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Home : Press Room : Transcripts
SPEECH | April 16, 2020

Remarks from Adm. James G. Foggo III - Virtual Sea Air Space - 7 April 2020 (for 15 April 2020 Broadcast on WJLA)

Francis Rose: Talk about 6 and 7th Domains of warfare as you laid them out in your prepared remarks for Sea Air Space 2020?


Adm. Foggo: First of all, let me thank you and Sea Air Space and WJLA for hosting this event in a virtual fashion in light of COVID-19.  This is a terrific substitute for people to get together and talk about those themes that are key. Of course, Coronavirus has been something that is on all of our minds.  It hit us earlier than it did the United States here in Italy, where we have several places and bases of the joint force that we operate … Aviano Air Base up north … Gaeta, the small port town north of Naples, where our command ship is located, USS Mt. Whitney, my favorite ship in the U.S. Navy … of course the headquarters here in Naples and the Sigonella Naval Air Station, which is almost like having an Aircraft Carrier fixed in Sicily.  So, when I did Exercise Trident Juncture in the Fall of 2018, I found that the Achilles Heel of that exercise (which was 50,000 personnel, 70 ships, 8500 Marines, 10,000 tracked or rolling vehicles, and about 160 aircraft) was LOGISTICS.  At the time I said that Logistics was the 6th domain of warfare … in addition to the Land, Air, Sea, Space and Cyber.  Well, I am opining now about a 7th Domain, and that 7th Domain is just simply Germs.  It is the biosphere that we operate in and I think that we are going to have to take that into account in our preparations for deterrence and defense in the future.  If you go back to 2015, Bill Gates did a TED Talk that was pretty impressive, I didn’t see it till a couple of months ago, and it was on what happens during a pandemic and particularly referencing a form or function of the coronavirus.  There are things that we ought to do in the future to better prepare, this one snuck up on us.  To Gates, I have got to give him credit … In addition to doing wargames and tabletop exercises, we ought to “GERMEXs” … and I think he is right. I think we have to incorporate that into our normal planning process and our normal exercise process that the “J-Codes”, the J7s of the world, actually prepare and help us execute.  There was an interesting report in April 2020, from the Naval War College on Urban Outbreak 2019.  It is a start, in preparation for the future, and incorporation into our planning processes.  You know it used to be enough that you did a physical exam – on the troops, and a dental exam.  I remember that was a prerequisite for anyone getting on a submarine for deployment.  I am a submarine officer, I have been a commanding officer and a group commander, and anybody that goes to sea for a long period of time especially on our SSBNs has to have the right dental and physical health.  We did vaccinations, you had to get your Yellow Fever, if you going to operate in the tropical climates you had to get your Malaria.  Well, that will not be sufficient in in the future.  We are going to have to plan head on how to protect the force on something like the coronavirus, until we get a vaccine against COVID-19.  And beyond that, there will be a “next” coronavirus and I think we will be much better prepared for that in the future.  Right now the kinds of things that we are doing is to identify anybody that is symptomatic … that we test those individuals … testing is key, and you have heard that from all of the news services in the United States and all of the Health Care experts, and Vice President Pence’s Task Force saying that testing, testing, testing is key … because you can identify those individuals who are negative and therefore the people who they have come in contact with have not been exposed to the coronavirus, those who are positive, will have a certain diaspora of people with whom they have come in contact with and those individuals must be put on restricted movement so that we can help them and assess whether or not they have contracted the virus.  Testing works in our favor.  We had a young person that was out on one of our Naval Bases, who was symptomatic, he happened to be a crewmember on a ship, he was tested, he tested negative. So we were able to take him from that ship and isolate him ashore to help him get the treatment he needed, which was just the general flu … and NOT have to worry about the 20-25 people with whom he had contact with on that ship and that ship was able to get to sea and it has been coronavirus free.  So those are the kinds of measures to protect our force, so our force can continue to protect you.  We cannot afford to take anybody off the line in a day of Great Power competition, where we have adversaries, we have competitors and most importantly we have violent extremists who want to take advantages of any chink in the armor and attack us at an untoward moment.  So, we are on watch, we are vigilant and we are doing it out here.


Francis Rose:  Admiral, I want to talk about Great Power competition apart from Coronavirus, if that is possible at this point, you wrote in your remarks that you are being both reactive and proactive in response to the coronavirus, tell me how that works inside the Navy, but also what that looks like outside the Navy with your partners in Europe.


Adm. Foggo: You know that there is a lot going on with the United States Navy, in fighting the coronavirus, in both the US and overseas. So, when I say that we are being reactive, more appropriately we are being responsive.  We have these two wonderful ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy.  I can remember from my time on the Navy Staff, as the Deputy for Plans, Policy and Strategy, it took a long time to do a PTDO (prepare to deploy order) for those ships.  You have to put the medical personnel on those ships, those ships are usually ready by the pier, they have a crew onboard, you have to make sure you have all the supplies on those ships and then you get underway.  The Comfort had just done a recent deployment South America, one of the officers used to be my XO here … a line officer, who went along to help shepherd them through that deployment.  So that ship what pretty ready and ready to go.  She got underway in less than two weeks, along with Mercy on the west coast.  So, Mercy is in LA and Comfort is in New York City.  That big beautiful white ship steaming into New York harbor, with the red cross on it I think was reassurance to the people of New York and to the American people. Now are looking at how we can better use the asset, and there are a lot of discussions about patients coming on board the ship and the sharing with the very large hospital that the United States and New York have established at the Javitz Center, so that is some of our response. What we are doing here, we are working through NATO with Emergency Action Response and Disaster Center up in Brussels to assist our NATO partners and Allies with anything they can do.  The Czech Republic recently helped Italy with some supplies, the United States and one of our NGOs, Samaritan’s Purse, is actually here on the ground in Cremona Italy with a 60-bed field hospital and about 8 or 10 of those beds are ICU beds.  That same group is up in New York City’s Central Park.  The other things we are doing here is some of the supplies we have in excess have been transported by the United States Air Force in Italy and United States Army for the use of the Italian Forces as they fight the Corona Virus.  Probably the most help that we can give to our Italian counterparts here in Italy is to abide by their laws and decrees on physical isolation, we are still keeping in contact with everyone which is so important at this time when people feel alone, but physical separation and physical isolation is starting to drive the virus down.  He have had a horrific death toll here in Italy, reaching a high of 969 Italian people dying, that number has gone down to something like 625 yesterday, so incidences of the spread of the virus and the death toll, seem to be plateauing.  I hope that is indicative of the “knee in the curve” and driving down back to some new normal where we can get control of this thing both in Europe and back in the United States.  Then we can figure out the vaccine, and get back to lives in the new normal period which will have to take into account any future pandemics. 


Francis Rose:  Admiral you wrote in your remarks at Sea Air Space that you think China has a responsibility to the Global Community to help, given their responsibility for the pandemic.  What is China’s responsibility here, and what is the recourse that the rest of the world has vis a vis China?


Adm. Foggo: The G7 countries are talking about $4 Trillion bill associated with Coronavirus, that may be a low figure.  Look at the $2 Trillion plan that the US Government came up with just for America. Certainly, all nations have the responsibility to abide by the policies, rules and standards and norms of the World Health Organization (WHO) and so when there is a problem or outbreak of virus like coronavirus, H1N1, influenza or Ebola, perhaps the most important thing you can do in accordance with WHO standards is to share data.  I think that China could have done better at sharing data. I am a military officer, so I have my domain, and I don’t want to point any fingers, but I think in final analysis we are going to find that collaboration and cooperation with not just the WHO, but with one another, is going to be key to fighting future pandemics.  Now, China has come back with a lot of medical aid and assistance in the forms of PPE and some doctors and nurses to those countries in need. That is commendable, but it has to start with accurate reporting when there is an outbreak, which really didn’t happen, and then sharing of data … which is currently a matter of debate and I will leave that up to the medical experts to sort through.


Francis Rose:  Admiral, you referenced Ebola, and I was wondering what your take away was personally from the experience you had with Ebola in Liberia?


Adm. Foggo: I have been in Europe, off and on for 10 years.  So, I have watched Ebola spread in the African Continent. It got pretty bad the second time I was here, around the time when I was the 6th Fleet Commander.  The real hero of that Ebola crisis was not a Naval Officer, but an Army Officer named Lt. General Darryl Williams.  Darryl was the commander of U.S. Army Forces Africa and General Rodriguez was the commander of U.S. African Command (AFRICOM). Darryl was down doing a familiarization tour in Africa, and General Rodriguez told him to stay after President Obama pledged the aid of the United States of America to combat Ebola.  So, Darryl did what any military officer would do, and what we are all trained to do, he took a very deliberate approach to this. The first thing you have to do is to separate the sick from the healthy and you have to build places for them to go – Hot Zones and Cold Zones.  He did that.  There was initial criticism on the part of health care organizations in that we were moving too slowly, or taking too many precautions or using too much PPE.  That all turned out not to be the case and it actually helped to contain, not eradicate, but reduce the incidences of Ebola which is a terrible disease … debilitating and lethal. The thing that the Navy was able to do, and I go back to testing with the coronavirus.  There was a story of a woman who was presented in one of these clinics with symptoms of Ebola, she had a fever, people said “we don’t know, we have to test” … so they took a blood test and sent it off to a capitol.  It went via some slow method of transportation, and by the time that test came back from the hospital in the capitol, the young lady had died.  The test was negative, but she died because she contracted the Ebola virus after being exposed to people that were in the same vicinity, in a mixed hot zone cold zone hospital.  Through Navy medical means, the Navy was able to dispatch some corpsmen with a field test kit – a young man or woman operating out in the field could take test and make a determination on the spot.  You either have it or you don’t … and if you don’t, you go home and shelter in place.  I think we are seeing the same kind of formulary here that is necessary to fight the pandemic – you got to have the test kits, you have to have swabs and you have to have the reagent. A lot of people are coming up with innovative ways to do this, either with the machine which is call BioFire, which we have received several of here, so we can do local testing … or, through Serology which looks at the blood and determines how many antibodies are in your system.  If you have an explosion of antibodies in your system, you likely had the virus and you probably survived and furthermore, you may be safe to go back to work.  In our case, back to the base or back to the ship to fight the ship, and that is good.


Francis Rose:  Given that China is one of the named competitors in Great Power Competition and ground zero of this (COVID-19) what is the nature of Great Power Competition in light of this? And what potentially is the nature of Great Power Competition 6 months from now, or a year from now … particularly strategically and operationally?


Adm. Foggo: China has a strategy, and it is a long-term strategy. Our two big competitors according to the National Defense Strategy are China, and China first according to our Secretary of Defense, and I would agree with him, as well as Russia. You can’t forget other malign influencers in the world, like the Iranians, and we have seen a spike in negative activity in the Arabian Gulf recently and we have put power projection and naval presence there to prevent any further violence.  Then, there are the violent extremist organizations (VEO) and some countries like Iran sponsor some of those VEOs – so we have to be on guard, we have a lot of challenges.  China has a very impressive strategy of “One Belt, One Road” expansion around the world.  They have established bases in places, in theaters that I never thought I would see them … they are in Djibouti.  They have a base that went up very quickly right next to Camp Lemonier which is our base and our center of operations in the Horn of Africa.  It gives us access to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and of course on into the Gulf.  The Chinese realized that and put a base of their own there.  The difference between China and the United States in their strategy there (Africa) is that the Chinese will come in an they will being their own labor, and they do not necessarily invest as we do.  For example, about 8.5% of our investment in the country of Djibouti for Camp Lemonier and the laborers that work there and the infrastructure projects, that is about 8.5% of their GDP.  It is nice that Americans are able to pump something back into that economy.  For the Chinese, not so much, and my example that I like to use is Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka got itself in debt up to about $8 billion with Chinese infrastructure projects – and the Chinese came back and said they would forgive some of that debt, about $3 billion, all you have to do is give us control of the port of Hambantota, and that is a very important deep water port.  They got if for a period of 99 years. Of course, when you have control of a port, you control access that is concerning to me as the Chinese increase their footprint around the world.  Now I hope that China will learn how to rise peacefully and I hope that in light of the aftermath of the coronavirus and the impact that it has had on all nations of the world, that we would work better together.  As my former boss and currently the Ambassador to South Korea, Admiral Harry Harris, who was the PACOM commander and would always tell me when he was my boss here, “Hope is not a plan” … you must be able to deter and defend.   That is where the United States Navy comes into the picture.  We are operating as usual … Business as usual here in this theater.  Just last weekend, Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti and the 6th Fleet had three of our four destroyers from Rota, Spain out a sea and operating with two P-8 aircraft.  We were able to show that visually on our websites and social media to let everybody else know who might challenge us.  We are open for business.  I also have the pleasure of having the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group in my theater right now, and the two guys running the show are Rear Admiral Andrew “Bucket” Loiselle and Captain Kavon “Hak” Hakimzadeh.  I called them up before they came through the Suez Canal, I asked them what they need to keep your crew healthy, they are healthy, they are operating and they are out here. That sends a huge deterrent message to anybody that might want to take advantage of us, in what they may think is a time when we are distracted by coronavirus.  That is just not the case here in theater of Europe and Africa. I am pleased to say that the United States has a lot to do with our defensive posture and our readiness right now.


Francis Rose: One final question. You talk about China’s take-over of the port in Sri Lanka and the One Belt and One Road initiative – you wrote that we are the ‘friend of choice for these countries around the world’.  At what point do you see that these countries will decline to participate in One Belt One Road with China and accelerate their choice of US as the partner of choice? And what is the Navy’s role as an instrument of that?


Adm. Foggo: We have to continue to be present. Through our presence, we not only demonstrate Seapower, but through our acts of friendship and partnership we gain access to places in the European theater, my backyard, and also in the big beautiful continent of Africa.  That is so important.  I ran probably the largest amount of naval presence down in Africa in 2018-19 – We had USS Mount Whitney down there for Obangami Express; 10-years of experience with the Africa Partnership Station (APS); U.S. Coast Guard cutter Thetis which did real world fisheries / counter-piracy operations against nefarious actors in the Gulf of Guinee; and we took the USNS Carson City down to five countries in west Africa, we road ships and fixed ships.  As I told my African CNO counter parts, we are out here with our ships, riding your ships, fixing your ships, but the only ‘ship’ that we ask for in return from you … is Friendship.  I hit that theme every opportunity I had the chance to, and I think they believe that the United States Navy and the United States of America are the partner of choice.  This is good not just for security with partners that have commerce with the US, or that have reserves of things that are of interest to both parties … like minerals, or oil or people or manufacturing … but it good for neighbors too, we are just across the Atlantic from one another and we can depend on one another.  So, I think that if we can keep hitting those messages and being consistent, that we will show that we are the partner of choice over time. We certainly try to do that as an economy of force operation, it does not really cost us much to do this with naval forces.  A lot of these things I take out of hide or do what I can when I can.  We just had the first ever U.S. grey hull port visit in Cape Town, South Africa in 11 years.  USS Carney was down there.  South Africa is important port of call, if we ever had an access problem through the Mediterranean or through the Suez, we would have to go around.  It is good to have friends down there – it is good to maintain that relationship. South Africa is a very powerful country and carries a lot of weight with the rest of the African countries.  That is so important, and thank you for asking that question.


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