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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | Jan. 26, 2024

Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Keynote and Q&A at the Pacific Forum

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

Speaker 1: Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM

Speaker 2: Audience

Speaker 3: Mr. Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  00:00

Good morning, and Aloha.

Audience  00:11


Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  00:11

Thank you. Welcome to Hawaii. First, David, thanks for the kind introduction. For those of you who've heard me before, you might not hear too much different today, right? So one of the benefits of what we've been trying to do at INDOPACOM is to keep the theme consistent. If I changed my story and my ask every day, or every year, I would be questioned on, "Well, what the hell is your plan and what are you doing?" So we continue to assess it, but bottom line is the story has been consistent from INDOPACOM, and I thank my unbelievable team. Many of them are here today, and I hope that you'll spend some time with them. Mr. Prime Minister, where are you?

Mr. Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister 00:53

Right here.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  00:53

Oh, good to see you, sir. Thank you very much for coming. To John, David, and the team. This is an unbelievable list of attendees and presenters, and my hat's off to you for what you've driven here. It's incredibly impressive. But Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your time. It's nice to see you. There's many others in the audience. I have some former bosses in the audience. That's always fun to come and speak in front of your former bosses. Admiral Harris is here. Admiral Swift is here. And again, I continue to rely on their counsel and advice from an incredible group of experts.

I also have many partners and friends here. For the Allies and partners who have come, thank you for coming. The Indo-Pacific is the most important region in the world to everybody, no matter where you live. So for our European partners that are here, I know the former Second Sea Lord is here. Good friend, Nick Hine and I go back a long way of doing business. And to the other partners that have arrived, thank you. Your participation is incredibly important. Did Admiral Fargo make it? (pause) All right, tell him I called him out. Again, good partner and friend that I rely on frequently.

Okay, so I won’t be here the whole time with you. I'll leave in about an hour and a half to go to Thailand and the Maldives to continue to try to engage and articulate the United States approach to the region. But what you're going to do here is incredibly important. So, you're in a conference, we're going to talk, but the bottom line is at the end of this, I'm going to ask for some help. So standby, we're going to do this together.

The then National Defense and Security Strategies, from the last three administrations, has identified the Indo-Pacific as the most consequential theater. With the most concerning security challenges. Three administrations. Now that said, I think it's safe to say that the landscape in this theater, specifically, as well as others, has drastically changed in a way that should be concerning to all of us. I continue to articulate that we are in the most dangerous time that I've seen in 20 years, or in my 40 years of doing business. Now, I said that when I took this job over. And then Ukraine happened. And then I send it again, and keep highlighting it's going in the wrong direction. And then Israel happened and the Hamas attacks. So just when you think it can't get any worse, you get proven wrong.

So, we have to address the security challenges and we need to understand that for the United States, as well as our Allies and partners, we're not going to do this alone and it's going to take all forms of power of our government. It can't be military alone. So the military aspect is influential. It allows the other forms of national power to operate from a position of strength and therefore, it's a critical aspect of delivering the deterrence against these adversaries.

Now, the theme we've used at INDOPACOM, and it's been highlighted before I got up here, is we need to think, act and operate differently in this security environment, in this day and age, against this set of adversaries. I got the same force Admiral Harris had. Hell, I got the same force Admiral Fargo had with only a few changes. When you think about F-35s, the ability to move, maneuver, communicate in ways that are important. The increasing capabilities in space and cyberspace. But inherently, the force is not much different.

So how do I use it differently? How do I put it in different places? How do we tie it with our Allies and partners, and how do we synchronize it in a way nobody else can? Think, act, and operate differently. We need to be disruptive. Our processes and our procedures today won't allow us to get after the adversaries that are moving incredibly quickly. We have to be disruptive, in our own ways. So I'll give you a little sight picture of the environment as I see it. And again, I'm going to ask for some help. And as I talk through this, I want you to think about what you do, what you can do, what you must do to help us go faster.

In this theater, four of the five security challenges: the PRC, the Russians, the North Koreans, and violent extremists. And just recently we had an Iranian Maritime Task Group go through. On top of that, if you think those are separate, or if our adversaries are not taking advantage, or helping to drive additional dilemmas that provide a problem set for the like-minded nations that exist together, then you're kidding yourself.

The linkage between the Chinese and the Russians. The additional linkage between the DPRK supporting Russia and the problem set that goes on for our Ukrainian partners. The linkage of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea through the BRICS structure. The narrative from the Chinese as it applies to anti-Semitism. Everywhere this set of nations can drive a problem for the United States and like-minded nations, they will take advantage of and drive opportunism. It is not happening by accident.

China in particular signaled a clear intention to modernize their force at the fastest pace that we've seen since World War II, despite an economy that's falling out underneath them. That's a choice made by leadership, and understand that they've made that choice. Not just conventional, strategic nuclear as well. Their expansive claims in the South China Sea are not just thought anymore. What we are seeing as it applies to Second Thomas Shoal and our Philippine partners, is that the rhetoric and the actions, whether they be law fare, information warfare, or physical actions, they are now enforcing or attempting to enforce that illegal claim. Illegal as proven by the 2016 Tribunal Ruling. The ruling determined that China had no legal claim inside of the 10-dash line, or nine-dash line, or whatever might be next which could be an 11-dash line. And the revisionist history that's driven is their own story. But it is not recognized by any of the like-minded nations.

The coercive pressure campaign against Taiwan continues, and we're watching it in the wake of the elections. I'm not sure what they're going to do, but I expect some demonstration of force against Taiwan in the near term. Purely based on a free and fair election, of which a candidate was elected. Additionally, the pressurization of all nations that recognize Taiwan. We've just seen the impact of their coercive campaign against Nauru, who just shifted their diplomatic recognition back to the PRC. And if you read the statements, I'm pretty sure that those statements were probably authored by the PRC and passed to that government.

So what are we going to do about it? What have we done in PACOM? And how are we going to continue to take this on? And go faster? Secretary Austin has described it as integrated deterrence, and that is the synchronization of all forms of national power, tied with the Joint Force, linked with our Allies and partners in all domains to prevent conflict. And in INDOPACOM, we've taken it on from day one of my time. And it focuses around four lines of effort. We have to deliver advanced capabilities quickly. We must improve our theater posture throughout the region. The area covers half the globe. And we have to be postured correctly in space, and in places with our Allies and partners. We have to synchronize our campaign activities, and our operations. And then lastly, and probably most importantly our improved linkage, and relationships, and interoperability with our Allies and partners. And all the work you see between the PRC and Russia, PRC-Russia-DPRK, is all targeted against our linkage between like-minded nations and Allies and partners.

So, start to think through where you're going to help as I go through these steps. Number one is the advanced capabilities. And primarily, we have to maintain, advance, and improve our ability to deliver decision superiority in the near term. And we talk about decision superiority. I capture it through the lens of blind, see and kill. So those capabilities that deliver my ability to prevent the adversary from identifying, targeting and tracking any of our forces. That force needs to be survivable. The adversary needs to not understand where our space, and our forces, and our activities are going on. The see part of it. Persistent battlespace awareness. I must know where every adversary force is every second, at all times. And the kill piece, is the network and the weapons that allow me to close blue kill chains. Think, click and shoot.

We have got to be able to pull those together. And the capabilities that we're working to deliver across that spectrum are the Joint Fires Network, the INDOPACOM Mission Network, and previously we referred to it as, the Mission Partner Environment, PMTEC, or the Pacific Multi-Domain Training and Experimentation Environment Capability, and Stormbreaker, our ability to campaign, assess, plan and understand the space.

So, that set of capabilities has been consistently my ask now, for three years. Those capabilities are needed by not only INDOPACOM, but all the combatant commanders. The ability to maintain decision superiority against any adversary, I would argue every Combatant Commander wants and needs it.

Joint Posture. Laying down the ability to be able to move forces forward, to be able to sustain the force, to be able to train and operate with our Allies and partners in their home territory provides an asymmetric advantage. Additionally, it's needed for the United States to be able to meet our Mutual Defense Treaty responsibilities. Whether they be our posture in Japan, Korea, our EDCA sites in the Philippines, inside of Australia with our partners, all of those places, every one of those nations maintains your sovereignty. This is about us coming together when invited to be interoperable and to operate together.

Our Operations and Activities. We are the only nation, with our partners, that can operate at the high end of combat, against all domains, and synchronize those effects under the sea, above the sea, on the sea, on the land, in space, in cyberspace, in ways that no adversary can. And that means they'll lose. We do it with the joint force every day, and we do it with the combined force every day, in the theater to deliver those deterrent effects.

And then lastly, pulling in our Allies and partners. The United States' INDOPACOM Campaign Plan was developed three years ago and has been in execution, and every one of our Allies and partners understands what we're doing, why, when and where, and they are welcome to join us at any point, and I've also asked those Allies and partners wherever you want me to go with you, go ahead and ask. We've developed and increased our mini and multilateral operations throughout the theater, and not just with the United States in the lead. Talisman Sabre from the Australians. Huge expansion of that capability led by my Australian counterparts. Our Trilateral activities with Japan and Korea. Cobra Gold with Thailand. Balikatan with the Philippines. Every one of those exercises has been increased, and almost every one is led by our Allies and partners combined with the United States. We are in a different place than we've ever been.

Now, if you're interested in the long version of this, you can get the INDOPACOM... I think the last one was the 1254 report. Mandated by Congress for me to deliver to The Hill, so that they can understand the capabilities needed by INDOPACOM to be able to deliver the deterrence associated with the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, and it lays out the whole thing. So, I gave you the wave tops. We are now on our fifth year. Admiral Davidson before me did two of them. I am getting ready to deliver my third as required to deliver on the day the budget has dropped. And we've synchronized it in the building, with service chiefs, with the staff. So, the story's been consistent. That report has been about 90 to 93 percent consistent for three years. So later on, I'm going to ask you to help me deliver it.

All right, I'm gonna ask you to go faster. That said, I have responsibility too. So let me tell you what we have done to try to go faster in INDOPACOM. And I think what you're going to find is there some places that you have a real, uncanny ability to plug in and help me do this. So an NDIA conference here a few months ago, in August I think, I articulated through the establishment of the Joint Mission Acceleration Directorate. JMAD. And I'm going to ask Mr. Rob Morrison to stand up for a second, so we can put the dot on him, because he's standing right there. Okay, he's a great point of contact, along with Dr. K in the J8, to feed in capabilities that can deliver. So the JMAD directorate is targeted, to take those four capabilities I talked about. Joint Fires Network, INDOPACOM Mission Network, PMTEC, and Stormbreaker, link them together so that they can be connected. We could pull efficiencies from the architecture so that we're not doing stuff twice, and paying for more things than one, and we can go after it pretty hard. It pulls in the department. So if you're talking to either the CDAO, ANS, R&E, that directorate, Rob, has direct contact with those players, along with Doug Beck from DIU, to leverage where he is.

And we're taking all comers. I'm looking for mature capabilities, not developmental. This is about delivering a capability in the near term. The Joint Fires Network, I expect to deliver a 1.0 version prototype, tied to Valiant Shield in '24. And from there, I expect to expand it, and I think for what was talked about before as it applies to CJADC2, we think this is what it looks like in the near term as there's discussion and development in the mid to far term. That action is going on in my headquarters.

Second, we have been working from day one to make sure we get the command and control in the theater correct. Right? That which I can control. And it's been a learning environment. And we've moved it down the field. So we began on day one of my time with a shift to a supported-supporting relationship in a way that could quickly spool up to a Joint Task Force in time of crisis or conflict. Within eight months of that, we started socializing a Joint Task Force on Guam in kind of a phased approach, initially to stand up the capabilities on Guam. Those capabilities being the Guam defense system. I do have a responsibility to defend the homeland, and Guam is the homeland. We also need the ability to employ offensive capability from Guam.

And lastly, we need to be able to sustain the force from Guam. So this phased approach of a JTF, and in the short term, as a capability, development focus, and then a transition in the midterm to a forward fighting JTF. Now, I got the greatest staff out there, and what we continue to do is learn. So we're investigating what does next look like? Will that give us what we need? Will it deliver in the short term? Or do we need to take some adjustments? And we continue to do that work. Admiral Swift, thanks for the article. Like I said, I continue to learn from my prior bosses.

Okay, here's the part where I start... Let me tell you where you can help, and I need your help. We need your help. The region needs your help. So, I kind of told you what I'm doing, and there's a variety of other things we're going at. But let me tell you what I think would be helpful from your different areas.

From the congressional team. Number one, thank you for all the support to the Indo-Pacific Command, our service members, the families, our civilian warriors. But boy, we need a budget. That is not pejorative. I don't downplay the complexities of the political world we live in. But this national security need is real, and it's coming fast. We need a budget. I'm still operating off of the '23 budget. And we're about to submit the '25 budget. In a CRA cutting, the loss of buying power is real and it's devastating. For the private sector, you won't be surprised for me to say this. Matter of fact, I've spoken to all of your CEOs and I've told them. I'm pretty sure that when it comes time for me to retire, none of them will hire me because of the way I've been beating them up now for three years. But we have got to go faster.

The industrial base. Again, thanks to the Congress, the upcoming supplemental has quite a bit of industrial base funding that we need. We have to get on a warfighting footing. Just in time will not work in this day and age. So anywhere you can press, press. I highlighted the four critical capabilities to deliver decision superiority. Focus there, and then look at the rest of my list.

 For the rest of it, the structure of the department. We have got to figure out how to break the processes that we operate in. We have got to find ways to go faster. I always give this example. When we had a problem in Iraq and Afghanistan based on IEDs, we delivered 1000s of MRATs in an unbelievably short amount of time. We need that same push. When we could focus on an area, we can do this. But remaining linked to our processes won't do anything but slow us down. So question all the processes. Let my team know, and I think we can help figure out how to go faster. For the Allies and partners. First, thanks for everything you do. We are an international headquarters, and the relationships have never been stronger, but I do need your voice. Like I said, we're better when we're together. When we speak from the same positions, and when we highlight the need to maintain the international order in a way that benefits all of us, that can't be just me screaming. It has got to be all of us. It's got to be visual. It's got to be a team. Otherwise, we're gonna get run over. Everything we're doing, we have to make sure we're articulating it in the information space. And then lastly, back to the interagency, the services, and the rest of the department. I talked about being disruptive and breaking processes. We can't focus on single domains. We can't focus on single agencies, we can't focus on single services. The report that I submit is targeted to deliver joint capabilities. I always give this example. When it comes time for the shooting, I don't care what senses, I don't care what shoots. All I know is it needs to hit, and it can't be done in force five stovepipes. We can't afford it. It doesn't connect. We need to start focusing on from-the-start delivering joint capabilities.

Okay. Three administrations, the same strategy. So great strategies are needed, but the art is the implementation. And back to my staff. They are killing themselves, implementing the strategy to deliver what the Secretary has tasked us to do.

Number one, prevent this conflict. And then number two, if you fail at mission one, you'd better be ready to fight and win. The United States military, and especially we're tied with our Allies and partners, it is the most formidable force on the planet. Don't lose sight of it, but we have to continue to work to keep that advantage. Our adversaries are going to continue to challenge us in all domains. We have to continue to integrate. We do it better than anyone else. So we have to do it together. We have to do it quickly. We have to continue to get better. Because if we don't, the international order is going to change. If we do it together, we'll be able to maintain the free and open Indo-Pacific that benefits all of us.

Q&A Session

Speaker 1: Shashank Joshi, The Economist

Speaker 2: Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM

Speaker 3: Male Speaker

Speaker 4: Female Speaker

Speaker 5: Sam Chen

Speaker 6: Sahuko

Speaker 7: Sudak

Speaker 8: Jennifer Hlad

Speaker 9: Prime Minister

Shashank Joshi, The Economist  00:00

Embrace integrated deterrence, David, just on the second line, and just push on that. Can you just explain what this means in practice, perhaps with reference to some ongoing crisis or area competition like Second Thomas Shoal? How does your response in Second Thomas Shoal and your support for the Philippines and your deterrence of the PRC in that area, how is it different today than it would have been five years ago? In other words, how does integrated deterrence change your actions, your response, your activity? Can you just flesh that out for us with reference to those very specific, very specific case perhaps?

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  00:35

Yeah. First of all, let me just counter your assertion. What I think is changed is not the United States, I think we have consistently been supportive, our Allies are a clear step above, right, a mutual defense treaty between the United States and an Ally is one where we're ready to invest blood and treasure to defend that nation. That hasn't changed. I think what has changed is the activity and actions by the adversaries in the region, and in your case, specifically, the PRC.

So what we've watched over again, my last, you know, 10 years of doing this in this theater, is they have laid the foundation in the information space, in the legal space, in the integration into the international organization space – think UN – to justify their illegal claims. And what you're seeing right now, I think, is the like-minded nations in the region being unwilling to accept their actions. And I think the strength, as I articulated before, is all nations coming together to tell that story, right? Second Thomas Shoal has been determined by the International Court that the PRC has no legal claim, that their argument of a historical claim is not valid.

So, I don't want to be the only one telling that story. And oh, by the way, it's not just Second Thomas Shoal. It's Second Thomas Shoal today, it's the Senkakus tomorrow. It's Luconia Shoal the day after that. It's Natuna the day after that. And then all throughout the region, whether you're Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, this is a problem that's coming to an area near you.

So, I don't think it's the United States that's changed. I think it's the security environment based on what the PRC has done and pulling together all of our, all of the like-minded nations in the region is the way to go after this. We just have to make sure that the PRC knows that they don't have any valid claim, it's gone through the International Court and let's move on. Do you have a quick question or do you just want to ask me something?

Yuki Sakiguchi  03:13

Yeah, my friend, great. Fantastic speech always. But my question is, what do you think or how do you think to break the barrier for info sharing, especially classified information sharing like are we there? Or if you wanted to fully integrate with your partner or Ally, we got the NS security integration. As you know, most people (inaudible).

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  03:51

Thanks. For my French colleagues, was that French? So again, what are the advantages is our ability to come together at any point in time with our Allies and partners to be able to quickly aggregate and operate effectively. Info sharing is a key part of that Yuki to your point. General Paul Nakasone is one of my best partners. And through our INDOPACOM missions network. And now let me ask General Mark Miles to stand up. Mark? All right, there's my dot for the INDOPACOM Mission Network. Think single pane of glass with attribute space logged-on, FDO access for all the Allies and partners to communicate in the theater. Right now, I've got 13 networks to talk to my Allies and partners. Mark is building, with General Nakasone's support, through the lens of Zero Trust, a way to be able to communicate and share information in a way that’s safe. And if you think that the adversaries in a region are not either in or trying to get into your network, you are kidding yourself.

We have got to be able to build the security needed so that the information sharing can go on. It is an asymmetric advantage. Are we great at it right now? No. All my partners and LNOs in headquarters, I get beat up all the time on what we're able to share and what we'd really like to share. I think we've moved that ball down the field. We are governed by some laws and some rules. But we've really leaned up against them, because the info sharing is critical. So you clearly highlight an asymmetric advantage we got to get after. Like I said, we we've moved it, but we got to do more. And the way to do it is to secure all networks first, that makes everything easy.

Ellen Nakashima  06:00

Thank you very much, Admiral Aquilino, it was great to see you again. I wanted to just follow up on these questions to drill down a little more on how you assess the adversary of PLA. If you ask how they are worded to integrate and kind of assessors and shooters, and as you can know that they have been fast modernizing practical (inaudible) since World War II. So, if you look at the pace of our modernization by the pace of U.S. with Allies and partners, are they outpacing us, the US, the blue, or are we still ahead in that regard? How concerned are you about that?

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  06:44

Well, let me just say it this way, they cannot do what we can do. Their capabilities, while they continue to work towards achieving parity with the United States, they're not. So, the key for this moving faster is to make sure we don't let the gap close. I am not looking for a closed spot. So I'm incredibly thankful for the department strategy based budget, but delivering it at speed, again, critically important to our deterrent effects.

Sam Chen  07:08

Thank you, sir. My name is Sam Chen from Taiwan. Last week, I saw us that the U.S. and China has a military dialogue, DPCT. And I was wondering how do you see that? Do you see that the U.S. and China is recovering military communication channel that can reduce regional conflict?

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  07:46

Say that one more time.

Sam Chen  07:48

The DPCT, the Defense Policy Dialogue.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  07:54

So let me just say it this way. You know, the tasking, we're just going to continue to execute our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act in a way that ultimately helps prevent this conflict.

Sahuko  08:18

Thank you, sir. My name is Sahuko. I come from Prague, from a country which has 10 million people and no sea and no navy. But my question is that there is political, as well in some European countries, to engage and support what you are trying to do. And my question is when they are smaller countries like mine, and we have we don't have such military capabilities, which are usable in this case, are things which may be helpful to us, such as political support for Taiwan or some off-site training for some of the Taiwanese, for example, in Europe? Whether something like that would be feasible or whether it will be welcome, let's say, that would be my question.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  08:57

Yeah, jump in water's fine. So again, here's why it matters to all nations. Two-thirds of the global economy flows through the South China Sea, to the EU and to your nation. Two-thirds of the people on the planet live inside of a small circle in the INDOPACOM area. Alright, so the INDOPACOM area and the nations in the region are critical to everyone. Defense Minister Ben Wallace asked me to go to Europe two years ago.  He was going to host on the [HMS] Queen Elizabeth, a Pacific conference, when the Queen Elizabeth pulled into Busan in Korea. And because of COVID, it didn't happen. And he asked me to go to Europe and highlight this exact point. Why does it matter? why what's going on here matters to everyone? So if you believe that the current rules-based order benefitted all the nations, in a post-World War II environment, with no strings attached from the United States or the partners who underwrote the security of the region, and I make the argument China benefited more than anyone from it. So we think it's still viable. We think it still works. We still think it supports the sovereignty of all nations, an equal voice for all nations, whether they're large or small. And that's a distinction only made by the PRC, right? This might equals right approach leads him to believe they can just tell you what to do. So if that's the world you want to live in, the United States supports all nations ability to make sovereign choices. That said, the world that I think we want to leave our children and grandchildren looks a lot like what the like-minded nations think it should today, which is a choice, a vote, freedom navigation, human rights. And nobody allowed to change it unilaterally with force.

Sudak  11:22

My name is Sudak from Tokyo, former Arabic language office in the Japanese foreign ministry. And pretty much concerned about potential escalation of conflict in the Middle East. How do you think the escalation area without INDOPACOM In the future, operationally and financially?

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  11:48

Yeah, thank you very much. So, you know, the way the Secretary talks about it in the United States' perspective, is we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We're the only force that truly is global in nature, and can do more than one thing at one time. So the illegal illegitimate war waged by the Russians against Ukraine, combined with our Allies and partners, we continue to figure out how to support and ensure that Russia cannot take advantage of their actions. As it applies to the incredibly disturbing violent Terrorism Act by Hamas against Israel, we are also figuring out how to support our Israeli partners to ensure that their problem set is not existential. And at the same time, we are executing our deterrence activities in the Pacific. But to your point, the linkage of our Allies and partners is absolutely critical on why we're better when we're together globally. For the NATO nations and the EU, pulling that treaty relationship together has proven to be completely what is needed against this problem set. And while we don't have a NATO in the Pacific, our ability in the region to operate together is second to none. General Yoshida is on my speed dial. As a matter of fact, I wrote him two nights ago, and we, in the wake of the DPRK missile launch 10 minutes after it was flown, he and I were communicating. And that applies to the rest of the partners and Allies in the region no matter what.

Jennifer Hlad  13:46

Hi, sir, Jennifer Ladd from Defense News. I just wanted to ask you, you mentioned that you anticipate  some kind of full force from China towards Taiwan in the near term. But, I was just wondering if you think that the election results will change sort of this ongoing Chinese Harassment campaign against Taiwan or accelerate or change any plans that they may have had about Taiwan? Thanks.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  14:14

Yeah, I wish I had that crystal ball. What I would tell you that is that their actions over the past number of years have been pretty consistent. When something occurs that they don't like, they tend to take action. So we've seen it in the wake of the Speaker's visit. We saw it in the wake of President Tsai's transit, their narrative coming out of the Global Times and all of their other mechanisms for, you know, influencing the information space. They're clearly not happy. You know, that said, I expect a, I'd say it this way. I'm paid to be the guy who thinks of the worst-case actions. So, that's how we think about it. We shouldn't be surprised. That will be provocative by the PRC that is not in response to the United States' actions, they will attempt to spin it in the information space, as the United States as the aggressor. Again, I don't know how you connect those dots, but they're pretty effective in the information space. Doesn't have to be true, they've just got to say it enough times. So we have to understand what should come and you should expect it. And then I've asked all my Allies and partners, let's push back against mis- and disinformation. Once a year, the Chiefs of Defense get together in person. And at the end of those conferences, we always agree to kind of take on three main things we're going to focus on. And one of them this year, is to highlight and call out mis- and disinformation, so that we all are seeing the same space, and we don't allow the PRC propaganda mechanism to achieve their objectives. Mr. Prime Minister, I would've called on you first if I knew. 

Prime Minister  16:24

Thank you very much, Admiral, and thank you, everyone. INDOPACOM has a wonderful relationship with Australia over so many years over so many administrations. One of the other big changes over the last few years has been the changing role in the Indo Pacific. And I'd be interested in your views about the current participation and where you see that going in the future, particularly through the quadrilateral security dialogue.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  16:50

Yeah, thanks, Mr. Prime Minister. So the relationship with India and the like-minded nations in the region is critically important. The Quad nations that operate exercise and take actions together, increase our interoperability is all very, very important. And we've been able to pull that back together over the last few years. And whether we're operating in the Indian Ocean or whether we're operating in the Indo Pacific eastern portion of the theater, it's been incredibly important. It’s the world's largest democracy. It's important. They do have our like-minded values. They do support a free and open Indo Pacific, they weren't articulated that way. But they we have the same values that are needed to maintain peace and prosperity in the region. So I've advocated for the continued operations, we're working through their industrial base to be able to plus up their defense industrial base as well. And we need to keep India tied to the rest of the like-minded nations. So strategic patience, there's a lot going on there. That said, they're great partners, General Chauhan came to a conference that I hosted a year ago, as a part of an Indo Pacific event that we were hosting. It was his first trip to the United States. And he decided to come to that conference. I was incredibly thankful. But he's a great partner. He understands that the theater and we look to continue to work together with any other quad nations.

Speaker 1: Vice Admiral Martin Connell, Second Sea Lord

Speaker 2: Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM

Speaker 3: Moderator

Vice Admiral Martin Connell, Second Sea Lord  00:00


Adm. John C. Aquilino, CDRUSINDOPACOM  00:01

Yeah, thanks Second Sea Lord. It is... It's a big animal, right? So it's like driving the big tanker and throwing the rudder over. You know, you don't see the ship turn instantaneously and it's a big ship to turn. So I would say the United States is probably the best at being able to quickly respond and shift when time of crisis. My push has been in advance of crisis, let's take that same focus and initiative and deliver those things for deterrence. So, there's processes, there's funding, there's laws, synchronizing all those in a way that'll allow us to change, right? I always say it this way, the only thing that likes change is a wet baby. So pulling this huge animal together, getting it targeted and get to an agreement that says we're going to take action to start to move. It's incredibly hard. Hell, change management is one of the most difficult things for any leader to do. That said, it's why my story has been consistent, focused on the same key capabilities, the same four lines of effort for the approach, and moving the ball forward. And like I said, we made some advances. We've got to continue to do it faster. You know, if I could put my hand on the two things, this would be much easier but I think it's a broader spectrum of things that are difficult. The other thing I'll always tell you, or I'll tell you, is, you know, I learned this from Admiral Swift and Admiral Harris. When somebody comes in and tells you, "Hey, I want to go do this." The first thing they do is tell you why they can't. And then the next question I ask them is, show me. There's a lot of belief out there of, "I don't have this authority," you know, "this thing, this policy's in place, this law," and I've forced the team to show me. Bring me the law, bring me the policy, and guess what. About 60 to 70 percent of the cases, they don't exist. It's folklore. So that's the way we've tried to go after it in the headquarters and with all the components, because it is way harder than just walking in and saying we can't. Because I'm not accepting it.

Moderator  02:36

Ladies and gentlemen, Admiral Aquilino. Thank you so much.


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