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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | March 4, 2020

Ottawa Conference on Security and Defense

By ADM Phil Davidson U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

Ottawa Conference on Security and Defense

Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, Canada

March 04, 2020

As Prepared for Delivery 

1,277 words


Thank you, Dick, for the kind introduction, and thank you to the Canadian Defense Association (CDA) Institute for inviting me to be a part of this essential conference. 

First, let me start off by saying, I very much appreciate the hockey theme of this year’s conference.

I have been a big fan of the game of hockey ever since I was a kid growing up in St. Louis when the Blues joined the NHL in 1967.  

As a matter of fact, I was just at the Enterprise Center to watch the Blues beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on a Ryan O’Reilly shootout goal on Saturday night.

Ryan O’Reilly, an Ontario boy – thank you very much!

It is a good feeling when your team is the defending Stanley Cup champions and currently in first place in the Western Division. 

However, one can never get too comfortable with the status quo.  A lesson that is as true in hockey as it is in the business of global security and national defense.

New geo-political realities, expanding warfighting domains, and emerging technical capabilities are challenging the status quo worldwide.  

From October 2013 to December 2014, I served as the U.S. SIXTH Fleet Commander in Naples, Italy.  In this role, I also served as Commander of NATO, Striking and Support Forces.

During my experience, I observed first-hand the resilient nature of NATO and the importance of its mission “to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political and military means.”

One thing that stood out to me then – and certainly rings true today – is that our values – the Western values that underpin our alliance – are the backbone of the rules-based international order – something we can rely on.

NATO is a values-based Alliance committed to democracy, universal human rights, individual liberty, good governance, and the rule of law.

NATO has been the foundation for stability around the globe for seventy years – but it is operating now under a new paradigm – China, Russia, VEO extremists, and pandemics are all challenges to the status quo in global security. 

In the interest of time, I will focus my remarks on China, and reserve the rest for the panel and Q & A.

But in stark contrast to NATO’s values-based alliance, the Communist Party of China promotes a drastically different value system, not just in the security realm, but also to governance, trade, human rights, and intellectual property protections. 

I say it all the time, China represents the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st Century, not only in the Indo-Pacific, but to the entire globe.  

The Communist Party of China is actively seeking to supplant the established rules-based international order, in order to dictate new international norms and behaviors, and new relationships to the region.  

Indeed, this very public goal is to establish norms that are driven, guided, and enforced by the Party in Beijing – norms with Chinese characteristics. 

Beijing’s approach is pernicious.  The Party uses coercion, influence operations, and economic, diplomatic, and even military threats to bully other states to accommodate the Communist Party of China’s interests. 

These actions often directly undermine the sovereignty of other nations and threaten regional and global stability. 

The Communist Party of China is looking to change the world order to one where Chinese national power is more important than international law. 

Indeed, we – not just the United States – but all nations – we are in a strategic competition between a Beijing closed and authoritarian vision and the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.  

However, that competition does not mean conflict.  We must be doing everything possible to deter a fight.  And, we must be prepared to fight and win should competition turn to conflict.  

Looking toward the future, those committed to the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific must achieve an advantageous security environment by demonstrating the capability, capacity, and will to deny China’s objectives and – if necessary – to impose costs on their military forces.

In order to accomplish these objectives going forward, there are four key focus areas that guide our strategic initiatives at USINDOPACOM and serve as a roadmap for like-minded nations across the globe. 

First, we must increase Joint and Combined Force lethality.  We continue to develop and field new technologies, operational concepts, and capabilities necessary to deter aggression and prevail in armed conflict, should deterrence fail. 

Our investments must harness the advanced capabilities provided by a network of leading-edge technologies, such as: 

  • Integrated Air and Missile Defenses, 

  • Long Range Precision Fires,

  • Joint and Coalition Command and Control (C2) Networks, and

  • Resilient Logistics and Sustainment networks and suppliers.

These capabilities are critical enablers to deter day-to-day, in crisis, and if deterrence fails, key to our ability to fight and win.

Second, must enhance our design and posture.  We are developing a blueprint that enables capabilities in all domains and creates the virtue of mass without the vulnerabilities of concentration. 

This includes ensuring our Indo-Pacific posture provides a combat credible deterrent that protects free and open trade routes through the air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace.  This is the work of the international community, and the contribution of our allies in the region is part of this posture. 

This blueprint includes:

  • Establishing more advanced radar and missile defense capabilities to protect the North American continent from ICBM and hypersonic threats,

  • Improving our logistics and sustainment infrastructure and command and control in order to refuel, replenish, and refit our platforms throughout the region, and

  • Increasing forward-based, rotational force deployments to improve mobility and agility while demonstrating our commitment and resolve to our allies and adversaries alike. 

The third focus area is exercises, experimentation, and innovation, not only in the United States, with our allies and partners.  We are focused on improving Joint and Combined Force readiness, especially given the high demand for interoperability and integrated fires.  

We are modernizing our exercise program to deliberately integrate experimentation and extensively exercise joint and combined command and control the environment. 

We continue to increase the complexity and strengthen the multi-lateral integration of our exercises.  Here are just a couple of examples:

RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, is the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise.

Canada as CFMCC and Deputy CFACC this year.

The United States also conducts KEEN SWORD, a major bilateral anti-submarine exercise with the Japanese Self Defense Force.  

We are encouraged by the Canadian Navy’s participation in this critical exercise, which is one of the many examples of maritime nations seeking to counter Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Ultimately, these exercises provide us the ability to reveal the capabilities we want the region to see, and conceal the things we don’t want them to see. 

The final focus area is strengthening our allies and partners.  We are increasing interoperability, information-sharing, and access with allies and partners across the globe, to enhance our capabilities and improve our coordination for competition. 

Our allies and partners must seek opportunities to increase our combined operations, exercises, and training across the globe as well. 

This requires a focus on ensuring access to shared domains, especially as it relates to integrating space and cyber, as well as assuring access to the free and open airways and seas.

Our militaries will only accomplish this if we regularly fly, sail, command and control, integrate, network, orbit, train, exercise, and – if necessary – fight together across the globe. 

The end state is an integrated coalition that regularly demonstrates operations across all domains, assuring our international norms are protected, and dissuading potential adversaries from military action. 

In closing, we – the United States – are committed to defending our Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision alongside our allies and partners.

If the global community – through her economies, militaries, and societies – bands together to maintain the rules-based international order – a Free and Open one at that – we will win this competition. 

I am optimistic about our future – the future of NATO – the future of global security – because of our values.

It is my conviction our values compete well against China, and frankly, all the threats we face together, and across all levers of power.

I thank you for your time and I look forward to our discussion.


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