September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Admiral Vern Clark Renarks at Naval War College Symposium : "Setting Our Course in the Terror War"; October 29, 2001

ADM Vern Clark Remarks
Naval War College Symposium
"Setting Our Course in the Terror War"
Naval War College, Newport, R.I.
Monday, October 29, 2001

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, RADM Rempt for your kind introduction and for hosting this important conference.

Over the next few days, you will examine a very timely and important topic, "Setting Our Course in the War on Terror." This effort is timely because our nation is at war. It is important because, in times of conflict, our Navy and our nation depend on the intellectual capital invested in the Naval War College. We need the product that will come from this conference. This superb institution is composed of our best and brightest -- officers and civilians who are not just doers but also thinkers. This conference is about the challenge to think through the issues that we face today. And this conference is about the challenge to examine every assumption that we have made in the past, and to make sure that they fit the circumstances that we're facing today.

I thought in my remarks this morning that I will briefly describe what has changed and what has not changed since the 11th of September. I ask you to examine all of our assumptions and I'm appreciative that Admiral Rempt made reference to the fact that this theme "to challenge assumptions" is not a theme that was born on September the 11th. It is a theme that I've been trying to teach since July 21st last year. I believe in this approach to living and I ask all of you to examine of the assumptions that we collectively have previously used and that have served us in the foundation of our naval operations. I believe that now is the time for bold and innovative thinking – thinking that will be vital for us to achieve victory.

Now, let me start by discussing what has changed since a peaceful America was attacked on a sunny morning almost seven weeks ago.

Most fundamentally, we are at war -- a war unlike any this nation has been upon to fight. Our enemy is a non-state actor. His weapon is a trans-national organization dedicated to indiscriminate killing and terror. He has proven that the constraints observed by civilized people during war will not be observed by his forces. As a result, we have commenced upon a war that promises to be sustained and difficult against an enemy that hates the freedoms and liberties we in uniform have sworn to protect.

But what has not changed is even more important. Events since the 11 of September have validated the unity of our people, the strength of our democracy, and the common purpose of states around the world banded together to eliminate terrorism.

For our Navy, the on-going campaign had underlined the timeless importance of sea power in defending our nation. I did not come here to market naval forces and the reasons we have them. But I can't pass this opportunity to say that the events of the last few have certainly validated points that I have made to this student body before: the 21st century will require us to possess capabilities that are able to operate independently from the international domain, and, by that, I'm talking about space and the seas. The timeless importance of sea power, the wisdom in sustaining combat power forward to seize the initiative, and, most importantly, the incredible skill and dedication of our Sailors and Marines has been validated again.

Such strengths will be the key to our victory.

The attacks that propelled us to war were not random. Our enemy struck centers of American national strength -- financial, political, and military -- killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children, including uniformed personnel in peacetime. Additionally, someone is now using biological weapons against the American media, another source of our global reach and influence. We cannot underestimate this enemy. They are dedicated to a total and prolonged conflict.

It is estimated that the World Trade Center attack alone left 10,000 orphans. And only hate-filled people would consider such an outcome to be honorable and just.

They used our openness, diversity, and freedom against us. That was their plan. But in doing so, they forced Americans to reassess our commitment to liberty and renew our dedication to the principals upon which this nation was founded. This, I do not believe, was in their plans.

In short, while they succeeded in inflicting pain upon two great cities, they also unified a nation and groups of nations. As at Pearl Harbor, our enemy miscalculated and, in doing so, guaranteed their eventual destruction.

How did our Navy respond to this bloody attack? As we have always done: swiftly, professionally, and purposefully.

Within hours, carriers steamed to station off either coast. Aegis destroyers and cruisers assumed guard over the air approaches to our shores. Active duty and Reserve personnel swiftly manned USNS Comfort to provide assistance to New York City. The operational concept for this type of asset was certainly validated. Comfort is maintained in a five-day ready- to-sail status in Baltimore. She was ready for sea in less than 24 hours, due to the superb response of the Military Sealift Command crew.

I read a letter that I intercepted from a commander of one of the aircraft squadrons on the abroad the United States Ship Enterprise. He tells the story to his family about they were headed south for a port call. They were watching on television and they saw the second plane go into the World Trade Center. They did not receive an order but they knew instinctively what they needed to do. The rudder went over and ship reversed course 180 degrees. They knew they would be called. They knew their time would come. They were Sailors on the point that knew instinctively what to do. And they readied themselves for their response.

The Kitty Hawk surged from Japan to take station in the Arabian Sea, where our force has grown to four carriers wielding the kind of striking power that we've all come to expect from carrier battle groups.

In Washington – very much on the front lines of this new type of war – I was in my office when the attack occurred. Our civilian and military professionals quickly reestablished command and control, and began planning America's strategy, even as smoking wreckage was being removed only a hundred yards away.

And all around the world, ashore and afloat, we shifted to a wartime footing, ramped up force protection, redoubled training, and prepared for the sustained conflict that lay ahead.

In taking these actions, our Navy combined efforts with the other services and agents of national power -- diplomatic, economic, political -- to fulfill the President's challenge to root out and destroy terrorism.

Let's talk about our missions. Naval missions and capabilities inevitably evolve in response to the wars we fight. This one will be no different. Change is occurring as we speak. But such change that is ahead of us will be built upon proven naval strengths: agility, mobility, persistent firepower, and innovation – to name but a few.

In executing our missions in this global campaign, we will operate in concert with joint and allied forces across the full spectrum of conflict.

Today, multiple carrier battle groups are operating together to conduct heavy strike missions against enemy assets. Aircraft from the carriers working in concert with surface combatants and submarines have proven our strategic reach by attacking enemies in a land-locked nation hundreds of miles from the sea.

Additionally, naval forces are positioned off our coasts in a return to the traditional Navy role of homeland defense, working hand-in-hand with the United States Coast Guard. These forces patrol coastal waters and airspace, stand watch over critical infrastructure, collect intelligence, and intercept threats to our national security.

We updated the basis for such operations just a few months ago, before September 11, when the Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Loy and I renewed our Memorandum of Agreement committing ourselves to a complimentary and interoperable national fleet. I will tell you before September 11, this primarily about research, development and procurement, but now it's also about operations. I spoke to the headquarters at the Coast Guard three weeks ago. I told them that it was unique that in times past this memorandum of understanding was more about the Coast Guard support of the United States Navy in time of war, but this time it truly did include the United States Navy supporting the Coast Guard in time of war. Navy units at sea are supporting the Coast Guard efforts, as we speak, to strengthen port security. Additionally, Navy and Coast Guard officers are serving side-by-side in Office of Naval Intelligence Command Center and U.S. Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center building the best possible maritime awareness.

Yet other naval forces – Navy and Marine – this time are dedicated to engagement and deterrence efforts, like exercise Bright Star, which just concluded off Egypt. These same units stand ready to respond to emergent events such as humanitarian disaster relief or contingency operations. This ability to sustain credible combat power in theaters beyond the immediate conflict is vital to international stability at this time. It is requires a Navy of robust numbers as well as capabilities. I will come back to that in a moment. We must have a robust capability to deal with the threat in the future.

Finally, we will take the fight to the enemy in other ways, using our national advantages in sea and air power, intelligence, communications, training, joint operations, responsiveness, and precision engagement.

Our nation will especially rely on our freedom to maneuver in the international domain of the sea, hitting our enemies at the time and place of our choosing. Some of these operations will be publicized. As you have heard the president and our secretary of defense say, some will not.

But as the president has made very clear: We will give no respite to those who sponsored the murders of 11 September. We will seek out and we will destroy our enemies however long it takes.

So, now let's get to the challenge for the Naval War College. As I have noted, the attacks on America have put us all, every one of us on the front lines. I'm depending upon each of you to do some hard thinking about this new form of warfare. I invite you to "climb into the ring" and engage the enemy intellectually. Again, examine all of the assumptions and ask the tough questions. The president has said we are going to find all of the terrorists, root them out and destroy them. What does that means to us? How can we best do that? How do we minimize the enemy's advantage and maximize the enemy's vulnerabilities?

How can we sever our enemies from the failed states in which they hide? Admiral Rempt made the point well and the president has made the policy clear regarding the harboring of terrorists. How do we sever our enemies from the states that support them?

We're going to think about some near-term, some mid-term and some long-term objectives.

What kind of sensors, what kind of platforms, what kind of networks and what kind of concepts will our future operations entail? How should we package our forces for the future? Should it be done differently? Should they deploy differently? Should we be looking at different crewing concepts? Should we leave assets on station? Should we deploy them the way we deploy them today? We must answer these questions.

How much capability should we keep forward? How much should be dedicated to homeland defense? How should we train for these new missions? What technology will provide the training efficiencies that we need? How do we realize the fullest potential of every Sailor, of every Marine?

And what about the collection and the development of intelligence? What do we not know that we must know? What must capabilities must we invest in? How do enhance knowledge and awareness without flooding units with meaningless data?

And what about command and control? Will our existing structures work? I read with interest one of the Newport papers that addressed this subject. We must continue to pursue answers. Should we invest in new or parallel capabilities? And how do we connect with the nongovernmental organizations that valuable situational awareness on cultural sensitivity? How do we do that?

Should operating relationships with other services change? We need to put ourselves on the other side of the podium in dealing with the other services and ask them: Do you need something different from us? If it's to change, how? How do we make it happen? And how do we identify emergent areas requiring research and development? What investments will allow us to learn more about our enemy? And how do we employ information operations to support our military and political goals? And what about public diplomacy and what is our role? What should we disclose? And when is silence justified? How do we counter this transnational threat while meeting traditional concerns and conducting on-going operations that we have tasked around the world today, like the peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. These questions are not just academic; they are strategically and operationally vital.

So my message this morning is straightforward. It's really quite simple. I've given you a lot of questions. I've haven't provided you with the answers. This is a time for boldness and it is a time for innovation. I'm convinced and I'm appreciative of the Naval War College and Admiral Rempt and the leadership that is taking in this endeavor. I am convinced that working together we will meet the challenges of this new threat and we will build upon our strengths and we will ensure victory.

Let me close with this story. I remember the day of the attack very vividly. I was in the office having a budget meeting. People came in and said you've got to evacuate. We started collecting our things and just before we left and stopped and said, "What do we need to do when we leave here?" Then the vice chief and I collected in the parking lot outside the River Entrance. I said, "Bill, you go to Annex and I'll go to the Navy Yard. Whichever one establishes the Command Center first and capability to command will be in touch with the National Command Center and we'll press ahead."

The next afternoon the president came over and he sat down with all of the service secretaries, Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense and each of the service chiefs. He began to outline what our policy is going to be and those of us who had been listening to this for awhile for knew that we were not just going to defeat terrorists, but all of those who harbor terrorists. That immediately jumped off the table. Then he looked around the room and he said to each one of us. He held his finger out and said, "Don't ever forget this day! Don't ever forget this day!" Then he pledged to us, "I pledge to you I will never forget this day!"

We have a great challenge in front of us, but we are able collectively among the joint services and the group of nations to find them, root them out and destroy the people who are committed to destroying us. This is a war – and this about defending ourselves. So I'm asking you – I can't be more straightforward about this – to challenge every assumption. I've asked you a long series of questions. I'm looking for people who have to the courage to challenge the assumptions we've made about the way we package, the way we deploy, the way we structure, the way we do command and control, the way we structure – every piece of it. I want that kind of challenge to the way we do business.

The president has said, "We're going to keep them on the run." I've read a number of your papers and I think they are a good start. It's not the statement of the objective that we have to answer. The thing we answer is how we use the military piece of this campaign. Because the campaign is political, it's economic, it's diplomatic, and it's military. The question is: how do we use the military piece of this to win this war?

I will now take your questions.

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