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Students aid strategy discussion


March 06, 2007

What is the relevance of the Navy in today's foreign conflicts? How important is it to protect the seas for global commerce? Does the Navy have a moral obligation to help the rest of the world? Is the Navy's humanitarian assistance effort understood? How can the Navy engage diplomatically?

To answer these types of questions and chart a course for the next 25 years, the Navy has a bold initiative under way. Known as a “Conversation with the Country,” Vice Adm. John G. Morgan brought that conversation to ASU March 1 to discuss with students their perceptions and ideas about creating a new maritime strategy for the Navy, along with its maritime partners – the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and its friends and allies.

Students and faculty from across the university, including global studies, communication, aerospace studies and military science raised questions of their own about nuclear proliferation, the Navy's role in providing aid after natural disasters and its role in protecting the environment.

The admiral held up a recent New York Times front page that graphically illustrated the impact around the world when stock prices fell in Shanghai .

“The role of economics is having a far greater effect in our world today,” Morgan says. “The global economy is integrated on a much larger scale.”

He asked students to consider the following:

• Seventy percent of the world is water, and “if Al Gore's right, there will be more.”

• Eighty percent of the world's population is moving toward the coast.

• Ninety percent of the world's wealth flows across the oceans.

Those points gave weight to one comment about the need to do more at shipping ports around the world, something the Navy is working on.

In response to a question about the use of diplomacy, Morgan talked about the Navy's effort to reach out to other navies, including the Chinese navy.

“Navies around the world have a common enemy: the ocean,” Morgan says, a reference to how the ocean is depicted in many writings about man's challenge with the sea. “I think that creates a common bond for navies. We try to foster a military-to-military exchange. We want to develop a relationship with a new generation of leaders.”

The “Conversation with the Country” public outreach project reflects that principle and seeks to openly discuss with cross sections of the American society the future role of the Navy. Similar to the discussion with ASU students, each conversation centers on Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen's call to develop a new U.S. maritime strategy that recognizes the economic interconnectedness of the global world economy – an interconnected environment that has not existed in the past – and the important role and missions the Navy and its maritime partners, including the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, will have in the 21st century.

“We in the Navy are stepping back, asking, ‘What should the maritime strategy for the country be?' ” Morgan says. “We want to listen, learn, educate. Then, there will come a time that we will lead this effort.”

To accomplish that mission, Morgan is traveling to select cities around the country to seek citizen input. He and others representing the Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the Naval War College met with business, civic and community leaders in Phoenix in January. ASU officials, who attended, invited the admiral to hold a similar conversation with students.

Acknowledging ASU's growing global engagement, the Navy accepted the invitation.

The concept of global engagement has been a key element in the vision of ASU President Michael Crow, an idea reinforced with the establishment of an Office for Global Engagement and several recent strides in China , notably when he co-hosted with Sichuan University President Xie Heping the first China-U.S. Forum on University Design.

“In this context of global engagement, the design of a maritime strategy for the 21st century is of critical importance, and the conversation with the vice admiral was an opportunity for students to have a voice in reshaping maritime policy,” says Alan Artibise, executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Artibise oversees the college's division of Social Sciences, which houses aerospace studies, military science, the School of Global Studies and the Critical Languages Institute.

While on campus, Morgan also met with several ASU researchers, chairs and directors, among them, professor Greg Raupp, director of the Flexible Display Center at ASU, who brought samples to explain flexible display technology and its military and commercial applications. Also, professor Stephen Batalden, director of the Melikian Center for ASU's Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies program, provided details of its Critical Languages Institute's intensive summer language courses.

More information about the Maritime Strategy Project is online at (www.nwc.navy.mil/maritimestrategy).