THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Okay, I think we will go ahead and get started. Let’s see. Okay. So I am ready. And welcome, everyone. My name is Doris Robinson and I am today’s moderator. I’d like to welcome you to the Foreign Press Center’s briefing on the Combined Maritime Forces coalition. As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record, and we ask that you please keep your microphones muted until you are called on to ask a question. If you have any technical problems during the session, you can send an email to the chat box and one of my colleagues will try and assist you. If you are disconnected to this session, please click on the link again to rejoin.
And now, I would like to introduce our two briefers. First we have Vice Admiral James Malloy. He serves as the Commander of the United States Naval Forces Central Command, United States 5th Fleet Combined Maritime Forces. Our second briefer is Commodore Dean Bassett. He is the Deputy Commander for Maritime Forces. Commander Basset assumed the roles of the United Kingdom Maritime Component Commander and Deputy Commander, Combined Maritime Forces, in June 2019.
I will now turn it over to Vice Admiral Malloy for opening remarks. Sir, please go ahead.
VADM MALLOY: Thank you, Ms. Robinson, and I do appreciate you setting this up today. It’s a pleasure to meet you virtually. As Ms. Robinson said, I’m Jim Malloy, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces, which is the topic of today. And I thank you for joining us today.
We asked to meet with you in order to talk about CMF and the importance of this unique maritime coalition and the importance it has in this critical part of the world. In my time as CMF Commander, I’ve stressed that our common purpose and collective engagement as global and regional partners is what right looks like and what the future looks like when it comes to combating illegal activity.
For nearly 20 years, the Combined Maritime Forces has been a testament to the importance of a collective mission and capability brought by each of our members. This area of operations that we work in is complex, congested, and contested. However, our 33 member nations remain unified in our commitment to promoting and defending maritime security and protecting and allowing legitimate trade and commerce.
Yesterday we completed our annual Maritime Security Conference. We had 31 countries participating, along with two international organizations from the EU and the UN, and Commodore Bassett will talk to you about that conference and our way ahead. Dean?
CDRE BASSETT: Sir, thank you. Good morning. Firstly, may I reiterate the Vice Admiral’s thanks to you all for joining us on this occasion today. And as the Admiral has already mentioned, yesterday we held the Combined Maritime Forces Maritime Security Conference. The conference is held annually, and on this occasion, recognizing the strength that comes from the diversity of our 33 member nations and our wider partnerships, provided the opportunity to discuss our international and regional – with our regional partners the recent Combined Maritime Forces Comprehensive Strategic Review. The review was undertaken because we recognized that CMF must evolve in order to remain relevant and effective, and it has taken into account the global strategic shifts in threats and the need to remain flexible in our response to the dynamic and diverse non-state-actor security threats across the region.
The CMF mission remains vital to support regional maritime security operations, and the Combined Strategic Review represents a reinvigorated CMF with an agreed focus on the maintenance of the international rules-based order within the region, in line with the common ambitions of all our member nations.
The review incorporates progressive reform of the organization, including capacity-building as a fundamental CMF output, which will greatly enhance our ability to effectively conduct operations as well as strengthening our efforts to build regional maritime security alongside our valued partners.
We recognize that CMF alone cannot directly address the root causes of illicit non-state-actor activity that occurs on the high seas and within the region, and so we will also leverage more on forging strong relationships with our regional and international partners.
Our enhanced approach will lead to a transformational organization, comprehensive in nature, adopting – adapting to meet the requirements of an evolving operational environment, and our shared commitment to maritime security and stability in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention and we’ll now look forward to taking your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sirs. We will now open for questions. To ask a question, please click on the raised hand icon – I believe it’s at the bottom of the screen – and I will call on you. When I call on you, please be sure to state your name and your media outlet. And let’s see. And we will give it just a few minutes for people to hit the raised hand icon.
Let’s see. So I may – it looks like we have a question from Nico Pandi. Nico, go ahead with your question, please.
QUESTION: Hi. Good morning, Doris. Can you hear me? Everything sounds okay?
MODERATOR: Yes, it does.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this, gentlemen. I wanted to go back to a comment the Commodore made about the threat of diverse non-state actors. Could either one of you briefly review how that threat has evolved or changed since last year’s meeting, and what are some of the trends that you’re seeing in the region that are developing and perhaps alarming you that we didn’t see in the past? Thank you.
VADM MALLOY: Mr. Pandi, first of all, thank you for that question, and if it’s okay with you we’ll tag team this because of – again, Commodore Bassett and I look at things from two different perspectives and we want to give you the benefit of that. Over the past year we have seen an evolution of illegal fishing. We always are conscious of trends in narcotics smuggling in the region and how the trends change over time based upon where we have patrols, security patrols, monitoring for that and deterring those types of activities, and then we watch as the organizations that sponsor them morph and change. So it’s not so much evolution of new threats, but how those threats metastasize that has changed over the course of the year. Some of the things we’ve put into place in the changing of our strategic approach in CMF is designed to make us more flexible, more responsive to that, operationally more nimble to be able to maneuver as necessary – as those threats and how they metastasize – maneuver across the region. Commodore?
CDRE BASSETT: Sir, thank you. I – the only thing I would add to that, Mr. Pandi, is that – on the narcotics front. Not only do we see a change in the pattern of the routes of narcotics, but also we’re seeing a changing type of narcotics in the percentages that we’re seeing that we are successfully interdicting on the high seas. And that change has been progressive over time, but for example, we’re seeing more heroin in the region than we would have in the past. And last year we had the highest amount of heroin seized by CMF vessels on the high seas.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. And just a reminder to our journalists, to ask a question please hit the raised hand icon at the bottom of this screen. And Nico, did you have a follow-up question?
QUESTION: No, I didn’t. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Okay, let’s see. And let’s check our phone line as well for those on the phone. If you would like to ask a question, please hit *6 to ask your question. I will call on – I believe it’s Ryan Hermelijn. Ryan, did you have a question? Ryan, you can go ahead with your question.
Looks like he’s having some technical difficulties, so I will offer once again. If you would like to ask a question please hit the raised hand icon at the bottom of the screen, and we will just give it a few more minutes.
VADM MALLOY: Doris, if he texts the question to you, you could pass it to us that way if you’d like, if there’s any kind of technical difficulty.
MODERATOR: That’s right, absolutely. If you would like to ask a question and you’re having technical difficulties, you can text us the question as well, and we can be sure and ask the question on your behalf. Let’s see. Okay, it appears we don’t have any other questions, so I will turn it back to Vice Admiral Malloy to see if he had any follow-up or final comments.
VADM MALLOY: Well, it’s lunch time there on the east coast and it’s dinner time here, which may be a reason. Again, I appreciate people’s coming online and giving us an opportunity to brief. This is a good news story. This is a story of a coalition of the willing, partners that recognize the importance of maritime trade to the world. And although it focuses on this region, it recognizes that free trade, free commerce in the maritime is critical to every nation in the world.
And so the 33 member nations that belong to CMF, they provide support for us in that common aim to promote that maritime security. It is not necessarily anti-anything because secure maritime is a positive vision that we can all agree to and work for, and it has over the course of 20 years been a very positive working environment where generations of navies have grown up together and worked together and now stay in touch with each other as we – we come back and do this mission very often, and my fourth time to do this, this activity here. And so it is a great opportunity for us to gather and to – and promote that security. Dean?
CDRE BASSETT: So I think I – all I would ask or add is that CMF is committed to the enduring task of maritime security in the region, and we welcome all nations, like-minded nations into the fold. And we’re likewise committed to strengthening our relationships with other regional forces operating in the maritime domain with that common and mutual aim of strengthening security stability in the region. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sirs, and if we get any follow-up questions, we will be sure to send those to our briefers. I would like to thank everyone for joining us this morning, and this briefing is now concluded. Thank you all.