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Navy Commander from Toms River Weighs In on Defense Budget Plans

Terrorism. Piracy. Drug trafficking. International tensions. Just a sampling of the points brought out by a highly-decorated U.S. Navy Commander from Toms River in an impassioned, but reasoned, message about the value of maintaining American military strength.

Commander Sharif Calfee (USN) of Toms River
Commander Sharif Calfee (USN) of Toms River

The federal budget deficit narrowed noticeably in January. Reports indicat that the $10,400,000,000 level represents a reduction of just over 36 percent in the first four months of FY 2014. To inch toward a balanced budget and end the ongoing parade of continuing resolutions, every department’s spending is under scrutiny, and it is no different for the Pentagon or Homeland Security.

CDR Sharif H. Calfee details the unique vantage point that oceans offer to quickly quell threats to America – and the Navy’s proven ability to master the waves.

Calfee graduated Toms River High School East in 1992, and completed studies at the U.S. Naval Academy four years later. He’s currently the Commanding Officer of the USS McCampbell (DDG-85).

He’s earned three Battle “E” awards, the Golden “E,” Unit Tactics Award and Spokane Trophy. Calfee has also been awarded the Meritorious and Defense Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy Commendations and two Navy Achievement Medals.

Calfee’s message follows:

Being There Matters:  The Case for a Strong Navy

by

CDR Sharif Calfee, Commanding Officer, USS McCampbell (DDG 85), Toms River, New Jersey native and a 1992 graduate of Toms River High School East 

            A strong Navy is a recognized United States commitment to the world. Your Navy is unique among all others in that the Fleet is not garrisoned in U.S. home ports but is spread across the globe. There is no question that there is a high demand for the naval forces from our political leaders and combat commanders worldwide. The visible power of your Navy, steaming just over the horizon in areas of high tension matters has a significant impact on our opponents as well as our allies and friends.

            Your Navy protects and defends America on the world’s oceans.  Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America’s finest young men and women are deployed around the world doing just that.  They are there now.  They will be there when we are sleeping tonight.  They will be there every Saturday, Sunday and holiday this year.  They are there around the clock, far from our shores, defending America at all times.

             That they are there is critically important because, as in virtually any global endeavor, being there matters.  It matters in business:  it is why American firms maintain a presence in their overseas markets.  It matters in politics:  it is why the State Department maintains a diplomatic contingent in nearly every other nation on earth.  It certainly matters to our national defense:  it is why U.S. forces are stationed around the world.

            On our planet, more than 70 percent of which is covered by water, being there means having the ability to act from the sea.  The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there; the world’s oceans give the Navy the power to protect America’s interests anywhere, and at any time.

             When America’s national security is threatened by the existence of a weapons facility or a terrorist camp on the other side of the world, being there matters.  Where these threats exist, chances are high that Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and special forces are very close by, with the ability to destroy targets located hundreds of miles inland.  When the decision is made to act on one of these threats, the solution may involve launching attack jets or unmanned aircraft from aircraft carriers, firing cruise missiles from ships or submarines or inserting a team of Navy SEALs to do what only Navy SEALs can do.  In any case, the Navy can do all of these things, and do them all from the sea, without the need to get another country’s permission to operate within its borders.

            More than 90 percent of the world’s commerce travels by sea.  When piracy threatens innocent lives and disrupts shipping traffic in the Indian Ocean, when rogue nations threaten to deny access to vital Middle East waterways through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, being there matters.  America’s Navy is there, patrolling what is essentially the world’s interstate ocean highway system, ensuring the free flow of global trade and, in turn, preserving America’s economic prosperity. 

             Following a humanitarian crisis, being there matters.  Because the Navy is always deployed around the world, it can provide nearly immediate humanitarian relief in the wake of a disaster, ferrying supplies, medicine and trained medical personnel ashore from Navy ships via helicopters and landing craft. Serving in the Navy since I departed Toms River for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1992, over my career I have had the opportunity to see the positive impact and presence our Navy has produced around the world.  In December 2004, I was assigned to USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), which along with several ships part of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, provided the rapid delivery of vital humanitarian relief to Indonesia following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in December 2004 that saved thousands of lives.  Today, I serve in USS McCampbell (DDG 85), a destroyer homeported in Japan as part of the U.S. Forward Deployed Naval Force, which was among the initial U.S. Navy ships to provide immediate humanitarian relief to the people of Japan in the Sendai region, following that earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.  To this day, the Japanese people have not forgotten the positive, pivotal role the U.S. played during their national disaster.  Last year, this same Forward Deployed Naval Force, led initially by the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group, consisting of several ships, was the first to arrive on-scene in the The Philippines, following the destructive typhoon landfall, to provide humanitarian assistance.

             When narcotics traffickers use speedboats and rudimentary submarines to ferry illegal drugs across the oceans and into America, being there matters.  Navy ships and submarines work the waters near Central and South America with law enforcement agencies to intercept shipments of illegal narcotics before they reach our shores.

             As the world’s geopolitical and economic climates continue to evolve, the case for America maintaining a strong Navy grows.  Indeed, the President’s national security strategy calls for a renewed focus on enduring threats in the Middle East region, as well as an increased American commitment in the Asia-Pacific region — a vast, mostly ocean-covered area of the world ideally suited for operations from the sea and in which the Navy maintains a robust presence. 

             When it comes to protecting and defending America, being there matters.  And America’s Navy is already there.

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