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Home : Press Room : Transcripts
SPEECH | Jan. 28, 2019

On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theatres - Episode 6

LT DIXON: In the first podcast of 2019 of the series, “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Adm. Foggo and I discuss the start of exercise Cutlass Express, National Security Council’s newly released Africa strategy, and an overview of what the U.S. Navy is doing in and around Africa in support of our partners and allies.


LT DIXON: Admiral Foggo, it’s great to see you again for our first podcast of 2019. I hope you and your family had a wonderful New Years.


ADM FOGGO:  Hey, thank you, Lieutenant Bobby Dixon.  And I hope you and your family had a great New Year's as well.


It's terrific to get together and discuss key events in Europe and Africa.


Just like 2018, this year promises to be very busy in 2019.  And a very important year for the United States Navy, in both the European and African theaters.


LT DIXON: And Admiral to start our discussion today, I would like to discuss our African exercise series that is in full swing with the kickoff of Cutlass Express.  What can you tell us about our Africa series?


ADM FOGGO:  Well, first of all, I look forward to what 2019 has in store for us, particularly with regard to our signature series of exercises, the Express series.


And I'll take you through a brief description of all three, starting in East Africa, going to North Africa and West Africa.


So, first of all, Cutlass Express takes place in East Africa.  The exercise involves many of our partners who come together to train in Mozambique, Djibouti and the Seychelles Islands.  This year is the first time we've had an Indian warship alongside one of our own guided missile destroyers, the USS Chung-Hoon.


I'll touch more on Cutlass Express later.  Let me go to North Africa and Phoenix Express.


The second exercise is focused on North Africa, or the area that we and our European counterparts and our African counterparts refer to as the Maghreb.  This is the 15th iteration of Phoenix Express, involving North Africa, Southern Europe and the United States Navy.


Thirdly, Obangame Express takes place in West Africa in an area that we call the Gulf of Guinea.  Very important area, an area that has a lot of maritime traffic, particularly in minerals and petroleum.  This year's exercise will be the eighth iteration, involving almost three dozen nations from Africa, Europe and the Americas.


In addition to the series of exercise, we've arranged with the United States Coast Guard to have a cutter come over from the United States in the spring to conduct training and work with our African partners and maritime law enforcement.


Very, very, important and a big boon to ours and their operations and outreach in the Gulf of Guinea, because it brings many capabilities that our African partners have asked for our help with, particularly in law enforcement and maritime resource.


These three exercises and the Coast Guard cutter not only highlight our common goal of enhancing maritime security, but they also incrementally support and strengthen the vital institutions that provide economic growth and opportunity for our African partners.


So, it's important to know that, our efforts, the United States Navy's efforts over the long term, are in the interests of our African partners, and that we've been conducting these exercises for a very long time. 


Each year, these exercises advance their scenarios become more complicated, as we build the capability of our African partners, navies and coast guards.


And just as important as these exercises are, we're operationalizing what we learn from them.  And we incorporate the lessons learned in the form of Operation Junction Rain, which is the capstone of our African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership.


We bring in other services like the U.S. Coast Guard.  And we're very happy to have them. 


I'm pretty excited, because the last time we had a Coast Guard cutter over here was 2011, and that was U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forward. 


And this year, we're going to partner with Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo in the Gulf of Guinea.  So, it promises to be very rewarding.


LT DIXON: Since 2010 when you were first stationed here in Europe to now in 2019, have you seen a change in our relationship with our African partners and is the training and exercises taking place making a difference?


ADM FOGGO: Over the past few years, we've observed less piracy and less illegal smuggling as a result of the learning of our African partners.  And that's the whole reason we do this.


And towards the end of 2018, you may recall that we've discussed, in previous podcasts, the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander Course here, of the CFMCC Course, where we brought together our European, North and South American and African naval leaders to discuss maritime challenges and how we're going to address them.  We discussed maritime domain awareness, maritime law enforcement, interagency cooperation, strategy, maintenance and other training opportunities.


Shortly after the course completed late last year, the National Security Council of the United States released its Africa Strategy in December of 2018.


Now, the president of the United States' Africa Strategy, published by the NSC, focuses on really three core objectives:  advancing trade and commercial ties with key African states to increase American and African prosperity; protecting the United States from cross-border health and security threats; and supporting key African states' progress towards stability, citizen-responsive governance and I underscore "governance" and self-reliance.


The Africa Strategy really refocuses and reframes the current United States foreign assistance programs to succeed in the new era of great power competition, i.e., the United States, China, Russia and an emerging and rising and prosperous African continent.


And so, I'm pretty proud of the fact that we are completely in line with the NSC African Strategy.  And this is reason why enhancing African maritime security is one of Naval Forces Europe and Africa's five major focus areas.


LT DIXON: Speaking of strategy, how do you see the U.S. Navy playing a part in that strategy?  And what does that look like for not just us, but our partners as well?


ADM FOGGO:  Well, it's important to recognize the enormity of the African geographical area, the continent.


I think the sheer size of the continent signifies that no one country can help the various African nations alone.


So that means we work to bring numerous countries, allies, coalitions and partners, international and regional organizations together to help our African partners.  Our efforts, collectively, demonstrate that we continue to come together and stand side-by-side or shoulder-to-shoulder with our African and European partners and allies.


And, you know, I think that shoulder-to-shoulder thing has been around for a long time.  If you were to say it in Swahili, for example, it would be bega kwa bega.


To put the context of the geography of Africa in a greater perspective, there are 54 countries on the continent of Africa.  Thirty-eight of them are coastal countries that have, you know, a coastline on the seashore.  So, maritime domain awareness plays a key role in the overall security and stability of the continent.


And I've got to tell you, and I've said this before, I've been doing this here since 2010.  This is my third tour here.  And the difference between the Africa Partnership Station and what we did in 2010 versus what we're doing in 2019 is like night and day, Lieutenant Dixon.


You know, what we're trying to do is to bring U.S. Navy experts to Africa to assist them in finding African solutions to African problems.


There's been enormous progress on the African continent, particularly in those 38 countries that have a coastline.  And I'm very pleased by that.


So, we can be very proud of what our African partners have achieved.


We've gone from a time when African partners either didn't have facilities, capacity, ships or maritime operation centers to actually monitor what was going on in their coastal domains.


But now in the Gulf of Guinea for example, they have an agreement called the Yaounde Code of Conduct, and any vessel can get underway and challenge the nefarious activity in the maritime domain and compare notes with other countries that have contiguous borders, for instance, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana.


And they can pass that information from one to the other.  So just like we eliminated maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia, we're trying to do the same in the Gulf of Guinea.


- - - - - - - AUDIO BREAK ONE - - - - -


NARRATOR: The first ever Navy Civilian Service Commendation Medal was recently presented to CNE-CNA C6F employee Ms Billiana Reeves, and the first ever Navy Civilian Service Achievement Medals to Ms Aletha Owens and Ms Sarah Givens. The awards seeks to recognize and honor the hard work of our Navy and civilian staff that work side-by-side our Sailors. Admiral Foggo said it best during the ceremony, “So, well done and it just goes to show you that that sustain superior performance and excellence is inculcated in each and every one of you.”


LT DIXON: And now back to our podcast


Admiral back in December, you told an audience at the last CFMCC Course about an example of how maritime integration and synchronization is being put into practice.  Can you share with our audience that story and how it showcases the progress you have seen?


ADM FOGGO: An example of that, back in 2016 when I was sixth fleet commander, I got a call one day from Commodore Heidi Agle, commander of Task Force 63, who was in command of our Africa Partnership Station activities that were taking place in the Gulf of Guinea.


So, she called me from one of our joint high-speed vessels, to let me know that there was some piracy activity that had been reported in the Gulf of Guinea.


The pirates have actually taken over a mother vessel called Motor Vessel Maximus.  To make a long story short, I told her to go find Motor Vessel Maximus, establish a stand off range that was safe, and then call our African partners, Ghana to begin with, and let them know that we needed them to come out, monitor that vessel and pass its position indication onto other navies.


The Ghanaians did that, this ship transited through the waters of Togo and Benin, information was passed through maritime operation centers, and ultimately the pirates made the mistake of entering Nigerian waters.


And that's when Nigerian Special Forces got underway in one of the Coast Guard cutters that we provided to Nigeria, the Nigerian navy ship Okpabana with Special Forces embarked onboard, and a guy in charge that I know who's a terrific Nigerian naval officer named Rear Admiral Babilola.


And they went out and challenged the Motor Vessel Maximus.  Now the pirates at the time, this is kind of funny, had painted over the name on the ship and renamed it Motor Vessel Elvis III.  I guess they liked Elvis Presley.


The Nigerians came alongside and said prepare to be boarded, and the pirates responded with hey we're legitimate businessmen, we're just carrying our cargo which was petroleum into port, and the Nigerians insisted and then they conducted a non-compliant boarding.


Unfortunately, one of the pirates just didn't get it, and lowered an AK-47 to the Nigerians. They killed him on the spot.  The rest surrendered.  The vessel was taken over by legitimate authority and returned to port.


So there was a successful ending, but it demonstrated the difference between 2010 and 2016, and the ability of our African partners to actually conduct a maritime operation of that significance, and that complication at sea in the maritime domain, and I'm very proud of everybody that was involved there, particularly our Nigerian friends and partners.  And this is the kind of thing that we want to continue doing in 2019.


One last thing on that, and that is we have pretty good connectivity along the Gulf of Guinea.  I've also reached out and would like to see more activity from the South African Navy, a very professional navy.  They are certainly at sea and doing business both on their east and west coast around the Cape of Good Hope.


We'd love to see them come up and would invite them to participate anytime with us in exercises in East Africa or in the Gulf of Guinea, and I hope in 2019 we'll see them as part of the team.


LT DIXON: Sir, back in August on this podcast, we discussed the conception of NATO’s Strategic Direction South HUB. Can we go over more of its purpose in helping our African partners?


ADM FOGGO:  Well, you know, I'm pretty excited about the hub, Lieutenant Dixon, and so is the rest of the NATO alliance.  It's something that generates a lot of interest in Brussels, a lot of interest in Mons, Belgium, which is the headquarters of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Plan in Europe. 


The purpose of NATO's Strategic Direction South Hub, headquartered here in Naples, is to assist our African partners who ask for help with governance, establishment of rule of law and development.  And there's a lot that contributes to the disruption of rule of law and governance on the continent.


To highlight a few examples, narcotics trafficking.  We talked a little bit about that.  Trafficking in illegal weapons, trafficking of humans.  This is a business in a lot of areas that are ungoverned spaces on the continent.  And it contributes to a lack of rule of law, lack of law and order and a lack of governance.


So the hub is set up to try to connect, consult and collaborate with international organizations, nongovernmental organizations state and non-state actors, and people on the African continent and in Europe who want to help to try to build a better development plan and create a safe haven and restore governance, jurisprudence, ethical law enforcement, legitimate law enforcement agencies and help eliminate corruption and trafficking.


LT DIXON: And Sir, what do other alliance members say about the HUB?


ADM FOGGO: When I take my straw poll of people throughout the alliance in Europe and I say, "Why do you think NATO executed or put forth a capital effort to establish a headquarters within a headquarters in this building in Naples, to create the Strategic Direction South or the Hub with 80 people some very, very intelligent people from all over the alliance and our partner nations?"


So that costs a little bit of money.  It takes space in the headquarters.  It takes bandwidth of our leadership.  Why do you think we do that?  And invariably, people tell me, "Oh, it's because of illegal migration from the south into Europe."  Wrong answer. 


That is a symptom of the bigger, broader problem:  lack of rule of law, lack of governance.  And up until about six or eight months ago, when we had a conference here on the sources of instability in the south, it wasn't until then when I met a very intelligent Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, an African gentleman who came from ECOWAS, the Organization of West African States.


He said, "Admiral Foggo, you talk about lack of rule of law, lack of governance.  This is all under one major umbrella.  It's called "development."  What we need in Africa is development."  And that's kind of one-stop shopping right there.  So, I add development into the mix.


And if we can get rid of the traffickers who have this nexus with the terrorists.  So in order to get from someplace like the Sahel in Africa to the North Coast and put people on a small rubber boat and push them out in the Mediterranean, take their lives in their hands, you've got to pass through a number of borders and a number of checkpoints.


Some of those are controlled by violent extremist organizations.  The traffickers pay them for safe passage.  So there's a tax on either group.  And the profits used from these unfortunate people, either the people trying to cross the Mediterranean or people who are buying these illegal narcotics or these weapons, is that it creates a bigger network of violent extremists and traffickers.


I think it's a very interesting and it's a very early effort, and I think it has tremendous promise.  But you know what, we also need strategic and tactical patience.


I tell everybody that I talk to, "Hey, this isn't going to happen in a year."  You know, we're not going to create development on the continent with our partners and friends in a year.  This is probably a decade long or longer, long-term arrangement with our friends in the Strategic Direction South Hub.  So, we have to be patient.


- - - - - - - AUDIO BREAK TWO - - - - -


U.S Naval Forces Europe Africa has a new fleet master chief coming this spring as announced by Admiral Foggo. U.S. Navy SEAL Fleet Master Chief Derrick Walters will be the first SEAL to hold the position of fleet master chief in U.S. Navy history.


LT DIXON: And now, back to our podcast.


To go full circle, we spoke in the beginning about Cutlass Express, what else would you like to tell us about the exercise and maybe dive more into why this exercise is important?


ADM FOGGO:  Well, this past week, Cutlass Express began with an opening ceremony in Djibouti.  And Cutlass Express is where maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, India, Europe and the United States, get together with several international organizations in order to improve maritime law enforcement capacity, and promote national and regional security in East Africa, as well as sharing information, planning and operations.


It's a huge exercise, stretching from Djibouti in the northwest to Mozambique and the Seychelles.  It's the first time that we've had the Indian frigate participate and I very much appreciate the Indian CNO's indulging it with that.


And going to the second part of your question, it's important for the United States to support this exercise because it increases Africa's maritime security and law enforcement capabilities in East Africa.  It increases interoperability between African nations and the rest of the world.


And with increased security and stability in Africa, prosperity will naturally follow.  A safe, stable and secure Africa is in our national interest.  And it's in Africa's interest.  So that's why we work together to try to achieve that as a goal and an outcome of the exercise.  And we get better every year.  And we'll make it harder next year.


LT DIXON: Now Admiral, what is the U.S. Navy endgame in Africa and what security concerns do you have for us and our African partners?


ADM FOGGO:  Well, Lieutenant Dixon, from a Navy perspective the endgame is really a secure, stable and prosperous Africa, where maritime nations have strong, professional both military and law enforcement institutions:  navies, coast guards, supreme courts, local police forces that respect human rights and adhere to the rule of law.


Now if you look at Africa as a continent, and the promise of potential prosperity in Africa, the statistics are, I think, very encouraging.  There are 54 countries on the continent.  There are more than 800 ethnic groups.  A thousand languages, think about that, with all the different languages and dialects that take place down there.


But people figure out how to communicate.  The majority of that communication is done in English, and certainly in French in North African and in West African countries.  The land mass in Africa is 3.5 times the United States of America. 


Currently, there are about, by the U.N. Population Division estimate, there's about 1.2 billion people on the African continent.  Sixty percent of the population are below the age of 24.  It's what we call a "youth bulge."  Now when you have that many young people, what they want is a future.  They want to be educated, they want to have a family, and they want to live in a safe place, and they want to be prosperous, and they want their family to have a better life than they had.


So, it is in our interest to help them achieve that.  If you look at the estimates for 2050, we think we could have more than 2 billion people, as high as 2.5 billion people on the African continent.


That is why we do what we do through NAVAF to try to increase prosperity on the continent and help our partners find African solutions to African problems.


Many times, it can be as simple as just finding a country that has a capability, perhaps in Europe that they're willing to share with our African partners.  I think that the United States and the United States Navy represent a partner of choice for the African people.


LT DIXON: What is a good example of where the U.S. has partnered with one of our African partners to support their needs and our interests?


ADM FOGGO: Let's look at our presence in a place called Djibouti, the country of Djibouti.  We have a base there called Camp Lemonier, it's been there for over a decade.  We employ 1,100 or so Djiboutians and we provide many contracts to Djiboutian firms that support that base.


So ultimately what that means is that the U.S. military's direct and indirect payments to Djibouti total over about $200 million annually.  That's equivalent to 10 percent of Djibouti's gross domestic product. And I think that's significant.


Ten percent of their GDP comes from their affiliation and their partnership with the United States of America.  Now if you look at other nations that are down there, China just put in a big base in Djibouti in Doralie and the Djiboutians have every right to pick whoever they want to deal with, their friends and partners.


But I think I can safely say that China's interests are not our interests.  China has tripled its loans to Africa since 2012, making Beijing a major debt holder for multiple African governments.


China's focus is geared towards using money in loans to open doors for access and natural resource contracts.  This type of debt diplomacy can be a hindrance, and all you have to do is look at the example of Sri Lanka and the ballooning debt in Sri Lanka, some of which was forgiven by the Chinese in order for control of their port facility for 99 years.


And so, I don't think other nations want to find themselves in that same position.  So China is opportunist, the United States Navy and the United States government however look to our African partners in a way that AFRICOM refers to as, by, with, and through, achieving shared objectives, cooperative relationships with the Navy and with other services in a very supporting role.


And so, the bottom line is we're there to work with our friends through cooperative initiatives that benefit both parties, the United States of America and our African partners and allies.       We don't ask for anything in return, but their friendship.


LT DIXON: And Sir, as we close, you mentioned earlier in this podcast about the CFMCC Course. That course being one of the many ways we are building on our relationship with our African partners, what were the major discussions and what did it achieve?


ADM FOGGO:  Thanks, Lieutenant Dixon, for that question.


The African-focused CFMCC Course was facilitated by the Naval War College from Newport, Rhode Island.  Couldn't do it without them.


They exported that schoolhouse here to Naples, and we brought in a total of 28 nations from Africa, Europe and North America and South America to discuss the security environment in Africa.


We had a week of interactive conversations with dozens of influential speakers.  We had Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard come in from the African Union, the U.S. ambassador to the African Union.  We had General Waldhauser, the combatant commander of AFRICOM, come down and talk to us.


And I think we developed and deepened relationships based on trust and confidence among partners.  European partners, North American, South American partners, African partners.


We advanced the understanding of security issues faced by our African partners on the west coast, the east coast, the north coast of Africa.


And if I offer you a quote from one of our Cameroonian navy participants, I think he said it best when he said, and I quote, "The first realization is that maritime security is so important.  No one can do it alone.  We don't only exchange ideas, but we get to know each other on a personal level so that when we have threats, we know who to call."  End quote.  And I think that's what it's all about.


So, in the aftermath of the CFMCC Course, we held a separate Security Force Assistance roundtable.  This was unique; we'd never done this before.


We brought our African partners together with our European and North American and South American partners, and we tried to identify areas in which the Africans needed our help and if somebody had a niche capability.  For example, Portugal is very good at fixing rigid-hulled inflatable boats, and they have several down there that need work.  We have Defender boats down there that need small-engine maintenance.  We can certainly do that.


The CFMCC Course and the Security Assistance Force portion of the course identified a series of needs.  We're going to try to meet those needs this summer when we take one of our ships, load some technical personnel and some spare parts on board, and go down to five ports in the Gulf of Guinea and provide them that maintenance assistance, that hull-tech assistance and training assistance that they've asked for.


First time we've ever done it.  It may be challenging, may be a little rough around the edges.  But I think this could be something that would be very valuable to both partners, the U.S. and Africa, in the future.


LT DIXON:  Admiral, as always, thank you for your time, and we look forward to hearing more about how Cutlass goes and what the future holds for the U.S. Navy in Africa.


ADM FOGGO:  Hey, Lieutenant Dixon, thank you.  And see you next time.


LT DIXON:  “We hope you have enjoyed this episode of “On the Horizon; Navigating the European and African Theaters.”  Please share the Podcast with your friends and family.  And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and now on Instagram. 


Join us next time to hear what the U.S. Navy is doing throughout Europe and Africa.  Until next time, thank you.

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