Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Thursday, 21 January 2016, 1700 HST
(Friday, 22 January 2016, 1000 Bangkok)
VTC to Bangkok, Thailand
My goal is to provide my view of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and to talk about how we can better align our initiatives to achieve U.S. security and development objectives.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the U.S. Pacific Command or "PACOM" as we call it, it's the oldest and largest of America’s geographic Combatant Commands. PACOM is responsible for all U.S. military forces … from Hollywood to Bollywood … from polar bears to penguins; a region that encompasses 52 percent of the planet.
Within the Indo-Asia-Pacific are the world’s 3 largest economies and the 5 smallest. The region contains the most populous nation, China; the largest democracy, India; the smallest nation, Nauru; and the largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia. In fact, there are more Muslims in PACOM than in CENTCOM.
From a military perspective, the region has 7 of the 10 largest standing armies, 5 nations with nuclear weapons, and 5 of the 7 U.S. defense treaty allies: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. The only other two U.S. defense treaties are the Rio Pact and NATO.
Most projections place 7 out of every 10 people on Earth within the Indo-Asia-Pacific by the middle of this century. These forecasts have significant implications to the world’s food, water, energy, and infrastructure requirements…all of which present unique challenges for both of our organizations.
Even though the world gets a vote, like ISIL and the ongoing crisis in Syria, we continue to make real progress on the rebalance and advancing our national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
As you know, the Rebalance was initiated by the President four years ago and it is focused on four areas – political, diplomatic, security, and economic.
I’m responsible for supporting the military component of the Rebalance which, to many countries, is also the most visible aspect. The presence of our joint military forces in key locations throughout the region underpins the rules-based international order and provides opportunities to engage with other countries while being positioned to respond to crises.
As SECDEF Carter recently said, America’s rebalance has always been about promoting a regional security architecture where everybody wins because peace and prosperity are maintained. The rebalance has strengthened our treaty alliances and partnerships, increased partner capacity and cooperation, improved interoperability, and increased security capabilities in the region.
As part of the Rebalance, our military is moving more forces to the Pacific and deploying our most capable platforms and systems. But our efforts are focused on more than just stuff. It’s about developing gray matter as we bring our intellectual focus to bear on the region.
We’re putting people with extensive knowledge or experience in key leadership positions throughout the area. We’re developing and educating our younger personnel to serve in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, all in an effort to strengthen the relationships we have with our regional allies, partners and friends.
The Indo-Asia-Pacific is too large and complex for one country to ensure the region’s security and stability alone. Additionally, the scope and complexity of the challenges we face in the region require that our organizations plan and work cooperatively to achieve our common goals.
PACOM’s and USAID’s mutually reinforcing and cooperative diplomatic, development, and security activities secure America’s interests – and help influence the region’s acceptance and practice of international rules and norms.
USAID’s regional and bilateral work to advance rule of law, increase economic growth, protect human rights, and improve quality of life is critical. We are 100% behind you in these efforts and we will continue to support and advocate for you.
I believe there are many opportunities for our organizations to work together, and I’d like to cover a few of my focus areas. I’d also like you to think about how PACOM may be able to help USAID and vice versa.
Now, I know the elephant in the room is whether our military activities with regional allies and partners are somehow directed at China. Let’s save that discussion for the next time you come through Hawaii for a visit, and instead let me share that while I’ve been closely watching China’s provocative military activities the past two years, I also give China credit where credit is deserved.
China has contributed to counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa, helped search for Malaysia flight 370, and aided in the Ebola response in Africa. Bottom line, it’s important to have personal and candid conversations with Chinese military leaders to ensure our relationship is cooperative and that’s what we’ve been doing at PACOM.
I am interested in hearing about how you factor the “China question” into your strategic planning, in particular what opportunities are being considered in light of the recently signed MOU between China and USAID.
Another one of my priorities in support of the rebalance is evolving our burgeoning relationship with India. As the world’s two largest democracies, we are uniquely poised to help bring greater security and prosperity to the region and the rest of the world.
As the U.S. rebalances west to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, India is implementing its “Act East” policy. As these two visionary initiatives coincide, I think Prime Minister Modi has it right in saying that “Our destinies are linked by the currents of the Indian Ocean.”
This past year in 2015, our militaries participated in several major exercises and 62 smaller military exchanges with India. Looking ahead in 2016, we have shifted the focus of our engagement with India in a trilateral and multilateral context, so as to enhance their role as a security provider.
I am very interested to learn more about USAID’s experience with India and your “development platform” model whereby you leverage Indian and U.S. expertise to address development challenges not just in India, but also outside its borders. We hope to learn from your strategic partner relationship with India and your trilateral agreements benefitting developing countries.
The area where I believe there is the most synergy between PACOM and USAID is addressing transnational threats. The most visible are natural disasters.
As we all know, the Indo-Asia-Pacific remains the world's most disaster-prone region, experiencing over 2,700 disasters that affected nearly 1.6 billion people in the past decade alone. These disasters have a potentially destabilizing effect on the region.
I tell my leaders when they first report to PACOM that the likelihood of a military conflict erupting in the region during their tour is fairly low; however, the probability that they will have to support USAID in response to a major disaster is almost certain.
Just this past year, we responded to the devastating earthquake in Nepal. The United States military is able to bring incredible amounts of capability and capacity to bear in response to disasters in theater. But it is the close relationship between USAID and the military as well as the relationship between USAID and the host nation, which ensure our response is effective.
It is for this reason that the lines of effort in PACOM’s regional plan focus on our readiness to support you during a disaster response, and how we can help build the capability of our partner nations’ security forces to support their governments’ response to natural disasters, effectively improving the region’s resilience and stability. I am keenly interested in identifying any opportunities that can improve our cooperation and response to those events.
Another focus area of mine is helping ASEAN to evolve and address shared challenges in the region. For example, two years ago, SECDEF Hagel hosted all of the ASEAN Defense Ministers here in Hawaii to address the need for increased Maritime Domain Awareness. At Hagel’s invitation, former USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah led a roundtable on the need for greater civilian-military coordination within ASEAN.
During last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, SECDEF Carter announced our next step, the Maritime Security Initiative, and key Southeast Asian partners have expressed strong enthusiasm and support for our efforts to build maritime domain awareness and near shore maritime capabilities in the region. This work goes hand in hand with USAID’s efforts to help improve countries’ ability to counter illegal and unreported fishing and combating illegal trafficking in person and wildlife.
We have the opportunity to work together in this space, and we can find ways to build partner nation interagency relationships and systems to protect their maritime interests. One good example of this is Pacific Fleet’s seeking USAID guidance on their plan for multilateral and bilateral exercises on combatting illegal fishing.
PACOM is also the first Combatant Command to include non-traditional security threats as a major component of its regional plan. The focus of this effort aims at guiding our armed forces toward better environmental stewardship during our engagements, as well as working collaboratively with other US Federal Agencies – especially USAID – to support better food, energy and water management practices across the development spectrum to reduce the likelihood of shortage and ensuing instability.
There is a lot of opportunity to work cooperatively in these areas. PACOM can leverage USAID’s expertise in how to best use the capabilities of our technical teams, including engineering, medical, civil affairs, intelligence and analysis, and research and development.
And while I’m not involved with policies or activities targeted at impacting climate change, I am concerned about its potential security implications.
In Indonesia, for example, the Army Corp of Engineers conducted a climate and sea level rise assessment for USAID. The assessment identified a set of recommended actions for Indonesia to be more resilient and better prepared to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to manage its limited water resources.
In Sri Lanka, the civil affairs team expanded upon a USAID effort to build rainwater harvesting systems in underserved northern Sri Lanka – a perfect example of working together to address common development and security issues.
These efforts are only the start; in fact, Mr. Chris Sholes, our PACOM lead Environmental Security Planner, has been successful in obtaining DoD resources to design and implement environmental projects and he relies on close collaboration with your mission teams to make those projects happen.
Woody not only manages our non-traditional security threat line of effort, but also works public-private partnerships to bring a comprehensive approach drawing upon academia, non-profits, think tanks, and corporations to look at ways to improve vulnerable countries’ infrastructure and allow them to better withstand disasters. I realize that these types of partnerships are in USAID’s DNA and I want to work with you to help you meet U.S. development objectives.
Lastly, in addition to the non-traditional security threats, violent extremism, terrorist organizations, and transnational crime continue to threaten the good governance of partner nations in Asia and the Pacific. I am very focused on monitoring the flow of foreign fighters in and out of the region and weapons proliferation.
Our activities are part of the U.S. interagency effort to address the slow boil threats of terrorism; to prevent violent extremism from taking root; and ensure that communities are inhospitable to violent extremism. Many of the solutions to address the drivers of extremism lay in the development realm.
For example, the Special Operations Command – Pacific initiated a multilateral Countering Violent Extremism Working Group to bring together civilian, military, and other stakeholders to develop innovative solutions for local contexts.
Cambodia, will co-host the next multilateral meeting and I am pleased to hear that USAID will present and participate in the meetings. Your work to improve governance, give people a voice, fight corruption, and enhance shared economic opportunities is what will solve the problem in the long run. We are here to support.
Now, as I’ve spoken for a while, I’m reminded of a baseball team that was getting pounded in the 1st inning. The manager walked out of the dugout and headed directly to the mound, where he took the ball from the pitcher.
The pitcher protested, "Coach, it's just the 1st inning -- I’m not tired!" The manager – with a practiced eye – said "Yeah, I know, son … but the outfielders sure are."
So for you outfielders out there, I’ll wrap up my remarks so we have enough time for a robust discussion. There are a lot of opportunities where we can work together to build resilience throughout the region to shocks and crisis that could have negative security, economic, and social impacts.
Thank you for the work you do every day to help make our world a safer, peaceful and prosperous place. What you do is making a difference. I look forward to meeting with each of you when I visit your country, and you are always welcome to come visit us in Hawaii. I welcome more opportunities for us to engage in strategic-level dialogue and continue the conversation.
With that, I’ll hand it over to Woody – thanks again for inviting me, please send me a note if you find yourself in Hawaii in the near future.