May 25, 2021 – In the last decade, there has been an increased focus on the region covering the vast area from the west coast of the United States to the west coast of India – known as the Indo-Pacific. This region covers the most area of any of the Department of Defense’s six combatant commands and is a vital driver of the global economy.
The Indo-Pacific includes the world’s busiest international sea lanes and nine of the ten largest ports supporting global commerce. While many think goods are mostly moved by air cargo, in fact more than 80% of the volume of international trade in goods travel throughout the world’s oceans requiring free and open sea lanes to maintain the global economy. Specifically in the Indo-Pacific, one-third of the world’s maritime shipping, valued at more than $3 trillion, flow through the sea lanes in the South China Sea yearly.
The region is also heavily militarized with seven of the world’s ten largest standing militaries and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations. Beginning in 2009, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) steadily increased territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea. The PRC has unilaterally claimed semi-submerged reefs and militarized the land by building man-made islands with military bases. The United States and its allies have rejected these claims and regularly assert the right to freely navigate in international waters by conducting freedom of navigation operations.
As a global nation, the United States is a major player in leading and supporting our allies to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region despite challenges from near competitors. Upholding the rule of law and freedom of navigation is required to maintain global stability and the free flow of commerce. The U.S. Navy’s frequent presence and operations throughout the region upholds our diplomatic and military commitments and common regional goals so that all nations benefit.
The ships and submarines homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam directly participate in the Indo-Pacific mission when they deploy. If these ships are unable to respond to a potential threat or deploy on time, the Navy’s ability to provide a forward-deployed presence may be compromised.
Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) has a massive strategic impact for the Navy’s ships and submarines. Successfully executing the shipyard mission directly impacts the combat power and presence available at any given time. In addition, the shipyard’s location in the Indo-Pacific allows ships to remain a week transit time closer to hot spots in the South China Sea with the ability to conduct both depot-level and intermediate-level maintenance in Hawaii instead of the west coast.
“The shipyard’s motto – “We Keep Them Fit to Fight” – are not idle words,” said Rear Adm. Robb Chadwick, Commander, Surface Group Middle Pacific. “Our ships have to operate at top efficiency to fully execute their mission. The demonstrated ability to conduct complex repairs to our surface ships is strategically vital. A ship will most likely be able to get any repairs it needs here as opposed to transiting the Pacific to a west coast shipyard. That means they can return to their mission after a far shorter period of time. Particularly for emergent repairs, the quicker repairs can be made, the sooner the ships can move to the front line.”
For the shipyard, completing each short intermediate-level and longer depot-level availability on time, every time is the vital link to ensuring the Navy and each crew has a fully operational ship to respond to whatever mission is tasked. Each shipyard employee directly contributes to the nation’s national security mission and global commitment to its allies by keeping the Fleet fit to fight. Just as those who served in the shipyard during World War II resurrected and kept the Pacific Fleet sailing, today’s workforce contributes to that legacy in a new era – one of a renewed power competition where our Navy and nation must continue to lead the way.
PHNSY & IMF is a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command and a one-stop regional maintenance center for the Navy’s surface ships and submarines. It is the largest industrial employer in the state of Hawaii. It is the most comprehensive fleet repair and maintenance facility between the U.S. West Coast and the Far East, strategically located in the heart of the Pacific, being about a week’s steaming time closer to potential regional contingencies in the Indo-Pacific.