"24 Star" Law of the Sea Hearing

By Kerry, John | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

"24 Star" Law of the Sea Hearing


Kerry, John, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


Senator John Kerry (D Massachusetts) is Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Kerry made the following observations as his opening statement for the June 14, 2012 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the United States military's perspective regarding ratification of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

This is our second hearing on the Law of the Sea Convention and we are pleased to welcome six individuals with long and remarkably distinguished careers in defense of America's security:

Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr. is Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert is Chief of Naval Operations; Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. is Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard;

General William M. Fraser III is Commander of U.S. Transportation Command; General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr. is the Commander of U.S. Northern Command; And Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III is Commander of U.S. Pacific Command. I can't think of any time, certainly not since I've been here, and I doubt even before that, that we've had so many top military leaders come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at one time and I thank you all for being here.

I want to make clear why the Committee is so interested in this testimony and why it is so important. There are some people who raised questions about the treaty; inevitably, as they have about any treaty we've ever passed. But this treaty particularly has two components that those of us who support it believe are important to the country.

One is an economic component, and we will have a hearing shortly with major leaders from American industry mining industry, oil and gas, communication, transportation who are deeply concerned about the legality of their claims, should they capitalize and spend millions of dollars exploiting resources from the ocean's seabed, and that is worth enormous competitive advantage in the United States of American and that is worth enormous numbers of jobs.

And secondly there is a very serious national security component to this. And we've asked as many of the different Commanders as possible to come here because each of them in their own way will have an ability to be able to share with America their individual reasons, and there are individual reasons, they differ in some cases, in what's most important to them in the passage of this treaty. And in its sum total, it is a compelling rationale for why this is in America's interest.

And the Committee this afternoon will have another hearing with some opponents of the treaty there, we'll have others who want to come in and oppose it, because we think that's very very important, Senator Lugar and I are committed to hear from everybody so that the Senate can build the strongest record possible and then act in its hopeful wisdom based on facts and based on that record that is compiled here.

We've heard why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we've heard from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and we've heard from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

In addition to written support from our witnesses here today, we have letters that have urged ratification of the Treaty from General Mattis, Commander of U.S. Central Command; General Fraser, Commander of U.S. Southern Command; Admiral Stavridis, Commander of U.S. European Command; Admiral McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and General Kehler, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

I will place each of those letters in the record so that people can read them in full.

We do want to have an open and honest discussion on this, I think that's an important thing in building a record regarding this treaty. But today, we are going to focus on the national security component. And at the appropriate time, probably after the election, we will have a full-Senate classified briefing. …

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