ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
Military Affairs Council Partnership Conference (Virtual Keynote Address)
7 January 2021
As Prepared for Delivery
Aloha and good morning! It is a pleasure to join you all today, and I look forward to our important discussions over the next two days.
Let me begin by thanking Connie Lau for her welcoming remarks and for her incredible leadership of the Military Affairs Council.
Connie, I appreciate the many conversations we have had regarding the defense of our critical infrastructure.
Indeed, your passion to help serve the people of Hawaii and your support to the overall health and safety of our nation are noteworthy.
I would also like to thank House Speaker Saiki and Senate President Kouchi for helping us kickoff this year’s partnership conference.
I want to take the opportunity to commend the MAC for demonstrating initiative and ingenuity in bringing all of us together over this two-day period to strengthen our partnership efforts between the state and county government officials, business executives, and military leaders here in the State of Hawaii.
Indeed, we are all very grateful to the many individuals that had a hand in planning and executing this invaluable conference despite the many challenges present in the COVID environment.
This annual event is unique and serves as a critical avenue to support open lines of communication and constant engagement between leaders that absolutely makes a difference in supporting the people we serve.
As I reflect on the past year, I think back to last year’s partnership conference. I spoke with optimism about the year ahead – little did we know that just a few months later, COVID-19 would drastically alter our way of life and how we conduct our daily business.
Fortunately, INDOPACOM enjoys the benefits of the wonderful relationship between our military and the state government here in Hawaii.
The open and transparent relationship we shared before the pandemic has been instrumental in navigating this turbulent situation.
I appreciate the close coordination and transparency with the state.
From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our INDOPACOM forces have remained committed to the following priorities:
1) The health of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Guardians, civilian employees, contractors, families, and local communities;
2) Our readiness to do our mission in the short and long term; and
3) Our ability to support the United States’ whole-of-government effort throughout the region and here at home.
At INDOPACOM and across our Service Component Commands, we continue to strictly enforce all related restrictions while adhering to the protective measures in line with state guidelines – and in many cases, our requirements for DoD personnel are even more stringent than the state’s requirements.
As we continue to work together to stop the spread of the virus, our team at INDOPACOM is indeed partnering closely with the State of Hawaii.
We are deeply committed to the health and safety of our local population, as well as the overall security and prosperity of Hawaii.
The core security challenges have not changed over the past year – what has changed is the environment by which we train and operate.
Despite these changes, we successfully conducted more than 70 exercises throughout the region and a majority of the planning and execution was coordinated from here in Hawaii.
I am optimistic about our training and readiness opportunities going forward as we continue to develop alternative solutions to execute these invaluable events – which are critical to our readiness and to enhancing our interoperability alongside allies and partners – a key component of our Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision.
In August, I was pleased to virtually co-host our annual INDOPACOM Chiefs of Defense (CHOD) Conference alongside Fiji with more than 30 representatives from Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, North and South America, and even Europe.
The virtual conference included our highest number of participants to date – the discussions between top military officials from across the globe were incredibly informative and transparent.
These key leader engagements go a long way in strengthening our allies and partners, and it is clear to me that the region is demonstrating resolve in the face of COVID-19 while remaining committed to ensuring a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Our ability to connect virtually is vital to our persistent engagement in the region – the same can be said for our continued engagement with the State of Hawaii.
Certainly, this MAC event serves as a strong reminder that our commitments to one another will continue to endure.
Throughout history, we have shown the ability to come together with steadfast resiliency in times of adversity.
And in 2020, these bonds clearly demonstrated our ability to shape our enduring partnerships – even in the COVID environment.
Looking forward to 2021, we must continue to seek innovative opportunities to establish new partnerships here in Hawaii by leveraging our unique strengths and our common desire to improve our security and prosperity in the region.
For example, INDOPACOM and our local Service Components are partnering with University of Hawaii-Manoa on a multitude of research and development projects associated with defense initiatives – I will briefly touch on three of them.
First, we are thrilled by the partnership between the UH College of Engineering and the U.S. Navy to develop efficiencies and cost-savings improvements at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
The Red Hill facility is a vital strategic asset to INDOPACOM and the Service Components, which supports our Joint Force posture and our ability to conduct operations throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
The Red Hill facility also provides crucial fuel distribution and infrastructure capacity for the State during emergency response to natural disasters such as the 2018 floods on Kauai and volcanic activity on Hawaii Island
Second, one of our newest partnership programs with UH is an Intelligence Mentorship pilot program for students interested in the Intelligence career field.
Intelligence professionals from INDOPACOM will provide dedicated one-on-one mentoring sessions with students, participate in seminars covering a wide-array of defense-related topics, and provide support to UH professors to aid in evaluating student performance.
Third, we are also very excited to see that the U.S. Navy has established a ROTC program at UH.
Now, all the military departments are represented by ROTC units at UH, which is extremely rare for a school of its size.
However, this is not surprising given the remarkable number of service members and veterans from the State of Hawaii.
I frequently remind people that Hawaii’s strategic significance is essential to our vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
And the support facilities, training areas, logistics enablers, telecommunications networks, energy infrastructure, health care centers, and educational institutions in Hawaii are invaluable to the readiness and posture of our Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific.
We absolutely cannot afford to take these contributions for granted given the many challenges we face in the region: China, North Korea, Russia, Violent Extremist Organizations in the Indo-Pacific, and Natural Disasters – all magnified by the challenges associated with the global pandemic.
Hawaii’s strategic importance is magnified during this era of Great Power Competition.
Many of you have heard me say that China represents the greatest strategic threat to the Indo-Pacific in the 21st Century.
The Communist Party of China is actively seeking to supplant the established rules-based international order with a new order – one with Chinese Communist characteristics – where Beijing’s national power is more important than international law.
China’s pernicious whole-of-party approach to the region is fraught with corruption, coercion, and co-option designed to distort the strategic landscape in its favor.
An emboldened Communist Party of China continues to exploit the current global pandemic crisis with increased military aggression and malign activities throughout the Indo-Pacific.
The major takeaway is that we all need a fundamental understanding of the strategic threat that the Communist party of China poses to the security and prosperity of the region – to include Hawaii and our U.S. territories – as well as our network of allies and partners.
The National Defense Strategy identifies the Indo-Pacific as the priority theater, and a clear benefit of that priority is the significant impact it has on the local economy.
The U.S. military invests heavily in the state’s economy through employment opportunities, construction projects, and consumer spending.
The importance of this investment in Hawaii’s economy was underscored by the significant decline in tourism as a result of the pandemic, likely moving the defense industry from Hawaii’s second largest industry to its first in 2020.
Defense spending has had a stabilizing effect on Hawaii’s economy, and without DoD spending, the economic downturn during the pandemic would have been much worse.
Places like the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, the state’s largest industrial employer, maintains skilled labor and construction related employment opportunities – which are passed on from generation to generation.
The shipyard recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the apprentice program, which hires and trains local talent to become the skilled workforce required to maintain the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet to support operations across more than half of the globe.
In the future, the shipyard is looking to expand operations by adding a new 650 foot submarine dry dock and a waterfront production facility.
These efforts directly support our INDOPACOM logistics and security enabler initiatives to improve force resilience and enhance our distributed operations in the region.
Additionally, the INDOPACOM Exercise, Experimentation, and Innovation Program is essential for generating Joint Force readiness.
The Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands is the world's largest instrumented, multi-dimensional testing and training range, and when combined with the Pohakuloa Training Range (PTA) – the only brigade-size live-fire and maneuver training range in the Indo-Pacific – presents an incredible joint training opportunity.
These two critical training areas provide our personnel, weapons, and systems with the necessary capabilities to ensure the Joint Force is ready to defend the homeland and protect our values and interests in the Indo-Pacific.
In order to successfully run these world-class facilities, we look first to the local community for talented individuals to train and hire the workforce to keep operations, maintenance, and training running smoothly.
It should come as little surprise that many of our lead technicians and range operators are employed at these training ranges are from Hawaii.
Outside of Hawaii, we are pursuing projects to expand infrastructure in our U.S. territories in the Indo-Pacific such as Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marinas Islands (CNMI).
These forward-based facilities directly support our force design and posture initiatives that provide sustainment and force protection of our forces throughout the region.
Hawaii-based companies are playing a central role in this vital development – creating opportunities to benefit both the military and civilian populations.
As one example, they are designing and building a new Marine Corps base on Guam – the first new Marine Corps instillation activated since 1954 – which will provide more distributed combat power to increase survivability, reduce risk to the force, and ensure our ability to “Fight and Win.”
Along these same lines, we are continuing pursuit of the Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii (HDR-H), which represents the solution for the gap in our ability to defend our homeland from ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missile threats.
In the recently released FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), congressional appropriations and authorizations rejuvenated the HDR-H program – one of my top priorities in increasing Joint Force lethality to fully implement the NDS.
The Missile Defense Agency has conducted analysis on a number of potential locations in Hawaii and recently identified two viable sites for consideration: one site at Kahuku Training Area (KTA) 1 on Oahu and the other at PMRF Site 4 on Kauai.
Regardless of which site is selected, Hawaii will enjoy long-lasting economic benefits and numerous job opportunities for the local workforce.
We remain optimistic that we will continue to advance the HDR-H program in the coming years, bringing this essential defense system to the state for the protection of our people and our sacred lands.
In all, I know I speak for all of the military leaders stationed here in Hawaii – and we have a strong desire to support the state’s political, business, education, and community leaders. We are not only here to serve our nation – we are here to serve you.
Believe me when I say, there is no part of our military mission in the Indo-Pacific that does not in some way – directly or indirectly – benefit Hawaii.
And rest assured, INDOPACOM and all of our joint forces in Hawaii – and our families – are honored to be a part of the Hawaii Ohana.
We are committed to the Land, People, and Culture of Hawaii, and we are committed to overcoming all challenges together.
It is truly a privilege to serve alongside you in the community.
Thank you for your time today and for all that you and your colleagues do to support the men and women of our Armed Forces.
I look forward to taking any questions you might have.