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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Secretary of Navy praises Fargo

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England spoke at Pearl Harbor yesterday on his way back to Washington, D.C. He predicted an extended war against terrorism.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The secretary of the Navy yesterday praised the nomination of Adm. Thomas Fargo to lead the U.S. Pacific Command, but said a decision has yet to be made on who will replace the outgoing Pacific Fleet commander.

"We had a marvelous leader in Admiral (Dennis) Blair," said Gordon R. England yesterday, speaking before 200 Navy officials and community members. "He set the bar very high. Now we are blessed to have Admiral Fargo to take on this responsibility.

"This may be, and probably will be, the most important job in the U.S. military. This part of the world is crucially important to the United States."

Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that President Bush had nominated Fargo, 53, to take command of 308,000 U.S. military personnel in a region covering more than half the globe and 43 countries. A change-of-command ceremony is scheduled May 2 at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i in Kane'ohe.

England, who is on vacation and stopped in Hawai'i before his flight back to Washington, D.C., told the group he didn't see any roadblocks to Fargo's confirmation, and called him "the right leader at the right time."

England, 64, leads the Department of the Navy, consisting of 372,000 active-duty and 90,000 reserve sailors; 172,000 active-duty and 40,000 reserve Marines; and 188,000 civilians. It includes 315 warships, 4,100 aircraft, and an annual budget of more than $100 billion.

England also spoke about terrorism, saying more needs to be done than military operations in Afghanistan.

"This is going to be a long-term effort," he said. "Afghanistan is not the war. Everyone is waiting for this war to wind down in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is very likely the first battle of the war. There's terrorists around the world. This will be a long campaign."

As far as increased Navy presence at Pearl Harbor, England said he didn't expect to see more Navy warships sailing into the harbor soon, but that could change at any time.

"I believe we have everything stationed where we want," England said. "On the other hand, game conditions will change. This is a war we're in. Over time, the mix of Navy ships will change. Hopefully we'll have some additional ships as time goes on, and we'll make those decisions at the appropriate time as where they'll be stationed."

England also said the Navy was still negotiating a settlement with the families of those who died in the Ehime Maru sinking. Nine of 35 students, teachers and crew aboard the fishing vessel died when the USS Greeneville surfaced beneath the vessel on Feb. 9, 2001, off O'ahu.

"That's still in negotiations. Until that's settled we won't have a figure; but we will arrive with an equitable settlement with all the families," England said.

The Navy agreed to pay $10 million in damages to the Ehime government over the sinking, an Ehime prefectural spokesman said earlier this month. England did not confirm that report.