glob­ally de­ployed Amer­i­can seapower. I’m here be­cause our na­tion’s se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity is in­creas­ingly threat­ened by the mil­i­tary forces of ris­ing great pow­ers who just don’t see the world the way we do.”

McGrath’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions on the topic in­clude pri­mary au­thor­ship of the 2007 mar­itime strat­egy en­ti­tled “A Co­op­er­a­tive Strat­egy for 21st Cen­tury Seapower,” and a 21-year naval ca­reer that in­cluded com­mand­ing the USS Bulke­ley. McGrath said he has writ­ten ar­ti­cles, ap­peared on pan­els, and tes­ti­fied be­fore Congress on the is­sue of seapower. He said he now seeks to in­form those who, per­haps, do not al­ready think as he does.

“I want to in­form some, I want to re­mind some oth­ers, and I want to per­suade most, if not all, in this room that this coun­try’s se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity re­quires not only a strong Navy and Ma­rine Corps, but also seapower sec­ond to none, dom­i­nant un­der, on, over, and ad­ja­cent to the world’s oceans,” said McGrath.

He be­gan by ex­plain­ing why the pro­tec­tion of Amer­i­can in­ter­ests re­quires a pow­er­ful and glob­ally de­ployed U.S. Navy.

“We sus­tain a pow­er­ful, glob­ally de­ployed Navy for one im­por­tant rea­son, and that is to guar­an­tee free­dom of the seas,” McGrath said. “Free­dom of the seas is the min­i­mum con­di­tion nec­es­sary to guar­an­tee global trade, the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of which trav­els by sea. Our na­tion’s abil­ity to im­port to and ex­port from global mar­kets is ut­terly de­pen­dent on free­dom of the seas, as is the pros­per­ity of vir­tu­ally ev­ery other na­tion on Earth.”

Ac­cord­ing to McGrath, the eco­nomic im­pact of the 57 coastal sea­ports in the United States amounts to 21 mil­lion jobs, $321 billion in fed­eral, state, and lo­cal tax rev­enues, and $4.6 tril­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity — more than a quar­ter of the coun­try’s en­tire gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP).

To lessen the scale of the idea and bring home the mes­sage, McGrath re­lated the im­por­tance of free­dom of the seas to just the Port of Bal­ti­more. The move­ment of goods through that port, he ex­plained, ac­counts for $59 billion per year in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and 230,000 di­rect and in­di­rect Mary­land jobs.

“Con­sider, if you will, what would hap­pen to this na­tion’s econ­omy, if that flow of goods in and out of our coastal sea­ports, were halted or even dra­mat­i­cally limited by great power war,” said McGrath. “What would be the im­pact if, for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, we lost 26 per­cent of our wealth?”

The Great De­pres­sion is what hap­pened the last time we lost so much of the coun­try’s wealth over a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time, McGrath said.

“For over 500 years, the global system of com­merce has worked best when there was a dom­i­nant naval power en­sur­ing that the seas were free and open to com­merce among na­tions,” he said. “This role has never been un­der­taken out of a sense of char­ity or mag­na­nim­ity. A dom­i­nant naval power ex­er­cises this re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause it is in its eco­nomic in­ter­ests to do so, and it is in our in­ter­est to do so to­day.”

McGrath noted that the U.S. Navy is unique in its abil­ity to im­pose such dom­i­nance be­cause it is unique in its de­sign and pur­pose.

“Un­like any other na­tion on Earth, the U.S. Navy is not built solely to de­feat other navies,” McGrath said. “The U.S. Navy is built and sus­tained to in­flu­ence en­tire na­tions. In or­der to do so, it must be able to con­trol the seas and skies wher­ever it op­er­ates.”

In ad­di­tion to its broader than av­er­age mis­sion and pur­pose, McGrath said, the U.S. Navy faces a bit of a lo­gis­ti­cal ob­sta­cle in that much of the world’s ac­tiv­ity hap­pens in Europe and Asia, half a world away from our shores. He said, cit­ing naval af­fairs spe­cial­ist Ron­ald O’Rourke, that this is the rea­son the U.S. Navy must be larger than any other na­tion’s naval forces.

“When peo­ple won­der about the rel­a­tive size of our Navy com­pared to say, China or Rus­sia, they have to re­al­ize that those coun­tries are al­ready lo­cated where the ac­tion is,” McGrath said. “They don’t need to sail their forces half way across the world and be pre­pared to con­duct com­bat op­er­a­tions when they get there, mostly be­cause they are kept busy with the se­cu­rity re­quire­ments of their own neigh­bor­hood.

“A pow­er­ful Navy is an asym­met­ri­cal ad­van­tage that al­lows us to en­sure that con­flict, if it comes, hap­pens over there and not here.”

As to why he has de­cided to spread this mes­sage be­yond an au­di­ence of na­tional se­cu­rity ex­perts and politi­cians, McGrath said he wor­ries that the U.S. and its Navy is not pre­pared for the kind of great power com­pe­ti­tion we have bat­tled in the past, and will in­evitably come to see again, par­tic­u­larly from China and Rus­sia.

“When I think of Rus­sia and China, I think of two na­tions who are de­vel­op­ing the capability to threaten free­dom of the seas in their near abroad, some­thing they might con­sider do­ing if they wished to with­draw from a global econ­omy and con­cen­trate more closely on dom­i­nat­ing a re­gional econ­omy; some­thing that they could do with a more pow­er­ful navy,” said McGrath. “This kind of Balka­niza­tion or re­gion­al­iza­tion of trade or pro­tec­tion­ism, in a world of global trade, and where there are other ma­jor mil­i­tary pow­ers, is par­tic­u­larly desta­bi­liz­ing.”

To do their part, McGrath urged the mem­bers of the Cam­bridge Ro­tary Club to con­tinue their com­mit­ment of ser­vice to their com­mu­nity, keep their rep­re­sen­ta­tives ac­count­able for the na­tion’s pre­pared­ness, and to stay in­formed about the is­sues our Navy and other mil­i­tary ser­vices face from the pos­si­bil­ity of re­newed great power com­pe­ti­tion.


De­fense con­sul­tant and re­tired naval of­fi­cer Bryan McGrath.

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