Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Address to the Lowy Institute for International Policy
December 14, 2016
Thanks, Michael [Fullilove], for that generous introduction. I appreciate the invitation to discuss our great alliance. The Australia-U.S. alliance has benefited both countries and is critical to the future of both countries. This alliance has strengthened peace and prosperity - not only in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, but around the world. The bonds between our nations are deep - from economic, to culture, to security.
That said, from a cultural standpoint, I think I speak for many Americans when I say: we just don't get Vegemite. In fact, a quick Google search says that it tastes like sadness. And we all know that the wisdom of the World Wide Web can't possibly be wrong. I guess this gives us something new we can work on together.
Before going too far down this path, I'd like to acknowledge Euan Graham and the Lowy Institute and Michael for bringing this great group of people together. Sir Angus, fellow flag and general officers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, allies:
To begin my remarks, I'll paraphrase the famous American author and humorist Mark Twain in saying that reports of America's abandonment of the Indo-Asia-Pacific are greatly exaggerated.
Let me assure you: nothing could be further from the truth. Our security commitments in the region remain strong. Since November, we've conducted exercises with our partners in India, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Japan. During that time I've visited Vietnam, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea - where I came from yesterday - and now Australia. And I travel to India next month. We the United States continue to fly, sail, and operate our forces wherever international law allows.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the United States there's no such thing as a lame-duck Commander-in-Chief. As I've done for almost 8 years, I continue to serve President Obama, my only Commander-in-Chief. I'll then serve President-elect Trump as my only Commander-in-Chief. And just as I have for President Obama, I'll give President-elect Trump and Secretary of Defense-designate Jim Mattis my advice and recommendations on all issues concerning this alliance and this important region of the world.
That won't change on January 20th, and neither will America's enduring interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
The U.S. has been operating in this region persistently for over 7 decades - about as long as this speech is gonna take.
My point is that you count on America now and into the future. I say this confidently because it's in our national interest to continue our engagement in this vital region as we support the rules-based international order - or what I like to call the Global Operating System. In place since the end of World War II, this System has advanced peace and prosperity. It's underpinned by American military presence and our network of allies and partners. Of America's 7 defense treaties, 5 are here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, including and especially Australia.
I'm sometimes asked why I use the term 'Indo-Asia-Pacific' instead of the more commonly used term 'Asia-Pacific' when describing this critical region. My answer is simple: 'Indo-Asia-Pacific' more accurately captures the fact that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are the economic lifeblood linking the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Australia, Northeast Asia, Oceania, and the United States together.
Oceans that once were physical and psychological barriers that kept us apart are now maritime superhighways that bring us together. Arguably, no nation knows this better than Australia - a Pacific power and an Indian Ocean power.
A century ago, naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote about how the different maritime regions of the world were more consequential at different points in history. Early history was written in the Mediterranean. Mahan saw history unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea during his lifetime. And today, I'd echo U.S. Secretary of Defense [Ash] Carter when he says that the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is the most consequential region for America's future.
This fact alone makes the Australia-U.S. strategic alliance more important than ever before.
Since our alliance was formalized in 1951, it's been an anchor of peace and prosperity across 12 U.S. presidential administrations and numerous changes in the U.S. Congress and in Australia's Parliament.
Our alliance has mutually benefited both countries for 65 years because it's based on shared respect, shared values, and shared resolve. And I believe it will be the same with the incoming 13th administration - and across this alliance.
Our two nations have worked, fought, bled and died together. We fought in World Wars I and II. We fought communism in the hot wars of Korea and Vietnam, and the Cold War throughout the latter half of the 20th century. We fought together in the Gulf War. And for the last decade and more, we've fought side-by-side in the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. ISIL threatens all law-abiding freedom-loving nations, including the U.S. and Australia... so I applaud Australia's leadership in this latest fight.
The link between our countries is as important to our future as it has been to our storied past. And that's why I remain committed to my part in deepening our defense relationship.
It's also worth mentioning that Australia's 2016 Defense White Paper is an indicator of the high degree of resolve this country has to maintain its national interests, including a commitment to increase defense spending over the long-haul.
Australia's strategic leadership and unwavering commitment to working with like-minded partners will continue to buttress the Global Operating System. I for one appreciate and welcome this kind of wise investment.
With this defense strategy in mind, my good friend Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of your Australian Defense Force, and I signed a document just last night outlining the Force Posture Initiative Activities between our two countries for the coming year.
Candidly, our biggest hurdle was how to spell 'defence' properly - with an 'S' or with a 'C'. Thankfully, we were able to work it out.
Our intent with this document is to expand and increase opportunities for joint and combined training of our forces located in Australia. Our focus encompasses Enhanced Air Cooperation activities and the activities of the Marine Rotational Force in Darwin. I assure you that this alliance is not sitting still - so I'll give you a few of the wave tops from this agreement.
We're exploring greater integration of 5th-generation fighter deployments to Australia and plan to see significant activities in 2017 that will introduce 5th generation fighter operations and requirements to the Royal Australian Air Force.
Another example involves U.S. and Australian personnel performing integrated maintenance and ground support operations on C-17 aircraft. A first.
Our Marines in Darwin will be just as busy conducting exercises and theater security cooperation events throughout the region side-by-side with their Australian counterparts.
Yet another high level cooperation initiative I'll mention is the fact that Australian Major General Greg Bilton is the Deputy Commanding General for Operations at U.S. Army Pacific. That's right: an Aussie General Officer is fully integrated as a partner at the top of one my service component commands.
Leading U.S. troops is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and isn't something we just give away - I look back at our history with General [John] Monash back in World War I. Greg's unique role demonstrates the deep relationship our nations share.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Australian Navy Commodore Ian Middleton's role on my staff at PACOM. For more than 3 years he's served as the Regional and Multinational Engagement Advisor for Strategic Planning and Policy in J-5. He does a lot of the heavy lifting to make our partnerships work throughout the region. I look forward to the same high-quality work from his relief, Air Commodore Phillip Champion, when he reports aboard next month.
Folks, if any of you have ever been around aviators, you'll know that it's hard for us to talk about anything other than, well, ourselves.
In that vein I'll mention that Australia recently received its first P-8A Poseidon aircraft, ahead of schedule I might add. As an old P-3 guy who has spent my career in the maritime patrol business, I can tell you that this aircraft is highly capable and will improve our interoperability in maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare. I'd probably even eat Vegemite if they'd let me get back to flying in such a capable maritime patrol platform. You can turn sadness into happiness.
India has also invested in this capable aircraft. It's hard not to imagine the potential for all of us to collaborate on the hard problem that is theater anti-submarine warfare.
And we're also reinvigorating our relationship with our Kiwi friends across the Tasman Sea. Just last month the USS Sampson, a guided missile destroyer, pulled into Wellington and Auckland for port visits - the first U.S. ship to visit New Zealand in over 30 years. This milestone in our relationship could not have come at a better time.
USS Sampson joined HMCS Vancouver from Canada, HMAS Darwin from here, and New Zealand's HMNZS Canterbury to respond to the aftermath of the earthquake in Kaikoura. This earthquake caused massive damage and I'm glad we were able to help a friend in a time of need.
At the end of the day, friends help friends - and no one should doubt the long-term friendship between the United States with Australia. This commitment is important as we face extraordinary challenges in this region.
In the here and now, the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ is a clear threat that must be destroyed. The main focus of our coalition's military effort is rightfully in the Middle East and North Africa. But as ISIL is eliminated in these areas, some of the surviving fighters will likely repatriate to their home countries in the Indo-Asia-Pacific - what's worse is that they will be radicalized and weaponized.
It's clear to me that ISIL is trying to rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific as well. So we must stop them now. But we can't do it alone. To halt ISIL's cancerous spread, we must work together with like-minded nations in the region and across the globe. Only through multinational collaboration - partnership with a purpose - can we eradicate this ISIL disease before it metastasizes in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
But ISIL isn't our only immediate threat in the region. North Korea stands out as the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons in this century. Now I want you to stop for a minute and really think about this. Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong-un, is a recipe for disaster.
I know there's some debate about the miniaturization advancements made by Pyongyang. But PACOM must be prepared to fight tonight, so I take them at their word. I must assume that their claims are true - their aspirations certainly are. So we must consider every possible step to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies.
Other significant challenges are posed by a revanchist Russia and an increasingly assertive China. Both Moscow and Beijing have choices to make. They can choose to disregard the rules-based international order or they can contribute to it as responsible stakeholders. The U.S. obviously prefers they choose to respond responsibly.
No one, including me, wants conflict. I've been loud and clear that I prefer cooperation so that we can collectively address our shared security challenges.
But I've also been loud and clear that we will not allow the shared domains to be closed down unilaterally - no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea.
I say this often but it's worth repeating - we will cooperate where we can and be ready to confront where we must.
Our alliance also deters potential adversaries from unilaterally rebooting the Global Operating System that has served the many nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific for so long. Deterrence occupies a large portion of my time and I'll give you my thoughts on it.
President Reagan once said that, 'We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent.' We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent.
This statement is as true today as it was in the 1980s. The world is a rough place that is made more stable and prosperous through the principled action of nations like Australia and the United States.
When we think about deterrence, I recognize that military power and strategic effectiveness are distinct concepts. Military might alone can't guarantee victory. All elements of national power - like diplomatic and economic - must be involved to bring about the desired strategic ends.
And keep in mind that deterrence is in the eye of the beholder. For deterrence to work, all the elements of national power must be applied and understood by adversaries and potential adversaries alike.
Because I'm from Tennessee, if you couldn't tell already, I'm sometimes accused of simplifying the complex into something that's easier to understand. To that, I say: guilty as charged. So here's the Harris Formula for deterrence:
Capability x Resolve x Signaling = Deterrence.
Capability x Resolve x Signaling = Deterrence.
All three elements, capability, resolve, and signaling, must be present for deterrence to exist. And because we're doing multiplication, not addition, if any of these elements are missing, you've got zero deterrence. Again, if any of these elements are missing, you've got zero deterrence.
By capability, I mean all elements of national power - including the military, but not exclusively the military.
Resolve is the commitment to use that power when required to meet national security objectives.
Signaling is about communicating resolve and capability through words and actions that the other side receives loud and clear. There's no room for subtlety here.
So I'll be blunt in saying that the Global Operating System that created the Indo-Asia-Pacific economic miracle is coming under pressure from revisionist powers. So the question becomes: how do we maintain the System and at the same time effectively deter nations or violent extremists from unilaterally changing it? Three ways to do this, in my opinion.
First and foremost is the absolute necessity to maintain credible combat power. History tells us that revisionist powers with growing military capabilities often make use of those capabilities when they believe the possible gains outweigh the risks and costs. So it's critical that Australia and the United States maintain the capability that ensures access to the shared domains of the air, sea, space and cyber under all circumstances.
Second, we must have the resolve to confront any adversary and defend our allies against both aggression and coercion. We must have the resolve to ensure access to the shared domains. We have to mean it.
The U.S. fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation - and we did that when we were weak and small. This is an enduring principle, and one of the reasons our forces remain ready to fight tonight. We will continue to exercise and protect our rights on the high seas, in the air, in space, and in cyber wherever international law allows.
Third, we must expand our partnerships of like-minded nations to support the Global Operating System - the principled security network that Secretary Carter often talks about. While I've been the PACOM commander, I've emphasized the need to enhance multinational partnerships - or 'partnerships with a purpose' as I like to call it. These partnerships advance national interests outside the confines of the old U.S. hub and spoke alliance model.
For example, with our Korean and Japanese allies, we are finding new ways to 'defend Northeast Asia' - especially from the persistent threat that North Korea presents.
We can counter violent extremist organizations like ISIL by collaborating with our allies and partners that may have elements in their countries sympathetic to ISIL's cause. The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S. could be a natural partnership with this purpose in mind.
I've also spoken often about the benefits of a 'democracy quadrilateral' that enhances security cooperation between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. To this end, as we speak Commodore Middleton is in Tokyo representing PACOM working to improve trilateral cooperation among Japan, Australia and the U.S.
Finally, we should continue to deepen our cooperation with ASEAN to take on other missions of mutual interest from humanitarian assistance and disaster response, to counter-piracy, to counter trafficking in all its bad forms, and counter-proliferation.
Individually these partnerships work toward their stated goals while at the same time, they collectively enhance the Global Operating System. This is noble work, folks, in my opinion.
No country should fear our alliances or our purposeful partnerships, as we work together to continue to ensure access to shared domains.
Folks, I've talked far too long. If any of you can remember all the way back to 15 minutes ago, I started my talk today with a reference to Vegemite, remember?
So I'll close with a cultural reference that does resonate - 'mateship'. This concept extends beyond friendship - it's loyalty and knowing with certainty who has your back. This is an iconic concept, uniquely Australian, yet instinctively understood by Americans who come to know this great country and its people.
As we commemorate the 75th anniversaries of important World War II battles in the next few months - to include Pearl Harbor last week, and next year the bombing of Darwin, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal and the Kokoda Trail among others - we remember that Australian and American interests and values have intertwined our histories. Our alliance is both defined by its storied past and invigorated by its boundless future. No one issue defines this enduring alliance. And because of our mateship, we should feel emboldened that we can overcome any future challenges.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's always a deep personal pleasure for me to be in Australia to discuss our vital alliance - an alliance forged in battle in a stand to defend liberty - and one that stands today as a shining example of working to maintain those hard earned freedoms. I started this discussion by saying that I'll continue to give my best counsel to President Obama and then to incoming President Trump. One piece of advice that I provide has been consistent and will never change:
The Australia-U.S. alliance matters - it matters to our two great nations, it matters to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and in my opinion, it matters to world. No one should doubt the staying power of this alliance to maintain security, prosperity and peace.
May God bless each of you. May God bless Australia and the United States, and may He keep our alliance on a path of strength for years to come. Thank you very much.