ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Testimony Opening Remarks
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington D.C.
12 February 2019
As prepared remarks
Good morning Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Reed, and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear with General Abrams before you today to discuss the Indo-Pacific region.
I am joined by Sergeant Major Anthony Spadaro, my senior enlisted advisor, who represents the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the Indo-Pacific area of operations.
First, let me say thank you for the significant support we have received from Congress over the last two years. The temporary relief from the Budget Control Act and an on-time Fiscal Year 2019 budget has helped to relieve pressure to military readiness and added to the lethality necessary to safeguard U.S. vital national interests in the Indo-Pacific. But there is more work to do.
When I took command of INDO-PACOM nearly 9 months ago, I said that for more than 70 years, the Indo-Pacific has been largely peaceful. This was made possible by two things: the willingness and commitment of free nations to work together for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the credibility of the combat power within U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
This commitment, and this credibility, have worked to liberate hundreds of millions of people and lift billions out of poverty, all to a level of prosperity previously unseen in human history.
Today, the concept of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific resonates with our allies and partners across the region and includes economic, political, and security dimensions.
And it demonstrates our commitment to a safe, secure, and prosperous region that benefits all nations, large and small.
As the primary military component of the United States efforts to ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, U.S. INDO-PACOM works with the rest of the U.S. government and a constellation of like-minded allies and partners to advance our shared vision.
When we say Free, we mean Free, both in terms of security—free from coercion by other nations—and in terms of values and political systems. Free to choose trading partners. Free to exercise sovereignty.
An Open Indo-Pacific means we believe all nations should enjoy unfettered access to the seas and airways upon which all nations’ economies depend.
Open includes open investment environments, transparent agreements between nations, protection of intellectual property rights, and fair and reciprocal trade—all of which are essential for people, goods, and capital to move across borders for the benefit of all.
While the term "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" is new, the underlying values and principles to which the vision speaks are not. In fact, this is how the United States has approached the region throughout our 240-plus year history.
But there are challenges to this shared vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Specifically, there are five key challenges that I believe threaten our national interest and the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific.
While we have made significant progress over the past year, North Korea remains the most immediate challenge. I am optimistic about the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit later this month, as we work toward identifying the path to final, fully verifiable denuclearization as agreed upon by President Trump and Chairman Kim at their 2018 Singapore Summit.
Our military combat readiness and combined lethality are the best deterrents against any threat from North Korea, so I will continue to emphasize military readiness while simultaneously supporting the U.S. Department of State-led pressure campaign.
The U.S. and Republic of Korea alliance has become the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and demonstrates what great democracies can accomplish when we work together.
China represents our greatest long-term strategic threat to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and to the United States.
Those who believe this is reflective of an intensifying competition between an established power in the United States, and a rising power in China, are not seeing the whole picture.
Rather, I believe we are facing something even more serious – a fundamental divergence in values that leads to two incompatible visions of the future.
Through fear and coercion, Beijing is working to expand its form of ideology in order to bend, break, and replace the existing rules-based international order.
In its place, Beijing seeks to create a new international order, one with “Chinese characteristics” and led by China —an outcome that displaces the stability and peace of the Indo-Pacific that has endured for over 70 years.
I am also concerned about the growing malign influence of Russia throughout the region. Moscow regularly plays the role of spoiler, seeking to undermine U.S. interests and impose additional costs on the United States and our allies whenever and wherever possible.
Terrorism and other non-state actors also pose threats to our vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, as they seek to impose their views and radicalize people across the region, as evidenced in 2017 when ISIS captured the Southern Philippines city of Marawi – a city of more than 200,000 people.
Lastly, the Indo-Pacific remains the most disaster-prone region in the world. It contains 75 percent of the earth’s volcanoes, and 90 percent of earthquakes occur in the “Ring of Fire” surrounding the Pacific Basin. The UN estimates economic losses in the region due to disasters could exceed $160 billion annually by 2030. Many countries across the region lack sufficient capability and capacity to manage natural and man-made disasters.
To address all of the challenges I mentioned, USINDOPACOM is focused on regaining our competitive military advantage to ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific over the short- and long-term.
We must field and sustain a joint force that is postured for two distinct security roles: to win before fighting and, if necessary, be ready to fight and win.
USINDOPACOM’s ability to prevail in armed conflict is the foundation of combat credible deterrence. By fielding and maintaining a joint force ready to fight and win, we reduce the likelihood that any adversary will resort to military aggression to challenge or undermine the rules-based international order.
This deterrence is absolutely necessary to prevent conflict, but deterrence alone cannot ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Our adversaries are pursuing their objectives in the space between peace and war, using fear and coercive actions across the instruments of national power to revise the rules-based international order, without resorting to armed conflict.
Alongside like-minded allies and partners, USINDOPACOM, and the whole of the U.S. government, we must compete in the “gray zone” between peace and war to - win before fighting.
These deliberate actions will ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific against those malign actors that seek to accomplish their political objectives short of armed conflict.
I want to thank this committee for your continued support to the men and women of U.S. INDO-PACOM and for your efforts in helping us ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions