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Kokoda Foundation Australia

By Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command | Nov. 15, 2012

Australia - Thank you for that kind introduction…

And a special thanks to the Kokoda Foundation for the opportunity to speak to this distinguished group...

Just as the men of the Maroubra Force rose to meet all challenges along the Kokoda Trail, you too are setting the example by enhancing understanding and helping us all overcome the complex security challenges we face in the Indo-Pacific.  Thank you for everything that you do…

I would also like to thank everyone who has hosted us for the past two weeks in this really magnificent country... you have been the most gracious hosts and this visit has been extraordinarily fruitful for me...
We had a Chiefs of Defense Conference that General David Hurley and I hosted as well as Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations proved extremely valuable in strengthening our alliance, building partnerships and developing our relationships...

As you all well know, Australia and the U.S. have a long and celebrated relationship... we've fought side-by-side in every major conflict since World War One... our soldiers shedding blood together on countless battlefields including most recently in Afghanistan...

... From where I sit, our alliance is as strong as ever and remains one of the most important in the world... I am encouraged by what our nations will continue to accomplish as we move together to the next century.
I’ve been in command of U.S. Pacific Command for about eight months now… and during that time I have grown in my appreciation of the diverse complexity of the Indo- Pacific…

I hope you notice that I didn’t refer to the Indo-Pacific as a “region”… because to me the term “region” tends to over-simplify and under-represent the size, complexity, and diversity of the opportunities in the Indo-Pacific…as well as the significant security challenges that we face today and in the future.

The Indo-Pacific encompasses over half the earth’s surface and well more than half of its population... 

It is incredibly culturally, socially, economically, and geo-politically diverse.  The many nations who associate themselves here include two of the three largest economies in the world, and seven of the ten smallest; the most populous nations in the world, the world’s largest democracy; the largest Muslim-majority nation; and the smallest republic in the world. 

It is the engine that drives the global economy.   Last year alone there was over eight trillion dollars of two-way trade… nine of the world’s ten largest ports are here.  The sea lanes here are the busiest in the world, through which pass well over half of the world's container cargo and 70% of ship-borne energy…

By any meaningful measure, the Indo-Pacific is the most militarized area in the world with seven of the world’s ten largest standing militaries, the world’s largest and most sophisticated navies, and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations. 

All these aspects of the Indo-Pacific—when you take them and sum them together—result in unique strategic complexity.

And of course this complexity is magnified by a wide, diverse group of challenges…challenges that can significantly stress the security environment….I’ll name a few.

-- Climate change – where increasingly severe weather patterns and rising sea levels will threaten our peoples and even threaten the loss of entire nations…and of course the inevitable earthquakes and tsunamis will continue to challenge all of us in a very unpredictable way as our planet ages.

-- Transnational non-state threats including pandemics, pirates, continuing threat of terrorists and criminal organizations will continue to challenge us…as will drugs and human trafficking, and of course the continued proliferation of WMD.

-- Historic and emerging border and territorial disputes will unfortunately continue… access and freedom of action in the shared domains of sea, space and cyberspace will be increasingly challenged.

-- There will be competition for water, competition for food, and competition for energy will grow.
-- Instability on the Korean Peninsula will persist and the progressive nuclearization, along with advanced missile technology, of the North Korean regime will threaten the regional and eventually global security environment.

-- And of course how the rise of China and India as global economic powers and regional military powers emerge, and how they integrate into an established, generally peaceful and stable security environment ...an environment which in modern times has been underpinned by U.S. military presence…how these occur will be key.

-- And adding to the picture a recognition that no single governance mechanism exists in the Indo-Pacific to manage our relationship, and nor organizations exist to provide a framework for conflict resolution.

…But what exists instead is what I will refer to as a “patchwork quilt” of interwoven security relations.  Now for those of you who didn’t grow up in the deep American South like I did, sleeping under such a thing…today they don’t use them for sleep…they sell them on eBay.

A patchwork quilt is basically several different pieces of cloth of varying size, color, and texture that are roughly stitched together to create an effective, but somewhat disorganized looking blanket…or quilt…

Our patchwork quilt relationships in the Indo-Pacific have been shaped by history, and by our shared interests, and are increasingly driven by our economic interconnectedness.  They range from historic bilateral alliances to mature and emerging multilateral forums that focus on converging interests and security concerns…with those same relationships struggling to be effective when their member states’ interests diverge.

And a trend where most nations will inevitably shift military resources from internal to external security matters as they seek to preserve their own access to the global commons.

A patchwork quilt underpinned by a shifting tide of military resources…as prospering emerging nations…by  necessity…they will spend more on military hardware, while others are downsizing.
So for me, there are two serious questions I must contemplate.  First… “In this extremely diverse and complex environment, that must rely on a patchwork quilt of security relationships to ensure relative peace, can we together create an Indo- Pacific security environment that is resilient enough to withstand shocks and after-shocks that will occur in this complex environment, all the while maintaining relative peace and stability?

…And second…what is the nature of the United States’ enduring role in this patchwork quilt?

As to the first question, I have to be honest, I don’t know the answer …but I do know my children and grandchildren are counting on me to try.

As for the second question, please permit me to comment briefly on how I see the U.S. role, specifically the U.S. military role in the Indo-Pacific as we go forward.

As I assumed command of PACOM I was fortunate to receive clear and concise guidance from my Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, providing the strategic underpinning and priorities for how, after a decade of war in the Middle East, we will…by necessity…rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. 

The rebalance draws on the strengths of the entire U.S. government, including policy, diplomacy, trade and of course security, which is the area that I work in…

A rebalance that must be resourced by a U.S. military that will transform to be more agile, more efficient, more technologically advanced, more lethal, and ultimately a better suited military to the task of securing U.S. interests around the globe.

There has been significant speculation and skepticism about the U.S. rebalance.  For instance…Is it achievable and can we sustain it? And some question if it is merely a containment strategy in disguise. It is not.  The rebalance is based on a strategy of collaboration, not containment…and focuses on three major elements:

Strengthening relationships…

Adjusting our military posture and presence…and…

Employing new concepts, capabilities and capacities…to ensure we continue to effectively contribute to the patchwork quilt of the security environment and protect U.S. national interests.

The keystone of our rebalance will be to modernize and strengthen our five Pacific treaty alliances, and this work is in progress in earnest.  Now some have opined that these alliances are relics of the post World War II – Cold War security structure, and that they are ill-suited for the challenges of tomorrow’s security environment.  This is not correct.

From the military commander’s perspective, I can tell you that these alliances bring with them years of mutual trust and respect, significant interoperability and information sharing, a common view of regional security landscapes and challenges, and they provide a very good base from which multilateral relationships can grow and we are seeing this today in our alliance with Australia…all of which will continue to underpin U.S. security objectives in the Indo-Pacific for decades to come.

We are also developing and expanding our bilateral partnerships with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific with whom we have shared security interests…

Nations such as Indonesia which I look forward to visiting so that I see first-hand the invaluable perspective of the world’s largest Democratic, Muslim-majority nation and a critical partner to a successful rebalance to the Indo-Pacific…

And we will pursue a long-term partnership with India and support her leadership role in the Indian Ocean and South Asia…

And while modernizing and strengthening our bilateral relationships…we will also strengthen our commitment to multilateral forums such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit…
In fact, President Obama will attend the East Asia Summit hosted just next week in Cambodia…along with his visits to Thailand and Burma, there can be no mistaking the level of American commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

We will pursue a lasting relationship with China, including our mil-to-mil relationship.  Since I took command I have traveled to China twice, once for the Security and Economic Dialogue with Secretary Clinton, and once for a military-to-military engagement, the first for a PACOM commander in three years…and I have hosted reciprocal visits with my PLA counterparts at my headquarters in Hawaii.

Our two countries have a strong stake in regional peace and stability and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship.  We are hoping to look past our differences and to focus our relationship on our converging interests…
Such as counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, protecting sea lines of communication, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response…to name a few.

We will continue to pursue a military-to-military relationship that is healthy, stable, resilient, and enduring, and look for opportunities to increase our cooperation and encourage mutual understanding and trust…while avoiding miscalculation.

Today there are nearly 350,000 U.S. military personnel serving forward in the Indo-Pacific and with them nearly 70,000 family members…all of whom continue to demonstrate U.S. commitment to allies and partners.

Persistent, forward presence of our people and their equipment enables our forces to work daily, side-by-side with our partners to quickly respond to current and future challenges…

As part of the rebalance, with the support of our allies and partners, we are working towards a force posture that is geographically distributed…in short that means that our forces will remain relevantly deployed for the 21st century…

A force that must be operationally resilient…in order to be ready to respond in crisis or to aid those affected by humanitarian or natural disasters…

And the force must be politically sustainable.

Keys to success will be innovative access agreements, greatly increased exercises, rotational presence increases, and efficient force posture initiatives that will maximize every dollar spent.

And finally, we will put our most capable forces forward in the Indo-Pacific…to ensure we effectively operate with our allies and partners across a wide range of operations as we collectively work for peace and stability.

At the top of the list…our most advanced ships and submarines, fifth-generation aircraft including Joint Strike Fighters and P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the very best air and missile defense technologies, our most proficient ISR assets, an adaptable and responsive joint and coalition command and control architecture, and of course, the most highly trained Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the world. 

So to conclude…I realize I haven’t answered the first question I put before you all tonight…whether or not the Indo-Pacific’s patchwork quilt security environment can keep the peace…so all our children and grandchildren can benefit from our having gotten it right…

What I can confidently state, however, is that the second question, concerning the U.S.’s enduring role, will always be informed by the imperative that we cannot fail to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.  It should not be an option.

Through the tumultuous years of the last century, America’s military served as a key stabilizing factor in the Indo-Pacific security environment—this will continue…

America is a Pacific power…and we look forward to the hard work ahead to do our part to keep this amazing Indo-Pacific hopeful, peaceful, and secure for decades to come.

I appreciate the opportunity to share these thoughts with all of you tonight and I applaud your commitment.  Thank you.

— USPACOM (posted November 15, 2012) —
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