The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Sea Power Conference 2013 formed a key part of the International Fleet Review commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival in Sydney of the First Australian fleet of warships.
Concluding today, the conference explored the theme of Naval Diplomacy and Maritime Power Projection with a focus on the utility of navies in the Maritime and Asian Century.
The Sea Power Conference 2013 brought together eminent scholars and strategic thinkers as well as senior leaders in the Australian Defence Force and visiting navies to engage in strategic issues affecting the ADF, RAN and our partners in the coming century. Alongside the formal content of the conference, bilateral meetings occurred between many delegations representing Naval Diplomacy in action.
During the initial address by the ADF Service Chiefs, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO noted that Australia's economic and security interests are largely maritime reliant and identified a key part of the Australian Army's future role in the short to medium term as a joint force in Australia's maritime strategy.
The unofficial theme of the conference was undoubtedly collaboration and joint partnerships. Acknowledgement that a secure maritime domain underpins worldwide economic prosperity was central to much of the conference. As was working collaboratively to strengthen Freedom of Navigation.
Professor Michael Wesley provided a strategic overview examining the intersection of Asia's maritime geography with the anxieties of regional powers. Professor Wesley identified a number of peninsulas and bays of interest and during questions spoke to some of the possible flash points for violence in the region.
Professor Tom Mahnken provided insight into Navy Smart Power and global security. In particular he identified current worldwide fiscal constraints combined with a need for ongoing inherent navy capability flexibility as the cost of key capability platforms increases. Professor Mahnken posed the question of how these factors affect the RAN's Naval Diplomacy ability.
Admiral Cecil Haney, Commander, US Pacific Fleet spoke of the collaborative work of the United States Navy (USN) in the region, bilaterally and multilaterally and the importance of building trust. Significantly Admiral Haney noted the US rebalance to the Asia Pacific region represented a physical, conceptual but also intellectual refocus on the region, offering an increased intellectual capability and capacity.
Admiral Sir George Zambellas, KCB, DSC, ADC spoke about the long history of Royal Navy diplomacy and how this continues to support the wider Defence Engagement Strategy.
In his closing remarks the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC, RAN noted that the International Fleet Review and Sea Power Conference represented successful naval diplomacy in action. The Chief of Navy commended and thanked the presenters and conference organisers, noting his anticipation for the formal papers associated with the conference before formally closing the event.