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The following guest editorial from Adm. Harry Harris Jr. ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser July 23, 2014.
RIMPAC 2014 is the world's largest international maritime exercise designed to build cooperative and adaptive partnerships.
With 22 participating and six observing nations, this biennial exercise demonstrates America's commitment to preserving and promoting peace in the Indo-Asia- Pacific region. RIMPAC is not, as some would have us believe, part of a sinister, globalized military which answers to international corporate greed.
RIMPAC would not be possible without the remarkable support from the leadership and citizenry of Hawaii. Beyond the economic impact this exercise adds to the local economy — conservatively estimated at $52 million this year — Hawaii's people can be proud of what RIMPAC means in terms of environmental stewardship, international cooperation and preventing conflict between nations. Hawaii is the "Gateway to America's Rebalance to the Pacific"; there is no better exemplar of this than RIMPAC.
As recent tragic events illustrate, international cooperation and communication are more vital than ever. Maritime stability and security are essential for prosperity to flourish at home and around the world. Conflicts and crises are bad for business. For centuries, the world's oceans separated countries from one another. In the 21st century, however, the seas are pathways that bring us together. RIMPAC creates a unique training opportunity that helps all participating forces build the trust, cooperation and predictability that are important to ensuring security on the world's oceans.
RIMPAC directly contributes to multilateral collaboration and forethought on many vexing maritime challenges. Countering piracy, securing shipping lanes so that goods can flow, and deterring human trafficking are goals that all participating nations share.
I appreciate the dialogue recently presented in the Star-Advertiser ("Rethinking RIMPAC in Hawaii," Island Voices, July 16). RIMPAC matters and is worthy of continued analysis and improvement. I especially commend the comments by Judge Sandra Simms that we must be mindful of the "scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery." I will take Simms' points on board and ensure we specifically address this during the preparations and execution of RIMPAC 2016.
During this RIMPAC, we sponsored symposia on maritime law, military medicine, disaster relief and maritime security. We sponsored robotics competitions between Hawaii high schools that underscore the importance of STEM education.
Despite these important benefits, a few critics continue to allege that RIMPAC is destructive to the environment. The fact is that your Navy cares deeply about our oceans. Your Navy is a world leader in marine mammal research. In Hawaii, your Navy is a leader in solar, wind and other alternative energy production. We take the stewardship of our operating environment seriously while conducting essential training like RIMPAC that helps protect America.
This is the 24th RIMPAC to be held around the Islands since 1971, and we take great pride in showcasing the beauty of Hawaii to all participants. When these nations see the importance that U.S. joint forces place on environmental stewardship, I can't help but believe this encourages all participating navies to do their part to protect the oceans.
Learning from each other is what makes multilateral exercises like RIMPAC so valuable. It helps us work together in real-world events like the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last November. In order to be effective during crises, we must train together during peace. With world-class facilities like Pearl Harbor, the Naval Shipyard and the Pacific Missile Range Facility, the Aloha State offers the best place possible to conduct complex maritime operations with our allies and partners.
Collaboration is a key to America's strategic rebalance to the Pacific. I view Hawaii as essential to the rebalance, and its location allows the U.S. Pacific Fleet to advance security, stability and prosperity throughout this dynamic region. Thanks to the men and women who get to live and work in Hawaii, and to exercises like RIMPAC, America's security is assured.
Adm. Harris is commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.