Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, commander of Naval Forces in Europe.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, commander of Naval Forces in Europe. (Stars and Stripes)

Naval Forces in Europe will be “looking to the south and east” in the coming year, expanding transformation and continuing to fight the global war on terrorism, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, the Naples, Italy-based force commander.

Mullen recently released his 2005 priorities in a 10-page letter to European-based naval forces. Mullen cites U.S. European Command’s policy of “looking to the south and east,” namely African and Eastern European nations, early in the guidance, saying that naval forces will play a key role in EUCOM’s efforts to work with these nations.

Earlier this year, the La Maddalena, Sardinia-based submarine tender USS Emory S. Land deployed to western Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. The trip was designed, according to a Navy news release, to improve cooperation, and consequently security, between the U.S. and countries of that area.

In his letter, Mullen lists working with the navies of “emerging partners,” as he puts them, to maintain U.S. Navy supremacy by helping them to effectively use their smaller number of naval forces.

“Unlike the land, the sea is largely ungoverned,” he wrote. “No walls are constructed — no sentry posts stand — to prevent the movement of our adversaries or their weapons and material (by sea). We, along with the naval forces of our allies and partners, must be those sentries.”

Mullen also cites plans for more active U.S. participation in NATO operations and the new NATO Response Force as two areas that will expand worldwide security.

These partners include a Russian Navy that “operates, trains and communicates constructively with the United States and NATO naval forces,” he wrote.

Russia recently sent ships to participate in Operation Active Endeavor, NATO’s at-sea anti-terror mission. Active Endeavor includes NATO forces participating in maritime intercept operations, in which naval forces board vessels suspected of supporting terrorism.

Although he wrote this guidance to cover the entire year, Mullen himself will most likely not be there to see it through. He was recently nominated to replace Adm. Vern Clark as Chief of Naval Operations in Washington D.C.

His replacement has not yet been named.

The entire letter is available here.

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