Changi Naval Base, Singapore - Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus visited Sailors participating in the 20th annual exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with the Republic of Singapore Navy at Changi Naval Base, July 30.

Mabus addressed the crews of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Halsey (DDG 97), as well as staff from Commander Task Force 73 (CTF 73) and Destroyer Squadron 7 (DESRON 7). Halsey and Wayne E. Meyer are moored at Changi Naval Base to participate in 11 days of shore-based and at sea training events.

Mabus highlighted the importance of bilateral exercises series like CARAT to sharpen skills and strengthen maritime partnerships.

"Singapore has been a partner since CARAT began 20 years ago and it's exciting to see how advanced our military relationship has become," Mabus said. "Exercises like CARAT help our naval forces respond to contingencies and crises at a moment's notice and as one team."

During his remarks, Mabus spoke to the depth and versatility of the fleet, emphasizing the success of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom's (LCS 1) inaugural rotational deployment to Singapore last year. He noted that USS Fort Worth's (LCS 3) deployment to the region later this year would commence an uninterrupted presence of LCSs in Southeast Asia, a clear sign of the Navy's commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance.

Mabus also answered questions from Sailors on the defense budget and impacts to future manning.

"People are the cornerstone of our Navy-Marine Corps Team," said Mabus. "We're working hard to ensure Sailors, Marines and their families are supported 100%, while also balancing our commitment to the American people to be where it matters, when it matters."

In its 20th year, CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste. The CARAT 2014 exercise series commenced in May and will continue through November.